Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Gresham Students
Despite strong community opposition, the Board of Education prepared to wipe clean teachers and staff at three schools designated for "turnaround" at its monthly meeting Wednesday. -- DNAInfo

Here's a statement by the Chicago Teachers Union on today's CPS decision to "turnaround" three elementary schools:
CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released the following statement upon news that the Chicago Board of Education voted to “turn around” three elementary schools on the city's South and West sides. The move will transfer the schools’ authority to a politically connected business organization with ties to city hall:

“Today’s hostile takeover of three of our neighborhood school communities by the mayor’s handpicked Board of Education makes it quite clear that there is a war on older, African-American teachers and administrators, as well as the school communities in which they serve,” said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

“After being starved of resources for many consecutive years, Dvorak, Gresham and McNair, three promising elementary schools, were set up for failure by our school district. While we are proud of the members we have working in 'turnaround schools' operated by the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL), our issue is that this dubious, corporate reform model has proven to do little but take over schools discredited by CPS and then, after receiving millions of dollars in support, take credit for the sudden but short-lived academic success among students.

“Nearly a year ago we witnessed thousands of parents, community leaders, clergy, educators and students begging to be heard as the Board destroyed nearly 50 schools. Today parents, administrators and teachers were forced to beg the Board of Ed for the right to a future, only to be slapped down and have their cries fall on deaf ears. Where are the leaders in our school district who are protecting the interests of these students and their constituents? This is why we stand strong in our call for a democratically elected, representative school board.”

Rahm finds $100M for air conditioners. Does Ari have an A/C company client?

A cool $100M for A/C. 
A hundred million here. A hundred million there. It soon adds up.

But that doesn't seem to be a problem for Chicago's mayor, who can always find $100M lying around whenever he needs it for one of his favorite projects. It just so happens that contributing the city's required share to the pension fund or paying teachers and municipal employees what they deserve is not one of those projects.

This week, air conditioners are.
Chicago Public Schools put a $100 million price tag Tuesday on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s sudden mandate to air-condition classrooms in 206 schools, even as CPS faces a $1 billion shortfall and many other pressing capital needs.
Irony is that the CTU pushed to make air-conditioned classrooms, especially following Rahm's longer-school-year mandate, part of the contract negotiations back in 2011. The mayor's response then was:
“Everything here is down to two final issues, and it’s not air conditioning, OK? ...We don’t go on strike for air conditioning.”
The change in course wasn’t lost on the teachers. “We were told it wasn’t possible to get, it was cost prohibitive. They couldn’t promise us and we would create a committee to discuss it. That committee hasn’t met. We never discussed it,” CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey said. -- Sun-Times
The number of schools without air conditioning, 1 in 4,  is about the same as the number of CPS schools without libraries or librarians.

Rahm & Ari.
My guess is that brother Ari or one of his pals must have a stake in the air-conditioning business. Maybe like Ari's stake in Uber, the web-based share-ride firm being hailed as the new alternative to taxi cabs. It's also become a favorite of the Mayor who's greasing the way for Uber to create hell-on-earth for cabbies everywhere.
Christian Muirhead, a spokesman for Ari Emanuel’s William Morris Endeavor agency, confirmed Tuesday that the agency continues to hold a stake in Uber. In a phone call from the agency’s offices in Beverly Hills, Muirhead said he couldn’t provide the exact size of the investment. “We made a minimal investment in Uber a few years ago,” he said. Minimal is, obviously, a relative term. Uber has reaped total investments of more than $410.6 million, according to PrivCo, a provider of financial information about private companies. -- Politics Early & Often
To paraphrase former Mayor Richard J. Daley: If a man can't reach out and help his own brother, what kind of society are we living in?

The city's cab drivers haven't had an increase in 9 years and are now trying to unionize. Good move cabbies.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the 17,000-member New York Taxi Workers Alliance and the president of the National Taxi Workers Alliance called cabdrivers among the “most exploited” workers in America because they are universally “misclassified” as independent contractors. But she called the working conditions for Chicago cabbies a new low. “It’s unacceptable to have conditions where thousands of taxi drivers are earning below minimum wage after laboring 60 to 70 back-breaking hours” a week, Desai said. -- Sun-Times
 I can relate. I wish we had a union back in the days when I was driving for American United and going to school at night to get my doctorate.

In Chicago, it's profits uber alles.

