In the fall of 1998, I received a phone call from Sue Davenport at Designs for Change, the educational activist group that has been responsible for many of the ideas on which the Chicago decentralization of schools was based. She told me that Mayor Richard M. Daley had retaken centralized control of the schools and had installed his aide as head of schools. The major reform policy was retentionfailing students who did not attain a specific score on a standardized achievement test. She asked me to give a speech at a Chicago conference aimed at challenging this policy. The purpose was to rally support against the retention policy and to encourage other academics in the Chicago area to speak out. Few had been bold enough to challenge the mayor.