Monday, January 31, 2011

Guess where Huberman went? No surprise.

Wondering where former Chicago schools CEO Ron Huberman fled after CPS? An investment firm of course. Making $$$ with his City Hall, public schools connections? You bet.
Mr. Huberman said his task will be to find investment and buyout opportunities in three fields he knows well: education, transportation and security. (Crain's)


Del Valle on "tough guy" Rahm
"This whole thing about being tough—it's about personalities and demeanor, it has nothing to do with running a city," del Valle says. "What, he's tough because he swears? I don't swear to people, so I'm not tough? I'm from Humboldt Park. He's from where—Wilmette, Winnetka? I went to Tuley High, he went to what—New Trier? And Rahm's tougher than me?"--Ben Joravsky, The Reader
Joel Klein cuts $4 million deal with News Corp. 
"Now his mission is to make money out of education for News Corp. and it’s Cathie Black’s turn to educate"--SEC Watch
Klein's view of teachers
"It's easier to prosecute a capital punishment case in the US than terminate an incompetent teacher." -- BBC News.
D.C. Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson
“People think that when you are an educator you clearly aspire to a superintendency or to be secretary of education. That’s not true for me."  -- The Answer Sheet
Black mom jailed for sending child to a white school
"I think they wanted to make an example of me." -- Kelley Williams-Bolar
On Obama's call for return of R.O.T.C. to campus
“I would be the most surprised person in the world if the military came back to Harvard or Yale."-- Diane Mazur, former Air Force officer and author of  A More Perfect Military

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Okay, now we know where Rahm lives...

What about Burge torture case?

The good news is that hopefully now, with the where-does-Rahm-really-live issue behind us, Emanuel will finally be facing some tougher questions.

In Thursday's debate for example, both Rahm and Gery Chico got ripped pretty good. Most everyone I talked with or read, who witnessed the debate, (including Huffington's Will Gizzardi) thought that Miguel del Valle came out on top and that Emanuel seemed lost and ill-prepared. 
NBC Chicago came out with a "scorecard" of the debate: Miguel pulled down an A, Chico got a B, Emanuel scored a C, and Carol Moseley Braun came in last in their estimation with a C-.
What I find most interesting and disturbing has been the lack of any mention of the Jon Burge case. The Burge trial should be a campaign issue, not only because it has divided the city along racial lines (all of Burge's torture victims were black or Latino), but because the cash-strapped city, along with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), continues to pay for Burge's defense. It is also an issue that indirectly connects to Chico, because he sought and won the FOP's endorsement.

The Burge case also connects in some ways to Mayor Daley himself. The only reason Burge had to be tried for perjury instead of for the torture of more than 100 of his prisoners is because then-states attorney Daley took no legal action against him, allowing the statute of limitations to run out.  So far, throughout the campaign, neither Chico nor Rahm has dared utter Daley's name and not one reporter has asked either of them to comment on the Burge trial. 

Now the police commander convicted of concealing torture of suspects under his watch will continue receiving over $3,000 a month in pension payouts for life after a Police Board vote Thursday morning.
G. Flint Taylor, the Chicago lawyer who has represented Burge’s alleged victims, says it’s outrageous. "Clearly he was acting as a cop; the city was defending him as a cop,” he said. (CBS)
On  Friday, del Valle became the only major candidate to speak out on the pension decision. He told Gizzardi:
"I thought it was a terrible decision, a terrible decision. Awful, awful, awful. I think it sends the wrong message. There are a lot of people who lost their pension -- you've got a governor in jail who lost his pension, a governor of the state of Illinois. For this man to keep his pension after what he did... I think the individuals who voted for that made a big mistake."
Del Valle could have also mentioned the thousands of teachers and other public employees who tortured no one, but  whose pensions are also being threatened or eliminated due to state budget cuts.

So now, with less than a month remaining until election day, it looks like Rahm Emanuel's easy path to victory may become a little more rocky--especially if reporters start asking him the tough questions.

Friday, January 28, 2011


CONTACT:  Tim Ebner, CommunicationWorks, 202-955-9450, x317
Wynn Hausser, Public Advocates, 415-431-7430 x304; 650-619-1032

Organizations Join Forces in Urging Obama Administration, Congress to Reverse Course

Washington, D.C. – In an urgent letter sent Thursday to President Obama and key Congressional leaders, more than fifty organizations from across the country -- including civil rights, disability, parent, student, community and education groups -- criticized a provision signed into law last month lowering teaching standards required under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The provision allows thousands of underprepared and inexperienced teachers to continue to be assigned disproportionately to low-income, minority, special education, and English language learner students and denies parents notification of the teachers’ underprepared status.

Intended to overturn a recent civil rights ruling won by low-income students and parents of color in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Renee v. Duncan), the provision was quietly added by key Congressional leaders into the Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government the day before the CR was passed on December 21, 2010.