NO SURPRISE HERE...Guess what? Out of the 10 ten schools named best in the state by USNWR, 5 are CPS schools. All 10 have union teachers. And there's not one charter school or virtual school in the bunch. Go figure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

'The reform movement in US is led by a bunch of Ivy Leaguers, obsessed with data.'

Jiang Xueqin
Quotable Jiang Xueqin

In December, China stunned the world when the most widely used international education assessment revealed that Shanghai’s schools now outperform those of any other country—not only in math and science but also in reading. Some education experts have attributed these results to recent reforms undertaken by the Chinese government. Jiang Xueqin has been active in Chinese education since 1998, when as a Yale undergraduate he taught for six months at one of the top high schools in China, Beida Fuzhong, or the Affiliated High School of Peking University.
The reform movement in the US is led by a bunch of Ivy League people who are obsessed with data. They have allies in the media like Thomas Friedman and are bankrolled by billionaires like Bill Gates. They want to bring “accountability” to the American school system. That means testing. They use China as the Yellow Peril. “If our kids can’t do math, China is going to kick our ass. Our kids are going to end up as Chinese slaves.” The media loves it because fear sells.
 It is amazing to see it. You have this system in the US that’s great for elites but is not so great for everyone else. In China you have a country trying to create an elite system. -- NY Review, "Solving China's Schools".

Monday, April 21, 2014

Let's do it again in 2015

WE DID IT...I love this post card that came in the mail today from the Guzzardi campaign. We sure did. Let's do it again.

NOBODY'S BUYING Rahm's or McCarthy's claims about dwindling gun violence in Chicago. It all depends on whose neighborhood you're talking about.  Even doctoring the data didn't help the Rahm brand. After this latest bloody Easter weekend  -- at least 9 dead, 44 wounded -- the best Rahm and McCarthy can come up with as part of "Operation Impact" is cops on bikes. Give me a break.

U.S. Attorney Fardon announces "special unit"
So the feds are sending in a special unit. More bad press for Rahm in a city that's out of control. And control is what the 1%ers brought him in for. What's next? The Untouchables? Marshall law? Drones? Afghan troop redeployment? Is that what Rahm plans to run on in 2015?

Rahm says he supports the feds' intervention in Chicago.
"When (U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon) first came into office, this is exactly what we talked about," Emanuel said. 
But if he really supported it, he would at least know what the IT is. Don't you think?
"I don't know whether it means more resources, I don't know what it exactly is, but I'm pleased they're doing it."
Rahm is on the defensive as his ratings plummet and at least two viable potential opposition candidates wait in the wings. He lashes out at parents and community residents, accusing them of  "not living by a moral code" or instilling "the right values" in their children. Wrong answer, Mr. Mayor.

Rahm - "They have to live by a moral code."
TRUTH IS there's not much sense blaming the cops either. There's not enough of them, they're concentrated in the wrong places, and they only come into play on the back end of the gun violence. Only small part of the violence in Chicago is a policing or law-and-order issue. Guns are flowing more freely than ever into the inner city and both Congress and the IL Legislature are too scared of the NRA to do anything besides talk about sensible gun-control, even with a Dem governor and Dem majority in both IL houses.

TALE OF TWO CITIES...Concentrated poverty and a widening wealth gap; rising black youth joblessness; wide open drug market, draconian cuts in social services, massive school closings contributing to growing blight on the south and west sides, death-culture profiteering, are the real issues.

Filling the jails (the New Jim Crow) with young black men has only made things worse, much worse. The Feds should send in a "Special Unit" to deal with those things I just listed?

Yes, let's do it again in 2015.


Jim Hightower
The grubby little secret of today's ivory tower is that it is being propped up by an ever-growing, exploited underclass of educators. "Adjunct professors," they're called, and the term itself is a measure of the disrespect they're shown. -- Hightower Lowdown
Ras Baraka
"Today, the ministers of Newark have joined me in calling for a moratorium on the destructive One Newark Plan to close our schools, a plan already being implemented against the will of the people of Newark.” -- Diane Ravitch Blog
LaGuardia Dance Teacher Michelle Mathesius
“We find it ironic and extremely worrisome that, in this era of increasing accountability, the most talented children are refused admittance to the very school where their talent could be recognized and developed, while applicants with higher grades and test scores, but less talent, are accepted instead. Such a practice is more than unjust: it is discrimination, pure and simple, a disservice to the children of this city.” -- N.Y. Times
Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam
 “You have this unlikely marriage of folks on the far right who are convinced this [Common Core] is part of a federal takeover of local education, who have joined hands with folks on the left associated with teachers unions who are trying to sever any connection between test results and teacher evaluation.” -- N.Y. Times

