Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BBC bailout of mismanaged L.A. charter chain

The L.A. branch of the Billionaire's Boys Club, led by Eli Broad, Frank Baxter, and former mayor Richard Riordan, came up with a fresh infusion of cash to temporarily save a failed charter school operating company and help it meet payroll. ICEF is one of the nation's largest private operators of charter schools. It operates 15 schools in the city's low-income minority neighborhoods.
ICEF representatives and others said the group's budget problems were caused by insufficient reserves; an overly ambitious expansion — 11 new schools in three years — that resulted in costly debt... (Howard Blume, L.A. Times)

More Duncan dollars to charter operators

This time around it's $50 million, going mainly to cash-rich private management companies like KIPP, Aspire, and Achievement First for 2-3-many-school expansion. KIPP, the mother of all charter school chains, go the biggest chunk of federal dollars,  
$14.5 million for 21 new schools and 11 expanded schools in a bunch of states including Arkansas, Colorado, Washington, DC, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas. That's on top of KIPP's whopping $50 million Investing in Innovation grant. (Edweek)

Redefined out of teaching

I met this morning with a Chicago teacher who was fired in the recent round of mass teacher firings. Five minutes into the meeting, it became clear to me that her firing has nothing to do with improving schools.

Like many others caught up in the so-called Race To The Top, she is an experienced teacher with National Board Certification. She wasn't fired for cause or for poor evaluations. Rather, a letter in the mail notified her simply, that she had been "honorably discharged." She fell victim to the latest trick being used by CEO Huberman and the board to circumvent and ultimately destroy its collective bargaining contract with the CTU. It's called redefinition.

Instead of actually firing teachers, the board does an end run around the contract by simply closing out or redefining their positions. This enables them, or the school principal, to replace veteran or tenured teachers with younger, lower-paid, often non-certified teachers, or teachers teaching out of their field. Lately it's been used to satisfy the district's contractual agreement with Teach For America. In this case, a new principal was most likely pressured by superiors to "clean house" and pick their own staff.

For this award winning teacher, it means being torn away from her students and from the profession she loves so dearly and to which she has committed her life and her talents. It also means being unemployed in the middle of this great recession, with a family to support and loss of medical care. The main losers are  the students in this mainly Mexican immigrant inner-city neighborhood, the ones who need teachers like her the most and who now have to deal with more instability in their lives.

So much for all the talk about education being a civil rights issue.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monday, September 27, 2010

Braun tells it straight about N.J. ed reform

How about a Pulitzer for New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Bob Braun. If not a Pulitzer, maybe my Diogenes (honest man) Award?

Braun ("Idea of failing N.J. public schools promoted by politicians, privatizers, celebrities") debunks the myth of New Jersey's "failing schools," pointing out that the state has the best and the worst performing schools, like every other state.
Some of the best schools — because it has some of the richest communities in the nation.
The state also has some of the worst public schools — because it also has some of the poorest and most racially segregated communities in America.


Rick Ayers has it. He takes on Guggeheim's film, point by point at the Answer Sheet.
The amped-up rhetoric of crisis and failure everywhere is being used to promote business-model reforms that are destabilizing even in successful schools and districts. A panel at NBC’s Education Nation Summit, taking place in New York today and tomorrow, was originally titled "Does Education Need a Katrina?" Such disgraceful rhetoric undermines reasonable debate.


'Superman' overselling charters
“It oversells charter schools,” says Jeffrey Henig, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York. The film notes that only 1 in 5 charter schools are highly successful. But “it implies there’s some philosophy that unifies charters and we just need to replicate that,” Professor Henig says. (CS Monitor)

No big dudes at Jalen Rose charter school
"This is an open school. The kids are going to be picked by a lottery. It's not going to be Jalen Rose trying to go through the neighborhood trying to scout every 6-foot 9-inch kid to come play for the basketball team. (Detroit News
On the privatization of libraries
There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries,” said Frank A. Pezzanite, the outsourcing company’s chief executive. He has pledged to save $1 million a year in Santa Clarita, mainly by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.” (NYT)
Moms stand up to CPS
CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond said the district still plans to demolish the building and expand the play lot. She added that Whittier is one of more than 160 district schools without a library.
Not the first time

It's not the first time Chicago moms have decided they won't take no for an answer. In 2001, a group of Little Village parents went 20 days without food to pressure the school district into building a new high school. A few months later, CPS announced it had the funds to build the school. Whittier moms say they look at the past for inspiration, and they won't give up until they win their fight.
"We can't claim victory, but the fact that we are here and we are united is a victory," Gomez said. (Chicago Tribune)

Saturday, September 25, 2010


This is what happens when public schools are turned into street beggars. 20-something billionaires become instant ed experts and decision makers.

Friday, September 24, 2010

WaPo headline: 'Rhee appears shaken after meeting'

Duncan's for mayoral control only if he can control the mayor

Rhee & Gray
Arne Duncan is a big fan of mayoral control of the schools--or at least he says he is. In fact, when Duncan was first appointed as secretary of education, he staked his very reputation on placing many more urban school districts under one-man, top-down control by their mayors. He even told us:

"At the end of my tenure, if only seven mayors are in control, I think I will have failed," Duncan said. He offered to do whatever he can to make the case. "I'll come to your cities," Duncan said. "I'll meet with your editorial boards. I'll talk with your business communities. I will be there."

