Are Chicago’s Safe Passage Routes Located in the Highest Risk Areas?

Safe passage routes to school provide not only a sense of safety for Chicago students from pre-K through high school, but they reduce crime involving students and help increase school attendance. Chicago’s Safe Passage program was introduced in 2009 after the beating death by gangs of 16-year-old Fenger High School honors student Derrion Albert, which was captured on cell phone video. His death and the circumstances received national attention along with a series of other incidents involving CPS students caught in gang violence. Since then, the program has expanded to include schools, parents, residents, law enforcement officials and even local businesses in efforts to provide students with a safe environment. The various types of safe passage programs among the 51 safe route programs currently available include: safe haven programs in which students who fear for their safety can find refuge at the local police station, fire house, library and even convenience stores, barbershops and restaurants; patrols along school routes by veterans, parents and local residents; and walking to school programs in which parents and local residents create a presence to help deter unlawful incidents.

The map below shows the number of all crimes committed in the city of Chicago during the current school year, and the locations of schools and safe routes among those communities that have safe routes. Currently, there are 517 Chicago public schools, of which, only 136 Chicago public schools (26.3% of all schools) fall within the 51 safe routes. Although the safe routes are located in 37 of the high crime communities in general (south, west and northeast sides of Chicago), they do not exist in the pockets of the highest crime incidents (1,500+ highlighted in burgundy) where children are the most vulnerable. Of the 47 schools that fall within the extreme crime areas (1,500+ incidents a year), only 6 have safe routes; the others offer no safe passage options. A list of the schools appears at the end of this blog.

Click through to see the enlarged image.


Schools located in extremely high-crime areas of Chicago (Schools highlighted in green have safe passage routes):
Bennett, Bowen HS, Bradwell, Camelot Safe – Garfield Park, Camelot Safe Academy, Clark HS, Coles, Community, Ericson, Frazier Charter, Frazier Prospective, Galapagos Charter, Great Lakes Charter, Gregory, Harlan HS, Hefferan, Heroes, Herzl, Hirsch HS, Hubbard HS, Learn Charter – Butler, Leland, Mann, Mireles, Noble Charter – Academy, Noble Charter – Baker College Prep, Noble Charter – DRW, Noble Charter – Muchin, Noble Charter – Rowe Clark, Oglesby, Plato, Polaris Charter, Powell, Schmid, Shabazz Charter – Shabazz, Smith, South Shore Intl HS, Webster, Westcott, Winnie Mandela HS, YCCS Charter – Association House, YCCS Charter – CCA Academy, YCCS Charter – Community Service, YCCS Charter – Innovations, YCCS Charter – Olive Harvey, YCCS Charter – Sullivan, YCCS Charter – Youth Development


Implementing visualization techniques in faculty research
The image of the map reflects the different visualization techniques that might be used to effectively convey data or research conclusions to different types of audiences in various disciplines or industries. Visualizations can help identify existing or emerging trends, spot irregularities or obscure patterns, and even address or solve issues.

Ask us how to visualize your research
For help visualizing your own research findings or seeing if your research lends itself to similar techniques including data acquisition and pre-processing of both quantitative and qualitative data, contact Nandhini Gulasingam at


Darsie Bowden’s Investigation into the Role of Instructor Feedback on Students’ Writing Efforts

Students care about feedback and consider comments on their papers much more carefully than instructors often give them credit for.  That’s one of the encouraging discoveries Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse Professor Darsie Bowden and a team of WRD student researchers are finding as they approach the analysis stage in a project examining how students utilize instructor feedback.


Teachers commonly complain that students ignore their written comments on assignments.  Some have even tried different approaches to commenting, including audio-recording their suggestions, conferencing with students or soliciting feedback—probably impractical on a large scale.  Darsie, who has taught writing to teachers and students for 30 years at three institutions and has administered DePaul’s first-year writing program, is approaching this conundrum from the perspective of the student.

“We’re looking at the wrong thing when we look at the final draft,” she said.  “It’s static.”  Why?  It leaves out what she is finding to be a critical aspect: “students’ reflections on how they got there.”

