Friday, October 30, 2009


Congratulations to teachers at Chicago International, the city's largest chain of privately-managed charter schools.

Teachers at three Chicago charter schools have ratified a labor contract with education management group Civitas—ending months of negotiations and finalizing the city's first teachers union contract for charters. The vote was 87 to 8 in favor of ratification. The deal was signed this morning by all parties. (Catalyst Notebook)
Civitas had tried to block teachers from winning collective bargaining rights by claiming that since they were a private, for-profit company, teachers under their management were no longer public employees.


"Shake & bake"--Alan Singer at Huff
Will Arne Duncan bring a "revolution" to the way our schools operate? According to the New York Times, based on his Chicago "experience" all we will get is more of the same. Duncan in Chicago and Bloomberg in New York believe in "Shake and Bake." Shake it up, close failing schools and reopen (bake) them with new names and somehow things will get better. It turns out that a University of Chicago research report showed that reading and math scores of students in failing schools actually declined because of the disruption in their education when schools were closed. While the study found students who transferred to more middle-class schools did perform better on standardized tests, students who transferred to similar schools with high concentrations of minority youth from poor families did just as poorly in school. What a surprise! ("Show Me The Money" at Huffington)

Urban devastation fertile soil for charter growth

Charter schools are mainly concentrated in the most devastated urban school districts, those with the highest percentages of African-American children. A "market share" report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools tells the story. New Orleans, D.C., and Detroit lead the way.

Where's Beverly Hills? Winnetka? Scardsdale? Greenwich? Rich people probably just don't understand what's best for their kids, I guess.

Chicago's parent union

After reports surfaced last spring of students being wrongly sent home from Chicago public schools for not wearing their required uniforms, a concerned group of parents decided to take action. (Medill)

Thursday, October 29, 2009


'Why don't they Trust me?"
"What can I do to regain the trust of my teachers?" Rhee asked, according to one participant. "I don't understand why everyone is so afraid." (WaPo)
Here's why...
By trotting out a righteous-sounding and at first blush irrefutable “motive” (to manage the budget) she is trying to capitalize on a crisis in order to advance her agenda. That kind of trick was used against the public schools of New Orleans, courtesy of Hurricane Katrina and the kindred spirits of Rhee. (Ron Isaac, EdWize)
View from right field--'School closings, little benefit to Chicago students'
“The Obama administration’s solution is that we’re going to make all the lousy schools better, but that’s harder than the administration has let on. The next most attractive alternative is to shut them down, and let the kids go to other schools, but this Consortium report has found that that brought little benefit to students in Chicago.” (Frederick Hess, AEI)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My comments at Edweek blog

Yes, school closings did hurt learning

In response to Catherine Gewertz' otherwise fine post on her High School Connection (Edweek) blog:

I'm surprised to see the way the Consortium study is being spun. 60 schools closed, mainly in Chicago's under-served African-American communities.Thousands of lives disrupted. An explosion of violence in their wake. 94% of kids end up at some of the worst schools in the city.

Your headline reads: "Little Academic Impact, Report Finds." WBEZ headline reads: "CPS School Closings Neither Help Nor Hurt Learning." Sun-Times editorial says, "Academically, it's been a wash."

This is what happens when journalists accept the current proposition that "academics" = a single test score.

No, the arbitrary closing of dozens of schools in Chicago wasn't a "wash." Yes, the closings did have an affect on academics and learning.

Latest sudy on Chicago school closings

"We now know what success looks like"--Arne Duncan, June 2009 speech

Duncan's model "fell short" by 94%

When former Chicago schools CEO Arne Duncan ignored the protests of thousands of parents and students, and began closing neighborhood schools under the Mayor's Renaissance 2010 program, he promised that the closings would lead to improvements in student learning outcomes. Now, Sec. of Education Duncan is leveraging federal dollars to force school districts to follow Chicago's school-closing 'model'.

But the latest study out of the University of Chicago's Consortium for Chicago School Research shows that for all but 6% of the displaced students, there were no significant learning gains. The other 94% ended up in some of the city's worst schools and made no measurable gains in learning.

The Consortium researchers looked only at standardized test scores and didn't even take into account the disruption in thousands of students' and families' lives. Nor did they look at the devastating impact on the school community in terms of lost jobs, after-school programs and social services. According to Consortium researcher Marisa de la Torre,
"the study didn’t examine social or emotional effects of school closings on kids. Nor did it examine whether the closings influence school violence."
Quote of the day comes from a leading Ren10 school-closing supporter:
"The quality of the school a kid attends matters," said Robin Steans, director of Advance Illinois, a nonprofit education group. "Obviously the focus and drive to make sure these kids ended up in better placements fell short."
"Fell short"? Yes, but only by 94%.

