Friday, April 17, 2015

Is Rahm just 'lucky' or what?

Could BBB have made the $20.5M no-bid deal with SUPES without nod from Rahm & Vitale?
Answer: Or what...

S-T's Fran Spielman says:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is lucky the FBI investigation targeting his hand-picked schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett came to light one week after the election instead of one week before it.
C'mon Fran. You know better than that. Luck is when your meter ran out a half-hour ago and you return to the car and find no ticket on the window. We all know what "getting lucky" means and it has nothing to do with the feds holding off their announcement of an investigation until after an election.

I also believe that Spielman is wrong in thinking that current contract negotiations revolve around the "girlfriend" relationship between Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Karen Lewis. BBB came into the 2012 negotiations the same way she is leaving them in 2015 -- in hiding. She played Rahm Emanuel's pawn then and she's taking the fall for him now. Does anyone really believe that BBB could have handed out $20.5M no-bid contracts to Paul Vallas' partners, on her own? With no nod from Rahm or David Vitale?

No, the reason she will take her (paid) leave before her contract expires in June (spend more time with her family?) is to avoid lengthy criminal-trial blood spilling where the public sees how the sausage is really made at CPS as well as on the 5th floor of City Hall. It's in open court where the name of the buyers as well as the sellers of a deal-gone-bad usually comes to light.

In the mean time, it's getting pretty crowded with former top, black, CPS administrators down here, under the bus. Right, J.C.?  Right, Eason-Watkins? Lesson for potential successor.

These contract negotiations, like the last ones, won't be settled over breakfast at Meli's.

'A startling act of mass civil disobedience' -- Tens of thousands opt out

He'd rather be learning: Derek Rudley, 10, a student in Ossining Union Free School District, stayed home and read Tuesday. Mom had him opt out of New York state standardized tests. (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News)
999 is the magic number. No, I'm not referring to crazy Republican pizza guy, Herman Cain's campaign slogan in 2012. I mean 999 the computer code signifying a student who has opted out of N.Y. state testing. If Tuesday's protests are any indication, the 9-key on district computers will soon be worn out.

According to Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News:
The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.
Still, officials in both the state and city departments of education claim they don’t know yet how many of the 1.1 million pupils scheduled for testing in grades 3 to 8 joined the boycott. Protest organizers said Thursday that at least 155,000 pupils did — with only half of school districts tallied so far. At some Long Island and upstate school districts, abstention levels reached 80%.

Gonzalez called it, "a startling act of mass civil disobedience, given that each parent had to write a letter to the local school demanding an opt out for their child".

Among the many reasons behind parent and teacher anger are the inappropriate use of test scores in teacher evaluation and the time taken away from teaching/learning to administer the latest tests. Then there's the lack of validity and reliability in the whole testing process. For example, back in 2009, the old state tests showed 77% of students statewide were proficient in English. The next year, the pass level was raised and the proficiency percentage dropped to 57%. A few years later, Albany introduced Common Core and the level plummeted even more — to 31% statewide.

Same teachers, same students, same schools. But the reformers' conclusion -- the kids are getting dumber and teachers have gotten worse. No wonder parents are pissed.

Tisch is blaming it all on the unions. From editorial in the Journal News:
Already, defenders of "reform" have produced an excuse for the test-refusal movement: teachers unions are behind it. Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents and chief architect of New York's foundering education program, said on MSNBC Tuesday evening that more kids would be taking the tests if the tests did not affect teacher evaluations. "Our kids got caught in a labor dispute," she said.
There's obviously something wrong with Tisch's hearing. She needs to go and so does Common Core, PARCC and Pearson along with her.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Feds back in Chicago. Rahm, Vitale suddenly gag up

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.[A casino worker gives Renault a wad of money.]Casino Worker: Your winnings, sir. -- Casablanca
Catalyst deserves award for breaking Supes/BBB story back in July, 2013. We bloggers have been writing about this for two years. But feds didn't announce their move until a week after the election. Why not? And where have you been all this time, Sun-Times, Trib, Crain's, Chicago Tonight...? 

Back in August of that year, I asked: "Why is media burying the $20 million, no-bid Supes contract story?"
Why the blackout by the Sun-Times on the Supes contract? The Tribune barely mentioned it. It's buried at the end of a school budget story this morning.  Sarah Karp at Catalyst has given reporters everything they need to begin asking the right questions and should win an award for her reporting. -- Klonsky Blog
Rahm, Vitale and the gang deserve acting awards for gagging up and feigning surprise after news of the federal investigation broke. 
“As part of that investigation by the federal authorities, they asked us not to give a lot of information out, even though we don’t have a lot of information, and we’re going to honor that.” -- Rahm Emanuel
"Yesterday the Board of Education was made aware that federal authorities are investigating a matter at CPS and have requested interviews with several employees. We take any allegation of misconduct seriously, and we are fully cooperating with investigators who requested that we not discuss any specifics regarding the ongoing investigation.” -- School Board Pres. David Vitale
Vitale and Rahm?
Yesterday, made aware? Who are you crappin', Captain Renault? CPS signed its initial contract with SUPES for leadership training not long after Byrd-Bennett took office. You both knew that she had worked for the company before joining CPS as a consultant in April 2012.