So now we have a new popularly-elected mayor in D.C., Vincent Gray, who won by a substantial margin over incumbent Adrian Fenty. Voters, especially those in predominantly black wards, made it clear that they were voting in large part against  the continuation of Michelle Rhee as schools chancellor and especially against her firings of hundred of D.C. teachers. Rhee is the very embodiment of Duncan's Race-To-The-Top reform, a strategy focused on  school closings, privately-run charter schools,  mass teacher firings, and the undermining of collective-bargaining agreements.

Duncan campaigned actively for Fenty in the days leading up to the election. He used federal dollars to shower the district with grants and awards, as well as personal school tours and photo ops with Fenty and Rhee. Never before in history had an education secretary been so personally involved in trying to shape the outcome of a local mayor's race. He, along with several of the powerhouse foundations underwriting Rhee's efforts, even threatened to withhold more than $75 million in badly-needed school dollars should Gray defeat Fenty and replace Rhee with a leader more acceptable to the community.

But those threats obviously backfired, seeming to energize D.C. voters even more against Fenty, Rhee and Duncan.

Now suddenly, mayoral control seems to have slid from atop Duncan's priority list. Cheered on by a host of Washington's rich and powerful attending the recent premiere screening of the anti-union propaganda film Waiting for Superman, Duncan went into full arm-twisting mode, repeatedly calling Gray to cajole, threaten, and demand that he keep Rhee and her failed, divisive policies in place. Voters be damned. According to Newsweek:
Duncan has some influence with Gray, since the federal department recently announced that D.C. was one of the winners of the national Race to the Top school-reform competition, and stands to win $75 million if it implements the reforms Rhee’s administration outlined in its application... Duncan said he knows that Gray “knows what’s at stake” and “wants D.C. schools to continue to make progress.”
At this point, we don't know whether or not the man the Washington Post refers to as the "presumptive mayor" will fold under the pressure from Duncan and the foundations. But one thing seems clear. For Duncan, mayoral control really means control of the mayor.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Bill Gates is back on top of the Billionaire Boys Club* this year, with $54 billion in personal wealth. Then there's $30b more (tax free) in his foundation to use for investments in things like BP Oil as well as in school "reform."

According to Forbes, other big school reform players in the BBC include: Warren Buffet, Bill's $30b partner in the Gates Fund, #2; N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, #10; the Walton's, #4,7,8,9, 98, 136 ; ultra, ultra conservative, Philip Anschutz, who bankrolled Waiting for Superman, #34; Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who just bailed out Newark's school system and strengthened mayor control over the city's schools, #35; Eli Broad, whose training academy fellows run most big city school systems, #44; George Lucas, #98; Oprah Winfrey (sign the petition to get Ravitch on her show), #130; Michael Milken, #170; and Meg Whitman, California charter school player and candidate for governor, #332,

I know there are other BBC members who are local school reform players, voucher advocates, union busters, and charter cheerleaders, like DFER's Ravenel Boykin Curry IV (I just like saying his name) and Whitney Tilson. Sorry if I overlooked any of you. But you didn't quite make the Forbes 400 list. Better luck next year.

I also wanted to mention the Koch brothers (no pun intended), who share the #5 position. They aren't players in public school reform. In fact they hate the very idea of public anything. But they do bankroll the Tea Party.

* Yes, I know there are a few women on the list and one African-American. But c'mon. It's still a white, male club. Oh, and yes, this is just the U.S. version of the Boys Club. In fact, Gates still trails Mexican tycoon, Carlos Slim in the international race to the top.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Klein cut secret deal to misuse state $$$

OOPS! He thought the gov said "INCREASE"  class sizes. 
The state cut $500 million in funding from the city schools this year, Zarin-Rosenfeld noted, and the system is facing a "a similarly bleak financial picture next year. But parent advocates note that even when times were good in 2007 and 2008, the department failed to reduce class size. (Juan Gonzalez)

'Merit pay' study

The most rigorous study of "merit pay" ever conducted in the United States finds it's a load of crap.
The implementation of the pay program “did not set off significant negative reactions of the kind that have attended the introduction of merit pay elsewhere,” the study’s authors write. “But neither did it yield consistent and lasting gains in test scores. It simply did not do much of anything.” (Edweek)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Teachers rally in Chicago

Hundreds of Chicago Teachers Union members and supporters rallied in Daley Plaza demanding an end to mass teacher firings and calling for TIF dollars to be spent on education and other social needs. CTU President Karen Lewis fired up the crowd when she asked the women to "take of your ear rings and get ready for battle." Lewis also called for support the parents at Whittier Elementary who are in the 6th day of a sit-in as they try and get schools CEO Huberman to agree to provide a library for the school.