Over the past two years Darsie has been attempting to identify precisely what transpires from the moment when students confront teacher feedback through the decision-making process that results in their submission of a revised draft.  She and her researchers have been meeting from one to three times a week in the SSRC’s computer lab since last summer where they are using NVivo software to structure and analyze data collected from 47 students—primarily freshmen—from 12 sections of WRD 103, Composition and Rhetoric I, a course on college-level writing standards and expectations required of most first-year DPU students.  The data consists of written drafts, survey information and interviews assembled, transcribed and coded by Darsie, her researchers and staff from The University Center for Writing-based Leadership at DePaul.

The interviews have provoked “wonderful conversations with students,” said Darsie, opening a window on to their thought processes, starting from students’ initial reaction to teacher feedback and progressing from planning to execution and the revising of their papers.  Each project participant gave two interviews—first, upon receiving written comments where students discussed how they felt about the feedback, how they interpreted it and how they planned to address it.  The subsequent interview came after they submitted a revised paper.  That conversation focused on how they’d incorporated their instructor’s comments into both their thinking and their writing, including what influenced their choices and revisions.

Darsie was taken aback to find that 36 of the 47 (77%) subjects in her study expressed confusion over at least one comment from the instructor.  “That’s distressing!” she said.  However, a fuller depiction emerged as students talked through their processes, sharing with interviewers such moments as when a puzzling comment suddenly gelled, be it an idea or the reason behind a grammar rule.

That point might occur far down the road, a finding that could have significant implications for how teachers define writing.  “We may have to conceive of writing in a broader sense,” said Darsie, as a process that unfolds over time, even up to years.  “How are you going to open those doors such that instructors can understand what’s going on and intervene in productive ways that will actually help students become better writers and thinkers?” she asks.

Through the analysis, Darsie hopes to pinpoint what sort of comments help students most and why they follow, ignore or reject suggestions.  Previous investigations of this type have concentrated on student writers from specific types of schools (such as Ivy League or two-year institutions) or on best practice recommendations for teacher feedback.  She wants to scrutinize the thought and writing process of a broad range of students, including strong and unconfident writers.  She thinks her sample “pretty nicely” represents the demographics of first-year DePaul students across colleges, including non-native speakers, students who struggle with learning disabilities, transfer students and high-achievers.

Her project has received financial support from DePaul’s Quality of Instruction Council, the University Research Council and LAS Summer Research Grants as well as a prestigious Research Initiative award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication.  She greatly appreciates the suggestions on how to utilize NVivo coming from her research team—WRD graduate students Bridget Wagner, Meaghan Young-Stephens, Katie Martin and former student Jeff Melichar.  NVivo’s search, query and visualization functions let them match and apply coded data from the writing drafts, interviews and demographic surveys that include GPA and ACT/SAT scores as well as the students’ own assessments of their writing ability to form a sophisticated analysis and a rich picture of project participants.

Darsie plans to summarize her findings in a journal article by the end of summer.  Longer term, she is contemplating a book-length assessment that would expand upon how students handle feedback and what determines strong or weak processing of suggestions.  Her ultimate aim is to provide evidence-based guidance for instructors across disciplines on how to best serve all student writers.

Mess Hall: November 8

Writing (Precarious) Lives: Victimhood and its Affirmations in Northern Uganda

Matthew Sebastian
MA Candidate, International Studies
Friday, November 8, 2 – 3 p.m.
990 Fullerton Ave, Suite 3100

Pabbo Memorial IDP Camp and Information Centre
Pabbo Memorial IDP Camp and Information Centre, photo courtesy Matthew Sebastian

Based on fieldwork conducted over the past four years with NGO, state, and community practitioners in northern Uganda, this project examines how the experiences of individuals living amidst violent conflict are narrated, documented, archived, and curated into public sites of memory with the expectation that more peaceful futures will result.

Sebastian invites a conversation about how life histories fit into peace-building schemas and reflection on the implications for ethnographic production and the limits of ethnographic representation when writing about deeply contentious, even violent, histories.

