Chicago And Education: Things You May Have Experienced Attending A Chicago Public School

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Chicago is a vast city, it can be easy to get lost in the large mix of people, the fast paced lifestyle and all of the events the inner workings of the city has to offer. Growing up in Chicago has had a huge impact on my personality, how I communicate with others, the things I’ve seen and more importantly the things I have experienced. When asking most people where they’re from, Chicagoans always seem the proudest of their background. They like to claim the type of person the city has molded them into. Living in a city with such a high crime rate leaves its dwellers vulnerable to the possibility of encountering some of its ugly crime. Most of us then take on this element of street smarts in order to properly prepare ourselves for any kind of danger that could come our way, whether that's carrying some pepper spray, not taking public transportation late at night when you’re by yourself, or simply knowing self-defense moves that are successful at deterring attackers. Chicago teaches us all a little bit of hustle, how to get what we want or need in a city full of people and how to get it quickly.

                                                                 Photo courtesy of Deposit Photos

Chicago Public Schools are one of Chicago’s systems that most of its residents struggle with. Chicago is divided into neighborhoods that each reflect a different realm of socio-economic class and disparity, and the schools in these neighborhoods greatly reflect that. Neighborhood elementary schools in Chicago have never had the best reputations and this is why so many families flee the city when it comes time to enroll their children in school. Underfunding which causes a lack of resources is where most of these schools struggle since they are funded by the city and Chicago has had many budget cuts and remains in debt, there never seems to be enough tax money to fund the public schools of Chicago. A few years ago Rahm Emanuel decided to close around fifty schools on Chicago’s south side forcing these children to commute further to other public schools, fitting more kids into one classroom, with the same amount of resources available as before. It is likely that one teacher will be in charge of nearly 35 students in some CPS schools. This can cause many students to fall behind and the trouble doesn’t end there.

Going to high school in Chicago can prove to be even more challenging. The neighborhood Chicago public high schools remain lacking resources due to the billion dollar budget deficit. To attend one of Chicago’s selective enrollment high schools is not a simple process. Every student’s admittance application is broken down into a point system based on of their grades received, their ISAT test scores. and their entrance exam scores. They also break down the city into different areas based on socioeconomic class reflected in that area and give each section a number ranking. They use this as another basis of what they ironically call “equal opportunity” for admittance into these schools. They want to enroll the students who perform well but whose families can’t afford a private education first. This rigid system can put a lot of pressure on the youth of Chicago who are just trying to earn a good education. The City’s high schools are also disproportionately funded based on student’s achievement. But if we’re not giving the students the resources they need to succeed from day one then how can we expect them to continue to succeed. This automatically marginalizes certain students and unfairly presents opportunities to others. 

Don’t get me wrong Chicago can be a beautiful city full of adventure, and not to mention all of the events in the summer that Chicago has to offer. I love this city, I credit my drive to working hard while also experiencing it’s inherent segregation and lack of evenly distributed opportunities, as a chance to expand my knowledge and remain aware of the different lives we all live based on our socioeconomic class, location, race, gender, and the many other lived identities one can experience. The city has a way of waking it’s people up because the more you see the more you know and Chicago has plenty to see. And while it may remain a beautiful city, tourist attraction and home to many, we still have a lot of work to do on Chicago’s residents in order to make it a less segregated city and I think this starts with the education system.