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sun-Times editors know exactly what's wrong with 'turnaround' strategy

The Sun-Times editorial board has things all figured out. They know exactly why Byrd-Bennett's "radical" plan to turn more schools over to the private turnaround operators at AUSL will be a disaster. They say so themselves:
Radical, indeed. This treatment rips a community apart, including many teachers who sought out the toughest assignments only then to be unfairly blamed for the conditions they sought to improve.
They even have some clues as to why at least one of those schools, Gresham Elementary, is struggling and that it's little fault of their own.
[Gresham Principal] Brown deserves to be heard loud and clear in one area. She claims that CPS policies destabilized Gresham, contributing to its decline — and it’s hard to argue with her. For months last year, Gresham was on a closure list because of low enrollment. It was spared, but that undoubtedly hurt the school climate, and test scores dropped last spring. And this year, after a deal to share its building with a charter school fell through in August, Gresham’s budget was cut. Brown lost six positions, including three teachers and two adults who worked on social and emotional development with parents and students.
CPS acknowledges these destabilizing forces — and here’s the worst part — but said other candidates for a turnaround had undergone even greater recent changes.
So the S-T board knows exactly what's going on here. They know that the cause of the problem is not the school's nor the teachers' but rather, CPS neglect and mis-leadership. And they know that turnaround is the wrong answer for the the challenges facing neighborhood schools. They also know that the turnaround plan will further destabilize neighborhoods and demoralize hard working and committed teachers.

So naturally, being who they are, they come out WHOLEHEARTEDLY IN SUPPORT of the turnaround plan. Why? Because they saw an early study of turnaround schools by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, which they say, showed that while AUSL controlled schools remained low-achieving, their test scores went up slightly.

And to the education experts on the S-T editorial board, that's all that matters.


Tuesday's protest to save Gresham        (Sun-Times)
DIEDRUS BROWN...the principal of embattled Gresham Elementary on Chicago's south side, continued her very vocal fight Tuesday to save her school from undergoing a so-called “turnaround” — but this time with about 40 teachers, parents and students marching with her.

SUSPENSIONS...Dozens of students marched from Chicago Public Schools headquarters to the Thompson Center Wednesday in support of state legislation that would set new limits on suspensions and expulsions. The march, organized by Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, protested alleged bias in school disciplinary practices and backed state Senate Bill 3004 setting stricter standards for offenses that can result in suspension or expulsion.
"We're not asking for no discipline," said Mariama Bangura, a junior at Roosevelt High School and a youth leader for VOYCE and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council. "We're asking for common-sense discipline." -- DNAinfo
KAREN LEWIS is on the case. The CTU prez has an op-ed in yesterday's S-T, making no bones about where the union stands on school closings and on Rahm's wild expansion of this city's privately-run charter schools.
CTU believes instead that there should be a moratorium on charter school expansion because the 20-year experiment has proven to be too costly, too disruptive, and it did not deliver on its promises. 
Lewis' piece comes in response to an April 11th op-ed by DFER's Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, which cynically called on the CTU to join them in closing even more "under-performing" Chicago schools.

DON'T FORGET to Bop For Democracy Monday, April 21 from 6-9 p.m. at the Velvet Lounge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New study on inequity and teacher "effectiveness" misses the mark

Yes, there's lots of evidence to show poor kids and children of color are generally being taught by teachers with less experience (or no experience) which puts them at a severe disadvantage. But the Huffington headline calling schools "racist" is one-sided and misleading. Credit instead should go to Race To The Top. To TFA. To the power philanthropists, corporate reformers, re-segregationists and private charter operators. They all contribute on this.

But a recent study from Center For American Progress takes this worthwhile exposure of discrimination and inequality to a different level. After basing their study on the new evaluation practices and teacher rating systems now in place in Louisiana and Massachusetts and accepting the premise that teacher quality can be assessed entirely or mainly on the basis of student test scores, (La. requires every teacher to be evaluated, with 50% of the evaluation rating based on test scores or  "student growth") they conclude that minority students have "less effective teachers" in general.

