Saturday, May 28, 2016

Congrats to the MORE/New Action Caucus

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to the social-justice activists within the York teachers union who have been fighting for years to democratize the UFT. Latest election results show the MORE/New Action candidates swept the seven high school teacher seats on the union’s Executive Board.

“Teachers now have a real voice in the United Federation of Teachers, and that voice will not be silenced." says new board member, teacher Arthur Goldstein.

The Caucus' goals are clear and progressive:
  • Enforce Our Contract and Organize for a Just Contract in 2018 
  • Defend Public Education
  • Combat Systemic School Segregation and Racism
  • Support Opt Out and Oppose Common Core, Danielson Evaluations and High Stakes Testing
  • Make the UFT a Democratic,Transparent and Accountable Union
The vote totals show big gains for the activists over previous elections in a union, the largest AFT local in the country, tightly controlled by President Michael Mulgrew's misnamed Unity Caucus. Mulgrew won his third term as the union’s president with 76% of the vote.

The UFT represents approximately 75,000 teachers and 19,000 classroom paraprofessionals, along with school secretaries, attendance teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, adult education teachers, administrative law judges, nurses, laboratory technicians, speech therapists, and 60,000 retired members. They also represent teachers and other employees at a number of private educational institutions and some charter schools.
Current UFT leadership, along with AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, supports Common Core to the point where Mulgrew even threatened to "punch in the face" anyone who tried to "take away" his Common Core standards and tests.

The MORE/New Action gains follow an emerging democratic trend of rank-and-file victories in the largest big-city teacher unions over the past few years -- Los Angeles, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

Brother Fred posted videos of Mulgrew and Marcus McArthur who won a high school seat Thursday, for you to compare and contrast.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A collage of what passes for school reform around here.

Correction: Thanks to John Merrow and several other readers for catching this error in the story below. As John points out: The Emerson Collective is run by Laurene Powell Jobs, not Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan. While there is a former USDE official working there, it's not Jim Shelton; it's Russlynn Ali.  I actually knew this and had it right on my Schooling in the Ownership Society post from a week ago. --- M.K. 
If somehow we could collage these four articles from today's Tribune, it would offer a realistic look at the current state of what passes for Chicago school reform:
Can Duncan save Lucas' ghastly Star Wars Museum?
Article #1 --Yes, Arne Duncan is back in town. In case you were worrying about whether or not Obama's former Ed Secretary would land on his feet after the Race To The Top Debacle, fear not. He's doing fine, thanks to billionaire friends like Mark Zuckerberg, Pricilla Chan, and George Lucas.

Zuckerberg and wife Pricilla hired Duncan for a leadership role in their so-called Emerson Collective where he joins up again with his own former U.S. Education Department deputy secretary Jim Shelton to advise of corporate-style reform and privatization matters.

No word yet on how much they're paying him. Whatever it is, it's just chump change to MZ. He's the guy who once dropped $100M to underwrite Newark's version of school reform under Gov. Christie and former mayor, Corey Booker. Nobody knows exactly how all that money was spent. But suffice to say, it hasn't done much to improve teaching/learning. Most of it, I'm told, went into the pockets of the charter school operators.

As backup, Arne has secured a spot on the Lucas Museum's Board of Directors. They are all hoping that this appointment leaves a glimmer of hope that the horrifically ugly Star Wars Museum will still end up on the city's valuable lakefront property, for free.

Duncan, who also served as Chicago Public Schools chief from 2001 to 2009,  previously worked at Ariel Investments, where George Lucas' wife, Mellody Hobson, is president. Ariel's CEO, John Rogers. has long been one of Duncan's benefactors.

Hey, if a man can't call on billionaire friends for a job, what kind of society have we become?

"Reform Specialist"
Article#2 -- A "reform specialist" retires. This Trib story about the retirement of North Chicago's Chief Education Officer Ben Martindale, refers to him as the district's "reform specialist" who got his high-paid position when the district (4,000 mainly poor and children of color) became the target of a state takeover five years ago.

