In 1987, U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett flew into Chicago, declared it the “worst” school district in the country, and flew home, leaving Chicago residents stunned and angry. They had known things were bad, but being declared the worst helped galvanize support for the 1988 Chicago School Reform Act, which launched a generation’s worth of work to improve the schools. Today, the city is unified in a desire to keep improving schools.

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ExtraOrdinary Districts was made possible with a grant from The Wallace Foundation, which fosters improvements in learning and enrichment for children from low-income families and encourages efforts to improve the recruitment, training, and support of school leaders.