Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: July 2 – July 9, 2021

COVID-19 has magnified disparities in STEM education, but students are determined to prevail: ‘By the time they graduate, they are rock stars’

By Karen Ann Cullotta for The Chicago Tribune

“From home delivery of STEM supply kits and Wi-Fi hot spots to offering internships and dual credit courses, Chicago-area educators have spent 16 months scrambling to mitigate the pandemic’s damage to fledgling programs that were enrolling students facing formidable challenges even before the arrival of the coronavirus. For LeeAndra Khan, executive director at Epic Academy, a charter high school on the city’s Southeast Side, the odds stacked against students of color having equitable STEM opportunities was underscored when she stepped up to accept her diploma years ago as one of the only Black women enrolled in the engineering program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Khan, who grew up on the city’s South Side, said she was fortunate to have received a rigorous education at Whitney Young Magnet High School and to have strong family role models, including a grandfather who was a professor of engineering and an uncle who was a nuclear engineer. Unlike Khan, recent Epic graduate Sabine Ramirez will be a first-generation college student when she arrives at Purdue University in the fall on a full-ride academic scholarship. As one of eight children growing up in a Latino family in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the city’s Far South Side, Ramirez recalled being one of the few girls enrolled in her first STEM class, which was being offered by a nonprofit organization.”


Chicago South Side Epic Academy Announce High School Seniors Receive $3.7 Million in College Scholarships

By the Chicago Defender

“EPIC Academy, a public, open-enrollment charter high school, serving African-American and Latino students in marginalized communities in South Chicago, hosted their annual Decision Day celebration at Chicago’s South Shore Cultural Center on June 16, 2021. Approximately 100 students, families and staff were in attendance. This year Epic Academy seniors who have endured school 100% virtually, received at total of $3.7 million in college scholarships. “We are so proud of our Epic graduates. These students have overcome countless obstacles over the past four years, including a global pandemic and yet, have graduated and earned college scholarships,” said LeeAndra Khan, Epic Academy Executive Director. The annual event is a time for seniors to celebrate graduation and announce their colleges of choice and career pathways. Students received certificates of recognition and college shirts. Each student shared with the group a personal reflection and inspirational words to their peers. Food was served, and students were able to connect with staff and peers that they have not seen all year. 90% of student participants had parents or guardians accompany them.”


Rocky Path Ahead as Chicago Set to Get Elected School Board

By NBC Chicago

After decades of organizing by parents, activists and unions, Chicago is on the verge of having a fully-elected school board for the first time in its history. A proposal awaiting Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature phases out a seven-member board of mayoral appointees for an elected panel triple the size by 2027. With the shift, Chicago would join most U.S. cities in having an elected board, which supporters say is critical for equity in a district where most of the roughly 350,000 students are low income and of color. However, the Chicago plan has prompted backlash, even from supporters, and disagreement over what’s next, previewing what the third-largest U.S. city can expect in the transition.”


3 Chicago schools will be standing COVID-19 vaccine sites as city aims to reach more students and families

By Tracy Swartz for The Chicago Tribune

“Chicago Public Schools students and family members who want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 can visit three Chicago schools that will be converted into standing vaccination sites starting next week, the district announced Wednesday as it unveiled its student vaccination plan. Appointments can be made online via for Tuesdays at Chicago Vocational Career Academy in Avalon Park, Wednesdays at Roosevelt High School in Albany Park and Thursdays at Michele Clark High School in Austin. The schools, which were previously used for staff vaccine clinics, are set to be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Walk-ins will be accepted. The vaccine is free, and no proof of insurance or citizenship is required. A parent or guardian must be present during COVID-19 vaccination for those under 18. CPS says it can administer up to 600 first doses of vaccine per week through these vaccination sites.”


Chicago Is Spending Millions to Get Students Back on Track After COVID-19

By Karen Ann Cullotta for The Chicago Tribune

“Targeting more than 100,000 students considered the hardest hit by COVID-19 and months of remote learning, Chicago Public Schools has launched an initiative aimed at reengaging at-risk students and ensuring they’re back in the classroom when the city’s more than 600 public schools fully reopen in the fall. The $525 million Moving Forward Together program — a two-year effort funded by federal COVID relief money — will include strategies promoting strong attendance for all of the district’s roughly 300,000 students. CPS has also prioritized for extra support about 18,000 students who face the greatest challenges getting to school and will receive one-on-one interventions, home visits and access to summer school remediation. An additional 84,500 CPS students have been identified for targeted interventions, such as phone calls to parents, and enrollment in credit recovery and bridge classes. With students returning to fully reopened schools in the fall, the expansive pandemic recovery initiatives are “an essential imperative to reengaging with students who have become disconnected from our school communities … and all of our students,” Michael Deuser, CPS chief of college and career services, said at a Board of Education meeting last week.”


Three Chicago teens, one pandemic year: How COVID-19 widened education gaps for boys of color

By Mila Koumpilova for Chalkbeat Chicago

“As the promise of spring hung over Chicago, three teenage boys tussled with insomnia, sifting through the fallout of a pandemic year’s interlocking crises. In Little Village on the West Side, senior Leonel Gonzalez often couldn’t sleep, beset by stubborn what ifs. What if next fall, one of the panic attacks that dogged him during the COVID era creeps up on him on a college campus? What if he didn’t pick the right school? What if he didn’t graduate and go to college at all? Several miles away one morning before dawn, Derrick Magee and his stepsister, Anna, griped about virtual high school, which Derrick had tuned out weeks ago. Anna pleaded with him not to give up on a trying junior year at Austin College & Career Academy — and with it, on his entire high school career. And farther north in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood, Nathaniel Martinez would stare at the ceiling and make plans. The sophomore had joined a new push to remove cops from city schools, at a time Chicago was reeling from the police killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo. But school had receded in Nathaniel’s mind, leaving his grade report card in shambles.”