Thursday, December 18, 2014

Garcia and Fioretti working the neighborhoods to challenge Mayor 1%

Don't miss Curtis Black's excellent piece today in the Chicago Reporter, "Mayoral candidates drum up community spirit." Black focuses on the efforts of Rahm's two top contenders, "Chuy" Garcia and Bob Fioretti, as they work the neighborhoods, trying hard to pick up the grassroots support they need to keep Mayor 1% under 50% and send February's election into a run-off. 

Black shows "Chuy" picking up the endorsement of a new activist group in Bronzeville, People United for Action. A huge turnout for him from the African-American community will be essential for him to have any hope for victory.

Fioretti is seen working South Chicago -- not too far from the neighborhood where he grew up, Roseland — to support the Alliance of the South East and the Coalition for a Lakeside CBA, pushing for a community benefits agreement from the developers of the vast tract that once held U.S. Steel’s South Works.
Emanuel has been a protest magnet throughout his administration, beginning with his closing of six mental health clinics.  Add the NATO summit, the teachers strike, the school closings and various other mayoral actions, and it’s undeniable that he has done much to energize the labor-community movement that demands new priorities for the city.
Under Emanuel, “we get school closings, we get speed cameras all over the place, our residents are being nickled and dimed to death, we’re forced to pay higher property taxes,” said protest organizer Rebecca Martinez.  “And yet the poverty rate has gone up under this administration.  Downtown continues to progress and our neighborhoods continue to go down.”

PRO-BONO,,, I've given my brother the number of my distinguished attorneys at Pro, Bono & Plead as I'm expecting SEIU 73's sell-out leader Christine Boardman to threaten him, as she did me, with lawsuits, if he keeps up his blog exposures. See his latest (with cartoon) here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Karen Lewis, Milwaukee Vouchers, and NEA's Worst

Brother Fred asks a great question: Why didn’t Arne Duncan make the NEA’s worst of 2014 list? Has Arne gotten any better since the NEA membership called for his resignation at its Representative Assembly back in July? Or has the leadership just forgotten what the rank-and-file had to say?

Students board buses at Milwaukee voucher school.
Sadly for Milwaukee, it will long be remembered as the birthplace of the nation's miserably-failed school voucher system which takes badly-needed public school funds and turns them over to private (including) Catholic schools.

See my recent piece on the city's early voucher proponents, Howard Fuller and the late Polly Williams. Before she died, Williams had become a vocal critic of voucher expansion and of the direction her own movement had taken, under the leadership of the right-wing think-tankers.

The latest episode in this sad saga comes to us from Journal Sentinel reporter Erin Richards who exposes the foul play of the private Ceria M. Travis Academy, one of the city's longest-operating voucher schools and one of its poorest performing.

The invisible hand...When prolific blogger, Jennifer Berkshire (EduShyster) was in Chicago last month, not only did she speak to my class of education undergrads at DePaul, she also did a great interview with CTU leader Karen Lewis. Here's a piece:
Berkshire: The Chicagoland version of the invisible hand always seems to end up in the cash register. For example, the Chicago Tribune recently ran a devastating investigative series on how risky bond deals are costing the Chicago public schools a fortune, even as these deals enrich Mayor Emanuel's allies.
Lewis: And now they're getting ready to do the same thing again with the pre-K program. People need to understand who the players are here. Because we don't have the ability to elect a school board, the president of our school board is a bankster. He is unrepentant about these toxic swap deals that were made, and argues that, well, they were good deals at the time. Well these deals may be great when the stock market is up, but because of the crash in 2008 we owe tons of money to banks, tons of money to pensions. And so now you have the same people who got us into this saying "you have to give up your pensions so we can balance the budget." No one says that maybe the banks shouldn't get paid. The problem is that as long as the mayor controls the school board, there is nothing we can do.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rahm says he really means it this time. Unveils his 'roadmap' to end the violence.

Johnson College Prep High School basketball player Demacio Bailey dedicated Monday night's game against Marist High School to his twin brother Demario, who was killed this past weekend during a robbery. After the game, the team exited the locker room alongside the boys’ family. With Demacio in the lead, the players lined up single-file and marched to their bus chanting, “We will live, not die.”
Rahm says, this time he really means it. He says that last weekend’s slaying of Johnson College Prep student Demario Bailey reminds him of the "urgency of this work."