My problem with this broader, negative assessment of teachers who teach in schools with high concentrations of poverty, is that it measures the symptom and not the cause of the so-called achievement gap. The results from tests that are being used to measure teacher effectiveness are often correlating more with parent income, rather than what students are actually learning or anything going on in the classroom. And the so-called VAM or value-added model of teacher evaluation has already been proven to be flawed and unreliable. In Florida, for example,  hundreds of teachers were evaluated based on test scores of students they never taught or in subject areas they didn't teach.


The Value-Added Metric Used to Evaluate Teachers
y = Xβ + Zv + ε where β is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(ε) = 0, Var(ε) = R; Cov(v,ε) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xβ) = Var(Zv + ε) = ZGZT + R.

Studies like this and the recommendations that follow, miss the point. It's not just a matter of more and better professional development or redistributing effective and experienced teachers to resourced-starved or low-performing schools -- although that could help. Instead there needs to be more valid and reliable ways of evaluating and sustaining teachers as well as a focus on equity, desegregation, and improving the conditions, in and out of school, of students and families living in poverty.

Otherwise the focus shift entirely on teachers and we get to the point where the same teachers who are rated "highly-effective" when they are teaching in higher-income schools will suddenly be rated "ineffective" when teaching low-income kids. Not a good way to incentive-ize a more equitable distribution of teaching talent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Following up on this morning's Jackie Robinson post where I pointed out that Jackie's family had been part of the great black migration from the plantation South. They migrated in the 1930s to southern California and settled in Pasadena where there were lots of jobs in a booming defense industry as well as a burgeoning black community.

Pasadena was actually founded in 1886 by Midwestern entrepreneurs, most of them anti-slavery Republicans (one of John Brown's sons is buried here.)  The First African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1888, followed by Friendship Baptist and other black houses of worship. New groups like the Afro-American League, also founded in 1888, and a black newspaper, The Enterprise, added to the sense of community and focused attention on a series of racial incidents. A white streetcar worker was shot by a black in a dispute over a few coins in 1903, leading to an attempt to bar blacks from all local restaurants. 
The city's NAACP chapter began in 1919, one of the first in the state. Insults to black Pasadenans continued. The public swimming pool at Brookside Park was open to blacks only once a week--on "International Day," just before its weekly cleaning. NAACP lawyers sued, but the practice continued until 1944.
Jackie's older Mack, was also an outstanding Pasadena athlete and placed second to Jesse Owens in the 200-meter run at the 1936 Olympics. Returning home after two years of college in Oregon, however, the only city job he found open to him was cleaning sewers. "I looked forward to a hero's welcome," he said, "but the family greeted me and that was basically it."

But as late as 1986, a headline in the L.A. Times read: Black People Find Pasadena to Be an Island of Opportunity.

Fast forward to today where Pasadena is home to the Rose Bowl, Cal Tech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but has lost about one-quarter of it's black population in the past decade. 
A lack of affordable housing and shifts in the real estate market spurred black families to leave town, according to observers, while Asian families from around the San Gabriel Valley opted for a Pasadena address. The number of whites and Latinos, who together represent more than 60% of city residents, changed little between 2000 and 2010. But the city saw a 24% reduction in the number of black residents, from more than 19,000 to 14,650. The number of Asians and Pacific Islanders grew 46%, from 13,500 to nearly 20,000. -- Glendale News Press
Pasadena Housing Department Senior Project Manager Jim Wong says:
“Right now the federal government is cutting back on affordable housing programs, and in California there’s legislation on the books that would eliminate redevelopment housing,” Wong said. “I don’t think the city is going to be fully meeting its needs, certainly not in the very near future.”
  “No city in the country is meeting their affordable housing needs; the resources aren't there,” he said. “Pasadena, compared to other cities, is ahead of the game.”


Eddie Farmer, 75, lives with belongings thrown on the curb after a foreclosure next door to his home  in the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. (Chicago Tribune)
THE WHITENING OF THE CITIES...Soaring rents are driving poor and middle-class folks, especially African-Americans out of the cities. A major factor along with loss of jobs, evictions, foreclosures,school closings in targeted black communities, gun violence, and draconian cuts in city services, ie. health clinics, markets, etc... Here in Chicago, rent as a percentage of income has risen to 31%, from a historical average of 21%. In New Orleans, it has more than doubled, to 35% from 14%. In L.A. it's 47%. -- NY Times

HOW BAD CAN THEY BE? I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this interesting data set. Chicago's privately-run charter schools expel students at a vastly higher rate than the rest of the district. But even with their push-out of so-called low-performing students (mostly poor, black & Latino), these same charters continue to score below the very traditional CPS schools they are trying to replace. I mean, what's up with that, charter hustlers?