And we know that you know that we know, you've been meeting about how to stonewall this for weeks, even discussing the possibility of appointing an interim CEO before the story broke. You've sent BBB into hiding even though you are in the middle of contract negotiations with the CTU.

Your own inspector general's office began an investigation into the contract with SUPES Academy and Byrd-Bennett's relationship to the company in 2013. The U.S. attorney's office started its own probe, and a grand jury has been reviewing evidence for at least a year.

Even your usually silent and compliant principals raised holy hell last year, about the deadly $20M SUPES workshops, after they were forced to take time away from their own schools. At one point, they even revolted, ran out Gary Solomon's facilitator, and took over the trainings themselves.

There can be only one explanation. This is only the tip of the iceberg. It goes way beyond BBB who will likely be dumped unceremoniously and soon, like her predecessors Brizard and Huberman, with only her golden parachute to land her softly. If she's indicted, you can bet it won't be on RICO racketeering charges like the teachers down in Atlanta or carry a 20-year-sentence. She may even decide to pull an Amer Ahmad and flee the country. More likely, a deal is already in the works.

But this thing goes even higher up the ladder and the A.G. knows it. After all, this is a system of mayoral control of the schools and a no-bid contract to one of Paul Vallas' Synesi consulting partners would never have been handed out without a nod from Rahm and Vitale.

Also, this goes way beyond Chicago. Solomon, Vallas and Synesi have been running this scam since Vallas left Chicago on his way to Philly, New Orleans, Haiti and points north and south. It should make us take a fresh look at how and why Vallas was made Pat Quinn's running mate for the second highest office in the state?

More, much more, to come on this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rhee sentenced to 20 years for erasing grades -- Just a dream.

They're whistling Dixie in Atlanta this morning. 
I had a strange dream last night. Michelle Rhee was standing in front of a crazed, media-hungry judge who sentenced her to 20 years in the penitentiary under RICO statutes for "racketeering" stemming from her leadership role in the D.C. cheating scandal. He also confiscated her Mercedes. Alas, it was just a dream. When I woke up, Arne Duncan (who had promised to visit her in prison) hadn't even taken back the Blue Ribbon he awarded Rhee and the district for the amazing, but temporary bump in test scores.

This was not a dream -- Today's Daily News reports:
The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.
Pay attention, Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Darling-Hammond has some smart things to say about testing

Linda Darling-Hammond thinks that passage of a new bipartisan ESEA bill is "really possible". I doubt it. But I don't run in those circles.

Writing this week in Huffington Post, she says any new federal legislation has to represent a break from the old No Child Left Behind, especially on testing and assessment. She correctly points out that despite NCLB's focus on more and more standardized testing, "achievement gains have slowed in the NCLB era, and achievement gaps have remained stubbornly large". Many of her criticisms of current testing approaches also apply to the new PARCC exams.

You might remember that Darling-Hammond was unceremoniously dumped and exiled back to Palo Alto by an Obama administration that had bought uncritically into the worst aspects of corporate-style reform. Fearful that she was too teacher/union friendly, they handed the D.O.E. over to Arne Duncan instead. The consequences have been disastrous for public education.

I still think Darling-Hammond is too accepting of Common Core standards and of testing as a driver of curriculum. But, I think she offers some smart ideas about how and why we test. They include:
  • Assessment results should be reported and used for information and improvement, rather than for labeling schools or administering sanctions, a purpose for which they were never intended. 
  • Federal law should no longer prescribe technical features of tests - how they are designed and administered -- in ways that prevent innovation and change. 
  • States should be invited to create integrated systems of state- and locally-administered assessments that provide information for the multiple purposes they need to serve, combining rich assessments to describe annual student learning and progress in ways that can inform teaching. 
  • ESEA should encourage accountability systems based on multiple measures of student success, as well as students' opportunities to learn.
She gives examples from other countries like Singapore, New Zealand and Australia (What? No Finland?), where externally-administered tests are less frequent (usually once or twice before high school, plus examinations at the end of high school to inform college and career decisions), but much deeper than in the U.S.
These open-ended exams, which feature essay questions and complex problems, often include project-based components completed during the school year and scored by teachers who are trained to ensure consistency. Rather than treating tests as black boxes to use as hammers for sanctions, these countries understand that assessments of, as, and for learning should be integrated into instruction and support better teaching. 
Good ideas, Linda. Good luck in getting any of them through this congress.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Newly elected 29th Ward Ald. Chris Taliaferro

Chris Taliaferro, newly elected 29th Ward alderman 
"The thing about the progressive caucus, to me, is they have always seemed to be looking out for the people in their neighborhoods and voting that way." -- Chicago Tribune
Clinton Adviser Paul Begala
 “I don’t think people should say a right-wing Democrat won". -- Politico
Maureen Dowd 
 As the old maxim goes, if you can fake humility, you’ve got it made. But seeing Rahm and Hillary do it in the same season might be too much to take. -- Grandmama Mia
Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule to Rand Paul
When you say you want to "take our country back", what the f*%k do you mean? -- Huffington
Pres. Obama on Cuba
 “The United States will not be imprisoned by the past, We’re looking to the future.” -- PBS 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hey Spike. Why not name the film, 'ChiRahm'?

