Chicago’s 360,000 students are returning to a more stable district than in autumns past — buoyed by continuity in the CEO suite, firmer financial footing on the budget front, and a recent news of a graduation rate bump that offers leadership some bragging rights.

Chalkbeat is covering schools as they gear up, and also the intensifying back-and-forth between Chicago Public Schools and its teachers union. As we get into the swing of the school year, we wanted to reach out to let you know what we’ll be up to — and mention how you can help.  Readers are an important part of the picture, and we want to hear more from you about what stories we should be covering.

We also want to share our platform with first-person accounts from teachers, policymakers, parents, and students. Want to write about a topic close to your heart? Find our guidelines here.

As journalists covering education, we’re convinced that Chicago is the home of one of the nation’s most compelling public school stories. Chicago schools are run by the mayor, and, after decades of career politicians in City Hall, this year we’ll be closely watching the change in governance under Lori Lightfoot, who is a political novice.

How she plans to carve out a path for an elected school board and how she plans to push for more equitable school funding will be two storylines we’ll follow. We will look at how the district boosts achievement, and whether its pace of steady progress can continue.

We’ll be following the teacher contract negotiations closely through our #TrackingtheContract digest, part of our larger pledge this year to focus on teacher experience, diversity, and quality. 

In search of answers to the question that always drives us — Are Chicago students learning? —we’ve been looking closely at Chicago’s efforts to build a robust universal pre-K system. We’ve been covering the rollout closely — as well as the unintended consequences that could force out some providers — and will continue that work this year.

We also plan to examine the tension between school choice and widespread calls to invest more in neighborhood schools. We’ll be looking at tough choices surrounding declining enrollment and shrinking schools and the role the state school board plays in shaping policy in Chicago.

We’ll closely follow efforts to bring more educational equity to the system, including the district’s $135 million curriculum rollout.

Of course, news will happen, and we’ll be covering that, too. But we are sharing some of the broader storylines with you here for a few reasons.

One, because we’re still learning, and we invite our readers to draw on their own experience and insight to help us better understand these complicated issues.

Two, we are eager to see how policy changes affect families and classrooms, and we think you can help us do that.

And three, we’d like you to to hold us accountable for carrying out our ambitious plans.

Have a tip? Want to tell us more about your school? Help us explore a complicated topic? We love hearing from readers. Contact me directly: [email protected] Or drop a note on our tip line: [email protected]