Second best comes from CPS spokesperson Monique Bond who called the study "fair" and promises that,
"CPS will consider the report as it develops future school-closing policies."
But the coup de grace comes from Duncan himself:
"I closed about 60 schools in Chicago, some for low enrollment and some explicitly because they were failing academically. We reopened about a dozen of these schools with new leadership and staff. Some are run by the district and some are run by the Academy of Urban School Leadership, a non-profit partner. All of them use union teachers. Today, these schools are doing much better. (Duncan's speech in June to a national charter school group)

From Catalyst Notebook:

Hot on the heals of the Consortium report, community groups are planning to protest at today's Board of Education meeting over school closings and the link to youth violence. Get the agenda here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I'm reading...

Billions of Drops--A drop in the bucket

If the social entrepreneurs like Gates and Broad, and agencies like TFA, New Leaders and NewSchools Venture Fund, where to be evaluated on the basis of performance or results--the way schools are--they would flunk the test. This, despite their access to tons of money, tax incentives, and efficient management styles. As least that's the conclusion drawn by author Steven Goldberg in his book, Billions of Drops in Millions of Bucket: Why philanthropy doesn't advance social progress.

For example, writes Goldberg,

Since 1998, NewSchools has raised and deployed tens of millions of dollars for educational innovation at dozens of charter-management and school-support organizations. It states that “over the next several years, the organizations we support will run more than 200 charter schools and serve nearly 75,000 students, making NewSchools’ national portfolio comparable in scale to a mid-sized urban district. After 10 years of exceptional work and highly sophisticated financial management, the aggregate result (at least of the charter school portion of its portfolio) amounts to one school district that performs at the level to which the entire country aspires.

But Goldberg--who buys into most of the premises of the ownership society--and I, reach totally different conclusions from all this. He thinks the big foundations need even greater centralized power, have to become even more top-down, more efficient and results-driven by "scaling up" and replication.

I think the problem is they've become too big, ill-purposed, and anti-democratic.

But Billions of Drops is still worth the read.

Poets tell the story

Demetrius Amparan
'Lost Count'
I remember you wearing Guatemalan green matching your flag on your Independence Day/Your hair was a black puff of curl and confidence/ ... I couldn't sleep for a week/When you washed up water logged in the Calumet River/Puffed and purple like violets before bloom

The students began writing "Lost Count" when Young Chicago Authors, a group that provides workshops on artistic expression for teens, asked students to prepare for local and national contests.
(Chicago Trib)
Here's the video from Brave New Voices

Monday, October 26, 2009

90% of African-American kids vitamin D deficient

At least one in five U.S. children aged 1 to 11 don't get enough vitamin D and could be at risk for a variety of health problems including weak bones, the most recent national analysis suggests.

By a looser measure, almost 90 percent of black children that age and 80 percent of Hispanic kids could be vitamin D deficient — "astounding numbers" that should serve as a call to action, said Dr. Jonathan Mansbach, lead author of the new analysis and a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital in Boston. (AP Wire)

Duncan attacks Hawaii for being broke, cutting school year

But he offers little in way of solutions
I understand that Hawaii is feeling the pain of the economy more than many states. The tourism industry is struggling. The unemployment rate is climbing. Investments in commercial real estate are declining. Tax revenues aren't meeting your budget projections. These are tough times, I know. But now is not the time to decrease investment in education. Hawaii's economic problems should not be creating an educational crisis for its children. (Duncan opinion piece)


Not funny
The real secretary of education, the joke goes, is Bill Gates. (AP Wire)
Jeb Bush, speaking to college Republicans
Jen Goldstein ’11, a Florida resident, asked Bush to address criticism that the high stakes standardized tests create an environment that narrows the focus in the classroom to passing the test. In defense of Florida’s testing system, FCAT, Bush said, “it’s the only way you know you are improving.” (Daily Colonial)
Race to the Top: 10 false assumptions

False Assumption 7:
Notwithstanding the evidence from research and decades of failed efforts, forcing merit pay schemes on teachers will revitalize America’s schools. This is because the desire to compete is the most powerful of all human drives (more powerful even than the satisfactions of doing work one loves). (Veteran teacher Marion Brady at WaPo)

Friday, October 23, 2009


Sizer's legacy

Though much of Professor Sizer’s work focused on the roles of teachers and administrators, he seldom lost sight of the group he considered the primary actors in the educational process. He wrote in “Horace’s Compromise,” “Horace Smith and his ablest colleagues may be the key to better high schools, but it is respected adolescents who will shape them.”(New York Times)

His view of education reform -- with a premium on classroom creativity, bottom-up innovation and multiple measures of student learning -- was often at odds with the movement toward state standards, achievement testing and school accountability that culminated in the 2002 No Child Left Behind law. (Washington Post)

"He was an incredible connector," recalled Professor Howard Gardner. "He knew everybody, was on good terms with people, and helped the career development of many people. There were hundreds, or thousands, of people who went through his shop. He had a human influence on many people." (Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

