“While [Steinmetz High School English teacher Robin] Quinn has gone somewhat soft on homework, she sees no advantage in reverting to her former ways,” writes Elizabeth Duffrin in Catalyst (March). “Colleagues who remain strict about homework don’t get better compliance; they just get higher failure rates, she says. The Board of Education has mandated 120 minutes of homework a night for freshmen and more for upperclassmen. Quinn says that while that sounds like a good policy, it’s unenforceable. If teachers called parents every time children failed to turn in homework, they’d be making upwards of 100 calls a night.”

Chicago had more clean-air days in 1997 than in 1988, according to EPA statistics compiled by Wendell Cox at www.demographia.com. In 1988 there were 40 days when at least one of the five major air pollutants–particulates, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, and nitrogen dioxide–exceeded air-quality standards. In 1997 there were 9.

Welfare reform–an experiment in which “very little is known about the overall impact…or even the effects of its broad components, such as work requirements or time limits on benefits.” That’s the conclusion of a new report, “Evaluating Welfare Reform in an Era of Transition,” from a National Research Council committee that included Kathryn Edin, a sociologist at Northwestern University, and Robert George, a research fellow at the University of Chicago. Although the legislation is up for congressional reauthorization next year, its effects “have been virtually impossible to assess because of shortcomings in the available data.”

Chicago is the fourth most segregated metropolitan area in the country, right behind Detroit, Milwaukee, and Gary, according to a new Brookings Institution report, “Racial Segregation in the 2000 Census.” Authors Edward Glaeser and Jacob Vigdor report that segregation is declining almost everywhere, but not very fast. (In Chicago in 1990, 84 percent of blacks would have had to move for each census tract to mirror the overall racial composition of the region; by 2000, that measure of segregation was down to 78 percent.) The most segregated places–also the slowest to improve–are large, slow-growing cities in the midwest. “The nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas,

places such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, and Raleigh-Durham, feature remarkably low and declining segregation levels.” How come? The authors suspect that newly built neighborhoods come without generations of racist baggage.

Be careful what you wish for–you might get it. Mike Allen writes in the Washington Post National Weekly (April 2-8): “Bill Clinton promised an administration that looks like America but Bush, a Republican, has installed more women in top White House positions than any other president. At the senior staff meeting at 7:30 on weekday mornings in the Roosevelt Room, eight of the 18 attendees are women.”

No squirrels is bad news, according to a March 29 press release from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Where rats tend to be superabundant,” says UIC biologist and squirrel expert Joel Brown, “you will not have squirrels, and vice-versa, simply because they are competitors.” The university’s “Project Squirrel” site is at http://squirrel.bios.uic.edu.

Long live the “death tax.” “Most of the accumulated wealth that is subject to the estate tax was never subject to the income tax,” writes Michael Kinsley in Slate (April 6). “This is so obviously, overwhelmingly true that anyone with the slightest business or financial experience surely knows it. Even George W. Bush. Well, probably even Bush. Yet he keeps on repeating the lie. Bob Johnson [founder of Black Entertainment Television and organizer of an estate-tax-repeal ad]–a real businessman–must surely know it, since he is a walking example of wealth accumulated without the handicap of taxation….The rules are such that Johnson would have had to go out of his way–way, way out of his way–if he’d wanted his wealth to be taxed as he accumulated it. The same is true of almost every fortune large enough to qualify for the estate tax.”