So what is the Mayor going to do in response to Demario's death? He's unveiling a new "road map" to combat violence. I haven't seen this new map and don't know what's in it or in which direction it takes us. But if there's nothing in the plan to deal with equitable use of well-trained, professionalized police resources, the re-opening of shuttered schools and health clinics, providing jobs for massively unemployed and under-employed black youth, and for slowing the flow of drugs and guns into the neighborhoods, then it's a map to nowhere.

According to the Sun-Times:
 Some of the recommendations include: creating a “training bridge” for kids to build on skills they learned during city summer jobs programs; enlisting “high-profile ambassadors” to help promote city youth programs; create a pilot “homicide crisis response” model that helps surviving victims deal with the emotional trauma of violence.
A training bridge -- really Rahm?

Monday, December 15, 2014


John King behind NY Common Core disaster
Carol Burris on John King 
Despite the spin of supporters, King’s move to Washington during the final two years of a lame duck administration is hardly a promotion. King will now work for Duncan as a senior advisor, even as Congress has defunded Race to the Top. -- WaPo What Arne Duncan’s new senior adviser did to N.Y. schools

Arne Duncan
He called New Orleans an example for the nation in school innovation and noted that New Orleanians, more than most, know the pain that comes with drastic school change. In the battle for better public education, he said, "you are absolutely winning."
Asked about a statement he once made that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to New Orleans education, Secretary Duncan apologized for that remark. He says, though, there is no doubt New Orleans is getting better faster than the rest of the state, and he is in awe of improvements here. -- New Orleans Public Radio
John Kass
If you get Rahm into the deep water of April, out where Rahm's feet won't touch the ground, if you get him out there alone, one-on-one, then Rahm's well-larded political war chest isn't all that scary. And then you'll see what happens. --Tribune
Ald. Bob Fioretti
We should demand a full audit and accounting of Chicago’s TIF fund and declare a surplus with the vast sum that is not committed to any specific projects or debt. That money is the beginning investment we need to restore our public education program, guarantee the retirement we promised to our teachers, police, firefighters, and other public employees, and put Chicago back on track to financial health for all. -- Sun-Times
Keith Olbermann
America does not negotiate with terrorists, unless it's a group of terrorists...and it comes from a city. For argument's sake, then, let's call these terrorists...Citigroup. --The Fucking News

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why not blame torture on teacher unions?

OINK! -- Rudy Giuliani blames "liberal guilty whites", teachers, and their unions for violence in black community. He claims that by resisting vouchers, expansion of privately-run charters, and teacher pay based on test scores, teachers are fomenting black violence.

BTW,Giuliani is an admitted water-boarder (of Americans and Italians).

MIXED SIGNALS...And how about former Chicago cop Steve Mandel, sentenced yesterday to life-plus-5 years for plotting gruesome kidnapping and torture. I guess it's illegal -- unless the government does it. I doubt that even monster Mandel could have imagined rectal feeding.

The Chicago PD has an inglorious record of such stuff. And it's not just about Daley's guy Commander Burge. Last month, a U.N. committee addressed the issue of torture committed by Chicago Police Department Commander Jon Burge and other police officers between 1972 and 1991 and share its dismay that no officer has been “convicted for these acts of torture for reasons including the statute of limitations expiring.”
It acknowledged that a federal investigation had asserted there were no “prosecutable constitutional violations” uncovered, however, the committee criticized the fact that the “vast majority of those tortured—most of them African Americans—have received no compensation for the extensive injuries suffered.”
Now top U.N. officials are calling for  individuals responsible for the "criminal conspiracy" revealed in the torture report to be "brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes." Good luck on that one.

Maybe Burge, Giuliani, Brennan, and Cheney types will blame it all on the teacher unions.

BEST CHUY QUOTE...Chuy Garcia held a news conference at Dyett High School in Bronzeville where he embraced the community's plan to turn the school that has been on the chopping block for years into the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.

Emanuel’s handpicked school team recently reversed course and announced that Dyett would remain open. But instead of adopting the community plan, CPS is issuing a request-for-proposals from all comers.

