Now this is is extra sad: Fifteen year old Hadiya Pendleton went to the Inauguration in DC, came back to her South Side high school in Chicago, and was shot in the back and killed last night (Sun times, DNAI, Daily Mail).
The murder didn't take place during school, or on school grounds. There is little or no direct connection to education. But this -- gun violence and street gangs -- is a big part of what's going on in some parts of Chicago -- the South and West Sides, mostly -- and it's a big part of the reason that the Board of Education's Utilization Commission recommended that no general high schools be closed in Chicago even if they were half-empty. (Remember that the brutal videotaped death of a Fenger High School student several years ago in Chicago was caused, some say, by a school closing that required students to travel outside their home neighborhood.)
Chronic poverty, discrimination, unemployment, and inadequate housing are all important to understand and address. But violence is the out of school factor that trumps all the others. In places like New York City where it has been addressed (legally or otherwise), school reform efforts have some hope of progress. In places like Chicago, where violence has been shoved aside and ignored (thanks, Mayor Daley and the current one), efforts to improve schools really struggle.