Friday, January 23, 2015

Col. Tyrrell jumps ship, goes over the hill…

If timing is everything, Col. Tyrrell's sucks. Today is his last day as CPS school-closings chief.

Just as the latest study of disastrous CPS school closings hits the streets, the military man Rahm brought in to engineer the assault on the city's black community,  jumps ship and goes over the hill (sorry, those are the only military metaphors I can come up with this early in the morning), leaving the mayor, a month before the election, to deal with the fallout from the report.

The colonel, who became the district's chief operating officer, was hired in 2012, with no background in education, to run the school closings operation. He had already been through the wars, but nothing like this. He cut his teeth on the prisoner exchange operation after the war in Kosovo -- talk about bad metaphors for "welcoming schools" and "safe passage". He then went on to work as Chief Operating Officer for the Intrepid Sea*Air*Space Museum in New York City, "helping instill in young people some of the virtues" of the military.

Tyrrell explained his Kosovo-style battle plan to the Sun-Times in 2013:
“I’m not saying it looks similar to now, but there was great distrust to the process on both sides but there was a lot of chaos and stress,” Tyrrell said at the time, laying out plans with Byrd-Bennett to transition children into new schools. What was similar, he continued: “It requires you to plow through the noise and get the planning done and get it done in detail, and then be flexible enough to adapt as the plan unfolds.”
Then he told WBEZ,
There are obvious differences between closing 50 schools and starting a new country or fighting terrorism. But there are also similarities. "Surge teams are available." 
Bloody but not bowed after 40,000 angry parents and community members turned out at neighborhood meetings to protest the closings, sending his boss's ratings in the black community into the dumper, Col. Tyrrell, courageously took on his next big assignments -- moving furniture from Clark Street over to CPS' new headquarters and then trying to sell-off Rahm's abandoned, shuttered school buildings. Neither project has won him any medals.

Tyrell walks
The Tribune reports that conclusions in the Consortium report, "echo the most stinging rebukes from school closing opponents — many of which are being aired frequently in the runup to next month's city election."

For example, Only 21% of displaced students attended schools that had a top rating under a now-retired CPS assessment model, the study said, slightly lower than what would have resulted if all students enrolled in their designated school in fall 2013.

But the report doesn't even scratch the surface of the damage the closings have done to suffering families living in further blighted and poverty-stricken communities. 80% of the children and parents impacted by the closings were black.

So Col. Tyrrell is toast but the CPS battle-wagons (caissons?) keep rolling along.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Injecting a 'little democracy' (but not too much) into schools

Monday's King Day rally at PUSH for an elected school board.
Our schools teach kids about the wonders of democracy. If it’s good enough for the classroom, it’s good enough for the school board. -- Sun-Times
Pathetic... A S-T editorial calls for "injecting a little democracy" into Chicago schools -- a little, but not too much lest they piss-off the Little Emperor.

Chicago remains the only district in the state without an elected school board. There's a growing resistance movement across the city, calling for an elected school board. There's also a non-binding but likely to pass referendum in 37 wards on the Feb. 24 ballot, and support from a majority of aldermanic candidates.

So the S-T board gives up a little to hide a lot.
Recent boards have tilted heavily toward the affluent and the powerful and have not included teachers and few or no current parents. It is a rare day when the board rejects or even tempers the mayor’s recommended policies.
Then they try their best to give Rahm a way to cover his left cheek by calling for the election of a few school board members while leaving the majority to be appointed by the mayor, including the schools C.E.O.

When I was back in high school, they used to call this, "sandbox politics" or pretend democracy.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Chuy says, 'Enough charter mania'!

Today at the City Club, in response to a question from the UNO charter hustlers, Chuy Garcia called for a "pause" in charter expansion. NBC reporter Mary Ann Ahern Tweets:
Chuy also says he's willing to use TIF money if necessary, pending the court's decision, and "scour the earth" for new revenue to help solve the pension crisis. Finally, a politician who sees the pension problem as a revenue issue rather than a how-to-rob-the-elderly issue.

