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City File



The testing con. Do increasing Chicago Public Schools test scores measure improved achievement? Maybe not, according to Linda Lenz, writing in Catalyst (June). "Last school year, some 15,000 students in four grades (3rd, 6th, 8th and 9th) were forced to repeat a grade because their test scores fell short of board-imposed minimums. As a result, the next grades up (4th, 7th, 9th and 10th) were spared the lowest-scoring students. Not surprisingly, come test-taking time, the 4th, 7th and 9th grades did the best job 'moving' kids out of the bottom quartile (10th-graders don't take the test). At the same time, the test scores in 3rd, 6th, 8th and 9th grades benefited from having thousands of students (those retained) get another year of instruction before taking the tests again. Indeed, 9th grade, which is the only grade both to have been spared the lowest scorers and to have students repeat, posted the largest gains of all. And 5th and 11th grades, the only grades that so far have been unaffected by student retention, did the worst; 5th grade had the lowest gain, and 11th grade dropped slightly."

Fruits of welfare reform in the 'burbs, where the jobs (supposedly) are. Requests for emergency food boxes at Hesed House in Aurora between January and May of 1997: 10. Between January and May of 1998: 70. Requests for food, clothing, or medical help for homeless people at Hope Now in Arlington Heights in March 1997: 147. In March 1998: 607 ("Illinois Welfare Reform Progress Report," June 23).

We have the answer--what is your question? "In the 1950s, the irradiation of seeds was said to make plants larger and bear more fruit," writes Linda Rothstein, managing editor of the Hyde Park-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (July/August). "In the 1960s, irradiation was recommended for food storage in undeveloped countries. In the 1970s, irradiation was touted as a way to preserve the shelf life of fresh produce....Now proponents say that meats should be irradiated to fight contamination with campylobacter, listeria, salmonella, and E. coli 0157."

Number of beds available at the four Chicago-area veterans' hospitals: 1,665. Number used daily: 850. Amount the General Accounting Office believes the government could save by consolidating the four hospitals into three: $200 million over the next ten years, plus $6 million to $27 million in renovation costs (U.S. GAO report, "VA Health Care," April).

Yes, the church changes. Christine Gudorf in the Chicago-based U.S. Catholic (July): "One of the first things John XXIII did upon becoming pope was to officially affirm that Latin was the sacred language of the church and an integral part of its liturgy. Four years later, of course, the first session of Vatican II shifted the liturgy from Latin into the vernacular."

It's called steering. Judy Hooper and her family are among the few whites who've recently bought homes in Evanston's mostly black Fifth Ward, reports Alysia Tate in the Chicago Reporter (June). "She feared her neighbors wouldn't like her, but they greeted her with smiles instead of cold stares. Stereotypes, she said, may keep other white families away. 'The Realtors don't even show them the area,' she said. 'I've talked to people who say they didn't even know this area existed.'"

As others see us. "For the last few years, Rudy Giuliani has tried to turn New York into Chicago," writes Adam Davidson in the on-line magazine Feed (June 11). "Simultaneously, Richard Daley wants to transform Chicago into New York. The two cities have stubbornly refused to switch." Giuliani wants a city "where peep houses are rare, hot dogs and shish kebab are sold indoors, cabbies behave, and the citizens are afraid of the cops." Daley wants his city to be known as "world class." "But when historians look back at the '90s, they will most likely write of two men who didn't realize their towns were bigger than they were."

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