Focus on Education
A network of Chicago’s public-broadcasting stations and other nonprofit organizations will explore some of the city’s most pressing education issues beginning next month.
The group, known as Chicago Matters, is promising to take an in-depth look at how sweeping changes in the city’s public-housing sector are having an impact on neighborhood schools.
In a series of articles, documentaries, essays, and group discussions, the groups also will examine the state of education in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, including sensitive issues surrounding testing.
Since banding together 12 years ago, the members of Chicago Matters have examined subjects such as violence, religion, health care, immigration and, last year, juvenile justice.
The group is financed by the Chicago Community Trust, which provides $35 million in annual grants to support local agencies serving the Chicago area.
“What Chicago Matters does with its multimedia approach is bring issues to the public in a very dramatic way,” said Don Stewart, the president and chief executive officer of the Chicago Community Trust.
The wide-ranging coverage promises to raise public awareness and could spark interest in policy changes.
The programming scheduled through June includes a five-part education series on WTTW. The series will open with a segment hosted by Oprah Winfrey on the importance of learning to read.
Meanwhile, The Chicago Reporter and Catalyst will survey Chicago public school valedictorians from the classes of 1990, 1995, and 2000 on how well they were prepared by the schools to enter college and the work world.
WBEZ is planning documentaries that will follow an ex-convict earning his General Educational Development diploma. The radio station will also document the efforts of Latinos trying to succeed in a suburban school.
Mr. Stewart pointed out that the research and lessons learned from this year’s education campaign will be used by the trust in the fall as part of its upcoming five-year school improvement effort.
The foundation plans to invest $50 million in Chicago over that time. “We’ll know a lot more when the Chicago Matters effort is over,” Mr. Stewart said.
—Robert C. Johnston
A version of this article appeared in the March 28, 2001 edition of Education Week