Fast forward to today to see the only results the reformers seem to care about.
 On the academic front, only 10 percent of North Chicago students met or exceeded state standards in math and English language arts last year on the new statewide standardized exam called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, compared to 33 percent statewide, according to state data. About 7 percent of North Chicago students scored a combined score of at least 21 on the ACT, an indicator the state uses to determine college readiness, compared to 46 percent statewide.
"There's a lot of room left to go in terms of improvement," Martindale said.

Something to consider. Maybe the district's students needed something more than a state takeover and a "reform specialist."

Article#3 -- Rahm won't go to Springfield to lobby for CPS funding.
The reason, he's got no juice. Nobody, from Gov. Rauner to Speaker Madigan, gives a damn about what Rahm wants or thinks.
As it stood Tuesday, an Emanuel trip to the Capitol this week seemed unlikely, said top administration officials who were not authorized to discuss the mayor's schedule public.
 For the mayor, deciding whether to insert himself into the delicate situation at a stalemated Capitol carries some risk. Though he could claim some measure of credit if a funding bill that helps CPS passes following an eleventh-hour visit, Emanuel could get stuck with an even bigger share of the political blame if he goes there and the legislature then doesn't act on education funding, or passes a bill that doesn't help Chicago the way he wants.
So this isn't really about school funding, is it? Rahm won't advocate in Springfield for the school for fear of being rejected. Luckily thousands of union members heading for the capitol don't see it that way.

Schools are filthy but Magic cleans up. 
Article@4 -- Millions more for SodexoMAGIC.  So far, Rahm's privatization of custodial services has been a disaster for garbaged-up schools and their principals. But that won't stop the mayor from doubling down. 
The district, citing its bleak financial condition, privatized many building maintenance duties in 2014 but quickly started receiving complaints about dirty schools.
"These are the same companies with complaints against them for dirty, filthy schools," William Iacullo, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143, told the school board Wednesday. "But you guys are going to reward them with an expansion."CPS has so far paid Johnson's company more than $37 million since the district's 2014 budget year, according to school records. The Aramark division responsible for school maintenance has received about $167 million.
So there's the picture. It ain't pretty. Is it? Reform needs reform.

Tale of two cities. Another new school for South Loop

At Least 20 Shots Fired On Woodlawn Block As School Lets Out -- Yesterday's DNAinfo headline. 
So far this year, as of Tuesday, at least 1,382 people have been shot in Chicago and at least 244 of them have died of their wounds. Last year at this time, 904 people had been shot, 157 of them fatally.
No, I don't blame MRE personally for 50% increase in the shootings (of mostly black and Latino youth) over the past year, on his watch. No one individual should bear that responsibility alone.

But I do blame the mayor for his misguided tale-of-two-cities policies, some of which are based on the notion that this is first and foremost a matter of policing strategy, stop-and-frisks, and mass incarceration. Cops, who have a role to play in protecting the community, at times have been the initiators of the gun violence. Problem is, they are usually a post-violence response. Rahm's police-based strategy has been a complete bust.

I will give him some credit for coming clean back in December, amid the fallout of the Laquan McDonald murder, about the "code of silence" within the CPD. His statement certainly won't endear him to the little fascist clique that runs the FOP and will probably open the city up to lawsuits and big payouts to the victims of police malpractice, torture, and shootings. But the mayor still appears unwilling to testify before a federal jury about the code. Why not?

This, even while his newly-appointed Supt. Eddie Johnson maintains that he has never seen even one case of police wrongdoing in all his 27 years on the force.

But nothing has been done under Rahm's watch to alleviate the city's concentrated poverty or prevent easy access to guns in the community. Quite the opposite.

Instead we see widespread gentrification and the continued isolation of poor and African-American communities and the push-out of black and poor from the city ("whitenization"). Chicago lost about 2,890 residents between 2014 and 2015. This, on top of the loss of 181,000 black residents between 2000 and 2010, pre-Rahm. On top of that, CPS and Emanuel closed nearly 50 schools in poor neighborhoods in 2013 and still about 313 schools--more than half of all schools--are considered underutilized, according to CPS.

