A look at public education in poor neighborhoods

Linda Lutton, an education reporter with WBEZ, the NPR station in Chicago, has produced an amazing story about public education in a poor Chicago neighborhood. “The View From Room 205” is a report of a year or so in a classroom of 4th graders at William Penn Elementary School, in the North Lawndale neighborhood (one of Chicago’s poorest) on Chicago’s west side.

Lutton wrestles with the deep question of what can we expect from an underfunded public education system in an impoverished community. “Can schools make the American Dream real for poor kids?” is the subtitle of her report. And Lutton’s story makes it clear that we have overloaded schools with all sorts of expectations for fixing profound social and economic problems, a problematic expectation even if the schools had all of the resources they needed. (One might add that we also overload the police with a similar charge, to fix the social problems they are not capable of fixing.)

I taught at a K-8 school just a few blocks from Penn for four years not that long ago, and can attest to the truth of Lutton’s report — it really is one of the best stories I have ever seen or heard in capturing the enormous challenges facing public education. It is very well worth a listen.