My Kind of Town

My Kind of Town

My Kind of Town

Ever get tired of bad news about Chicago? This column highlights what you’ve always believed about the city: it’s a great place to live and work.

Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards Choose Chicago as the Best Big City—Third Straight Win

On Monday, October 7, Chicago’s WLS radio station reported that Conde Nast Magazine gave its latest Readers’ Choice Award to Chicago. This is the third straight year that Chicago’s been voted as the best city to visit. Based on more than 600,000 reader responses, the magazine praised Chicago for its "impressive architecture, first-rate museums, brilliant chefs and massive brewing scene."

As reported by WLS: “Chicago being named best big city to visit is a true accolade for all of us in Chicago's hospitality and meetings industry," said Glenn Eden, chair of Choose Chicago's Board of Directors. "This recognition validates the momentum that we have been able to build upon these past few years but further underscores the City's impact on the nation and world as a destination that everyone should experience." For more information and to see all the winners, visit

Chicago Public Schools Are More Successful Than They Are Given Credit For

In 3rd grade, the average student in Chicago scores below a 2nd-grade level, but by 8th grade, Chicago students perform near the national average. According to Stanford University researchers, “Chicago students experience the equivalent of six years of average learning in the five years between 3rd and 8th grade. The families in Chicago’s public schools tend to be lower in socioeconomic status, and the average test scores are relatively modest, but, year after year, the schools are lifting children up at an impressive rate."

In the affluent community of Anne Arundel, MD, the opposite is true: "Although students there are more affluent than average and score above a 4th-grade level in 3rd grade, they learn at a far lower rate than their Chicago peers. By 8th grade, their scores are only slightly above average," explained the researchers.

An analytical tool from the university known as the Opportunity Explorer provides the data—the “learning rate”—for schools, school districts, and counties across the country. A report explains the basis of the Explorer: “It’s common to think of average test scores as a measure of school quality. After all, if students are scoring well on tests, they must be learning something, right?

"To understand what is wrong with this assumption, consider a hospital. We shouldn’t assess a hospital based on the health of its patients; rather, we should ask how much a patient’s health improves as a result of his or her time in that hospital. Similarly, we shouldn’t evaluate a school based on the average scores of its students, but rather by how much students learn while in school. If we can measure the change in test scores as students move from one grade to the next, we gain a more accurate picture of what a school is accomplishing.”

The result of the analysis gives “an unexpected story of the quality of public education in the United States. We see, for example, that students in some relatively affluent districts—like Anne Arundel County—show less progress as they move from one grade to the next. We discover, too, that students in some poor districts start off testing far below average, but that the schools appear to be doing an outstanding job, where students are catching up to and exceeding the national average.

“If we want to improve educational outcomes, we will need to change how—and where and when—we provide educational opportunities throughout children’s lives. Some people assume that we simply need to improve schools. Others argue that the schools are fine, but that we need to provide more learning opportunities in early childhood—in children’s homes and child-care centers and preschool programs.

The data show that there may be no one best strategy. Rather we need targeted strategies—targeted to specific age groups in specific places—to allow all our children to reach their full potential, regardless of where they grow up.” 

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