The city has recorded 355 shootings this year as of Monday compared with 253 shootings for the first quarter of 2014, according to crime statistics released by the Chicago Police Department on Wednesday. Eighty murders were recorded in the first quarter of 2015. There were 62 in the same period last year. -- USA Today
But it was clear that the mayor was none too pleased. If he wants to press the issue, Emanuel could use the Hollywood pipeline provided by his brother, super-agent Ari Emanuel, to make his feelings known to Spike Lee. -- Sun-Times
Yes, Spike Lee is naming his new movie "Chiraq". That is, unless Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls brother Ari, out in Beverly Hills and asks him to pressure Spike otherwise.
Rahm calls Ari: "Hey bro, it's Rahmbo. I need you to put an arm on Spike Lee. He's naming his next film, 'Chirac' and that's going to scare tourists away."
Ari: "I'm on it little brother. He'll change the name or he'll be through in this town. He'll never set foot in Nate & Al's deli again."
Let's see how that works.

The mayor is pissed at Spike. He's afraid the word "Chiraq" will conjure up an unfair image of HIS city. Scare off potential visitors who might mistakenly think Chicago is a city where shootings are up by 40%  and homicides 26%  over a year ago. How silly of them!

He also calls on his pal, Sen. Double D to spread the good news:
“There’s no question that Chicago, as most cities, has its share of violence, but the honest answer is we’ve seen a decline in the numbers. . . . So I hope this is not creating an image of the city that is unfair.” -- Sen. Dick Durbin
Sen. Durbin and Sen. Kirk
Remember when Double D stood next to his buddy, Republican Sen. Kirk who called for the rounding up and jailing of 18,000 black men as a way to cut into Chicago's crime rate?

Then Rahm drudges up one of his city council puppy dogs, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), to carry his water on this one. Beale tells the Sun-Times:
“We’re trying to attract tourism. We’re bringing jobs in to Chicago. The city is growing. We’re trying to promote the good things in this city every single day. To highlight the problems we’re having with that type of name is an insult.” 
Yes, Beale is so concerned with Spike Lee's threat to tourism that he doesn't mention the hundreds who have fallen victim to the city's pandemic gun violence, mostly black and Hispanic men between 20 and 35, many in Beale's own ward.

Beale says he also has a problem with the Constitution. Fran Spielman asks him: "What about the 1st Amendment?"
“Freedom of expression still does not mean you can insult the people of this city,” says Beale.
Rahm & Ald. Beale
He obviously never passed his high school civics class thereby making him extra-qualified to become a Chicago alderman..

I'm happy that Spike Lee is making his movie here and shining another light on the horrific conditions of violence and joblessness, especially for black and Latino youth in the city's neighborhoods. I predict filming it here will be great for tourism. It will also provide some jobs for lots of black actors and those working behind the cameras.

My problem with the name "Chiraq" is that may reflect badly on Iraq. It has been pointed out that young African-American men are statistically safer in Baghdad or Kabul then they are on the streets of Chicago.

I'm suggesting that Spike name the film, "ChiRahm" instead of "Chiraq". But I'm guessing he will tell me the same thing he tells Rahm and Ari.

Friday, April 10, 2015

We've already surpassed Detroit

We've already surpassed Detroit in boarded-up schools.
I half-jokingly floated this idea this morning on Twitter.

But I'm not really all that concerned about the site for the library. Yes, it belongs in Chicago but I assume that's already been decided one way or the other by the Obama's. I'm much more concerned now about the lack of CPS school libraries and librarians.

But I was actually trying to provoke some discussion about the 47 out of 50 closed Chicago schools that remain vacant, boarded-up blights on their communities and what's going to happen to them, now that the campaign is over. Rahm never was asked to speak to this.

Other stuff missing from the campaign chatter

The media lent itself to fear mongering and racial code-talk about Chicago turning into Detroit if Chuy Garcia had won the election. You could make a case that this play on racial fears was actually the basis for Rahm's successful campaign strategy. A new and improved Willie Horton strategy for those who are old enough to remember. After all, it proved effective in Gov. Rauner's campaign, as our late colleague Mark Anderson had pointed out.

But the Mayor was never asked about the incredible number of stop-and-frisks, mostly of young African-Americans by Supt. McCarthy's boys. There were 250,000 of these S&Fs in only 3 months last summer, far surpassing even New York -- let alone Detroit-- in that department. I don't attribute harassment on this grand scale simply to the racism of a few cops. Rather to policy coming right from the top of the system.

So no, I'm not raising the specter of the next four years under Rahm Emanuel turning the city into another Detroit. Rather I'm saying that in these and many other areas, he's already far surpassed Motown.