I see that Rahm is offering the upscale South Loop (Rahm-friendly Ald. Pat Dowell) a new elementary school. But, according to the Sun-Times,  the "broke" school district doesn’t have details about how it will pay for the school to be built in the South Loop for up to 1,200 elementary students (way too big). This as CPS is facing a $1 billion deficit and has told principals to expect to cut an average of 26% from their budgets. S-T says that the flurry of new schools and school additions will apparently be "bankrolled by that $45 million school construction levy." I believe that's a fancy way of saying, more taxes.
That allows Emanuel to curry favor with aldermen emboldened by his 25 percent approval rating by unveiling school construction projects all over town.
From my post, this is just more have/have-nots division of a shrinking pie. How about from yours?

Does anyone think this is a recipe for good schooling and less violence?

Monday, May 23, 2016


Troy LaRaviere
"I don't think Rahm can be elected dog catcher, and I think he knows it... Right now, I want to be president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. I take that office on July 1 and that's the only office I'm concerned about right now...Who knows what the future holds, but right now that is not on the table." -- Morning Spin
Launa Hall
When policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet. -- A third-grade teacher on why "data walls" don't work.
"I don't want to have guns in classrooms. Although, in some cases, teachers should have guns in classrooms." -- CBS News
Willie Davis
Bullies are almost never the problem—it’s the people standing next to the bully, laughing at his jokes that hurt. Without them, the guy calling you “dickwad” or “gaywad” (’90s bullies were very wad-centric, I’m belatedly realizing) looks ridiculous. --
 “Some 400 of Hillary Clinton’s superdelegates came on board her campaign before anybody else announced. It was anointment. And that is bad for the process.” -- Guardian

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Now reformers want to "give back" New Orleans charters. 'Can't avoid democracy forever'.

“You can’t avoid democracy forever, nor should you.” -- Neerav Kingsland, who worked for New Schools for New Orleans
In a move designed to, "close the wounds left by the state takeover" without threatening the power of private charter school management boards, the state of Louisiana is "giving back" the 52 charters schools it took from the New Orleans public school system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

According to the Washington Post:
In the decade since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and swept away its public school system, the city has become a closely watched experiment in whether untethering schools from local politics could fix the problems that have long ailed urban education.
Before we go any further, let's be clear about one thing. It wasn't Katrina that "swept away" the N.O. public school system. It was a gaggle of opportunistic profiteers and union-busters who made the hurricane their rationale for firing every public school teacher in the Big Easy and for breaking their union. What they did in N.O., Detroit and other cities was no natural disaster. It was man-made.

The district's charter operators are still fighting off attempts by their teachers to unionize.

As for the so-called "give-back", Karran Harper Royal, an advocate for special-education students and their families, called it a “Trojan horse.”
“This is the kind of bill you get when the charter schools want to give the impression that schools are returning to local governance,” she said. “It feels like a very patriarchal view of communities of color, and white people deciding that black people, or people of color, don’t deserve democracy.”
According to the Brookings Institute:
 The change in actual school functioning, at least in the short term, looks modest.  SB 432 preserves charter schools’ prominent role in the New Orleans school landscape.  It demands that local districts “shall not impede the operational autonomy of a charter school under its jurisdiction,” preserving the discretion over curriculum, instruction, and management provided to schools in their charters.
More from WaPo...Advocates for such choice frame it as a way to ensure that all children have fair access to good schools, no matter where their families live or how much money they earn. But critics argue that eliminating neighborhood schools has undermined the most vulnerable students by uprooting them from their communities and scattering them to schools citywide.
Harper Royal pointed to a 2015 Tulane University study estimating that there are more than 26,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor employed in the New Orleans metro area. They account for 18 percent of all the area’s young people, significantly higher than the national average of 13 percent.
Such high numbers of disconnected youth — as well as high rates of child poverty and unemployment — should factor into how the city’s education experiment is evaluated, she said: “You have to look at how it is working in the lives of the people, and it isn’t.”
She favors a competing bill that would have returned the schools to the Orleans Parish School Board without preserving the system of charter schools.

Louisiana has about 140 charter schools authorized by state and local school boards. The bill, signed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards returns some oversight of charters to the Jefferson Parish School Board and  abolishes outside charter authorizer groups, who are not accountable to anyone but themselves. But the state will still have the power to overrule local districts when it comes to authorizing charters.

