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Reform Before the Storm: A Timeline of the Chicago Public Schools

A timeline of key events in the history of Chicago Public Schools

Chicago teachers strike in 1987
Chicago teachers strike in 1987
 

Following decades of bitter labor relations, Chicago Public Schools hit bottom in the late 1980s: ACT scores ranked among the lowest in the nation, and the dropout rate was sky-high. In 1986, Mayor Harold Washington convened an education summit that became the impetus for 25 years of reform—in three eras, identified by the Consortium on Chicago School Research.

1987
Chicago teachers strike for 19 days (Sept. 8–Oct. 3).

1987
Secretary of Education William Bennett calls Chicago’s public schools the “worst in the nation.”

1988–1995: DECENTRALIZATION

Inheriting authority previously held by school boards, local school councils—made up of teachers, parents, community members, and principals—begin wielding the power to hire and fire principals, design curricula, set standards, and manage budgets.

1988
Illinois legislature passes the Chicago School Reform Act, which creates the local school council system in place today and initiates a period of aggressive reform.Richard Daley

1989
Richard M. Daley elected mayor.

1992
First charter school in the United States opens in St. Paul, Minnesota.Paul Vallas

1995
Mayor wins authority to appoint CPS management team and school board. Paul Vallas becomes the first CPS CEO.

1996–2001: ACCOUNTABILITY

CPS chief Paul Vallas imposes quantitative metrics for evaluating student and school performance. Students scoring poorly on standardized tests are now held back, and low-performing schools face probation.

1997
Chicago’s first charter schools open.

1999
Northside College Prep opens. Selective enrollment schools gain momentum.Arne Duncan

2001
Arne Duncan appointed CEO of CPS.

2002–2012: DIVERSIFICATION

Under Arne Duncan, 82 poor-performing or underattended schools close, and 116 new schools open, including 72 charter schools and 9 contract schools. In compliance with No Child Left Behind, CPS steps up emphasis on standardized testing.

2002
The Bush administration enacts No Child Left Behind Act, requiring states to show steady progress on student performance measures.

2004
Renaissance 2010 launches.

2009
Arne Duncan appointed U.S. secretary of education.

2009
The Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative sets aside $4.35 billion for states that meet rigorous new teacher evaluation requirements.

2009
On the same day a federal district court ends the consent decree mandating school desegregation in Chicago, Derrion Albert is killed in a melee near Fenger High School.

2009
Teachers at Chicago International Charter School sign Chicago’s first charter union contract.Waiting for Superman

2010
The documentary Waiting for “Superman” stokes the case for charter schools as an antidote to unionized public schools.

2011
Rahm Emanuel elected mayor in February. He names Jean-Claude Brizard CEO of CPS.Rahm Emanuel

2012
Nonprofit group publishes a study showing that a disproportionate amount of TIF funding goes to schools that benefit more white middle- and upper-class students.

2012
Illinois granted waiver from some requirements of No Child Left Behind.

2012
Chicago’s public school teachers strike (Sept. 9–18).

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