Fenty/Rhee backwash

NYT columnist Bob Herbert rips into Fenty and Rhee for their "ham-handed approach to governing and disregard of the sensibilities of their constituents."
Mr. Fenty was cheered by whites for bringing in the cold-blooded Michelle Rhee as schools chancellor. She attacked D.C.’s admittedly failing school system with an unseemly ferocity and seemed to take great delight in doing it. Hundreds of teachers were fired and concerns raised by parents about Ms. Rhee’s take-no-prisoners approach were ignored. It was disrespectful. 
Duncan's revenge
Headline in the Washington Examiner: "D.C. risks losing Fed school funds -- Will forfeit $75m if reforms are halted." Translation, Arne Duncan, who campaigned actively for Fenty, is threatening revenge against newly-elected Mayor Vincent Gray and the District's mainly black voters who elected him, should Gray resist any of his predecessor's divisive school policies. This guy is out of control.

Also, take note of the role played by consultant Andrew Rotherham in all this. In the Examiner article, he's the barking dog for Duncan.

Anschutz bankrolled "Superman"

Finally there's Phillip Anschutz, the owner of the Examiner, which is nothing but a filthy little right-wing tabloid, disguised as a newspaper.  But Anshutz also bankrolled the hot anti-union propaganda film, Waiting for Superman. Just in case you thought this film was made only by a group of well-intentioned, but misguided liberals.

Anschutz is a far right-wing, evangelical billionaire who inherited his fortune from his father's oil business and who has become a media mogul, publisher of the Weekly Standard, the S.F. Examiner,  and owner of  L.A.'s Staples Center. He was also the force behind California's anti-gay initiative

Oprah hands out 'Superman" money

"Please sir, I want some more."--Oliver Twist

Oprah doled out million-dollar checks to her pet charter schools in Philly & Oakland. How nice for them. 
Along with five other educational organizations, Mastery was chosen by Oprah's Angel Network as "proof that great education is possible for every child." (Dist. Administration)
That's proof?

Monday, September 20, 2010


Dear Friends:
Here is my brother Rick’s review of Waiting for Superman, Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary film on K-12 education.  This movie is likely to be a major hit this fall because of the compelling personal stories it tells.  Yet Rick thinks the director’s superficial knowledge of education leads  to simplistic conclusions, including that “bad teachers’ are the central problem in our schools. I have not seen the film, but I hear that Guggenheim is on Oprah today, so it must matter.
This piece of criticism was on the front page of the Huffington Post, and there was much commentary there.  Rick was just contacted by the Washington Post  and has been asked to write a point-by-point refutation of the film’s policy positions for that paper’s education blogspace next week. 

John S. Ayers
51 Vista Lane | Stanford, CA 94305
cid:image003.png@01CB3E05.5AE00320: Direct: 650.566.5125 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              650.566.5125      end_of_the_skype_highlighting | Cell: 708.714.0961 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              708.714.0961      end_of_the_skype_highlighting  

Dear Friends, 

On Sept. 24, a new film, "Waiting for Superman," will draw media attention to public education across the country. Unfortunately, most of it will be negative. So we've started a project to talk back to the film and the message it promotes. We hope you will join us at

The message of the film is that public schools are failing because of bad teachers and their unions. The film's "solution," to the minimal extent it suggests one, is to replace them with "great" charter schools and teachers who have less power over their schools and classrooms.
This message is not just wrong. In the current political climate, it's toxic. 

The film was made by the Academy-Award winning director of "An Inconvenient Truth," a documentary that helped awaken millions to the dangers of global warming. But this film misses the mark by light years. Instead of helping people understand the many problems schools face and what it will take to address them, it presents misleading information and simplistic "solutions" that will make it harder for those of us working to improve public education to succeed. We know first hand how urgently change is needed. But by siding with a corporate reform agenda of teacher bashing, union busting, test-based "accountability" and highly selective, privatized charters, the film pours gasoline on the public education bonfire started by No Child Left Behind and Race To the Top. 

Rethinking Schools has never hesitated to criticize public schools. We do it in every issue. We've been working for over 25 years to bring social justice and racial equality to our classrooms, our schools, our districts—and our unions. We know many of you have been doing the same. But this film does not contain a single positive image of a non-charter public school or a teacher. Despite a lot of empty rhetoric about the importance of "great teachers," the disrespect the film displays to real teachers working on the ground in public schools today is stunning. Not one has a voice in the film. There are no public school parents working together to improve the schools their children attend. There are no engaged communities. There is no serious discussion of funding, poverty, race, testing or the long and sorry history of top-down bureaucratic reform failure. 

It's as if someone made a film about global warming and did not mention cars, oil companies, or carbon dioxide. 

The film has an undeniably powerful emotional impact, and the stories of the children and families it highlights are compelling to all of us. But the film uses these stories to promote an agenda that will hurt public schools and the communities that depend on them. It's time to speak up for ourselves, our students, and our schools. 

Please join us at or email us at and let's get to work. 

[Right now, the link will take you to a Facebook book page that anyone can view, though only those with a FB account can post. In a few days, the same link,, will take you to a brand new NOT Waiting for Superman website that's almost ready to launch. Both sites will remain active for the duration of this campaign.] 

Stan Karp
for the editors of Rethinking Schools

It wasn't just in D.C.