In Renee v. Duncan, the Ninth Circuit struck down a Bush-era regulation that labeled teachers who have not met the standards for full state credentials as “highly qualified” from the first moment they begin training in alternative route preparation programs. The court ruled that the regulation patently conflicted with the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress in NCLB that only teachers “who have obtained” full credentials be deemed “highly qualified.” The designation is important under NCLB as all non-highly qualified teachers must be reported to parents and the public and cannot be concentrated in low-income, high-minority schools.

Urging the President and Congress to reverse course, the letter notes that the CR provision “disproportionately impacts our most vulnerable populations: low-income students and students of color, English language learners, and students with disabilities who are most often assigned such underprepared teachers.” Further, the provision “hides this disparate reality from parents and the public by disingenuously labeling teachers-in-training as ‘highly qualified’ and hindering advocacy for better prepared teachers.”

Evidence in Renee shows that two-thirds of alternate route trainees in California teach in schools with 75 percent or greater minority students, while around half teach special education students.

 “I don’t understand why Congress and the Administration are interfering with the victory we won in court,” said Maribel Heredia, a parent plaintiff in the Renee case. “I thought they supported equal access to experienced and fully-prepared teachers for the neediest students. We deserve at least the same quality of teachers as affluent communities.”

“It’s unacceptable that parents aren’t required to be notified when their child’s teacher is not qualified to teach school,” added Mark Halpert, parent leader with The National Center for Learning Disabilities. “We know that the academic needs of children with disabilities cannot be met by someone who is working to become a qualified teacher, but not there yet. When our children are not being taught by the highly qualified teachers they deserve, parents have a right to be told exactly why this is happening and when the situation will be rectified.”

League of United Latin American Citizens National President Margaret Moran echoed that sentiment with respect to English language learners. “These people have not yet been fully trained on how best to convey the subject matter, much less on how best to teach English and academic content to students who are still becoming proficient in English. Why are we continuing the status quo of allowing districts and states to send our students underprepared teachers while calling them ‘highly qualified?’”

“The civil rights community is highly disturbed by this effort to overturn a court victory won by community groups and low-income parents of color,” said Tanya Clay House, public policy director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.. “Moreover, the fact that a major amendment of a primary federal education law being slipped into an appropriations bill at the eleventh hour is not how critical policies impacting our communities should be made."

The groups are calling for repeal of the CR provision and development of a transparent definition of teacher quality, along with a set of policies that will allow the nation to put a well-prepared and effective teacher in every classroom.

The following are available for comment:

John Affeldt, Managing Attorney, Public Advocates Inc., lead counsel in Renee v. Duncan, 415-431-7430, x301

Iris Chavez, Education Policy Coordinator, League of United Latin American Citizens, 202-833-6130

Maribel Heredia, parent plaintiff in Renee v. Duncan, 510-342-6570

Tanya Clay House, Public Policy Director, National Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, 202-662-8330

Candice Johnson, student plaintiff in Renee v. Duncan, 323-244-1306

Laura Kaloi, Public Policy Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities, 703-476-4894

For more information see the following blog posts.

Congress approves weird definition of 'highly qualified’ teachers, Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, definiti.html

Congress Lowering Standards for Teachers; Hiding Truth from Poor, Minority Parents, John Affeldt, Huffington Post,

LETTER SIGNATORIES (as of 1:30pm PST, 1/26/11)

Action United

Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment

Alliance for Multilingual Multicultural Education

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education

American Association of State Colleges and Universities

American Federation of Teachers

ASPIRA Association

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network

California Association for Bilingual Education

California Latino School Boards Association

Californians for Justice

Californians Together

Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Campaign for Quality Education

Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning

Center for Teaching Quality

Citizens for Effective Schools

Coalition for Educational Justice

Council for Exceptional Children

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund

Easter Seals

ELC, Education Law Center

FairTest, The National Center for Fair & Open Testing

Higher Education Consortium for Special Education

Justice Matters

Latino Elected and Appointed Officials National Taskforce on Education

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Learning Disabilities Association of America

Los Angeles Educational Partnership

Movement Strategy Center


National Alliance of Black School Educators

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Council for Educating Black Children

National Council of Teachers of English

National Disability Rights Network

National Down Syndrome Congress

National Down Syndrome Society

National Education Association

National Latino/a Education Research and Policy Project

National League of United Latin American Citizens


Parents for Unity

Philadelphia Education Fund

Public Advocates Inc.