Nobody came.
WHAT IF NOBODY CAME?... Rahm promised a big showing of community groups at today's major policy address on Public Safety. Uh oh. Less than 20 people showed up. I guess people are fed up with his bragging about crime numbers that nobody in the neighborhoods believe. Plus no Q & A allowed. Can't blame him. Once voters start asking hard questions...

CUBA... IL Sen. Dick Durbin is back from Cuba. Says the trip was "very productive."
"Re-establishing travel and trade relations will mean real benefits for people in Illinois and across the country, from farmers to small businesses to working families. But this policy change is about more than just travel and trade — it's about opening Cuba to new ideas, new values, and improved human rights that our 50-year-old policy of exclusion could not achieve."
He's right of course. But I hope that works both ways -- opening to new ideas, values and improved human rights, that is. After all, Michigan has a higher incarceration rate than Cuba. More educator exchanges, like the one I organized back in 2000 would benefit schools in both countries. Diane Ravitch went in 2013 and had this to say:
The old world is passing, dissolving, and a new world is beginning, shoots of grass breaking through the concrete. The embargo seems as antique as the now ancient slogans.The sooner the embargo is lifted, the sooner there will be normal relations between our countries.

TESTING MADNESS ... The AFT together with the liberal group Center for American Progress, are calling on Congress to end the use of annual tests for high-stakes consequences. And so am I.

The difference being, the teacher unions and some liberal groups, for reasons most educators can't fathom, still support Arne Duncan's call for even more standardized testing, beginning even earlier. To argue that you just want the mandated testing without the high-stakes consequences or arguing for Common Core without Pearson testing profiteers, is to deny reality. That's not leadership.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Still whistling Dixie in AR
Dr. Martin Luther King
The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. -- The Purpose Of Education
Andrew Wilkes on "Pentecostal piety"
 The civil rights movement saw black folks (and non-black folks) consecrate the American dream by way of the prophetic Baptist theology of Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, yes. But it also involved the anointed agnosticism of Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s founding executive director and the generative force of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating committee, Ella Baker. The radical Quaker vision of a Bayard Rustin next to the ethical humanism of an Asa Phillip Randolph were also blended in. And also in the mix was the subtle, yet significant tradition of faith-filled lay activists like Fannie Lou Hamer and Marian Wright Edelman. -- The Guardian
Detroit hip-hop artist Mic Write
What does it mean for our community for there to be this vacant space where there used to be a life? Where have those people gone? What is left for them?" -- Mother Jones
Morris Dees, Founder, Southern Poverty Law Center
We've seen the results: voter suppression, corporate hegemony in Washington, a shrinking social safety net, and mass incarceration. Our schools are increasingly segregated, and the headlines this past week tell us that the majority of our public school students now live in poverty. -- Huff Post
Prof. Charles Payne, author of "I've Got The Light of Freedom"
The movement managed to ameliorate the most blatant features of white supremacy; it didn’t end it. Given that the net wealth of white households is 13 times that of black ones, given that too many black children are coming to maturity in life-limiting ghettos — and the notion that the black ghetto and the ethnic ghettos of the past can be equated is simply a lie — given unprecedented levels of incarceration, given that James Baldwin’s comment about the police in black neighborhoods being regarded as an occupying army still has too much truth, given that blacks and other non-whites are treated superficially in the curricula of most schools, if they are present at all, the last thing we need is a new movement. We need to finish the old one. 
The struggle continues. -- New York Times

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Majority of U.S. students now living in poverty even while economy improves

“When they first come in my door in the morning, the first thing I do is an inventory of immediate needs: Did you eat? Are you clean? A big part of my job is making them feel safe,” said Sonya Romero-Smith, a veteran teacher at Lew Wallace Elementary School in Albuquerque. Fourteen of her 18 kindergartners are eligible for free lunches.
The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton reports that for the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students live in poverty, This according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has "profound implications for the nation".

