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 1983 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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