The Kitgum/National Memory Peace and Documentation Centre (K/NMPDC)
The Kitgum/National Memory Peace and Documentation Centre (K/NMPDC), photo courtesy of Matthew Sebastian

Mess Hall is a “brown bag” series (bring your lunch!) that lets DePaul researchers present their works in progress at any stage (mess & all). Mess Hall is a safe, fun, supportive and no-pressure environment for presenters to practice conference presentations, talk through data analysis problems, or untangle conceptual or framework issues. For those not presenting, Mess Hall offers an opportunity to learn what scholars in other departments and fields are working on and to become part of a supportive community of research at DePaul. Faculty, staff, graduate and advanced undergraduate students are welcome to attend.

Mess Hall: October 11

Mess Hall is a “brown bag” series (bring your lunch!) that lets DePaul researchers present their works in progress at any stage (mess & all). Mess Hall is a safe, fun, supportive and no-pressure environment for presenters to practice conference presentations, talk through data analysis problems, or untangle conceptual or framework issues. For those not presenting, Mess Hall offers an opportunity to learn what scholars in other departments and fields are working on and to become part of a supportive community of research at DePaul. Faculty, staff, graduate and advanced undergraduate students are welcome to attend. Please RSVP on Facebook.

This month’s offering:
Transmedia for Students & Emotional Health
Doris C. Rusch (CDM), Anu Rana (CDM), Mona Shattell (CHS)

The Transmedia Project on Students and Emotional Well-Being brings together documentary episodes and experiential games that aim to capture people’s lived experience of personal struggles and inner conflicts. The goal is to raise awareness about emotional health, destigmatize, and build empathy.

We are in the process of developing 4 interactive sequences and webisodes dealing with ADD, OCD, bipolar and eating disorders and collecting written and verbal stories of these experiences from a wide range of individuals.

We have some questions we’d like to open for discussion:
• How can we find a good balance between creating something that is appealing and compelling for a diverse audience of young adults suffering from various afflictions, their friends and families, a generally interested public, and health care practitioners?
• How can we make something aesthetically compelling that communicates to a broad audience, yet remains true to people’s lived experiences?
• What additional applications and research potential should we consider as we design the overall website?

“The Dirty Little Secret of Higher Education.”

Matthew Williams from the New Faculty Majority describes the prevalence of welfare recipients in higher education as “the dirty little secret of higher education”. Recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education released an article with data generated from Current Population Surveys of 2008 and 2011 reporting an increase in aid recipients with advanced degrees.

The federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefit that many of these scholars are receiving is food assistance. The number of folks with PhDs receiving food stamps nearly tripled from 9,776 in 2007 to 33,655 in 2010. That only includes people who self-report to the U.S. Census Bureau that they receive food stamps or some other form of government assistance. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include data on aid recipients who may have declined to respond for any reason (out of embarrassment, for instance). After all, being a PhD on welfare isn’t exactly ideal.

If this is really as problematic as the data show, should we be encouraging students to go into PhD programs when post-grad employment opportunities may not be there for them? Should we continue to train students for the academy when their career paths may actually veer off in another direction? The American Sociological Association reports that the academic job market recently shrank considerably compared to previous years. Such reports make you wonder, what is the future of the academy? University positions are being eliminated and the criteria for filling them is certainly changing.
Continue reading ““The Dirty Little Secret of Higher Education.””

Safe Schools?

A trend toward increasing punitiveness in public schools seems to be taking shape across the nation. Schools are looking more like prisons governed through a penal pedagogical framework of crime while the rights and liberties of parents and students are diminishing (Giroux 2003; Simon 2007). With a national emphasis on crime control in public schools, per the Safe Schools Act of 1994 (Simon 2007), many of the former institutional goals of racial equality and equity are being undermined.

There’s a near consensus among scholars that schools distribute punitive measures in thoroughly racialized ways, punishing black students most often (Keleher 2000; Gregory, Skiba, and Noguera 2010; Welch and Payne 2010). Being suspended or expelled from school substantially increases the likelihood that a young person will be arrested and incarcerated later in their lives (Wald and Losen 2003; Simmons 2006; Weissman, Cregor, and Gainsborough 2008). Racial disparities in suspension and expulsion rates, then, contribute to racial disparities in educational outcomes and life chances of young people in the United States. Harsh punitive measures by school officials do not lead to the improvement of pupils’ behavior or  reduce school violence and increase school safety (Imich 1994; Skiba and Peterson 1999; Skiba et el. 2008).