They were the candidates of riches, flush with hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street investors who believed in the promise of charter schools. But when the election results came in on Tuesday, all three State Senate candidates supporting education reform — Basil Smikle, Lynn Nunes and Mark H. Pollard — lost by huge margins, with none cracking 30 percent of the total vote in primary contests against union-backed rivals. (New York Times)


Gray vs. Rhee
"Frankly, we live in a city that has been oppressed," Gray said after a 2007 list of prospective school closings appeared in The Washington Post before the council learned about it. "In this city, more than any other, how you do something is a major factor. It is a city that has been dictated to. People are very sensitive to being left out." ("D.C. school chief Rhee's next move probably toward the door"--WaPo)
Bobb vs. Rhee

He sees at least one difference between himself and the outspoken Rhee, who alienated black parents -- and ultimately black voters -- in a racially divided election in which whites tended to support Fenty and blacks mostly backed Gray.
"I can go into an African-American community and say I grew up on a sugar cane plantation where education was the only way out. . . . I think how you relate sometimes gives you a slight edge, particularly in an urban environment," (Times-Dispatch)
Learning from Rhee's Mistakes
But Fenty's defeat isn't about race or personality. It's about bad decisions, particularly on school reform. His school reform strategies, as shoved through by Rhee, alienated the voters.(Mark Simon, WaPo)
An inconvenient Superman
Waiting for Superman promotes the idea that we are in a dire war for US dominance in the world. The poster advertising the film shows a nightmarish battlefield in stark grey, then a little white girl sitting at a desk is dropped in the midst of it. The text: "The fate of our country won't be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom." (Rick Ayers --Huffington)
Alfie Kohn vs. blaming kids
Blaming students is the next logical step after blaming teachers. In fact, the two reflect the same general perspective on education, one in which commentators look down from their aeries and inform us that the trouble lies with the people in the classrooms rather than with the policies imposed on them. ("Schools would be great if it weren't for the kids"--WaPo) 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Deb Meier visits Telpochcalli

Deborah Meier was in town yesterday. So we went out to visit Telpochcalli, a small neighborhood elementary school in Chicago's Little Village community. Telpochcalli (named after early Aztec schools) is an arts-focused, dual-language school where teachers work collaboratively to personalize instruction and support each other.

Deborah and I were invited to sit in on a regular Friday event called Teacher Talk where one classroom teacher presented a dilemma she faced in her teaching and listened while her colleagues asked probing question and offered suggestions.

I even got an autographed copy of her new book, Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground, co-authored with Brenda Engel and Beth Taylor. You should too.

Playing for Keeps: Life and Learning on a Public School Playground (0)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Payback is a . . . well, you know what they say. "

It was a "populist revolt" in D.C.

Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy let 'em have it today. 'Em being, the current version of D.C.'s "ruling troika," Mayor Fenty, Chancellor Rhee and Attorney General Nichols.
What happened Tuesday involved more than just the unseating of a mayor with an abrasive style. It was a populist revolt against Fenty's arrogant efforts to restructure government on behalf of a privileged few. The scheme was odious: re-create a more sophisticated version of the plantation-style, federally appointed three-member commission that ruled the city for more than a century until 1967.
It all makes for a kind of friendly fascism in which D.C. government serves the interest of business leaders and landed gentry.

Mayor Daley is pissed

Chicago's lame duck mayor is pissed. He's pissed at Arne Duncan and the DOE. He hates Race To The Top. He despises the State Board of Education. He's really down on the teacher unions. In general, he's just sputtering mad. Why? Because Chicago Public Schools, not only won't receive a nickel of a potential $400 million in Race To The Top windfall, but wasn't even allowed to be part of the state's presentation team that went begging, unsuccessfully, for the competitive grant. This is almost as bad as his loss of the Olympic Games to Rio.
"You leave no child left behind. You race to the top. Next year, you race to the bottom. Next year, you race to the side. Everybody's racing to something," Daley said. "Why can't you send us money to build our schools. ... All the teachers know that these are just political slogans. We should end it." (Sun-Times)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

D.C. voters make a statement

 As predicted, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty took a pounding from voters in yesterday's primary election, losing to Vincent Gray who received 53% of the vote to Fenty's 46%.

The vote was as much a rejection of Michelle Rhee's top-down, divisive, anti-teacher school-reform as it was of Fenty himself. It came despite frantic, last-minute campaigning from none other than the Sec. of Ed. Arne Duncan who has spent an inordinate amount of time recently, visiting schools with Rhee and Fenty, handing out obviously politically-motivated awards and grants, looking for photo ops and badly overstating the results of the Rhee reforms.

On the eve of the election Duncan told the press that "by any measure, by every measure, D.C. has made real and substantive progress" even though District schools saw math and reading scores drop in the last year--the very measures that Duncan and Rhee have put at the center of their reform.

But voters weren't buying Duncan's pitch and as a result, the vote represents an embarrassing defeat for Obama and Duncan and a rejection of their own Race To The Top. It should be noted that the president himself never endorsed Fenty and passed up several opportunities to speak out on the mayor's behalf despite Fenty's desperate plea for help.

Rhee's reform was also propped up with millions of dollars from power philanthropists like Walton and Broad who threatened to pull $75 million in foundation funding should Fenty lose the election. Pro-charter, pro-voucher, and anti-union groups like Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) also rallied behind Fenty and an anti-union film bashing the teacher unions and touting Rhee, Waiting for Superman, was released just before the election.