Public Education Network

Rural School and Community Trust

RYSE Center

School Social Work Association of America

Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children

Texas Association for Chicanos and Higher Education

United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries

Youth Together

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Charter battle at Chicago board meeting

Little Village Alderman, Rick Munoz
"If the Board of Education wants to continue on this track of privatizing our public schools, that's the wrong track," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz, 22nd, speaking during a teachers union news conference shortly before the CPS board meeting. He said his community had to stage a 19-day hunger strike to pressure the district to build a neighborhood school. --Tribune: "Charters bring drama to CPS board meeting" 


Blaming the schools
[Obama's] references to education provided a convenient scapegoat for the failure of the economy, rather than to blame the actions of the Wall Street hustlers to whom Obama is now sucking up. Yes, it is an obvious good to have better-educated students to compete with other economies, but that is hardly the issue of the moment when all of the world’s economies are suffering grievous harm resulting from the irresponsible behavior of the best and the brightest here at home. It wasn’t the students struggling at community colleges who came up with the financial gimmicks that produced the Great Recession, but rather the super-whiz-kid graduates of the top business and law schools. -- Robert Scheer, "Hogwash, Mr. President"


Report from Bonnie Cunard in Florida

Today's Education Forward Summit in Boca Raton, Florida:
"What would you tell Gov. Rick Scott if you wanted to give him advice for education policy?"
I had the pleasure and honor of attending:
"The three-hour summit, held at Lynn University, was organized by Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, to open a dialogue about the critical needs of Florida education and discuss how change is coming to the state under new Gov. Rick Scott and a Republican-dominated legislature" ((Palm Beach Post News)
Diane Ravitch gave an amazing, concise, research supported overview of the current education reforms.
"If we don't do what's right, we will all pay the price," said Diane Ravitch, former U.S. Secretary of Education and the summit's keynote speaker. "Our schools should be far better than they are today."
One of the most contentious topics was charter schools and the privatization of public education. Ravitch, who once championed charter schools while secretary of education under President George H.W. Bush, now opposes them, saying they are not a "silver bullet" or a "panacea" to fix education.
"We need strong public schools because these are the schools that educate 90 percent of our children," Ravitch said." (Palm Beach Post News)
Others also discussed ideas.
"Palm Beach County teacher's union president Robert Dow put it simply: "Stop demonizing teachers." Teachers feel threatened when they should feel ennobled, Dow said." (Sun Sentinel)
Videos available here:
Discussion Highlights:
Peter Cunningham, Asst Secretary,  Department of Education,  admitted that charters would end up killing themselves off... his words. Then he admitted more than 83% of charters do no better or worse than public schools.
If the measures to reform education must be fiscally prudent and proven to work, I'd say the DOE made our point for us.
Judging from the huge crowd today and the fact that public school advocates, parents, and teachers drove from all around the state to attend, it is obvious that many agree that gambling with our public school system is not worth the risk.
Businessman, Barney Bishop was asked how he would change education for the better and he answered, 'Let the Dollars Follow the Students.'
In that order... money before children.  He put profit before kids. He continued,
"Even a blue-collar worker needs to read to operate machinery," Bishop said, adding that the private sector is paying unnecessary money to train workers who should have been taught in school."
I quickly sent this question to Senator Sachs:
Re: Bishop - "Rudimentary skills?" Yet he never mentions collaboration? Are we hoping to grow blue collar students?
Fortunately, the voice of reason prevailed:
Diane Ravitch introduced an important note of research: There are over 60,000 homeless students in NYC, a heavily charter school area, and yet of those 60,000 homeless children... only 150 are attending charter schools.... only 150.

News; Laugh to keep from crying

"WTF?" says Palin
"[Obama's] theme last night in the State of the Union was the WTF -- winning the future," continued Palin. "I thought, 'OK.' That acronym? Spot on. There were a lot of WTF moments throughout that speech." --Sarah please. You're grossing me out. I'm hving a Sputnik moment. 
Failing schools?
AP--Standard & Poor’s cuts Japan’s credit rating one notch to AA- over concerns about government debt, deflation, aging population. -- Must be those crappy Japanese schools.
AP--Trading is halted on Egyptian stock exchange after market plunges 6.25 percent in 15 minutes -- More failing schools?

Family News
Hawaii charter schools could face some new funding challenges this year because of the misconduct of a few schools — or one in particular: Myron B. Thompson Academy. Several questions at a joint legislative briefing Wednesday centered on the online public charter academy, which has been in the news lately for concerns about nepotism in its hiring practices. -- Ah, the family.

Uh oh
AP --A Utah military base that carries out tests to protect troops against biological attacks was locked down Wednesday to resolve a "serious concern," officials said.Base commander Col. William E. King said no one was in danger. -- Yeah, right.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Sputnik Moment

In his State of the Union address, President Obama harkened back to the Cold War era when the world's two biggest military superpowers faced off in proxy wars and brought the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation. Ah, the good old days.

The Russians grabbed an early lead in the superpower space race when they launched Sputnik 1, the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite, in 1957. Cold warriors raised the chilling specter of Soviet missiles raining down on American cities from outer space and blamed "failing" public schools for our lag in the race to the top into space.