Map by Dan Cooper

To quantify one dimension of this problem, Mariame Kaba of Project NIA, and Frank Edwards of the SSRC at DePaul this week released “Policing Chicago Public Schools,” a report detailing the scope and character of arrests occurring on Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) property. Data on policing activities in public schools is pretty difficult to get. School officials, CPS in particular, are very reluctant to release information about school discipline, and the Chicago Police Department has only recently made useful data on crime and arrests easily accessible to the public. This report is an effort to make what is going on in schools more transparent.

Key findings of the report include:

  • More than 5,500 arrests of young people under 17 years old took place on CPS properties in 2010.
  • Black youth are disproportionately targeted for arrest at school. In 2010, while they represented 45% of CPS students, black youth accounted for 74% of juvenile school-based arrests .
  • Young men are much more likely to be arrested on CPS property than their female counterparts.
  • Nearly a third of school-based arrests in 2010 were for simple battery (fighting).
  • Certain police districts on Chicago’s South Side have far greater rates of arrest at schools than other police districts.

Notably, this data suggests that arrests on CPS property account for about 20 percent of all juvenile arrests in  Chicago. The bulk of these arrests are for relatively minor infractions such as simple battery and disorderly conduct.  Theorists, empirical scholars and activists have argued for some time that as zero-tolerance policies and policing have replaced traditional school disciplinary practices (e.g., a trip to the principal’s office), the rates of suspension, expulsion and arrest at schools have skyrocketed, suggesting that we might best view these efforts as creating a school-to-prison pipeline. This report provides empirical precision to help quantify the magnitude of the problem in Chicago. The results unfortunately confirm that this pipeline is indeed operating here and is contributing to the production of the racial bias scholars detect operating throughout the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Frank Edwards contributed to this post.

Grad Student How-to


Being a grad student is not always easy. There is a whole new world of systems to navigate, obstacles to overcome, people to please, and goals to acheive. Unlike many undergraduate programs, there is also often very little guidance or support for grad students, aside from an advisor who has classes to prepare, research to conduct, and their own papers to write (not to mention, you know, a life).

is a community of support for, by, and among grad students that is designed to help them get the most out of (or “hack“) graduate school.

Featuring articles by and for students about subjects as varied as remembering to have funtips for teaching, and even how to survive as a parent/academic.

Versatile PhD

In 1999, Ohio State grad student Paula Chambers started a listserv called “WRK4US” for PhDs and grad students looking for alternatives to the tenure track. After more than 10 years of managing the group, Chambers decided to make the community her full-time job and transformed it into Versatile PhD.

The site has job and event listings, and a forum for the PhDs, MAs, ABDs, and grad students in the community to talk about work issues, get advice about becoming a freelancer, or ask for suggestions about tools they can use in their work. These features are free to individual (“basic“) members of the site. Institutional members of Versatile PhD get access to “premium” features such as career panels and biographies, and examples of successful resumes and cover letters.

For graduate students at DePaul, Versatile PhD might be a good forum for discussing how to get work with community organizations after graduation.


Like a cross between GradHacker and Versatile PhD, #alt-academy is an innovative new web publication that pulls together blog posts on the common theme of alternative academic careers ( “off the tenure-track, but within the academic orbit“), specifically for scholars in the humanities.

The publishing model is a mix of agregated blog site (think Huffington Post) and “networked scholarly communication“. Writers post their thoughts to their blogs on the MediaCommons site, tagged with #alt-ac, which automatically brings the posts into the #alt-academy main site. “Clusters” of posts on specific themes (for example, “Vocations, Identities” or “Making Room“), curated by editors, are collected and featured on the main home page.

Twitter users can also find the #alt-academy community (or add to the discussion) using the #alt-ac hashtag on their tweets.