Fenty's only pockets of support were found n predominantly white, wealthier parts of the district where fewer voters send their children to public school. It was in the black precincts where Fenty really took a pounding. Gray even beat Fenty in his home precinct in Crestwood with 56 percent of the vote. According the Post,
...despite the mayor's frenetic, expensive efforts to promote his accomplishments in all eight wards, he was unable to reverse the widespread belief among black Washingtonians that he favored residents of predominantly white, wealthier neighborhoods. 
Gray did not directly address Rhee's future, saying only: 
"Make no mistake -- school reform will move forward in a Gray administration. And it will be done in a holistic way, with a strong, empowered chancellor who works with parents and teachers."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Broad Foundation vs Parents & Teachers in Seattle

Dora Taylor 

NBC's Education Summit

Louie (my barber) will keynote

There won't be any classroom teachers or students among the experts invited to NBC's upcoming Education Summit. What they hell would they have to contribute to the discussion, anyway? Not to worry, say the group sponsors, teachers are invited to "brainstorm" with each other in a separate conference call. Among the "experts" meeting at the Summit are singer John Legend and Louie, my barber, who has some really good ideas about what he refers to as "edumocation." But to be fair, Legend and Louie are both barred from attending the teacher's brainstorming session.

Brother Fred tweets
Singer John Legend banned from "summit on show biz." 45 math and science teachers invited to share their views.
It probably won't surprise you to see the list of sponsors for this extravaganza.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Someone quick, call Batman

A gang of evil billionaires is holding the school children in the nation's capitol hostage. A note says, "Vote for Fenty or else we will take away $75 million and bankrupt your schools."


All the talk here in Chicago is about what changes will take place in the post-Daley era. Who will the be the new mayor and what political forces will hold sway in the upcoming elections? Will Rahm Emanuel be able to waltz in to the 5th floor at City Hall as expected, using Obama's cachet and millions in his political war chest to overwhelm contending factions?

Daley's late announcement was made purposefully only weeks before the deadline for entering the race, in order to leave the field to a few well financed and organized contending machine bosses. But independents and groups in the black and Latino communities are already meeting to see if a viable coalition candidate can emerge. Calling themselves Chicago A.D., youth organizers are also trying to pull various groups together to try and energize the young activists who rallied behind Obama in '08.

Greg Hinz, the most informed and informative writer at Crain's Chicago Business, gives us some insights into why the city's business community decided it was time for Mayor Daley to go. 
The city papered over smaller holes in recent years by selling the family silver: parking meters and the Skyway, parking garages and (almost) Midway Airport. That strategy worked for a bit, but it's not sustainable—not unless Chicago is to turn into a mini version of effectively bankrupt Illinois. The new mayor will have to slash and merge and rethink and say “no.” Emphasis on the “no.” There now appears to be no other option. 
Hinz writes that the new mayor will have to try seriously to end patronage and corruption.
Mr. Daley says he tried, but it said an awful lot when the man's own son a few years ago ended up with a piece of an inside city deal. Mr. Daley wasn't responsible for Rod Blagojevich, but Rod Blagojevich was a product of City Hall's “where's mine” culture. 
Looking at Chicago A.D. more from a community perspective is Sun-Times columnist  Laura Washington who writes:
The city's population is about one-third white, a third African American and nearly as much Latino. It needs a mayor with a foot in at least two of three camps...Yet, Emanuel is a bulldozer, not a bridge builder. His roots in communities of color are as shallow as a wading pool. If he plays it right -- and Rahmbo is a consummate political player -- he could wade right into the fifth floor and leave blacks, browns and progressives, once again, high and dry.
But Congressman Bobby Rush tells Laura:
"Whoever that person will be will have to come through my community -- and address my community and have an established record of working with my community on its many deep- seated problems."
Rush was talking about black folks, but the sentiment applies to a whole lot of other 'hoods. Latinos, Asians and independent voters all want a stake in this Daley-bereft city.
For another look at Chicago A.D. from the big business side, see Crain's Paul Merrion's piece, "Chicago's corporate honchos wonder whom to support after Daley."

Hey, Arne Duncan!

Where's your pal Newt? Not touring together any more? Remember 3 bedfellows tour one year ago w/ Gingrich & Sharpton? Reaching across aisle? What happened? Why not tell us about it?


Time for The Big Dog to Bite Back 
So far, his administration’s seeming coziness with some of the same powerful interests now vilifying him has left middle-class voters, including Democrats suffering that enthusiasm gap, confused as to which side he is on. If ever there was a time for him to clear up the ambiguity, this is it. (Frank Rich, NYT)
Academic Press
"Apparently, plenty of people around the country think it’s a bad idea to let small children play." (mariasallee in Failing Schools)
The Billionaire's Boys Club
“They made my campaign viable,” said Mr. Pollard, a lawyer who supports the charter school movement. The windfall has made him a legitimate contender. (NYT)

They have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaigns, provided him with rides on their corporate jets, socialized with him at luxury golf resorts and waterfront bashes and are now leading fund-raising efforts for his Boehner for Speaker campaign...
“So he often speaks with employers, rather than, for example, labor unions or environmentalists who support job-killing policies.” (NYT)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Latest on the Chicago schools 'miracle'

Daley/Huberman fall victim to their own poor grades

So the sneaky bastards at the Tribune somehow got hold of Ron Huberman's secret stash of school ratings and published them. Oh, goody!