One of the leading cold warriors was James B. Conant, Harvard president and head of the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1959 he authored the book, The American High School Today, which ushered in the era of the big comprehensive high school, standardized testing, tracking and channeling federal education dollars and competitive grants exclusively towards math/science and away from the liberal arts. The progressive movement in U.S. public education suffered a blow from which it has never recovered.

In last night's speech, Obama followed in Conant's wake, once again calling this, "our generation's Sputnik moment" an oblique response to U.S. students supposedly lagging behind new economic superpower China and other countries on the PISA tests. Once again the cold-war (and hot war) drums are beating, this time to the tune of permanent war. Schools and "bad teachers" are again being blamed for our faltering position in the economic and military race to the top. Once again the shift is towards even more testing, tracking and sorting with resources and curricular focus on that which is tested. 
"Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than 1 percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning... And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids."
Aside from the dubious moral purpose behind the new Sputnik reforms lies the question of who will pay for them? Can we as a nation really afford permanent war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, along with the next version of No Child Left Behind? Or will be be facing even greater budget cuts in education, larger class sizes with fewer teachers (without collective bargaining rights) and more reliance on privatization and teacher-classrooms? And despite all the new civility and "let's sit together" talk, the prospects for NCLB re-authorization are still dim. The GOP and T-Party responses made that pretty clear.

So in a way, the president was blowing smoke while laying out the parameters for the domestic battle for the very soul of public education.

Genuine reform must be about: adequate funding for public education; raising the living standards of students and their families; engaging entire communities in the struggle for educational transformation; supporting teachers with needed resources and training (reform WITH teachers--not TO them); as well as rethinking the design and function of schools. That is what Obama's Sputnik moment should have been about.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Merrow hates teacher bashing

Or does he?

John Merrow posts on Huffington (Blame the Teacher! ): "Teacher bashing is all the rage these days, unfortunately." Merrow also singles out Waiting for Superman as Exhibit A in the war on teachers.

But wasn't it Merrow who applauded the L.A. Times for publishing the names of teachers next to their students' test scores in that so-called value-added fiasco? Yes it was. And wasn't Merrow one of the most prominent voices cheering on Michelle Rhee in her failed assault on D.C.'s teachers and Paul Vallas, when he fired every teacher in New Orleans. Yes it was.

Time for some soul-searching, John.

Teacher as Taliban

It's definitely a war out there--a war on public schools teachers. Not exactly the Finland model, is it?  Here's the latest:

A judge in L.A. has essentially ruled that the contract between the teachers and the board is null and void. Hundreds of teachers can now be laid off arbitrarily, with no regard to seniority. The decision comes amid massive state cuts in public education and is part of an all-out nationwide assault on public service employees unions, collective-bargaining rights, and teacher tenure in particular. L.A. faces a nearly $400-million shortfall that could force thousands more teachers out of the classroom this year.
Lawyers representing district students hailed the judge's ruling as a "landmark victory" that put the interests of children ahead of their instructors. (L.A. Times)
Maybe those lawyers and our esteemed education experts,  over, at the L.A. Times, could explain to us how removing thousands of teachers from the classroom or pitting the "interests of students" against the "interests of teachers",  is good for students. I have my doubts.

The war on teachers opened up another front down in Florida led by Gen. Jeb Bush. He's figured out the final solution to the teacher problem--the teacher-less classroom.
“All there were were computers in the class,” said Naomi, who walked into a room of confused students. “We found out that over the summer they signed us up for these courses.” Naomi is one of over 7,000 students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools enrolled in a program in which core subjects are taken using computers in a classroom with no teacher. A “facilitator” is in the room to make sure students progress. That person also deals with any technical problems. (NY Times)
Now if they can just find a way to get rid of all those poor kids--problem solved. 

I'm wondering, where is this so-called "collaboration" Randi Weingarten keeps talking about?

Monday, January 24, 2011


L.A. schools, thousands of students on "lock-down" 
"No food was given. My son and daughter said classmates were peeing into trash cans," said Odette Fulliam, whose children attend Hale and El Camino. In fact, a 5-gallon pail is part of a "lockdown kit" that is supposed to be accessible to every classroom. The pail with a removable lid is "solely for the purpose of this kind of situation," said district spokesman Robert Alaniz. --L.A. Times)
Alabama leads assault on teacher unions
"I don't think there's any doubt that what they want to do is silence us, and I think that's what you see going on around the country," said David Stout, a spokesman for the Alabama Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association. "There's an organized movement to hamper the voice of what unions do in public education." --Sacramento Bee
Momma, don't let your babies visit China
"The Chinese regime is advancing its own interests in the West—including Walter Payton College Prep—by, in effect, bribing school systems, educators, and students to see the world through Chinese eyes and, of course, to turn blind eyes and deaf ears toward anyone who might raise concerns about the innumerable threats that Beijing poses to America’s future." -- Fordham Foundation's Checker Finn
Success for whom?
"Consider: A corporate leader who increases profits by slashing his work force is thought to be successful. Well, that’s more or less what has happened in America recently: employment is way down, but profits are hitting new records. Who, exactly, considers this economic success?" -- Paul Krugman, N.Y. Times

Friday, January 21, 2011

Texas' school-to-prison pipeline

 "...the single most important predictor [of incarceration] is a history ofdisciplinary referrals at school."

