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 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Quinn: 'Don't compare me to The Almighty...'

IEA members pick their poison
Stunning that Democrats like Gov. Quinn now feel it necessary to stand in front of 1,200 educators at the IEA Regional Assembly in Chicago and assure them that,
"Eliminating collective bargaining is not part of my agenda."
"I respect teachers" [No, really I do].
"I'm not going to charterize this system of education in Illinois."
"I'm absolutely opposed to school vouchers."
He did tell the teacher union delegates that he would be willing to negotiate pension "reform" with them. But only IF the courts throw out the unconstitutional pension-busting bill he signed.

And then he offered them this:
"Don't compare me to The Almighty..."
Not to worry, Gov. Not to worry.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Supporting Chicago's Progressive Caucus...Flexible Arne.

Two of my favorites
I got to hang out with some of my favorite folks at last night's Progressive Caucus fundraiser at Buddy Guy's. I'm glad we got there early, the room was so packed, they had to stop letting people in. A good sign for upcoming elections. Maybe a mayoral candidate will emerge from this crowd.

MORE DUNCAN DONUTS... It all depends who Arne is talking to. First he tells newspaper editors, Common Core is the "single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.” 

Then Stephanie Simon at Politico has him telling the House Appropriations Committee, “I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is sort of secondary.” 

But yesterday, Rupert Murdoch's boys at the Wall Street Journal run a wire story with the headline "US education secretary sticking with Common Core". However, the story itself goes on to say that,
 "During his address to students and invited guests, Duncan avoided specifically saying "Common Core."
The same WSJ story has Duncan defending embattled New York State's education chief John King Jr. after teachers wanted King fired for forging ahead with CCSS over mass teacher protests. Duncan, who never met a union basher he didn't appreciate, called King a "remarkable leader" and then reminded everyone once again that "education is the civil rights issue of our generation."

Flexible Arne.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

What? Is Duncan really bailing out on Common Core?

“I believe the Common Core State Standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.” -- Arne Duncan, June 25, 2013
“I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is sort of secondary.” -- Arne Duncan, April 8, 2014 report to House Appropriation Committee
Stephanie Simon at Politico reports that Common Core is losing it biggest supporter, Sec. of Education Arne Duncan. 
It was less than a year ago that Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a no-holds-barred defense of the Common Core in a speech to newspaper editors. He cited example after example of the benefits of common standards: Teachers in different states could use the same lesson plans; children of military personnel could move across country “without a hitch” in their schooling; and, first and foremost, “a child in Mississippi will face the same expectations as a child in Massachusetts.” In short: “I believe the Common Core State Standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education,” Duncan said.
 -- That was then. This was Tuesday: “Just to be very clear with this group,” Duncan told the House Appropriations Committee, “I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is sort of secondary.”
 I don't believe that Duncan was ever bought in to all that Mississippi/Massachusetts rhetoric. This latest distancing dance is in fact, Duncan's way of placating his friends on the right who are leery of anything that even smells like big gummint enforcement of civil rights law. While Duncan has consistently ignored critics of CCSS on his left or progressive side, his ear is finely tuned to the right where denunciations of Common Core, and especially of Duncan using federal funds to incentivize the standards, are growing louder.

CIVIL RIGHTS ACT AT 50... It was a half-century ago that Pres. Lyndon Johnson, who was in the habit of referring to African-Americans as "niggers", signed the Civil Right Act, that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. An amazing event I remember well. I'm sure that there will be plenty said by press and politicians this week about how much or how little progress we've made since then. If you look at the state of Louisiana, where racial segregation and discrimination has moved from law (thank you LBJ but mainly the Civil Rights Movement) to policy (thanks to Gov. Bobby Jindal), it seems like we've even regressed in many ways.

Duncan never had Holder's back in La. 
The second part of Simon's Politico post today is about Atty. Gen. Eric Holder's suit against Jindal and La.'s use of vouchers to roll back attempts at racial balance in public schools.  Simon reports that a federal judge ruled late Tuesday that Louisiana must give the Department of Justice spreadsheets identifying the thousands of students who apply for vouchers so each year, so DOJ can monitor whether the program upsets racial balances in public schools. That's a small victory (I think) and all well and good.

But while we're on the subject of Sec. Duncan, the man who more than anyone else is fond of telling us that corporate-style school reform is the "civil rights issue of our generation", it's significant that Duncan has never had Holder's back on this. Remember Duncan's radio interview on Sept. 14, 2013, when he proclaimed loud enough for Jindal to hear him, that he was opposed to "forced integration." When asked if he supported Holder's civil rights suit, Duncan pleaded ignorance.

If indeed, education is the civil rights issue of our time, it should be clear by now that Arne Duncan isn't the one to lead that struggle. He needs to go.

Packed house at Wishbone to honor ISAT boycotters

Parents 4 Teachers
Jambalaya...We dined at Wishbone last night, along with hundreds of others who came out to honor and support ISAT-boycotting teachers and parents. Great people, food and music.

Question for anti-taxers... Why isn't Rahm's pension "reform" bill considered a massive 29% TAX on public workers and the elderly? Also, the accompanying increase in property taxes will hit retirees and others on fixed income, doubly hard. Finally, we already know that relying on property taxes, rather than a more progressive state income tax, to fund our schools is part of the problem -- not the solution. Asking the wealthy and the state's corporations to pay their fair share would help solve the problem. But Boss Madigan won't do it.

Hammerin' Hank
Earlier this week, the Illinois House and Senate approved Emanuel’s plan to raise property taxes by $250 million and employee contributions by 29% over five years to shore up the Municipal Employees and Laborers Pension funds. Now it's up to Gov. Quinn to sign on as he did with the previous pension-robbing SBI. CTU Pres. Karen Lewis is pressuring Quinn not to sign, but rather to open up negotiations with the unions.

Quotable Hank Aaron... "The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts." -- NewsMax

Guess who will be posting with birthday girl (83) Deborah Meier on upcoming Bridging Differences blogs over at EdWeek? I'm renaming it, Burning Bridges. Happy birthday, Deb. I guess I'm your birthday present. You can return it if it doesn't fit.