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.


  1. The Emerson Collective is run by Laurene Powell Jobs, not Zuckerberg and his wife.

  2. 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.


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