Mainly minority students in Dallas and other urban school districts in Texas are increasingly being charged with Class C misdemeanors for less-serious infractions that used to be handled with a trip to the principal's office, according to a new study.

The report from the nonprofit advocacy group Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit social justice advocacy group, is titled "Texas' School-to-Prison Pipeline."The report examined student disciplinary data on 22 of the largest school districts in the state. It found that most have sharply increased the number of campus police officers - resulting in far more misdemeanor tickets being handed out to students.
"Disrupting class, using profanity, misbehaving on a school bus, student fights and truancy once meant a trip to the principal's office. Today, such misbehavior results in a Class C misdemeanor ticket and a trip to court for thousands of Texas students and their families each year," the group said in the report, Texas' School-to-Prison Pipeline. (Dallas News)
According to the report;

  • More than 80 percent of Texas prison inmates are dropouts.
  • More than a third of Texas public school students dropped out in 2005-06 [What ever happened to the "Texas Miracle"?-m.k.].
  • Among the “risk factors” commonly associated with future involvement in the juvenile justice system, the single most important predictor is a history of disciplinary referrals at school.
  • African American students—and to a lesser extent Hispanic students—are significantly over-represented in Texas schools' discretionary disciplinary actions.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's 2011. Are we still OK with school segregation?

Louisiana marker
 "If we had a school that was, like, 80 percent high-poverty, the public would see the challenges, the need to make it successful. ... Right now, we have diluted the problem, so we can ignore it." -- John Tedesco, Wake County, N.C. school board
School choice is a mixed bag. On the progressive side, it has meant more options for parents, students and teachers--a building block for democratic education  It's a way to give kids more reasons to come to school every day besides compulsory education laws. Choice was also a major component of the early small schools movement, which created smaller learning communities--schools of choice-- both within and outside of neighborhood schools as a way of tapping into students' interests, talents, and life possibilities.

But the language of school reform, including school reform itself, has always been contested territory. School choice was the battle cry of southern segregationists during the battles that followed in the wake of the Brown v. Board decision in 1954. The court overturned the separate-but-equal doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson and  required schools to eliminate segregation "with all deliberate speed". Christian and other private Seg academies became the schools of choice for thousands of families running from mandated de-seg and a fear of the collapse of institutionalized white supremacy. The struggle was mirrored in the school busing battles in Boston in the '70s.

Today, school choice is the new battle cry of the new south segregationists in Wake County, N.C.  It has also become synonymous with charter schools, which for all intents and purposes, have been captured by corporate school reformers and private operating companies and taken out of the hands of educators and parents. The reformers hav created a new and profitable campaign of fear of  "failing public schools" which in reality is fear of the other, with a major Hollywood film, Waiting for Superman, as its signature statement.  It's not that there aren't plenty of "failed" or broken and resource-starved schools,  But the word failure certainly doesn't characterize public education in general and has in fact, become a racially loaded code word.

The result of this campaign has been the re-creation of a two-tier system of education, one that is even more segregated, both racially and economically, separate and unequal. Equity and diversity issues are now pitted against the issue of school quality.

Along these lines, Nancy Flanagan has written a fine piece on her Teacher in a Strange Land blog ("We're Fine with Segregation--As Long as We Have Charter Schools!").

Writes Flanagan:
Aren't we supposed to be chugging along toward a more equitable society? Are we comfortable promoting non-diverse charters that concentrate students of poverty into clusters to be educated?
Also see Choice Without Equity: Charter School Segregation, a study out of UCLA which contends that the growth of charter schools has fostered school segregation nationally, especially for African-American students.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Education researchers from throughout Chicagoland have prepared this fact sheet to distinguish myths from realities, and to provide new visions.


Public education in a democratic society is based on the principle that every child is of equal and incalculable value. This guiding principle requires the fullest development of every member of our nation. Effective public schools are necessary to enable every member of our nation to reach his or her fullest potential. Schools in a democracy aim to prepare the next generation to be knowledgeable and informed citizens and residents; to be critical thinkers and creative problem solvers; to be prepared to contribute positively to communities, workplaces, and societies that are characterized by diversity and inequities; and to be healthy, happy, and prepared to support the well-being of others with compassion and courage. The children and youth of Chicago deserve no less … but how do we do this?