Unpacking Big Data...One of my current favorite thinkers on so-called school reform is Finnish educator and scholar, Pasi Sahlberg. His running theme -- If you really want to improve your system of education, do pretty much the opposite of current U.S. ed-reform policies.

In their May 9 WaPo piece, Pasi and Jonathan Hasak, take a hammer to one cornerstones of corporate-style school reform, the reliance on big data to drive policy.
One thing that distinguishes schools in the United States from schools around the world is how data walls, which typically reflect standardized test results, decorate hallways and teacher lounges.  Green, yellow, and red colors indicate levels of performance of students and classrooms. For serious reformers, this is the type of transparency that reveals more data about schools and is seen as part of the solution to how to conduct effective school improvement. These data sets, however, often don’t spark insight about teaching and learning in classrooms; they are based on analytics and statistics, not on emotions and relationships that drive learning in schools. They also report outputs and outcomes, not the impacts of learning on the lives and minds of learners.
 You can follow @pasi_sahlberg and @JonathanHasak on Twitter. I do.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The imminent death of a public school system. Rahm brought in ax-man Claypool to chop CPS.

Rahm's ax-man, Forrest Claypool. 
The mayor's announced 40% budget cut could be the final nail in CPS's coffin. And make no mistake, this is exactly what he brought in ax-man Forrest Claypool to do.

According to the Sun-Times:
The district says principals have to “plan for the worst — higher class sizes, loss of enrichment activities, and layoffs of teachers and support staff” while waiting for the General Assembly to take action on proposed pension help or revising the state’s funding formula, spokeswoman Emily Bittner said.
The base per-pupil rate will drop from $4,088 to $2,495 if the proposed budget becomes final. It includes an equivalent cut for charters, too, she said.
According to a report in EdWeek, by the end of the school year, in late June, the Chicago school district will have just $24 million in cash—enough to support two days of operations.

As for the state, its declining "investment" in K-12 and post-secondary education, coupled with (self-inflicted) deficits from the city's mounting pension liabilities and debt service, have put Chicago's schools more than $6 billion in long-term structural debt. Last year, the school board approved a budget with a $480 million hole in it, hoping state lawmakers in Springfield would come up with, what they're calling a "bailout". They didn't. It seems that bailouts are reserved only for the big banks.

Question: Will this also mean a 40% reduction in PARCC testing? Doubt it.

You might call the assault on the nation's third-largest public school system, a joint venture or bipartisan effort on the part of Rahm Emanuel and his current nemesis, but long-time drinking partner, Gov. Rauner. As always, Rahm is playing the role part of victim, blaming all the city's ills, from it record-high murder rate to great sell-off of public space on the previous administration or on Springfield. And of course, there is plenty of blame for mismanagement to go around, including lots for the Daley administration and Daley's school chief, Arne Duncan.

Yesterday's union rally against Gov. Rauner's agenda. 
But even while House Speaker Mike Madigan holds firm (for now) against Rauner's assault on the state's schools and Senate Pres. Cullerton at least offers up a plan (a cockamamie plan with no added revenue) to equalize state school funding,  Rahm and Claypool have been too busy attacking the unions or firing dissident principal Troy LaRaviere, to offer up more than token resistance to the governor.

While Madigan was speaking at the rally in Springfield, fist held high in the air... [Sorry, still LMAO] ... Rahm was nowhere to be seen.

Rahm is the worst kind of autocrat. He holds total power over the school system, but wants no transparency or  accountability for the mismanagement, corruption seeping into CPS from City Hall.

In fairness to the mayor, he's put himself in such a weak position, nobody in Springfield really gives two sh*ts anymore what he thinks. Even long-time pal Hillary Clinton, who's in town and in the burbs today raising money, won't come within blocks of him.

Now it's up to the teachers union, principals, parents and community groups to stop the 40% budget cuts and demand that Rauner release a budget with adequate funding for all state school districts and special education.

It's now or never for CPS.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

PARCC predicts college 'success'. So what?

Got this in my mail today from the right-wing think-tankers at the Hoover Institute: "PARCC and Massachusetts state exams predict college success equally well." 