HOW ABOUT SOME COMMON CORE STANDARDS when it come to corporal punishment directed at black children in Mississippi schools?
In Holmes County, where 99 percent of the public school children are black, students say corporal punishment traditionally starts at daycare and Head Start centers, where teachers rap preschool-age students lightly with rulers and pencils, cautioning: “Just wait until you get to big school.” -- The Nation
42...It was the great W.E.B. DuBois who wrote: "...the problem of the 20th Century is the problem of color line." The great American tragedy is that well into the 21st Century, it still is.

Today is the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking through baseball's color line in 1947. Arguably this country's greatest athlete (not just in baseball), Jackie's story is also a story of the great migration of African-Americans from the Jim Crow South. In this case, from Cairo, Ga. to Pasadena where he became a multi-sport great talent and football star at John Muir High School and then at Pasadena City College and UCLA.

He's also the reason, despite living in Chicago since 1975 and aside from growing up in a left-wing family in L.A., I remain a loyal Dodger fan.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are you ready to rumble? Looks like we have a candidate.

“What happened to the hundreds of children from closed schools who never made it the welcoming schools on the West and South Sides?” Fioretti said.
It's cold and gloomy outside. But I'm smiling ear to ear. Here's why.

Ald. Bob Fioretti just gave a powerful speech at the City Club. It was a solid left hook to Rahm's jaw and sounded to everyone like the opening salvo in the 2015 race for mayor. And guess what? He received a standing O from not only CTU Pres. Karen Lewis, but from the suit-and-tie business folks as well. It looks like it's not just the 99% that are fed up with Rahm's arrogance, bullying, divisiveness, and mismanagement.

From the Sun-Times:
 Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) on Monday accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of presiding over the “widening of Chicago into two cities” and hinted strongly at a race for mayor. With Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis cheering him on from the City Club audience, Fioretti unveiled a liberal, pro-union agenda that would make newly-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proud.
From DNAInfo:
Fioretti's speech was met with a standing ovation from the crowd of local business leaders. In his keynote speech, the 2nd Ward alderman reflected on his seven years in office — and especially on the Emanuel administration's last three years at the helm.
"There are the kind of problems that are preventable: the kind that those in the Emanuel administration either chose to create or stumbled into without thinking through the impacts."
Fioretti called the mental health clinic closures "inexcusable" and added it to a long list of "ill-founded policy decisions" he said point to "a basic issue of competency" within the Emanuel administration.
"If you turn your back on communities, you shouldn't be mayor," he said. "If you close schools in communities when 20,000 people come out, you shouldn't be mayor. If all you're concerned about is raising the money to fend off anybody that's going to run against you, you have a problem as mayor.
Fioretti read from poet Coval's "Two Cities"
 In closing, Fioretti read an excerpt from poet Kevin Coval's response to a recent episode of CNN's "Chicagoland":
"Rahm Emanuel is building a Second City. One white, one black. One for the rich, one for the poor. One for private schools, one for closed schools. A new Chicago for the saved and the damned. Gold Coast heavens and low-end hells."
Are you ready to rumble? Yes indeed.


French Economist Thomas Piketty
Economist Thomas Piketty
There is a fundamentalist belief by capitalists that capital will save the world, and it just isn't so. Not because of what Marx said about the contradictions of capitalism, because, as I discovered, capital is an end in itself and no more." -- The Guardian, Occupy was right
Arne Duncan responds to mass teacher protest...
Tells  the crowd the state had an opportunity to “help lead the country where we need to go,” despite the “drama and noise” now on display. -- DuncanDonut
 Ed Commissioner John B. King Jr.:
 “We’re poised to lead the country. It’s within our grasp.” -- CCSSRules
Quinn, NEA Pres. Cinda Klickna, & Rauner at IEA RA
Pat Quinn at IEA Conference
"Don't compare me to the Almighty," said Quinn. "Compare me to the alternative over there." --  #NotToWorry
Times Editorial 
The myth of the superpredator helped spawn a generation of misguided laws that treated young people as adults, despite evidence that doing so actually increases recidivism. -- Echoes of the Superpredator