The CPS document stolen by the Tribune shows the grade ranges that corresponded with the schools' numeric standardized test scores. Shades of the Tribune Co.-owned L.A. Times' release of internal rankings of supposed value-added, based exclusively on students' standardized test scores. So why am I smiling now when I was steaming then?

Because this time around, it's Huberman and outgoing Mayor Daley who are being (apologies to Shakespeare) hoisted with their own petard. Huberman came up with the A-B-C-D-F rating system for schools, to use to justify his massive school-closing scheme under Renaissance 2010. This, after the legislature forced the district to show some rationale for its arbitrary punishment and closing policies .

Among city elementary schools, 47 of 474 received As, while just 4 of 92 high schools met that mark. Meanwhile, 104 elementary schools and 39 high schools got Fs. But these grades have little, if any validity when it comes to judging the quality of individual schools or teachers. In most cases they are just coded measures of school or neighborhood poverty. Without mentioning any school names, I know of several excellent schools that received grades of C or C-, based only on standardized test scores.

According to the Trib:
Huberman last year pushed for those scores to be tied to decisions about closings — the highest sanction a school can face. Huberrman said he did not release the grades because they need to be more nuanced. The data does not take individual student growth into account, and school-wide comparisons can be imperfect, he said.
Isn't it interesting how "nuanced" these guys can get when their own asses are on the line, rather than teachers'. Take this line in the Trib article, for example"  
Observers caution that a single grade can't assess the complex work of fashioning the school system into a functioning body.
Or how about this one from Timothy Knowles, director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute. who back in June was calling for teacher jobs and pay to be tied directly to  these same test scores.
"There has to be some recognition — beyond what letter grades are put on school doors — of just how complicated this work is,"

The release of  these very un-nuanced grades, based on 2008-2009 test results as well as on trends over time, is particularly devastating for the mayor. They explode the entire Chicago turnaround miracle myth that former schools CEO Arne Duncan rode all the way to D.C. They show once again that the Daley/Duncan Ren10 reforms of the last decade were a complete bust, leaving the majority of district schools with low marks.

District officials say they want to give fair warning when schools are at risk of closure. But a few activists accuse Huberman of using the probation policy to wrestle control from local school councils, since schools on probation for two years can also lose the authority to hire their own principals.
More than 300 schools are on probation this year, the highest number since 1996-1997, according to an analysis conducted by Designs for Change, an education nonprofit.

"Probation has become a back-door method … for recentralizing the school system to strip Local School Councils, principals and teachers of their decision-making opportunities," wrote Valenica Rias-Winstead, an associate at the research group, in a February report.

After 15 years of mayoral control of the schools and hundreds of millions of dollars invested in Daley's test-crazy, privatization reforms which included neighborhood school closings, mass teacher firings, and privately-managed charter schools, the system has again flunked its own grading system. Some of the worst grades were assigned to some of the most highly touted charter schools. The implications extend far beyond Chicago since the current secretary of education was one of the architects and chief implementer of the failed renaissance and is now leveraging badly-needed federal funding to force these same failed policies on the states.

So as the old mayor departs to spend more time with his grand kids, let's put a hold all the eulogies to the education mayor and his string of hand-picked school bosses. Give them an D for Data-driven Deception.

Duncan does D.C.

Doesn't do politics, my...

Arne Duncan is walking the precincts with Mayor Fenty, desperately trying to drum up votes and support for the D.C. mayor's sinking re-election campaign and for his broom lady, Michelle Rhee. As election day draws near, he's spending every day he can in the District, using every means at his disposal, even dragging out awards from his closet to give to some D.C. school, as well as a big fat Race To the Top grant. Timing is everything, he hopes.

With less than a week before the District's hotly contested mayoral primary, Duncan was asked whether he was delivering an endorsement on behalf of President Obama, whom Fenty has asked for support.
"I don't do politics," Duncan said. "I'm the secretary of education." (WaPo)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

We don't need no stinkin' Chief Education Officer

CPS starts school without an ed leader

Since Barbara Eason-Watkins' departure in April, Chicago Public Schools have been operating without anyone in the system's top educator position. BEW was one of few remaining African-American educators at Clark Street where CEO Huberman runs the show for the mayor, with his cadre of former CTA dept. managers and City Hall transplants. Apparently that's all he needs since school opened last week minus a replacement education chief.

Clarice Berry,  head of the Principals Assoc., says the job of education chief is critical and is pushing for an educator to be chosen to fill the position.   
The principals are feeling a little lost at sea. There's no continuous stream of educational advice, strategies, and directions coming out. I think we really do have to get someone. This is a post that can not go unfilled much longer. (City Room)
Crucial though it may be, under the system of mayoral control, the school system has been turned into a big part of the City Hall patronage system and every top administrative job has to be negotiated through a sea of contending forces and interests.