TED SIZER 1932-2009

"Good schools focus on habits, on what sorts of intellectual activities will and should inform their graduates’ lives. Not being clear about these habits leads to mindlessness, to institutions that drift along doing what they do simply because they have always done it that way. Such places are full of silly compromises, of practices that boggle commonsense analysis. And they dispirit the Horace Smiths, who know that the purpose of education is not in keeping school but in pushing out into the world young citizens who are soaked in habits of thoughtfulness and reflectiveness, joy, and commitment."--Horace's School
It's with deep regret that we report the passing of friend, colleague, and teacher, Ted Sizer. Ted lost his long battle with cancer Wednesday night at the age of 77. Ted will long be remembered as one of the great educators of our time. He was a teacher, the Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the founder of, and a guiding light behind the Coalition of Essential Schools and a major force in the modern-day school reform and small-schools movements.

I last saw Ted and his wife Nancy a few weeks ago at a meeting in Providence and was amazed by the clarity of mind and sharpness of purpose evident in his contributions to the discussion despite his obvious physical deterioration. He remained an activist until the end.

Thanks to Coalition Director Lewis Cohen for sending me this CES tribute to Ted. Also, in"CES at 25: Changing Schools, Changing Lives," the Fall 2009 edition of Horace, Ted Sizer's longtime colleagues shared their thoughts about the impact of Ted’s life and work.

This from George Wood and the Forum for Education and Democracy

Obama prof, former advisor is also his ed policy critic

Christopher Edley, the dean of the law school at UC-Berkeley
Edley said that transforming schools requires not just an infusion of competition into the system, but also regulation. He said that while some charter schools are excellent, “most of them are schlock,” and added that school choice does not provide a way to export best practice to the majority of schools....He also seemed to dispute the amount of attention on New York City, whose school reforms Duncan has praised and encouraged others to replicate. “It is not a national education strategy to go to 14,000 school districts in the country and just say, ‘Be like Joel. Just be like Joel.’” (Gotham Schools)


Merrow asks Bobb a great question

How ironic is it that you now have the kind of power in Detroit that Michelle Rhee has in Washington, and she’s the woman who basically took all your authority when you were President of the School Board in Washington and the Mayor took over the schools? That is, you’re doing stuff–closing schools–that as DC School Board President you might have resisted. Have your views changed about mayoral control now that you are in a different seat? (John Merrow, Taking Note)

Bobb's answer--not so great:

There is no doubt that the school board structure hasn’t worked in Detroit. But my views have been consistent that voters should have a say on this matter.

New Haven's teacher contract

Seen as a reform model
“This is an incredibly progressive contract,” said Joan Devlin, a senior associate director in the American Federation of Teachers’ educational-issues department. “It addresses teacher voice, and it gives the district the flexibility to make the changes they need to make [these reforms] work.
Why are this these two 8th-grade girls treated so differently by Portland Public Schools?

According to this story in Willamette Week, it's all part of former Supt. Vicki Phillips' botched reform initiative, left behind in the wake of her rapid departure to the Gates Foundation.

Suspension, expulsions on the rise nationally. But why?

Not as Safe as You Think, a report from "free-market" think-tank PRI, finds that in spite of declining statewide enrollment, combined student suspensions and expulsions relating to school safety violations increased 7 percent, from 788,000 during the 2004-05 school to 845,000 during the 2007-08 school year.

But what isn't clear is whether it's the incidents of violence that have risen, or is it just the rates of suspensions and expulsions? We also don't know what so many kids are being expelled for, or if rule violations committed by white students and students of color are handled in the same manner and at comparable suspension/expulsion rates?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Charges dropped

"He can't go there. It's not going to be the same. They're not going to look at my baby the same," Greyer said. "He's 17. They've messed my baby's life up."

We almost lost another youngster at Fenger High when police jailed the wrong man in the death of Derrion Albert. Now police have dropped charges, but Eugene Bailey won't return to Fenger.
The first-degree murder charges leveled against her son almost had caused Greyer's family -- she has four other children living with her -- to be evicted. Chicago Housing Authority has a policy of dumping from the federal subsidized housing program families with members who have been arrested or charged with violent and other crimes. (Sun-Times)

RIP Gerald Bracey

News is starting to trickle in on the sad passing of Gerald Bracey. Here's a note we received this morning from Monty Neill at FairTest:

Jerry's death is a stunning loss for all of us who advocate not only for better assessment but for schools that truly meet the needs of all children and an education system that meets the needs of the people, not just the dominant forces in the economy and politics. My, and FairTest's, sadness and condolences go to Jerry's family. Like too many, he is gone too early, too young, still too vibrant and engagement in this world of the living. I cannot think of anything better to say than Mother Jones' famous call: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." We shall do both.