Yes, the very idea that the majority of our school children are living below the poverty line in this, the world's wealthiest country, especially at a time when the overall economy is improving, should make educators and policy makers sit up and take notice.
“A lot of people at the top are doing much better", says Michael A. Rebell [remind me to steal his name] of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College at Columbia University. "But the people at the bottom are not doing better at all. Those are the people who have the most children and send their children to public school.”
 More from Layton:
Schools, already under intense pressure to deliver better test results and meet more rigorous standards, face the doubly difficult task of trying to raise the achievement of poor children so that they approach the same level as their more affluent peers.
Current destabilizing school reform policies which punish and close high-poverty schools, call for more unfunded school seat time, new standards attached to high-stakes testing, and school privatization, not only miss the point but are actually intensifying the trend towards concentrated poverty.

The growing income gap, combined with the lack of adequate investment in schools and communities, pose the greatest threat to national security and don't bode well either for the future of our schools or for a democratic society.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pulling the trigger on public schools

The Parent Trigger law (Parent Empowerment Act of 2010) is possibly the most anti-democratic piece of education legislation passed in California in the last 100 years. The law, which turns parent against parent in a community, gives a temporary majority, who are willing (often cajoled) to sign a petition, the power to hand their public school over to a private company. That company can then fire the principal and all the teachers as well as abrogate the district's collective bargaining agreement. It doesn't matter if next week, or next year, the majority shifts. The school can be privatized and there's little district parents and taxpayers can do about it.

This week a group of parents at "low performing" Palm Elementary School in Anaheim were able to do just that with the help of former State Sen. Gloria Romero's nonprofit consulting group. the California Center for Parent Empowerment. Romero, a Democrat, has become the darling of the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch Bros. and receives funding from Walton, Broad and other powerful anti-union, pro-privatization foundations. She was once with the union-busting group Parent Revolution, which originally pushed the trigger law. After breaking with them, she joined up with the former pro-charter, pro-voucher organization DFER. But last year she broke with them to start her own parent trigger group.

While Romero likes to brag about her East L.A. origins and her former community activism, Diane Ravitch has been clear about her move to the right. "She's working for Wall Street hedge fund managers. That's where her interest lies."

GREASY DEASY... The latest on former scandal-ridden L.A. Supt. John Deasy is that he's hooked up with the Broad Foundation and now has joined Parent Trigger founder Ben Austin on the board of Students Matter. They're the anti-teacher, anti-union group, headed up by Silicon Valley billionaire David Welchm that brought us the Vegara anti-teacher-tenure suit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

AFT leaders go along with Duncan's testing madness

Look who showed up at the CTU's annual Dr. ML King celebration. Welcome back Karen Lewis.
ARNE DUNCAN'S call Monday, to dump NCLB but keep its testing madness has found a loyal echo in AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten. She does her best to keep her seat at the Democratic Party dinner table even while her own union members are being served up as the main course.

Randi deftly tries to cover all her bases with this disclaimer:
 “Annual tests, if they are reliable and diagnostic, provide important information for students, parents, teachers and schools."
But she knows as well as Duncan that the current K-12 testing regimen is neither reliable nor diagnostic. It's high stakes and used mainly to punish teachers and public schools that have high concentrations of kids from low-income, black and Latino families. Duncan's push for more high-stakes testing is also driving a test-prep curriculum. The net result is the gradual disintegration of public schooling under Duncan's Race To The Top and its replacement with networks of privately-managed charter schools. An approach hardly distinguishable from the Republican's version of school reform.

AFT leaders insist that they only support Duncan's call for more testing, so long as the tests are but "one component of a robust system of multiple measures.” Even throwing in the word "robust" doesn't change the fact that it's the tests -- even if they count 30 or 40% of the evaluation process --  that count.

I may turn out to be wrong on this, but...While NEA leaders have also jumped on Duncan's testing band wagon, I still have hope for newly-elected NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen García. She doesn't appear to be playing Arne Duncan's puppy dog on testing and she's definitely not Rand Paul's (or Arne Duncan's) on "education choice, school choice, vouchers, charter schools, you name it.”‘

GOOD TWEET from Chicago teacher and CTU activist Sarah Chambers.