Aside

Reflection on Chicago’s Amplified School Segregation

David is a teacher-organizer on the south side of Chicago.  He is a member of the Caucus of Rank-and File Educators (CORE) and I met him in 2009 fighting against school actions that destabilize students’ teaching and learning conditions and ultimately lead to neighborhood gentrification.

Recently Steve Bogira (@stevebogira) wrote an article comparing the educational conditions of two students in Cook County, IL. Hayley is a student at New Trier HS on the North Shore, and Jasmeen was David’s former student at Hirsch Metro HS on the south side of Chicago.

The article is gripping, and David provides wonderful added context from an educator’s perspective.  I encourage readers to comment below and on the original article site.

Adam

The latest issue of The Reader, Chicago’s free alternative weekly newspaper, has a cover story on racial segregation in local schools. The article features a white student from a rich northern suburb, and a black student (Jasmine Wellere) from poor South Side neighborhood. I was one of Jasmine’s teachers in her South Side high school, and she was one of my favorite students.

Below is link to the Reader’s article, plus a comment he posted in response.
-David R. Stone

Original article:
http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/cook-county-schools-racial-diversity-and-segregation/Content?oid=7669705

My response:
As a former teacher at Hirsch Metro H.S., I know that neighborhood public schools can provide a way out of poverty for some students like Jasmeen, but we don’t have enough resources to help everyone. The Chicago Board of Education amplifies the city’s racial and economic disparities by taking resources away from schools such as Hirsch.

The Reader article correctly reports that at Hirsch, “enrollment has withered recently; at the beginning of the year there were only 390 students” – but doesn’t tell why.

One reason is that the mayor’s hand-picked Board kills successful programs that encourage students to attend neighborhood schools. At Hirsch, a Radio/TV program was eliminated, and the Board removed state-of-the-art broadcast equipment. The school’s TV studio was turned into an ordinary classroom, where I taught print journalism to Jasmeen and other students.

When students asked where all the TV cameras, mixing boards, etc. had gone, I joked that the school was so broke we needed to sell the stuff on E-Bay. Sadly, the students believed me, because the school really was broke. Unlike New Trier, we didn’t have money for new textbooks, and my journalism texts were nearly 10 years old.

About a year later, Westinghouse High School (which used to be a high enrollment school with many great vocational programs, open to everyone in its West Side neighborhood) was re-opened as a selective enrollment high school in a brand new building, with a state-of-the-art TV studio.

In Hirsch’s South Side neighborhood, similar shifting of resources led to the creation of charter schools such as Urban Prep and Gary Comer high schools. Their relentless recruiting at the neighborhood elementary schools led to Hirsch’s declining enrollment, as we got fewer entering freshmen.

Highly motivated students like Jasmeen can succeed anywhere, but others are kicked out or encouraged to drop out of the charter schools. When they come to Hirsch a year or two later, missing credits from the classes they failed, we don’t have enough resources to get them all back on track.

And our mayor’s “answer” is to open more charter schools and shut down neighborhood schools.
-David R. Stone
CPS teacher

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One response to “Reflection on Chicago’s Amplified School Segregation

  1. Thanks for this insight into what’s happening to schools in your city.
    It’s a shocking and heartbreaking situation there no-one really cares about or can do anything about. So sorry.

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