Alfie Kohn: "Alas, Jerry Bracey has just died. Spirited crusader for accuracy, integrity; denounced false claims, misuse of stats; made the right enemies." Alfie urges us to read Bracey’s blog posts ( and his books – e.g., &

National meetings called on assessment

Arne Duncan and the DOE ought to get an earful on NCLB testing madness when he holds these announced public meetings across the country. The meetings will include experts on assessment as well as the general public. Question is, are these meetings just for show as a prelude for more of the same, come the re-authorization of NCLB? Or will we finally get some authentic assessments, besides standardized tests, in our public schools?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A dieter's delight

Degree in three years?

Taylor Newby sent me this Newsweek piece by right-winger Lamar Alexander. Tennessee Senator Alexander was Bush 1's, secretary of education. Newby is one of these guys I hear from regularly, who must get paid to pump selected media pieces to the blogs. I usually ignore them. But Alexander's commentary kind of interested me so, good job Taylor. I hope you make out on this one.

Lamar Alexander is one of the guiding lights of the Ownership Society. He never met a corporation he didn't want to drop trow for, especially when it comes to deregulation. He and the neocon/Bush crew are among the main reasons we are in this worst of economic recession in history. What makes Alexander even worse in many ways, is his interest and influence in education reform. It was Edison privatizer Chris Whittle who first bankrolled Alexander's political career back in the day when Whittle was hoping to score on a national school voucher program and I have always referred to Alexander as "the Senator from Edison"

Now he wants to "reform" post-secondary education. Uh, oh!

In the face of skyrocketing tuition costs which threaten to make a college education inaccessible to all but the children of millionaires, Alexander proposes a three-year (rather than 4) bachelors degree. Now, I'm not against a three-year degree provided it meets the standards in whatever field it's in. But Alexander isn't about to constrict profits in any way. His comparison between education and automobiles is a stretch:
Just as a hybrid car is not for every driver, a three-year degree is not for every student. Expanding the three-year option or year-round schedules may be difficult, but it may be more palatable than asking Congress for additional bailout money, asking legislators for more state support, or asking students for even higher tuition payments.
Count on Alexander for a free-market solution to any problem. Offer the customer less product or fewer services for the same, or more dollars. You'll notice, Alexander never says how student tuition supposedly will drop as universities cut program length, fire faculty and come to rely more on lower-paid instructors. That's exactly what they have been doing this past decade as tuition costs continue to rise, and rise, and rise.

Here's what I wrote back to Taylor:
My question, Taylor, (Lamar Alexander aside) is what will prevent tuition from rising even more while colleges provide even less? Sounds like some kind of fast-food deal where you would pay extra for less burger and more bun. Or more for a smaller candy bar--a dieter's delight.

From Rethinking Schools

Author, teacher and school activist Greg Michie writes, "Another path is possible."

It's the story of two Chicago principals, Amy Rome of NTA and Tamara Witzl of Telpochcalli, who, despite the pressures of NCLB, keep an eye on what matters.

Like Amy, Tamara keeps an eye on test scores, but she refuses to let such concerns overwhelm the broader vision of Telpochcalli. “We believe in the popular education model,” she says. “Building capacity and using education as a means of doing that.” It makes sense, then, that the school is a true community center, offering ELL (English language learner) classes for adults, aerobics and sewing courses, men’s basketball nights, domestic violence workshops, and a lot more. In a given week more than 400 people use the building outside of school hours.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicago reform 'model' called off on account of budget cuts

Whatever happened to the CPS tutoring program?

Fewer than half of the children who signed up for federally mandated after-school tutoring will receive it this year as a budget shortfall has forced the Chicago public school district to re-prioritize spending. The district will only be able to serve about 32,000 of an estimated 72,000 children from grades K-12 who applied for the tutoring, district officials said. (Chicago Tribune)
Whatever happened to pay-for-grades?

The Green for Grade$ program was created by the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University, also known as EdLabs. The program was implemented to develop student interest in school and a commitment to reaching academic goals in the first two years of high school when students are more likely to drop out, [School Board President Michael] Scott said. Several administrators are unaware of the reason behind the program’s cancellation this school year, said Ana Vargas, spokeswoman for CPS. (Chicago Talks)
Whatever happened to Alternative & Safe Schools, Early Childhood, Grow Your Own Teacher Prep...?