Garcia likened the mayor’s decision to ignore the community plan for Dyett to his giveaway of 17 acres of precious lakefront parkland to movie mogul George Lucas to build a new interactive museum.
“You fly into Chicago from Hollywood. You give the mayor a lot of money and say, 'I would like to build a museum for Darth Vader.'” City Hall says, 'I like it. Here’s some of our lakefront. We’ll lease it to you for a $1. The mayor calls it 'bold,' " Garcia said.
“If you don’t live in Hollywood—if you have to take the bus downtown from Bronzeville—[but] still, you bring a plan supported by thousands of people to improve your community and save your high school. You bring a plan backed by the best institutions. City Hall says, 'You don’t know what’s best for your own kids. You’re not an expert. You don’t understand your own neighborhood.’ ”

CPS score-rigging adds new meaning to 'growth'

In yesterday's post on Chicago's reported gains in graduation and college completion rates, I added this qualifier:
 If that is, you have faith in the transparency of the system and faith that the researchers are measuring the same thing. I don't. But that's for another blog post.
Well, here's that post. 

Today's Sun-Times reports that CPS quietly changed some growth scores from standardized test results released in August, resulting in a rise in school ratings for seven charter schools. AAPPLE, an activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, pointed out the discrepancies after school ratings were released last week — differences the Sun-Times confirmed in its own analysis.

AAPPLE head Troy LaRaviere has called for a full investigation by the district’s inspector general.
“In a system based on ‘choice,’ parents and other stakeholders must be provided with accurate indicators of school quality. [CPS’ ratings system] cannot serve this purpose if there are clouds of suspicion about tampering with the data used to determine these ratings,” LaRaviere said in an email.
Furthermore, he said, “the changing of scores happened without any public disclosure.” CPS would not say why the ratings usually released in October around school report card pickup were delayed.
The back-room rigging of growth scores proved an embarrassment even to the charter schools whose scores were raised.  The chief of strategy (yes, they have such a position) for Chicago International Charter School, which saw ratings for four of its schools rise, agreed.
“I would have preferred the asterisk. We essentially asked for an asterisk at one point,” Daniel Anello said. CICS had always used the test that wasn’t aligned to the Common Core through the school year to measure their students’ learning, so they saw no reason to change it while it remained an option, he said.
Figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Chicago graduation rates. They're dizzy with success.

 "This is a moment to celebrate." -- Consortium senior researcher Kaleen Healey, lead author of the report.
According to a study by the U. of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research, CPS' graduation rate is up 4 points this year and more of those grads are enrolling in college and graduating (14%). Last year, 57.2% of CPS graduates enrolled into college, which was an increase of 1.2% from 2012. That's good, isn't it? It's an estimated rise of 6% over 8 years (Wow!). If that is, you have faith in the transparency of the system and faith that the researchers are measuring the same thing. I don't. But that's for another blog post.

Rahm and Byrd-Bennett are dizzy with delight, as is the Sun-Times editorial board. The Mayor bristles at the suggestion that the rising high school graduation rate might be the result of changes put in place under former Mayor Daley, saying his administration has “doubled down on that strategy” (what ever that strategy was).

While he may give a perfunctory nod to teachers and school administrators in his CPS press releases, it is clear from all the photo ops around the release of the report that he's happy to take credit. And Rahm deserves it, say the pundits (especially in an election year), for all the extra time he and BBB have put in, teaching and coaxing kids who might have otherwise dropped out or abandoned hope of going to a 4-year university after catching sight of the state tuition rates.

The Consortium gives credit to its own research, which they say has led to successful early interventions on the part of BBB and the school district. There may be some truth in the claim. But the way it's being spun -- good data trumps poverty -- makes me leery. I'm not exaggerating. Here's a quote from U of C's Tim Knowles:
Suddenly, addressing the dropout problem was not about the host of factors over which educators have no control — neighborhoods, poverty, violence or prior academic achievement. There was a single, manageable intervention point: ninth grade course performance.
So wait. Let's not pop the cork on the bubbly quite yet, Kaleen and Tim.

