Thursday, August 12, 2010

Teacher purge begins in Chicago's Little Village

 Little Village hunger strikers and supporters created the school

I'm sickened by a message I received this morning telling me that the Race To The Top teacher purge has begun in earnest in Chicago with mass firings at Little Village High School's Multicultural Arts School. Readers will recall that LVHS was created as a campus of four small schools,  by parents and community members in this mainly-Mexican community, following a 19-day hunger strike in 2001.

The message from a not-yet-fired LVHS staff person reads in part:
Patricia Gonzalez, the new principal at MAS, fired everyone. All but 4 have reported that they were notified, most by voicemail...She fired tenured founding teachers with superior evals. She must be using that Race To The Top crap that I hear created a loophole. 4 teachers with new babies... Do the hunger strikers know about this?
They do now.


  1. Why are you sickened Mike - don't you get it yet that the only way now to improve education is to focus on results and increasing student achievement?
    Effective teaching techniques, that have been around for twenty years are still being ignored, denied, and refused by about a third of our teachers who think they have a life time guarantee to subvert the system while being protected by the union. Google the report on 90 90 90 and believe that there may be a better way - because it is working - in spite of urban demographics. The union has done too good a job of protecting teachers but it's now time for them, and you, to get on board with school improvement. Teachers are the answer but they need to be the right teachers. So don't be sickened by race to the top. Start telling your readers to do some introspective soul searching and start teaching instead of subverting their profession. You could make a difference.

  2. Marc,

    Thanks for your comments. I already am familiar with the 90 90 90 research, having done some of it myself. And of course you are right, there are lots of highly effective practices that teachers in high-poverty schools can use to improve learning outcomes. I've tried to share some of those in my classes as well as through the Small Schools Workshop.

    Since you appear to be a teacher at LVHS, I won't take issue with your assessment that 1/3 of your colleagues are horrible teachers, ignoring these practices and "subverting their profession." But even if it were so, that in no way would justify the mass firing of all MAS teachers. Thus the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach the likes of which I haven't felt since the mass firings at Central Falls, R.I.

    Oh,one more thing about 90 90 90. None of those studies that I'm aware of, made the case that even the best teacher practices could overcome the affects of poverty on student learning. Nor did they suggest that there was only one way to teach inner-city children of color.

    Thanks for your encouragement (about making a difference). I hope you are right. As for preaching to my readers re. "soul searching," I'll leave that to the priests and CPS bureaucrats.

  3. I was a teacher at MAS until I received the voicemail along with my colleagues. One of the teachers whose position was "redefined" was Nationally Board certified and another pursued National Board Certification last year and will find out in the fall if she will be among the nation's top teachers. However, apparently that is not enough for Ms. Gonzalez and Mr. Huberman.

    Between the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, we had almost no staff turnover, showing the high dedication of our professional staff. However, Ms. Gonzalez made every effort to decimate any staff unity that we had and now has managed to use Huberman's tactics "redefine" almost everyone's positions.

  4. Why do you assume he's from LVLHS? Nationally Board Certified teachers were "laid off." This has nothing to do with "race to the top" or outcomes or whatever. It's always been and always will be about personal feelings or visions. Ego. Students are never a priority. I'm so sick of teacher bashing and wish someone would take a look at the leadership of a school. If a company doesn't do well, management is responsible, but in CPS they look to the ones who get the least pay and blame them. None of us at MAS have been protected by the union. Those of us who have been laid off have been told in writing we will receive nothing. No matter our ratings or years or education or impact or test scores or tenure or dedication or personal money spent or love of students or teamwork or anything. It's all a roll of the die.

  5. Anon,

    Thanks for straightening me out. I could have said that better. When Marc referred to "our teachers" it sounded like he was from LVHS and while I didn't agree with his negative assessment of {his?] colleagues, I am in no position to agree with or dispute it. It really doesn't matter to me. The firings at LVHS are wrong either way. But you right. I conceded too much, even as I am conceding to you. I usually don't even accept anonymous comments about specific schools. But I wanted to respond to some of Marc's other remarks.

    Where I take issue with you is when you say, this has "nothing to do with" Race To The Top. Indeed, it has everything to do with RTTT. Current funding policies make the mass firing of teachers mandatory at low-scoring schools.

    Secondly, again you, like Marc, write anonymously so it's hard to deal with your poke at the union. But your comments are certainly questionable. When you say you aren't protected, what do you mean? The firings appear to be in direct violation of the contract. Have you grieved your firing and found no support from the current union leadership? Hard to believe.

  6. As for the issue of union protection, here's a message from CTU prez, Karen Lewis:

    Important Message from the CTU Grievance Department

    What to Do in the Event of Displacement, Honorable Dismissal, or Layoff

    August 13, 2010

    * If your principal tells you that you have been terminated, it is not official until you have received a letter from the Human Capital department of CPS. In the event you do not receive a letter confirming your displacement, you must report to your school until you receive the notice from Human Capital.
    * If you do not report to your school, the CPS or your principal can discipline you after 10 missed workdays.
    * Verify your certification and endorsements. Are they up-to-date?
    * Contact your field representative at the Chicago Teachers Union immediately. Their contact information is available here.
    * If you do not know who your field representative is, ask the receptionist at 312.329.9100 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting and she will direct your call.
    * Fax a copy of your termination letter to your Field Representative immediately at 312.329.6203 and ask them to file a grievance.