The oldest, youngest and neediest of Illinois school children suffered the biggest hits as a reluctant Illinois State Board of Education, on orders from the General Assembly, slashed spending by $475 million. The cuts represent nearly half of last year’s state spending on such specialty grant programs as alternative and safe schools, early childhood education and Grow Your Own teacher preparation. (Catalyst)


Timothy Geithner--'We have to live within our means'
He made the comments after the Obama administration reported a record U.S. budget deficit for the fiscal year ended September of $1.4 trillion, or nearly 11 percent of gross domestic product. That marked the biggest U.S. fiscal shortfall since World War Two. (Reuters)
Weingarten--Ed policy 'Resembles Bush'

“This administration doesn’t want to be ‘Bush Three,’ but some of the things that are coming out…simply charter schools and measurement… that’s what the previous administrations pushed,” Weingarten said, referring to Bush and his father, the president. “Data is important and charter schools can be great incubators for instructional practice and labor relations practice, but if it ends up just becoming measurement and some charter schools, that’s not public education,” she said. (
Edweek: Incentives alone not enough
As states and districts increasingly explore tactics like performance-based pay, incentive programs, and bonuses to attract the best teachers to troubled schools, experts contend that such programs are unlikely to succeed over the long haul unless officials simultaneously work to improve school conditions and leadership capacity in those schools. (Edweek)

Friday, October 16, 2009

What N.O. students told Duncan

Finally visits a 'non-charter'

Arne Duncan
, traveling to New Orleans with Obama for a brief stopover, got an earful from McDonough High School students:

During a conversation that lasted for more than an hour, school officials repeatedly tried to usurp the students Duncan had come to hear, going on at length about the district's technology iniatives and funding challenges...

...But the most compelling testimony came from the students. Other students described finding themselves stranded in the Iberville housing project, and wading through miles of water to make it to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center or the Superdome, staying there for more than a week without enough food or sanitary bathrooms, boarding buses to unknown destinations without their family, moving from town to town and missing months of school, and the ultimate return to a city that was unprepared to provide them safe homes or schools.
According to,
Duncan chose John McDonogh, a non-charter school in the state-run Recovery School District, partly because he had heard of the school's sharp turnaround over the last two years. In May, about 90 percent of the senior class graduated, a high for a school that had been defined for years by poor academic performance and a pre-Katrina campus shooting.

Obama wants longer school year

His lips say 'yes,' but...

Obama's version of school reform includes more time on task--longer school days & school year. But like most of his reforms, ie. "performance pay" for outstanding teachers, this one bumps into the realities of massive teacher layoffs, state budget shortfalls, and bankrupt local school districts.

From Edweek:
Hawaii educators are bracing for the instructional damage expected from the state’s budget-driven decision to effectively cut school days from the calendar over the next two years and put thousands of teachers on unpaid furlough for those days.

Something rotten in the state of N.Y.

This from a teacher in New York:

"Never thought I'd be posting a New York Post editorial by Diane Ravitch because I agreed with it, but these are strange and dire times."

Ravitch lays it all out here.
There's something rotten in the state Education Department. Year after year, New York officials have been claiming impressive gains in student achievement -- claims we now know to be false.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Did school closings contribute to Chicago violence?

Duncan said no, but...
Last week, Mayor Daley appeared to rule out a change in attendance boundaries. "The day that the city of Chicago decides to divide schools by gang territory, that's the day we have given up the city," Daley said. (Sun-Times)
When Arne Duncan came to Chicago last week, he echoed Daley's statement and denied, over and over again, that his Renaissance 2010 school closing policies contributed in any way to recent incidents of school violence. He even got angry when a Catalyst reporter dared to bring it up regarding the closing of Carver High, turning it into a selective enrollment military academy, and shipping kids across gang territories to an under-resourced Fenger High.

But on Thursday, CEO Ron Huberman, under pressure from angry parents, Jesse Jackson and other community leaders, reversed his own policy and promised to open up Carver to some of those Fenger students previously excluded. This, would appear to contradict Duncan's emphatic denials and serve as an admission that the original policy was flawed.


Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman brags he can "walk into any one of the Chicago Public Schools he oversees and size up the school’s culture in fewer than 10 minutes." He obviously doesn't consider classrooms, teaching/learning, after-school activities, to be part of the school's culture. Does he?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


What they say vs. what they do

The road to NCLB re-authorization

EPI's Richard Rothstein, one of the leaders of the Broader Bolder Approach (BBA), lays out the big conundrum that is the Obama administration's approach to NCLB authorization. In his attempt to give Obama and Arne Duncan the benefit of the doubt, Rothstein pulls up every critical quote and campaign statement denouncing the school-blaming, testing-madness that is NCLB.
He [Duncan] has criticized NCLB's requirement that, rather than improve schools where test scores are inadequate, students are instead told to transfer out. In his September speech calling for re-authorization, Duncan charged that the NCLB system is “not education" but “game-playing tied to bad tests with the wrong goals...But the conversion of America's schools into testing factories has now made NCLB so unpopular that the law's name, again in Duncan's words, has become "toxic."
And on and on...

"If Duncan sticks to these principles," says Rothstein, "the worst of NCLB will be behind us, although designing a new federal education policy will take us well beyond 2010."