In the midst of campaigns and debates for the 2011 Chicago mayoral election, we hear many proclamations and promises about what it means to improve public schools.  But how does each candidate compare to what we know so far from research about the real problems and solutions?  Education researchers from throughout Chicagoland have prepared this fact sheet to distinguish myths from realities, and to provide new visions. Following each topic is a list of researchers who can be contacted for elaboration. For general information: A PDF of this statement is here: 

VISION: Provide Bold Leadership that Addresses Difficult Systemic Problems and Avoids Scapegoating the “Usual Suspects.”

MYTH: The main problem with education is the lazy or incompetent teacher, who is protected by corrupt unions and supervised by out-of-control local school councils, so the key to reform is a system of rewards and punishments and the dismantling of rights to organize (as with state legislation currently under debate).
REALITY: Consistently underperforming schools are unevenly but predictably distributed in Chicago’s public K-12 education. School success maps strongly with traditional markers of privilege (by race, income, class, immigrant status, etc.) and school failure maps predictably along lines of poverty.[1] Even if every teacher were hardworking, knowledgeable, and skilled, inequities in education would still exist because of a range of larger, systemic problems that hinder effective teaching, both inside and outside of school.[2] Furthermore, good learning conditions cannot exist without good teaching conditions, and the most successful public schools have teachers’ unions and effective local school councils that are responsive to their membership and that operate with democratic decision-making processes.[3]

MYTH: In this financial crisis, there is no additional funding available for education, but even if there were, increased funding does not improve education, Chicago’s public schools already enjoy equitable funding, and if a community wants to raise more funds it has that option.
REALITY: Financial and other resources can drastically change education quality.[4] Wealthy communities are able to invest much more into their schools through private donations and fundraising, while some elected officials are able to advocate more effectively for additional resources for well-heeled districts. Consequently, public schools across the city operate on vastly different budgets.[5] Budgets reflect priorities, and education does not fare well against, say, prisons. At a time when allocations for public education are shrinking, states are building new and expanding prisons and detention centers. Across the nation, state spending on prisons was six times the increase of spending on higher education. In Illinois, the cost of incarcerating one adult is about 4.5 times the cost of educating one child. Research suggests that one more year of high school would significantly reduce crime and incarceration rates, and that increasing the male high-school graduation rate by one percent would save $1.4 billion nationwide.[6]

PLEDGE: Chicago’s next mayor must pledge to:

·       Develop and implement policies that address historic educational inequities that arise from poverty, segregation, discrimination, and social isolation;

·       Prioritize education budgetarily and invest in public K-12 schools by, for example, reallocating TIF funding;

·       Distribute funding and other resources equitably, by implementing broader tax redistribution[7] and by fully funding the Illinois Education Funding Advisory Board’s minimum per-pupil funding level;

·       Resist scapegoating unionized teachers and local school councils, and instead, support democratic processes such as teachers organizing and parents serving on governing bodies for their children’s schools.


·       Sumi Cho, DePaul University,
·       Jerome Hausman, School of the Art Institute of Chicago,
·       Lauren Hoffman, Lewis University,
·       Pamela Konkol, Concordia University Chicago,
·       Kevin Kumashiro, University of Illinois at Chicago,
·       Michelle Turner Mangan, National-Louis University,
·       Tema Okun, National-Louis University,
·       Michelle Parker-Katz, University of Illinois at Chicago,
·       Brad Porfilio, Lewis University,
·       Karyn Sandlos, School of the Art Institute of Chicago,

VISION: Develop and Implement Education Policy and Reform Initiatives that are Primarily Research-Driven, Not Market-Driven.

MYTH: School turnarounds have benefited Chicago Public Schools by giving “failing” schools a new start.
REALITY: First conceived by the Commercial Club of Chicago, Chicago’s school reform policy—“Renaissance 2010”—is based not on sound research and analysis, but on market principles of privatization, competition, and commercialization. CPS has even adopted a market structure in which “CEO’s” are preferred over educators for the top leadership position, and Boards are appointed by the mayor, not elected by the people. Since the implementation of Renaissance 2010, districtwide high-school student achievement has not risen, and most of the lowest performing high schools saw scores drop. Moreover, the process for identifying “failing schools” was neither consistent nor research-based, and disproportionately affected low-income African American and Latino students by closing schools in disadvantaged minority neighborhoods while leaving untouched those schools in more affluent areas with comparable performance and enrollments. The CPS schools that were “turned around” have not all shown significant improvement in student achievement, and instead, have shown increases in tensions and violence inside and outside of school.[8]