Mayor Daley caught heat back in July, especially from many black community leaders, when he tried to install one of his trusted managers, Mary Ellen Caron, in the position. The mayor picking Caron, founder and former principal of Daley's daughter's Catholic elementary school, would have looked exactly like what it was, another patronage pick for a job that has been held by a black educator since 1995, the year Daley took control of the schools. Caron is currently the $147,060-a-year commissioner of the city's new mega-Department of Family and Support Services.

Daley's announced retirement this week, may make it even more difficult to place someone of his choosing and he may decide to punish his critics by appointing no one.  He says he's not worried about starting a new school year without a chief education officer because, "We have enough educators at the Board of Education." (Sun -Times)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Good riddance

It seems like everyone is feigning surprise over Daley's "time to move on" announcement yesterday. Not me. The writing was on the wall back in July when da mayor's poll numbers dropped down into the 30s. And why not? Daley's botched attempt to land the Olympic Games caused havoc and scandal in the ranks of his speculating business patrons--possibly even leading to the suicide of his real estate-speculating school board president, Michael Scott. His giant privatization yard sale of everything not nailed down, from the Skyway, to the schools, even the city's parking spaces, has left this once-proud city, on the brink and mortgaged up to its eyeballs with federal investigators once again, sniffing around City Hall.

Daley was the first of the big-city mayors to take control of the public schools, which he then turned into another wing of his patronage machine. He reshaped the office of school superintendent, changing the title to CEO, pleasing his friends at the Civic Committee who had enough of the first-wave of Chicago's decentralized school reform. That reform movement, back in the late '80s and early '90s was the most radical, democratic and inclusive in the nation.

With a hand-picked board of bankers and corporate execs and a string of (hopefully) loyal CEOs --Vallas, Duncan, and now Huberman--Daley hitched his wagon, first to Bush's No Child Left Behind and then to a local, top-down model of reform called Renaissance 2010, hatched in the offices of the Civic Committee. Recognizing the need to reverse white flight and attract young, middle-class professionals and technocrats back into this post-industrial city, Daley engineered the move to a new two-tiered system of schools, with a neutered teachers union and a focus on privately-managed charters, neglect and then mass closings of neighborhood schools.

The Chicago model was touted as a political winner, a turnaround miracle without any research evidence to back up the claims. But there was enough good-news stories about the Chicago miracle from a compliant local and national media (shades of the Bush/Paige "Texas Miracle") to send Arne Duncan to Washington in hopes of leveraging the top-down, business-model reform nationally. But under the weight of the current global financial collapse and massive state and local budget crises, Daley/Huberman have moved from reform to mass firings of teachers and exploding class size in neighborhood schools.

Without any clear alternative in sight, the Daley era is coming to a close. It appears that Duncan's Race To The Top is also a political loser for D.C.'s Mayor Fenty, who has tied his fate to Michelle Rhee's divisive reform strategy and is now facing defeat in the upcoming elections. Good riddance to both of them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Labor Day goof on Obama speech

It was early this morning as I prepared my post on Labor Day Weekend Quotables. Sleep was still in my eyes. I immediately turned to Huffington to grab some text from President Obama's annual Labor Day speech. It was a stem winder, knock-your-socks off speech aimed directly at Obama's union base--you know, the most powerful force behind his 2008 electoral victory. Here's the piece I pulled out for my blog:
We remember that the rights and benefits we enjoy today were not simply handed out to America's working men and women. They had to be won. They had to be fought for, by men and women of courage and conviction, from the factory floors of the Industrial Revolution to the shopping aisles of today's superstores. They stood up and spoke out to demand a fair shake; an honest day's pay for an honest day's work. Many risked their lives. Some gave their lives.
 And then this:

But in recent years, the American Dream seemed to slip away, because from Washington to Wall Street, too often a different culture prevailed. Wealth was valued over work, selfishness over sacrifice, greed over responsibility, the right to organize undermined rather than strengthened.

Finally, the best part of all:
That's why Secretary Solis has made it a priority at the Labor Department to protect workers-your safety, your benefits, your right to organize and bargain collectively. It's why some of the first executive orders I issued overturned the previous administration's attempts to stifle organized labor. It's why I support the Employee Free Choice Act-to level the playing field so it's easier for employees who want a union to form a union. Because when labor is strong, America is strong. When we all stand together, we all rise together.

The words sent a chill up my spine and put a grin on my face. "Yes," I said to myself. Obama has finally come back to the ideals he ran on. He's affirming workers' right to organize and even calling once again for passage of the Free Choice Act. There's a phrase we haven't heard in the past year and noticeably missing from Hilda Solis' Labor Day address last week.. It all started coming back to me--that same feeling I had that November night in Grant Park, celebrating the victory along with thousands that made up the new movement.

And then it struck me. Oh shit! Wait a minute. Obama wasn't speaking in Ohio yesterday. He was in Wisconsin. Damn, I'm reading last year's speech.

I turned back to the morning papers. Ah, there it was, a brief, tepid little talk with hardly any mention and little text in the Times and Post. Not a word about EFCA. Not a word about workers' rights to collective bargaining or standing up the culture of selfishness and greed. After much surfing, I did find some innocuous mid-term campaign rhetoric about not "handing back the keys" to the Republicans and posted it.

Things sure have changed in a year. Now it's sounding more and more like the keys have already been handed back. Maybe I'd better start blogging later in the day.