A closer look reveals lots of spin and cherry picking of the data to cover over the continued widening of the racial gap on grad rates Take the rates among African-American male students for example. It's true that their grad rate went up slightly over past years. But the rate of degree attainment remains in the single digits for black boys, at 6%. It was only 4% 6 years ago so you could say that's an amazing increase, percentage wise. Yes, you could say that if you're the incumbent mayor, running for re-election and in charge of the entire school system.

Or you might compare it to the grad and degree attainment rate of white males which improved from 17% to 27% over the past 6 years, or a 62% increase, nearly double the rate of black student improvement.

Of course, one can spin these numbers any which way. And since school data has become little more than political fodder, one will. But here's the essentials, at least the way I see them.
  • Talking about percent increase is meaningless here. Grad and college degree rates of CPS students are still dreadfully low, especially for black and Latino students. 
  • There is a trend upward, here and in most urban districts. But it's relatively small and uneven.
  • The Consortium Report gives no indication of any causal relationship between the mayor's imposed education policies and any of the gains in graduation or degree attainment. 
  • While most racial, ethnic and gender groups have shown slight increases in grad and college-going rates over the past decade, the gap continues to widen and educational inequities continue to grow.
  • All this may have more to do with demographic changes in the city and nationally over the past decade than anything going on inside of school classrooms, ie. a decline in the black student population (200,000 black people have left Chicago) or the worsening of living conditions for families on the south and west sides of the city while post-recession economic conditions improve on the north side.
  • Whenever we talk about quality of life statistics or chances of success or survival statistics (crime, shootings and murder rates, unemployment), we really need to examine them from the "two-cities"-- increasingly separate and unequal-- perspective. This, rather than averaging them all in together, which tells us little about what's really going on in the schools. 
It's my opinion and many others in the field that educational inequality, not school, teacher, or parent "failure" is the central problem facing CPS and other urban districts. It's the issue that Rahm, as well as his two main contenders need to address directly as we approach election time in February. We should be happy about any upswings in reported graduation rates. But we should keep a critical eye on the research and on early calls for celebration. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Common Core tests designed for failure

Regardless of what goes on in the classroom, the new Common Core tests have cut-off scores designed to anticipate the failure of more than half of those tested. It's all too predictable.

Because the tests are high-stakes, the arbitrary cut-off scores set by the two main state consortia could have devastating effects on graduation rates, college admissions, teacher evaluations, and even the survival of neighborhood schools.

Edweek's Catherine Gewertz reports:
In a move likely to cause political and academic stress in many states, a consortium that is designing assessments for the Common Core State Standards released data Monday projecting that more than half of students will fall short of the marks that connote grade-level skills on its tests of English/language arts and mathematics.
One participant said that when the standard-setting panelists saw the data projecting how many students would fall short of proficiency marks with their recommended cut scores, “there were some pretty large concerns. And it was very evident that this was going to be a problem from a political perspective.”
I hope so.

Needed -- 'Body cameras on bankers'

Some NBA hoopers wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts: LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, Alan Anderson.
Matt Yglesias Tweets: "If your big worry is that water is too clean and children too well-nourished, here's some good news."

Yes, Republicans, threatening to shut down the government again, are preparing to roll back the school meal rules, phased in since 2012 and championed by first lady Michelle Obama, that require more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the lunch line. The standards also limit sodium, sugar and fat.

Father Pfleger has a point
“Our justice system is broken. Body cameras don’t make a difference if we can see it and still don’t convict anybody.” -- Sun-Times
Rev. Jackson has a point--put cameras on bankers
The official reaction to police immunity for the killing of unarmed black boys and men Ferguson and Staten Island and Cleveland and Brooklyn has focused, not surprisingly, on the police. The president has created a Task Force on 21st Century Policy, with instructions to report in 90 days. He’s committed millions to put cameras on police. But he might be better advised to put cameras on bankers. Reckless, unaccountable and murderous police behavior must end, but the police are simply the gatekeepers assigned to keep order. -- Sun-Times
Tim Black's birthday party at Room 43.
Happy 96th to the great Professor Timuel Black. His birthday celebration Sunday night at Room 43 was over the top. And happy birthday to my favorite grandson, Oscar. The Big O turned 15 yesterday. Damn, that must make me...