MYTH: Because competition leads to improvement, school “choice” options are necessary, and because the private sector can do better what the public has failed to do, the “choice” options must involve privatization.
REALITY: Philanthropies altogether spend almost $4 billion annually on education, dominated by a handful of foundations that advance initiatives of choice, competition, deregulation, and accountability, despite that school-choice, voucher, and restrictive-enrollment programs have not proven to be more effective in increasing district overall student achievement.[9] In some cases, poorer neighborhoods in Chicago saw reductions in funding even while enrollments rose, and there is evidence that choice programs exacerbate racial segregation.[10] Similarly, the private sector has not proven to be more effective at improving schools, despite a rapid increase in expenditure of outsourcing services and products, including school management, curriculum, and assessments. The majority of privately run schools, including charter schools, operated with deficit budgets in recent years and/or violated such public-accountability measures as the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act. Charter schools are exempted from Illinois state laws that require a voting majority of Local School Councils to be parents, and in Chicago, less than 5% of charter-school board members are parents. Furthermore, specialty schools, including charter schools, are not all required to enroll students with special needs, including English language learners and students with disabilities, thus providing “choice” for only some children and families. While some parents and families may perceive that select specialty or charter schools provide viable pathways for young people, the success of some of these schools has not improved the overall school system. [11]

PLEDGE: Chicago’s next mayor must pledge to:

·       Draw on the expertise of educators and researchers, not primarily the business and philanthropy sectors, to develop policies and reforms.

·       Halt the school-turnaround process, adequately evaluate its effectiveness, and then develop and apply standards for school turnaround or closure that are research-based, consistent, fair, and transparent;

·       Enforce policies for public accountability, and require all schools that are supported by public funds to constitute Local School Councils with a voting majority of parents;

·       Provide district leaders who are knowledgeable about education and urban contexts and skillful in collaborative and democratic decision-making processes, starting with a credentialed superintendent of CPS, and transitioning from mayoral control to a democratically elected school board that is accountable to the public.


·       William Ayers, University of Illinois at Chicago (retired),
·       Leslie Bloom, Roosevelt University,
·       Gabriel Alejandro Cortez, Northeastern Illinois University,
·       Michael Klonsky, DePaul University,
·       Dan A. Lewis, Northwestern University,
·       Amanda M. Maddocks, Concordia University Chicago,
·       Kenneth Saltman, DePaul University,
·       David Stovall, University of Illinois at Chicago,

VISION: Improve Teaching and Learning Effectiveness by Developing Standards, Curricula, and Assessments that are Skills-Based, not Sorting-Based.

MYTH: A standardized curriculum, with emphasis on basic reading and mathematics, will raise standards.
REALITY: In districts with mandated, scripted curriculums, or in schools that inevitably narrow the curriculum in order to prepare for high-stakes testing, students are covering less content in ways that do not require higher-order thinking skills. The standard for student learning is being lowered, not raised, and those students who struggle the most are even less likely to be served by curriculums designed with little knowledge of the unique needs in a given school and community.[12] One of the many subjects being cut is the arts, particularly for students in low-income communities of color, despite that arts education contributes significantly to creative problem-solving skills and to social and emotional learning, which are all essential for academic success.[13] In contrast are nations such as Finland where broad, rich curriculums with diverse, flexible, and rigorous standards are developed at the school level by teachers and school administrators, and where students perform at the highest levels internationally with little variation between schools.[14]

MYTH: High-stakes testing is an effective way to measure learning and to hold students, educators, and schools accountable.
REALITY: High-stakes tests may effectively measure a small set of knowledge and skills, but they do not measure higher-order thinking skills and a broad set of knowledge, and consequently, offer a very narrow picture of what students have learned and how well teachers have taught. Grade retention that results from narrow measures of academic preparedness can increase student risk for problems in school, including increased drop-out rates, and even when the student is promoted, the use of such assessments to sort students creates tracks within grade levels that reflect racial, ethnic, and social-class differences and that function to direct entire categories of students toward low-wage jobs or incarceration.[15] When such narrow and biased assessments are then tied to teacher evaluation and compensation, the result is a system that rewards narrow and biased teaching.[16]

MYTH: Good teachers are primarily those who know what they are teaching and need not have learned how to teach or be able to connect to the community.
REALITY: Chicago Public Schools has reserved teaching vacancies for graduates of fast-track alternative certification programs, despite that such graduates overwhelmingly report that they are ill-prepared for the reality of schools, and have not shown to be more effective at raising student achievement. Programs like Teach For America recruit bright college graduates but offer little pre-service preparation, and then see their participants leave the profession after an average of three years.[17] In contrast, teachers with community knowledge and connections are more likely to raise student achievement, as well as to participate in long-term efforts at school-community partnerships and teacher professionalization, including mentoring and collaboratively improving working conditions.[18]

PLEDGE: Chicago’s next mayor must pledge to:

·       Support teachers and school administrators in developing broad, rich curriculum that centers on diverse, flexible, and rigorous standards and that is targeted to their students’ unique and varied strengths and needs.

·       Create more complex and accurate assessments and use them not to penalize students or teachers, but to identify what additional resources or services are needed, such as with multi-layered performance-based assessments that are used formatively.

·       Invest in high-quality and long-term teacher preparation.