Inside Chicago's school "renaissance."

Amazing! They actually mention the words, Renaissance 2010. First time in months anyone will say the R word. Linda Lutton at WBEZ does her usual fine job of showing the contradictions in the Daley/Huberman approach to school reform. It's all about neglecting or closing neighborhood schools and privileging privately-run, for-profit charters, like Chicago International.
Many of the new Renaissance 2010 schools are funded based on how many students they enroll. Larry Hawkins is offering parents $50 gift cards for every additional student they refer to the school.

Labor Day Weekend Quotables

Obama's Labor Day speech
"I don't want to give them the keys back." Obama said to the cheering crowd. " They don't know how to drive." He added, "They're going to pop it into reverse and have special interests riding shotgun and we'd be right back in the ditch."
Fired teachers return to Central Falls H.S.
Several students this week said the mass firings were unnecessary and that teachers were unfairly scapegoated for problems beyond their control. Central Falls, a cramped city just a square mile in size, has budget problems so severe that this summer it was placed under the supervision of a state-appointed receiver. (WaPo)

Retiring SEIU leader, Anna Burger
“We have not developed public policies that support working women the way we should,” she said. “When women can be forced to work mandatory overtime when they have children at home and don’t have access to child care, that’s a huge problem. (NYT)

Best quote: reporters to Gov. Brewer
“Governor, please answer the question about the headless bodies." (Gail Collins, NYT)

Rat race
"It's a race to the top and the rats are winning." (Sabrina)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Duncan's OK with a Republican sweep

But he's "nonpolitical"

Arne Duncan is back on tour in anticipation of a Republican avalanche in the upcoming mid-term elections. This one reminiscent of his first Three Amigos tour with Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton--a kind of early surrender tour which let the country know that the new administration was fully committed to building on Bush's No Child Left Behind policies--now called Race To The Top. This time around, he's letting letting the public know that he's still on board.
Though Mr. Duncan called his bus trip “a campaign for education,” there was little political edge. Should Republicans seize control of one or both houses of Congress, he vowed to find common ground.
“I’m the most nonpolitical person there could be,” he said. “I’ll work with anyone.” (NYT)
The best quote in the Times piece comes from conservative Minnesota congressman, John Kline, the ranking minority member of the House Labor and Education Committee who pointed out that Duncan’s reforms, "especially ones unpopular with unions," came straight from the traditional Republican playbook.
“I said, ‘Arne, only you can do that, You’re the secretary of education for a Democratic president.’ 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chicago's new $100 million high school

A gift to Mike Koldyke and AUSL
Mayor Richard Daley and other officials on Wednesday toured Eric Solorio Academy High School, and Daley reminded everyone who picked up the more than $100 million price tag.

DALEY: Remember, this is all city money. Not state or federal government. This is taxpayers in the city of Chicago. They're paying for modern schools across Chicago.

It might be taxpayer money, but the school will be managed by a private company. Schools chief Ron Huberman says the Academy of Urban School Leadership, or AUSL, will run the school and act as a sort of teaching laboratory.  

The three-story school includes five computer labs and a six-lane pool.
(City Room)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fighting the pissants

Leave it to Alan Gottlieb from the Education News Colorado, to accuse my teacher/blogger brother Fred of trotting canards. We in the Klonsky family don't like to talk about this publicly, but since the L.A. Times set the tone by publishing the names and test-score rankings of individual teachers, I think it's only right, in the name of transparency, to inform parents that Fred has had this trotting-canards problem since his was a kid. My folks took him to the best doctors, but, alas, no cure was found. If some parents decide to seek another teacher for their child, it's perfectly understandable.

Fred quacks back: “Trotting out the canard?” Isn’t “canard” French for goose?

Posting at Huff, Gottlieb has even more brilliant observations to offer us re. the L.A. Times value-added fiasco, starting with his classifying all public school teachers as "insiders" and "choice" proponents, corporate reformers and Duncan as "outsiders" He goes on to admit that, "the methodology may be imperfect. Some teachers can't be evaluated based on value-added criteria. Yes, some embarrassment will result," but what the hell, publish anyway.

They used to teach ethics back when I was in journalism school. I guess things have gotten more technical and innovative since then, especially out there in Colorado, where they've dropped trow as low as it goes in hopes of attracting some Race To The Top money.  So far, no good.

Arne Duncan takes, pretty much, the same line as Gottlieb (or vice versa). He's critical of the poor tests we use. He doesn't think that these tests should be the only criterion for evaluating teachers. Yada, yada, yada. But still, he applauds the L.A. Times for doing just that--allthough with some qualifications. As the New York Times reports
In a speech last week, though, he qualified that support, noting that he had never released to news media similar information on teachers when he was the Chicago schools superintendent.“There are real issues and competing priorities and values that we must work through together — balancing transparency, privacy, fairness and respect for teachers,” Mr. Duncan said. On The Los Angeles Times’s publication of the teacher data, he added, “I don’t advocate that approach for other districts.” 

Another soldier in the pissant army is Jack Shafer. Writing in Slate, Shafer, salutes the Times for "bravery  to express in liberal, union-enslaved Los Angeles."

What can you say in response to that? Except, thank god we live in a country where even pissants can publish.