But in practice, he writes, Duncan is taking "the wrong approach."
If standardized test-based accountability is doing the damage that Duncan has identified, it makes no sense to exacerbate that damage by continuing to rely on these tests to monitor progress. Such reliance will make it even harder to rescue American education in the future.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Duncan, cheerleader-in-chief for mayor control

Chicago with its clout-heavy political machine, is arguably among the most corrupt, and least democratic cities in the world. Its corruption and its violence were among the main reasons the city was rejected as the site for the 2016 Olympics. It's also among the reasons why the Daley/Duncan Renaissance 2010 plan for school reform has been judged an "abysmal failure" and why Daley carries a lower rating in the polls than former president Bush.

But to Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan--ever beholden to the patronage system which got him his start and greased his way to the DOE--Chicago's top-down mayoral control of the schools is the model.

It matters not who the mayor is, how corrupt the local machine is, or any other particulars. Duncan would still have us believe that the road to reform goes directly through City Hall in every city and is the product of the mayor's top-down decision making.


This morning's headlines (like most morning's) are filled with more reasons why not:
"Mercy Medical Center: Chicago's clout hospital"

The hospital run by the Sisters of Mercy, whose mission is to serve the poor, was bleeding money...But the Sisters of Mercy have clout. Not only with the man upstairs, but with the man on the fifth floor at City Hall -- Mayor Daley...Fogelson, a prominent developer whose business partners have included Daley ally Michael Scott, the Chicago Board of Education president who is also a member of the mayor's Public Building Commission and the Chicago 2016 Olympic committee.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Riordan on choice resolution--No vote for teachers

"They can't be objective when their jobs are at stake..."

Richard Riordan is the former Republican mayor of Los Angeles. He is a wealthy, conservative, venture capitalist who never met a privatization project he didn't like.

Riordan has a column in today's L.A. Times advising the school board on implementation of its latest Public School Choice Resolution, which allows charter school operators, unions, universities and other nonprofit companies to submit proposals to take over low-performing schools -- as well as some of the district's expensive real estate. Writes Riordan, "any school that's below par should be fair game for takeover."

But he's "skeptical as to whether the LAUSD will take full advantage of this window for change." And who wouldn't be. So he calls on the board to do some things to ensure success.

First, he calls on them to emulate cities like Chicago and hire a "strong leader" to execute this effort. But that leader in Chicago he's referring to, Josh Edelman, was just fired by CEO Ron Huberman after researchers found that the city's new Renaissance 2010 privately-managed charter schools were performing no better than the "low-performing" schools they were supposed to replace.

Next Riordan sets out quite a busy schedule for the new start-up schools czar's team. He demands that they "spend every minute of every day on the project." Wow, that's a lot of minutes. For those lacking calculators, it rounds off to 1,440 minutes each day, 10,080 minutes each week, and 524,160 minutes each year. Big OT bills for a school system that's broke.

Not to worry says Riordan.
If the LAUSD cannot afford additional salaries right now, it should reach out to private foundations for help.
Now that he's solved that problem, Riordan says, the district needs to ensure that proposals are "judged on merit, not politics." (Stop it Richard, you're killing me). "Special interests," he warns, "cannot be allowed to block progress."

Example: "Last week, the superintendent revealed plans to ask teachers at the lowest-performing schools to vote on restructuring proposals for their own campuses."

Riordan is stunned by even this little symbolic gesture towards democracy.
Although well-intentioned, this is a flawed idea. How can the district expect teachers to cast "objective" votes when their jobs may be at risk?
I agree. How about banning all workers from voting? Since their jobs hang in the balance in every election these days, there's no way they (we) could be ever be "objective."


A 'Lost Generation'

Bright, eager -- and unwanted. While unemployment is ravaging just about every part of the global workforce, the most enduring harm is being done to young people who can't grab onto the first rung of the career ladder. (Business Week)

Is Rhee in trouble?--Yes
What remains very unclear, and DD can't help but agree with some of the protesters on this one, is how Rhee was able to hire 900 new teachers over the summer only to discover a budget shortfall so huge, she had to get rid of 229 teachers a month into the school year. Is the budget gap really just a ruse to oust teachers, especially veterans that Rhee and her principals don't like, as the WTU contends? Or, perhaps even more troubling, is there a problem with managing budgets on her team that is supposed to be stacked with smart, Blackberry-wielding whipper snappers? (District Dossier)

Rethinking Columbus

"The indigenous population was kind of waiting expectantly, almost with smiles on their faces," Kracht said. "'I wonder what this guy is bringing us?' Well, he's bringing us smallpox, for one thing, and none of us are going to live very long." Kracht said an emerging multiculturalism led more people to investigate the cruelties suffered by the Taino population in the 1960s and '70s, along with the 500th anniversary in 1992. (James Kracht, Texas A&M College of Education)

