School closings protest

Anthony Souffle/Chicago Tribune

The Tribune's editorial board commissioned an interesting, lengthy poll from the Joyce Foundation, concluding that Chicagoans are frustrated with CPS and are "ready for reform," which in some respects they are. But whose school do they want to reform?

Overall, 4 in 10 respondents give the schools a barely passing grade of C. Another 2 in 10 grade the system a D. More award an F (8 percent) than an A (7.8 percent.)

That's not a report card any child would want to take home. No wonder the poll shows Chicago is ready for status-quo-rattling reforms that many advocates for better schools, this page included, long have urged.

Ask respondents what they think of the schools in their neighborhood ("the school your oldest child attends"), and you get a very different answer.

So people don't like CPS. But almost three quarters of respondents like or really like their school.

I'm actually not surprised at this at all, because I knew I'd seen something like it before. Gallup has been doing a running poll that asks exactly these questions (PDF). And they get basically the same results. Chicagoans are less happy with CPS overall and more happy with public schools in America overall… but love their specific schools with essentially the same intensity.

I'm not sure what to make of this. One way of reading it is that people who are actually in the system are satisfied, and the people who don't have kids or who send their kids to private schools who want more from CPS. Another is that parents are usually pretty engaged with their school, to the extent that it's almost like family, and nobody better be talking down their family. Either way, it's going to make proposed changes harder: if the problem that people want to fix is always somewhere else, just around the next corner.