Rx: instructional leadership. “A year ago in North Lawndale,” writes Elizabeth Duffrin in Catalyst (October), “one school saw nearly half its 3rd-, 6th- and 8th-graders fall short of the test scores required for promotion to the next grade. Around the corner, a similar school failed just one in seven students. In the Robert Taylor Homes area, two schools a block apart that draw students from the same towering, gang-infested high rises also were miles apart in student achievement: A child attending the school on the north end of the block was more than four times as likely to repeat a grade as a child attending the school on the south end. The disparities in students’ failure rates cannot be explained by their race, poverty level, English fluency, prior achievement, how often they switch schools or any other individual characteristic, according to researcher Melissa Roderick, who analyzed Chicago’s promotion policy results from 1997 to 1999 for the Consortium on Chicago School Research. Rather, she says, the varying failure rates reflect uneven work by the adults inside the school buildings, particularly the principal.”

Unnatural act. Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago reflects on bioengineered foods in a review of Pandora’s Picnic Basket by Alan McHughen (New Republic, October 23): “A century ago people argued that ice from mechanical freezers was artificial and far less safe than ice from frozen lakes or rivers; but now we know that ‘artificial ice’ is actually safer.”

Give it up for Illinois! According to a recent report by the Donors Forum of Chicago, “Giving in Illinois: an Update,” “Giving in Illinois by foundations and corporate giving programs for fiscal year 1998 totaled $1.1 billion, representing an increase of 25% over fiscal year 1997 giving figures. This compares favorably with the estimated increase of 22% in foundation giving nationally over the same time period.”

“Many arrests that morph into wrongful convictions yield warning signs from the first police report,” writes Steve Weinberg in In These Times (October 30). “In an ideal world, police officers would stop framing ‘suspects’ simply to clear a case, spending as much effort as needed to catch the actual perpetrators of crimes. In an ideal world, prosecutors would refuse to file criminal charges against those ‘suspects.’ In an ideal world, judges would dismiss cases based entirely on shoddy police work, unlikely eyewitness testimony, laughable mercenary ‘expert’ witnesses, dubious tales from jailhouse snitches who have been promised a deal, and the like.”

How to tell if it’s the client from hell? Attorney Eric Singer advises architects in the October issue of “Focus,” the newsletter of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects: “Satan may indeed be upon you. Here are some of those telltale signs. Clients who walk away from other architects will be willing to do the same to you. If you are looking at an incomplete set of plans or sketches, ask where they came from….If the client is evasive or tells you not to worry about it, you should worry about it.”

From the street to the laptop. The on-line newsletter “The Write News Weekly” (October 16) reports that eNovel.com, an “epublisher,” is planning to buy The Amazing Instant Novelist Web site. “Instant Novelist founder Dan Hurley will join eNovel’s management team. His career path began 17 years ago when he took his manual Remington typewriter onto the streets of Chicago to begin writing stories for passersby. Hurley is the author of the writing book, The 60-Second Novelist.”

Separation of church and city? “I think the [black] church in general, with very rare exceptions, has capitulated to the Daley regime,” longtime activist Lu Palmer tells Mick Dumke in the Chicago Reporter (September). “I don’t know where black leaders will come from, but they’re not going to come out of the church.”