Who is Kids First? Plus: delays for gifted, changes at the CTU

We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel, and intern Elaine Chen, and we’re rounding up Chicago public education news for the week. Please send any tips, story ideas, or general shoutouts our way:

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The big story

A reminder that Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live-tweeting events and meetings on Twitter. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @elaineywchen.

The Kids First Chicago website

Late last Friday, Chalkbeat released a report drafted by the group Kids First Chicago that had been quietly circulating among community groups. It paints in stark detail what many Chicagoans have known for years: that top academic schools are clustered in wealthier neighborhoods, and that fewer black and Latino students have access to those schools. Compiled by a school choice group backed by the business community, the “Annual Regional Analysis” report effectively shows that, in many areas of the city, students are skipping out on nearby options, with less than half of district students attending their designated neighborhood schools.

We followed up that story this week with a closer look at Kids First, which has had been many iterations in Chicago. The group’s report, and its connections to top leadership in Chicago schools, has caused a stir, particularly since the school district has used similar numbers to justify closing schools in the past. Here’s our latest.

The week in review

More time to tackle gifted gap: Chicago is asking to delay for a year a new state-imposed policy that compels every public school to accommodate gifted students. Some challenges that the district must address as it implements the policy: how to identify gifted students, and how to accommodate students who are gifted in different subject areas. The Board of Education approved the one-year delay on Wednesday. Chalkbeat Chicago has more.

Stringent new rules for student-teacher communications: The district has adopted new policies that bar teachers from communicating with students through personal phones and personal social media accounts. The Chicago Tribune looked into the policy and how it compares to other districts.

4 ways to involve more people of color:  At a summit hosted by Chicago United for Equity, attendees brainstormed strategies to tackle racial inequity issues once the school year starts, including creating parent focus groups aligned around race. Here were more ideas from Chalkbeat Chicago.

Teacher union on unstable footing: Amid the retirement of Chicago Teachers Union powerhouse president Karen Lewis, the union is now navigating financial difficulties, internal politics, and potential post-Janus struggles with recruitment. WBEZ examined the situation.

Closed elementary school transformed: A former student of Stewart Elementary School in Uptown, which closed in the 2013 round of school closings, writes about his return to the school building that is now transformed into a luxury apartment building. Two of his former teachers made the sobering trip back with him. The Chicago Reader has the story.

Looking ahead

Chicago educators who return to schools for staff training next week will encounter a slate of new measures, from curriculum changes to stringent new policies around student-staff interactions. What’s top of mind as school year approaches? We’re asking educators to take this short Chalkbeat Chicago survey and tell us.


PHOTO: Chicago Public Schools
Hiram Broyls has been principal at Luther Burbank Elementary School for 40 years

Hiram Broyls has been principal at Luther Burbank Elementary School for 40 years
What’s the secret to a great school? Many say great leadership. This week’s #HighFive goes out to Hiram Broyls, who’s been the principal at Luther Burbank Elementary School in Belmont Cragin since 1977. Even now, 40 years later, he continues to ride two trains and two buses every morning get to work by 6:30 am.

Honored this week at the Chicago Board of Education meeting, Broyls stood flanked by some of his long-time staff, including assistant principal Maria Taneff, who has been with him for 30 years. As Broyls and his team received the plaque from the board, the room erupted in a standing ovation for the long-serving principal.

Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade, “when he arrived at Burbank in 1977, Dr. Broyls was the first African-American principal in school history. In the 40 years since, he has succeeded in creating a school community that is warm, supportive, and diverse.”