In the spring of 2013, CPS outraged Chicago families and communities by unilaterally deciding to close 50 of its schools serving primarily African American and Latino students. While CPS officials maintained that closing these mainly South and West side area schools was necessary for fiscal purposes and would simultaneously provide students with better educational opportunities, parents and community members disagreed and felt their best interests were not taken into consideration when CPS made the decision.
What amounted to the country’s largest public school closing was based on a verdict that did not involve the voice of parents, students, teachers, and community members who would ultimately be most impacted by the schools slated to close their doors. The very make-up of the politics charging CPS is exclusionary in nature, leaving out knowledgeable parents in the all too important decisionmaking process and continuing forward with a mayoral-appointed school board whose agenda relies less on conducting and consulting supportive educational research and more on business policies and practices that are transforming the very nature of the public education system.
In order to strengthen Chicago public schools and direct them to more equitable and just practices, a collaborative of faculty members and graduates students from the University of Illinois at Chicago as well as community advisors and partners (parents, students, teachers, and community organizations) are working together to produce research on urban public education. According to their mission,
The Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education (CEJE) is committed to community-based, democratic public schools that enrich and develop the full potential of all children and adults. Our collaborative research and engagement with school-community members is the basis for our policy reports and participation in public policy discussions about urban education. A hallmark of CEJE collaborations is the value we place on the multiple forms of knowledge necessary to inform the transformation of public education, particularly for those students least well-served by public schools. In all aspects of CEJE work, we strive to draw on the expert knowledge and wisdom of teachers and school based staff, children and youth, and families and community members, as well as academic research.
CEJE’s current research project, “Chicago School Closings: Experiences of Families, Students and Communities,” focuses on last year’s large-scale school closures and documents its impact on the children, families, and communities directly affected. The trend of closing schools as part of education reform is only increasing, and yet limited data and analysis exist on the effects of this widely-opposed policy. The hope is that the results of this research can inform community advocacy efforts toward educational policies that are proven to be in the best interests of communities and their children.
Two policy snapshots are now available for public review: “The Impact of School Closings on Parent Involvement” and “School Closings and Decision-making in Chicago Public Schools.”
This website is a valuable resource for parents, educators, and community activists who are advocating for a better public school system. Explore CEJE’s past research, and stay tuned for more research snapshots regarding Chicago school closings.