Friday, October 9, 2009



Krugman: 'The uneducated American'
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States economy lost 273,000 jobs last month. Of those lost jobs, 29,000 were in state and local education, bringing the total losses in that category over the past five months to 143,000. That may not sound like much, but education is one of those areas that should, and normally does, keep growing even during a recession. Markets may be troubled, but that’s no reason to stop teaching our children. Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing. (Paul Krugman, NYT)
Scary dropout rates
“We’re trying to show what it means to be a dropout in the 21st century United States,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern, who headed a team of researchers that prepared the report. “It’s one of the country’s costliest problems. The unemployment, the incarceration rates — it’s scary.” (NYT)
Jeb Bush--the milkman
I wish our schools could be more like milk. You heard me, I said milk,” a copy of Bush’s speech reads. “Go down the aisle of nearly any major supermarket these days and you will find an incredible selection of milk. (Post on Politics) h/t Ken Libby

Forum to Host Capitol Hill Policy Briefing on October 22

This fall, the Forum for Education & Democracy will sponsor three Capitol Hill George Wood
policy briefings - one for each of the Rethink Learning Now campaign's core pillars - learning, teaching, and fairness.

On October 22, at 9:00am, in the Member Room of the Library of Congress, the first of these briefings will take place - "Effective Teachers, High Achievers: How Strengthening the Teaching Profession Can
Improve Student Learning."
At the event, a panel of experts will be anchored by two of the Forum's Conveners - Stanford University Professor Linda Darling-Hammond and University of Texas Professor Angela Valenzuela - as well as former Mississippi teacher of the year Renee Moore.

To learn more about the event, or to RSVP, please email

Rethinking teacher pay

Latest from EPI

A new book from the Economic Policy Institute examines the longstanding formula that determines teacher pay and makes a case for a new system. In Redesigning Teacher Pay: A System for the Next Generation of Educators, Susan Moore Johnson and John Papay of the Harvard Graduate School of Education propose aligning teacher pay with broader educational goals such as improving educational outcomes and attracting and retaining high-quality teachers. The authors argue that the existing system of pay-for-performance has been largely unsuccessful in meeting those goals and that a new system is needed.

On Oct. 1, EPI hosted a panel discussion on teacher pay. Rob Weil of the American Federation of Teachers made the case for a method of compensation that was transparent and acceptable to the teachers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The view from the top

"It's not a conversation where we want to do all of the talking," said Holder, flanked by a cadre of local officials. "We want to listen to educators, to parents, to students and to experts in the field and find out the best ideas for addressing this urgent problem." (Tribune)

Arne Duncan returned to Chicago along with Attorney General Eric Holder, to solve the youth violence problem and apparently to do some political butt-covering for himself and Mayor Daley, writes the Tribune's John Kass.

Duncan came bearing a check for $500,000 for troubled Fenger High leaving many wondering why it took the beating death of a 16-year-old student to get badly needed dollars into Fenger to pay for counselors and proper staffing at the school? And what about Chicago's other high schools?

Duncan and Holder stayed as far away from the angry Roseland community as possible, holding up instead inside the exclusive Four Seasons Hotel, while angry parents and community activists remained outside. They carried signs reading: "You can't solve it, your system caused it."
Evangell Yhwhnewbn, a community activist also known as "Mama D," questioned how effective the meeting could be if community members were not allowed to participate. "It's the same people doing the same thing and they expect a different result. It's not going to happen," she said. (Fox)
Duncan claimed they did not meet at the school to avoid a "circus."
“There was no circus,” said Phillip Jackson, executive director of the Black Star Project, who is championing his own anti-violence plan spearheaded by faith- and community-based organizations. “It was relatively calm. The question remains: Where were they? We have a plan for President Obama, and we wanted to share it with his officials. It has been ignored by President Obama.”
It sounds like Catalyst reporter Sarah Karp really pissed Duncan off when she dared question the role his school closing policies may have played in contributing to the violence around Fenger.
Duncan bristled when I asked him whether the district’s turnaround strategy had anything to do with increasing violence at Fenger, calling the notion “absolutely ridiculous.”

Postscript: The Tribune's Kass did some of his mayoral butt-covering as well. Kass writes:
Daley is the mayor. Daley is not the father. He didn't raise the kids who commit the crimes. He didn't fail to instill respect for life in those who swing the clubs or pull the triggers. You can't blame him for the bad and indifferent parenting of others.
How soon Kass forgets. This story is from the April 11, 1992 issue of Sun-Times is about Daley's son Patrick who, along with Daley's nephew, took part in a bat-wielding brawl of their own, which witnesses claimed, was a racist attack on an Asian kid around the Mayor's Grand Beach retreat. As expected, young Patrick received only a slap on the wrist. Club-swinging boys will be boys, you know.

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. Mayor Daley's 16-year-old son was sentenced to six months' probation and 50 hours of community service and was ordered to write letters of apology for his role in a brawl at the Daley summer home last month. Patrick Daley also was ordered to refrain from drinking or attending parties where alcohol is served illegally and to pay $150 in court cost and a portion of the $1,800 spent investigating the fracas. Appearing before Judge Stuart Meek Jr. in Probate Court, Michigan's version of juvenile court, Patrick Daley pleaded guilty to charges of furnishing alcohol to minors and disturbing the peace at the summer home in Grand Beach, Mich.

