With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

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.


  1. Are AUSL schools on the list? I can't find Orr and I think that's an AUSL school. I think those schools might be missing.

  2. Mike Klonsky said...

    Yes, there are some AUSL schools on the list and the scores are nothing to write home about:

    Chicago Academy Elementary School--C+
    Chicago Academy High School--C-
    Dodge --B- (up from a C)
    Collins Academy--no score
    Tarkington--C (no improvement from last year)
    National Teachers Academy--C-(up from a D+)
    Sherman Elementary--D+ (up from F)
    Orr High School--no score
    And so it goes.

    You can look up the rest yourself. Go to http://www.ausl-chicago.org/schools.html
    for a list of their schools.

    The type the name in here to find their grade:

  3. Check out the power brokers who sit on the board at AUSL. http://www.ausl-chicago.org/about-board.html

    No wonder Huberman & Daley wanted to keep their scores quiet.

  4. Huberrman said he did not release the grades because they need to be more nuanced.

    I agree teachers are supposed to be 100 percent perfect with their students..yet he can nuance???
    his work still???

  5. Charter advocates like the test-score game when it is used to close public school and replace them with charters. But when their own test scores are made visible, they suddenly turn anti-testing. It's amazing.


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