Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Civic Committee stabs Duncan in the back

He toiled faithfully on their plantation for 10 years before going to D.C. to serve as Obama's education chief. He did all their bidding without question, closing dozens of schools in under-served communities to make way for gentrification and privatizing much of the system.

But now the Chicago Civic Committee, the city's ruling elite, has turned on Arne Duncan and in a report released yesterday, titled "Still Left Behind," attacked the Duncan-led Chicago school reform as an "abysmal" failure. Ironically, it was the Civic Committee that designed and financed the Mayor's Renaissance 2010 plan--the very plan that Duncan was hired to implement and enforce.

A flabbergasted Duncan, who rode the myth of the Chicago turnaround miracle all the way to Washington, tried to defend his record. But, well, 8th grade test scores did rise by a few points, was the best he could do.

Crain's Chicago Business blogger Greg Hinz writes:
The report directly challenges widespread claims by current and former CPS officials that local students have shown substantial progress over the last decade on standardized tests. For instance, it notes a 2006 letter from then schools CEO Arne Duncan, now U.S. secretary of education, stating that the share of CPS students meeting or exceeding state standards had leapt 15 points in one year. In fact, it says, the change occurred because of a change in the test, not because of real educational gains.
The fallout from the Civic Committee's report will be felt way beyond the city limits. Duncan has been touting the Renaissance 2010 model on his current "listening tour" and has even been threatening districts who won't follow along, with loss of federal dollars.

There are two lessons I hope Arne Duncan will take away from all this: 1) Tell no lies and claim no easy victories, and 2) He who lies down with dogs, wakes up with fleas.


  1. Mike,

    Why do you think the Civic Committee turned on Duncan at this particular time? Were they just trying to deflect criticism from themselves and from Daley? Or is their something more to it?

  2. Given what happened yesterday at the City Council meeting with a revolt over the 2016 games I think part of Chicago's elite is getting ready to dump Daley. This report reflects that new reality.

  3. The Chicago Civic Committee gives honest business people a bad name. Good intentions in the schooling of our children are hazardous. True business leaders would have added instructional time to the day. We are the laughing stock for having such a short instrucational day. The short day makes working conditions intolerable even when one wants to do their best and are doing their best. The lack of developing a true professional leadership capacity and providing the time for staff to colaborate is a serious flaw in our system. What healthy organization works without regular time to reflect on one's organizational practice! What kind of serious business folks would let that go for so long. As you stated, diverting money to Ren 2010 program keeps the neediest school at the bottom. It all starts at the top!!!

  4. Seems to me like failure = opportunity in the committee's mind, see this outtake from Greg Hinz Blog at Crain's Chicago:

    The committee's Mr. Martin said he would not call the entire school-reform process a failure largely because it also has sparked the formation of more charter and other innovative schools, schools that according to the report perform better than CPS schools.

    Mr. Martin denied that his groups advocacy for charter schools at all affected its data or analysis. The committee, which represents Chicago's largest firms, has helped raise $70 million to open new, small schools, Mr. Martin said.

    Mr. Martin did praise new schools CEO Ron Huberman. "He's doing everything right," Mr. Martin said. "They're going to squeeze everything possible out of the operation and put it into charters."

    *** Update: Mr. Martin later emailed saying he was referring in the previous paragraph to increased help for schools in general, not just charter schools.

    (Yeah, right.)

    Greg Hinz Blog at Crain's Chicago

  5. Interesting comment Wade. Especially Hinz' little slip.

    The CC hasn't a word of criticism for Daley or Ren10. They, including Duncan, are all for more privately-managed charters and "choice" as their main (only) reform platform. So then why did CC turn on Duncan and claim now, that Huberman (who's just getting started) is doing "everything right"?

    Does the CC really care about charters or just about union busting? I think the latter. Duncan's partnership with Randi Weingarten and with the teachers unions may have set them off.

    Stay tuned.


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