Here's chapter 2 of the Daley family brawlers.

Also see Catherine Gewertz at Edweek ("Is youth violence in Chicago worse because of school closures?")

Why School?

I can't wait to get my copy of Mike Rose's latest book, Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us. I've ordered it, having thoroughly enjoyed his previous works, Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievement of America’s Underprepared, and Possible Lives: The Promise of Education in America, and having used them both in my classes.

In this Edweek interview, educator, author Rose, who teaches at UCLA, gets to say a little about the purposes of education in a democracy:
...we’ve defined the purpose of schooling almost solely in economic terms and we’ve measured success with a score on a standardized test. There has to be a better way."
Mike also blogs here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Coval's plan

Hip-hop poet Kevin Coval is man with a plan for Chicago & its post-Olympic, school-closing-inspired violence woes. It's Louder than a Bomb.

Another summit

Daley calls for a police surge

From Webster: Summit--the topmost level attainable ; a dizzying and often insecure height

As expected, here comes the post-Copenhagen hand-wringing, speech making, and soul-searching by Chicago politicians, topped off with a Mayor Daley-called summit, in the wake of the violence and Darrion Albert's death outside of Fenger High School.

Also as expected, comes the apology (of sorts) from schools chief Ron Huberman for the chaos caused by neighborhood school closings and shipping hundreds of kids across the city to receiver schools like Fenger that are unprepared to deal with the consequences. We heard the exact same apology several years ago from Arne Duncan, after he closed Austin High School and shipped kids over to Clemente, sparking a similar outbreak of violence.

In the largely African-American Austin neighborhood, about half of the 7,000 high school-aged students were forced to travel outside the community to other schools after Austin High School was shuttered in 2007. Some ended up at the mostly Latino Roberto Clemente Community Academy High School, where school officials weren't given "any kind of a warning," said Idida Perez, a community organizer with West Town Leadership United. The result was near daily fights between the newcomers and the neighborhood kids, she said.

"You have a trail of blood and tears ever since they launched (Renaissance 2010)," said Tio Hardiman, director of the anti-violence organization CeaseFire Illinois. "There's a history of violence associated with moving kids from one area to another." (AP Wire)
Obama is sending Arne Duncan back to Chicago to solve the problem. Isn't that like sending the arsonist back to the scene of the fire?

The predictable results of the summit: it's a "gang problem" with a police surge solution. What about the worsening of neighborhood conditions, easy accessibility to guns, school closings, busting up small schools, and misguided turnaround policies?

The question remains: who will take responsibility for the kids? Right now all we hear from the summit buck-passers is--it's nobody's fault (it's everybody's fault). It's society's fault. It's parent's faut. It's good kids vs. bad kids (thugs). It's rap-music.

Resembling a kind of obscene game of Russian Roulette research, Huberman is spending $30 million to guess which of the city's 400,000 public school students will most likely be killed this year, notify their parents and get them to "change their life styles."
The 200 students assessed as being in the "ultra high risk" category were deemed to have greater than a 20% chance of being shot over the next two years. An additional 1,000 students had between a 7.5% and 20% chance of being shot, and an additional 8,500 had a 1% to 7.5% chance of being shot. (Wall Street Journal)
He's offering some counseling and minimum wage, after-school jobs to a few kids. Silly, but better than the surge.

Where's the student/youth voice in all this summitry?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Colbert plays softball with Duncan

But they don't play that way in Chicago

Colbert softballs Duncan, who spouts every ed cliché known to man (Kids, don't watch video, sponsored by booze company).

But Daley's team is hiding from cameras back in Chicago after his Copenhagen butt kicking. Mayor & Huberman have suddenly been made aware of youth violence by Ald. Carrie Austin. HELLO!

She tells him what we and everyone else have been saying for years. His (and Duncan's) school-closing, Renaissance 2010, turnaround policies have only worsened conditions in and around schools and are partially responsible for the situation leading to death of Darrion Albert at Fenger High. Fenger teachers are new to the school following Duncan-style turnaround where entire staff was replaced. Connections between kids & adults shattered. School closings are shipping kids to schools unprepared to receive them and across gang boundaries.

Daley and about 15 to 20 others met Monday morning at Chicago Board of Education headquarters. City Hall kept it quiet because the mayor didn't want cameras, sources said. Last week, [Ald. Carrie] Austin -- who was swarmed by angry constituents after the slaying -- lashed out at police and the schools. She said she has been pleading with the Chicago Public Schools for more than two years to change attendance boundaries around Fenger to reduce tensions between rival neighborhoods. … Huberman acknowledged last week that Austin "has brought to our attention that some of the boundaries may be problematic." (Catalyst)