    You may be eligible for our federal lawsuit.
    * Fill out the survey for Dismissed Teachers*
    * If you believe that you have special circumstances with your termination, please notify your field representative in writing as soon as possible.

    *PSRP survey coming soon.

  7. Of course they're in direct violation of our contract, but they're doing it anyway. There is a loophole that if you are cut due to budgetary reasons they feel they can do what they want. We are being "honorably discharged" and will not be placed in the reassignment pool and are not eligible to become cadres. The union is filing lawsuits but it will take a very long time to find out anything. There have been mass firings at schools way before RTTT.

  8. Marc,
    Go back and read the 90 90 90 study. It had nothing to do with what's going on now at LVHS or in Chicago in general. NCLB and Race To The Top have forced this insane slavish to standardized testing upon us all. the 90 90 90 research didn't rely on state tests, but rather but rather assessments constructed and administered by classroom teachers. They weren't high-risk for either teachers or students, but rather a tool for support and enhancement.

  9. Thanks for your post, Mike.

    I am a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and one of the tenured teachers so unceremoniously laid off at LVLHS MAS.

    One of the most distressing parts of these mass layoffs is that they seem so blunt, and dictated from on-high, and not at all inclusive of the views of our students, their parents, or any of us in the teaching community who know the most about what’s actually happening on the front-lines. I can honestly say that of all the laid-off MAS teachers I’ve heard about so far, I don't know a single one of them who'd qualify as an under-performing teacher in any fair-minded evaluation. The fact is, these layoffs aren't about cutting "dead weight," they're about cutting cost, irrespective of quality.

    MAS, as you no doubt know, was founded on some very forward-thinking educational ideas designed to shake-up the old system and strive to deliver excellence in novel ways. Now, with a new principal and shrunken budget, it seems those forward-thinking ideas are being abandoned, and most everyone who cares about classroom excellence, first and foremost, is losing out.

    And THAT’S not just a bad outcome for all the current and former teachers and students at MAS, it’s also a bad outcome for the teaching profession and the future of education as a whole. Because if these cuts are allowed to stand, it means all our hard-won and well-earned tenure designations and union contracts don’t actually mean much. And if that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine the best-and-brightest among us wanting to enter or stick with a profession that so undervalues our work.

    I could go on, but instead, let me just extend an invitation to all who might want to learn more to attend a press conference we’re holding on Tuesday, August 17, at 6:30 pm, at Lane Tech High School.

    Thanks so much for providing this forum.

  10. Regarding the 90 90 90 phenom, it's 90 percent bullcrap across the board. See Richard Rothstein's Class and Schools, which uncovered this steaming pile in 2004.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. I'm sorry to have deleted several otherwise, pretty good anonymous comments because they attacked individual teachers or principals by name. Can't do that here.

  13. concerned administratorAugust 23, 2010 at 8:25 AM


    Thanks for the forum. This is soooo unfortunate. As a school administrator who was seeking talented teachers much earlier, we were frustrated because the lack of notice that teachers received kept the flow of applicants extremely low. Candidates weren't applying for our openings because they didn't know that they didn't have a job! So we may have hired some far less-talented candidates (actually, we are pretty impressed based on their sample lessons), when we could have gotten top teachers in our school. Believe me, we know that it is worth paying for the talent if it's truly there! However, on the other side of the coin, we have had NBCT & Golden Apple teachers FLOUNDER miserably! So awards, good grades, and additional certifications and endorsements are not always the best measure. We spend time deciding on a teacher. We assess content knowledge, Danielson framework areas, team "fit," ability to build relationships with stakeholders, cultural competence, coachability, and other critical indicators for our school. Every school dynamic is different, and great teaching is an art as well as a science. Schools have to be places where the vision and mission of all stakeholders should align, but often they do not.

    I think teachers must begin to see themselves as the valued treasures that are (if they really are good). They have to be "market" minded and competitive about their career. A good teacher should be weighing options (at all times), but often (and fortunately for students and families) their committment to their students and learning community prevent them from even considering such a thing. So, it's a hard place when talented teachers are displaced, but I have also learned that everyone is not a good fit everywhere. Yet, had teacehrs known sooner, they could have been positioning themselves to "land well."

    A Concerned Administrator

  14. Thanks Mike for providing a place for sharing enlightened observations and opinions...quick question: with all the layoffs and changes in school personnel- especially the firing/layoff of minority teachers and replacing them with inexpereienced non-minority teachers with little to no experience- how do actions like this better serve the students, uninformed parents, and remaining teachers...think Clemente Community Academy? ...and please don't buy the 'rhetoric/philosophy' offered by current administration...just wondering...

  15. Oh, so we are back on Clemente, huh? Much better place this year, trust me! I am a teacher who has been at Clemente for 17 years and the past few days, although challenging, have been a breath of fresh air in terms of focusing on improving student achievement. That's what it is supposed to be about, right? And how insulting that you would call the parents of Humboldt Park uninformed. I would definitely not call the HP community uninformed, not in the least. Shameful that some have chosen to not move on, but Clemente will without those who did not believe in the kids and did not want to do the work. The rhetoric and philosophy of this administration is about the kids and they demonstrate that all the time with their consistent actions.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.