My response: So what? So does poverty.

They're notifying us ed bloggers about a "first of it's kind" study comparing PARCC and MCAS as predictors of college success.

But unfortunately, there's still no better predictors of college success than poverty and race. That's especially true now that college tuition rates and the cost of student loans has made a college degree barely accessible to all but the children of the wealthy.

Without getting into all the methodological problems with this un-amazing new study, I will just say that it in no way measures the probability of high school students' college success -- meaning graduation with a degree in a reasonable and affordable number of years.

Instead, it looks at high school test-takers' grades in their freshman year of college. And guess what this break-through study finds? The same kids who scored high on PARCC and MCAS in high school also got high marks in their freshman year at college. Amazing discovery!

The study doesn't track students beyond that year and doesn't look at other factors, like creativity, perseverance, collaboration, vision and self-discipline, which are just a few basic qualities that correlate with college success. So the think-tankers are claiming way too much. And it made no difference which tests the students took. The results came out the same. 

College degree completion by race. 
Not to mention (but I will) the fact that MCAS was never designed as a predictor of college success. Rather it was supposed to measure students’ proficiency relative to statewide curriculum standards. That all changed with the adoption of Common Core and the PARCC exam, designed by Pearson, Inc. and underwritten largely by the Gates Foundation. 

The stated purpose of PARCC is to measure whether students are on track to succeed in college. Since standardized test scores align most closely with family income and education, school districts could have save billions by cancelling the tests and simply asking parents to send in the IRS forms. 

By pushing these tests as predictors, the think-tankers and test makers are actually turning them into gate keepers. 

The topper -- many of even the elite universities now pay little or no attention to applicants' standardized test scores. So much the better. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Power of Language -- Banning 'Code of Silence'

When a pair of Chicago Police officers try to make the case that they were ostracized for reporting wrongdoing by fellow cops, city lawyers don’t want jurors to hear the words “code of silence” uttered in the courtroom. -- Sun-Times
They also want Judge Gary Feinerman to bar: "Thin blue line", "Blue veil", and "rats."

Officers Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the department in 2012. This was well before Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged the existence of a “code of silence” in the department in a speech to the City Council in December 2015, after protests erupted across the city following the release of the video of Laquan McDonald being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer.

When Spalding and Echeverria reported fellow officers who were stealing cash from drug dealers, their supervisor told them:
“I’d hate to one of these days have to be the one to knock on your door and tell your daughter you’re coming home in a box.”
Apparently the phrase, "Coming home in a box" has not yet been banned.

Rumor has it...City lawyers also want Judge Feinerman to barSimon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence," the movie, "Silence of the Lambs,"the horse-in-the-bed scene from "The Godfather," and any references to the words, "thin," "blue," or "line." Also to consider: Elvis's "Blue Hawaii," "Blue Suede Shoes," or any mention of B.B. King.


Pres. Barack Obama on Trump
“In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue,” Obama said. “It’s not cool to not know that you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. Facts and evidence matter.”  -- Rutgers commencement speech
Columnist Mark Brown
There’s no doubt Blaine Elementary School Principal Troy LaRaviere has been an insubordinate Chicago Public Schools employee. Too bad there aren’t more like him. 
Sure, there has to be a chain of command, but that’s no reason to squelch dissent. CPS is not a paramilitary organization like the Chicago Police Department. -- Sun-Times
Rev. William Barber II
“This is not about bathrooms. It’s about whether or not you can codify hate and discrimination into the laws of the state.”
“This is about November. It’s about wedge issues, and it’s about sexual and racial fears,” Barber said. He said it is the latest manifestation of the “Southern strategy” employed by Republicans to gain political support based on fear of the other.
Jedidiah Brown, founder of the activist group Young Leaders Alliance
"He [Rahm Emanuel]has not changed, and it's only a matter of time before there's another situation with another name, another personality, and it will be the same thing. He has not shown with his leadership that his heart is for the constituents. It's all about self." -- Tribune
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
“If you’re going to make changes, you don’t want the Justice Department coming and saying, ‘You got that wrong. Now, do it again.'"-- Emanuel to scrap police review authority