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The School Project * Aftermath of Chicago's 2013 School Closings

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 Media Contact: Tim Horsburgh 773-472-4366 Rachel Dickson                         

The School Project teams up with University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research to revisit the aftermath of Chicago’s 2013 school closings

Second segment of unprecedented collaboration between Chicago’s top documentary and media companies premieres at University of Chicago on January 22nd


CHICAGO, IL – Five of Chicago’s top documentary production companies will present the world premiere of the second installment of a new web and TV series examining public education after the fallout from the city’s historic closing of 49 public schools. The School Project seeks to provide context and spaces for dialogue about public education in Chicago. The second installment of The School Project, "Chicago Public Schools: Closed"  follows Rousemary Vega, a parent turned activist, through the maze of hearings and protests that preceded the largest school closings in American history. We hear from major figures in public education—Terry Mazany, Linda Lutton, Andrea Zopp, Karen Lewis, David Vitale, and Jitu Brown—who help connect the dots between decades old education policies, demographic shifts, and the challenges facing CPS today. The short will be available online at beginning January 22nd. Press can request an early copy for review.

Also on January 22nd, the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research will release a new report exploring where the 10,000 students affected by the closings in 2013 ended up. The research looks at whether displaced students from closed schools enrolled in the welcoming schools assigned by CPS, if they ended up in higher- or lower-rated schools, and which factors shaped their decisions.

From The School Project, "Chicago Public Schools: Closed":

“We didn’t have the whole school just pick up and move here. It didn’t work that way. When they closed [our school], they fractured a lot of relationships, not only amongst the faculty, but amongst families as well,” said orchestra teacher Arturs Weible.

Elaine Allensworth of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research explains that “I’ve been studying school reform for 15 years now, and I see people trying the same things over and over and they always think this time we’re going to get it right. They did try to do things somewhat differently this time but social systems are very complex.  There are always going to be unintended consequences.”

"Chicago Public Schools: Closed" will premiere with a free public screening and discussion moderated by Laura Washington of the Chicago Sun-Times in the Performance Hall at the University of Chicago Logan Center on Thursday, January 22 at 6:30pm. Panelists include Jesse Ruiz of the Board of Education, Jitu Brown of the Journey for Justice Alliance, Asif Wilson, executive director of Greenhouse Fellowship and a former Chicago Public School teacher, and Elaine Allensworth of the Consortium on Chicago School Research. The screening will be followed by a presentation of new research on school closings by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research. A subsequent panel discussion will engage the audience in a conversation about the school closings and what the city can do moving forward and how to handle important issues surrounding public education. FREE, RSVP here: http://chicago-school-closings.eventbrite.comThe event is sponsored by the University of Chicago Logan Center.

The segment will launch simultaneously on the interactive website

The School Project series examines the interrelated issues that are affecting Chicago Public Schools right now and helps to define terms and dispel misinformation about the context of public education. This is the first series to gather so many voices of the major public figures of education in Chicago: Terry Mazany, Karen Lewis, Mike Koldyke, Andrea Zopp, Linda Lutton, Elaine Allensworth, Linda Lenz, David Vitale, Jitu Brown, and Diane Ravitch, along with many parents, teachers and students whose voices are seldom heard. Future segments will look at the expansion of charter schools, the controversy surrounding standardized testing, school discipline policies, and the history of reforms and educational models. The series examines the roots of these issues and how each policy impacts the wider school community in Chicago and its implications on a national level. The first segment premiered to a sold-out crowd in October of 2014. This is the second in a series of six live, free public events, premiering new installments of The School Project over the 2014-2015 school year.

The School Project’s co-production partners include Free Spirit Media, Kartemquin Films, Kindling Group, Media Process Group, Siskel/Jacobs Productions, and producers Rachel Dickson and Melissa Sterne. Outreach partners include WTTW/Channel 11, the Chicago Sun-Times, Catalyst Chicago, the Chicago History Museum,, CANTV, StoryCorps, and Community Media Workshop.

The interactive website,, will allow visitors to watch the documentary and see how it maps to the Chicago Public Schools system. Users can explore news media and content related to individual schools, data trends and demographics, and share their stories and opinions about public school education.

Chicago’s PBS station WTTW will also broadcast each segment during their flagship “Chicago Tonight” News Program, and the Sun-Times, and Catalyst Chicago will contribute additional web-based content.

The School Project has also partnered with StoryCorps, the national oral history organization, to record and share the personal stories of people from all backgrounds and beliefs about public education. Interested people of all ages can make a reservation online ( to record their story at a recording studio located at the Chicago Cultural Center (mention The School Project in the NOTES section). These stories will be shared online at, and archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

“A collaboration like this has never been done before, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it,” said Dustin Park, the Executive Producer of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Funders for the series include the MacArthur Foundation, the Chicago Digital Media Production Fund, and the Driehaus Foundation.

Collectively, the filmmakers have won multiple Emmy, Peabody and DuPont Columbia awards, and are responsible for acclaimed projects such as Louder Than a Bomb, Radical Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger, Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters, and The Calling.

Event located in Performance Hall on First Floor. Logan Center has ample free parking located just west of the building, as well as street parking, and many public transportation options. There is a cafe in the lobby as well.

The School Project Timeline

October 28, 2014: Chicago Schools - The Worst in the Nation?Chicago History Museum

January 22, 2015: Chicago's School Closings, University of Chicago Logan Center

March 5, 2015: The Impact of School Discipline Policies, North Lawndale College Prep Collins Campus

March 31, 2015: Testing Season, Chicago Cultural Center

April 25, 2015: Charter Schools: For Better or Worse, Chicago Cultural Center

May 2015: Effective Education in Neighborhood Schools, TBA

Photos for publication       @theschoolpr     #theschoolproject


Media Process Group is a 29 year old Chicago-based production company whose work has been shown on PBS, IFC, Discovery Channel and TLC. Their DP's shoot regularly for PBS' Frontline, CBS' 60 Minutes and for Oprah Winfrey's Prime show. They produced the award-winning Radicle Disciple: The Story of Father Pfleger and are currently producing Maya Angelou: The People’s Poet.

Kartemquin Films is an award-winning social issue documentary company based in Chicago since 1966. Films such as The InterruptersHoop Dreams, and The Trials of Muhammad Ali have left a lasting impact on millions of viewers. A revered resource within the film community on issues of fair use, ethics, story and civic discourse, Kartemquin is internationally recognized for crafting quality documentaries backed by audience and community engagement strategies.

Siskel/Jacobs Productions is a Chicago-based documentary and televisión production company founded in 2005 by Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs. Their work has been seen widely on Discovery Channel, OWN, A & E and the National Geographic Channel. Their most recent film, Louder Than a Bomb was shown on OWN in 2012 and won the Audience Award at the Chicago, Philadelphia, Palm Springs, Cleveland and Woods Hole film festivals. They also produced the Emmy award-winning 102 Minutes That Changed America for the History Channel in 2009.

Kindling Group crafts powerful documentaries and engagement campaigns to ignite change. They are known for their innovative strategies that take media and impact across platforms, genres, and technologies. They have produced many acclaimed documentaries including the PBS series The Calling (2010), A Doula Story (2007), and Legacy, a feature length documentary for HBO, which was nominated for a 2001 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and an Emmy for Best Documentary.

Free Spirit Media provides education, access, and opportunity in media production to over 500 underserved urban youth every year. Free Spirit won a Midwest Emmy in 2010 for a PSA they produced and have won several Media That Matters Awards.

Keywords: documentaries, media, School Closings, The School Project, University of Chicago

Posted in Community Highlights, Education Initiatives

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