·       John Duffy, National-Louis University,
·       Judith Gouwens, Roosevelt University,
·       Nicole Holland, Northeastern Illinois University,
·       Eleni Katsarou, University of Illinois at Chicago,
·       Jung Kim, Lewis University,
·       Eileen Quinn Knight, Saint Xavier University,
·       Jeff Kuzmic, DePaul University,
·       Gregory Michie, Concordia University Chicago,
·       Isabel Nunez, Concordia University Chicago,
·       Therese Quinn, School of the Art Institute of Chicago,
·       Brian D. Schultz, Northeastern Illinois University,
·       Noah Sobe, Loyola University Chicago,
·       Durene I. Wheeler, Northeastern Illinois University,

VISION: Ensure the Support, Dignity, and Human and Civil Rights of Every Student.

MYTH: Students are as likely to find the necessary support for school success in large schools and classrooms as in small ones.
REALITY: Next to parental income level, school size is the key factor in school success. Defined as under 500 students at the elementary level and between 1000 and 2500 at the secondary level, small schools do better on every measure: graduation rates, attendance, grades, test scores, violence, drug abuse, suicide. Smaller schools and classrooms make it more likely for every child to be well-known by a teacher, for teachers to collaborate, and for parents and families to participate, and not surprisingly, in the nation’s wealthiest private schools, class size is typically limited to 15 in elementary schools and 25 in high schools.[19]

MYTH: Safer and more effective schools result from tougher punishment or militarized discipline.
REALITY: There is no evidence that punishment leads to safer schools. However, research confirms that schools punish certain gender, racial, and sexual-identity groups more often and more severely than others. From as early as preschool, boys are expelled almost five times as often as girls; for all grade levels, African American students are suspended or expelled at rates several times higher than any other group; and nonheterosexual youth experience school sanctions up to three times more often than heterosexual youth.[20] Similarly, there is no evidence that military programs increase academic success, and yet, Chicago has the most militarized public-school system in the nation. The military high schools, JROTC, and Cadet programs enroll a disproportionately high percentage of students of color, reflecting the broader strategy to recruit African American and Latino males from low-income areas for first-responder positions in U.S. wars abroad. Military programs are reducing coursework in academic content (replacing them with JROTC courses, for example), and graduates of such programs are not always receiving the financial benefits promised. The majority of expenses to run such programs are covered by Chicago taxpayers, not the Department of Defense, totaling over $9 million.[21]

MYTH: Public education is already supportive and effective for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) and gender non-conforming youth; for English language learners; and for undocumented immigrant students.  
REALITY: Despite state laws and district policies that prohibit discrimination and address bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity, many LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth are experiencing verbal and physical discrimination and harassment, are not able to identify adult supporters, and are not learning accurate information about gender, sex, and sexual orientation; and teacher-preparation programs in Illinois are not adequately preparing teachers to address such bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity.[22] Despite evidence that developmental bilingual education is correlated with the strongest outcomes for academic achievement in English for English language learners, schools continue to operate as if such students will learn English faster through immersion in an English-only school experience.[23] Despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states may not discriminate against students enrolling in K-12 public schools on the basis of their legal status, clear guidelines do not exist for higher education. In the absence of federal guidelines, states have created their own rules. Although undocumented students can apply to most colleges, they are not eligible for federal or state financial aid. Conservative estimates put the number of undocumented children at 1.7 million, with 65,000 of those who have lived in the United States for five years or longer graduating from high school, and between 7,000-13,000 enrolling in colleges.[24]

PLEDGE: Chicago’s next mayor must pledge to:

·       Limit the number of students in every school and every classroom to the levels that research has determined to be optimal.

·       Provide successful restorative- and transformation-justice programs instead of tougher punishment policies and practices.

·       Halt the establishment and expansion of all military programs, phase out JROTC programs, and invest instead in programs that research has shown to be effective in fostering academic success, discipline, leadership, and college pathways.

·       Improve both pre-service and in-service preparation for all school personnel about diversity and equity regarding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and provide adequate resources to support students, operate programs, and monitor compliance.

·       Provide high-quality developmental bilingual education programs.

·       In the absence of federal legalization or pathways such as the DREAM Act, create other avenues for accessible higher education.


·       Stacey Horn, University of Illinois at Chicago,
·       Kathleen McInerney, Saint Xavier University,
·       Erica Meiners, Northeastern Illinois University,
·       Christopher J. Palmi, Lewis University,
·       Sonia Soltero, DePaul University,
·       Gerri Spinella, National-Louis University,
·       June Terpstra, Northeastern Illinois University, 


[1] Berliner, D. (2009). Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Lipman, P. (2011). The New Political Economy of Urban Education: Neoliberalism, Race, and the Right to the City. New York: Routledge.
[2] Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools. Educational Researcher 35(7), 3-12.
[3] Molnar, A., Rosenshine, B., Lugg, C., Howley, C., Downey, D., Glass, G., Bracey, G., Kupermintz, H., Finn, J., Carini, R., Reitzug, U., & Barnett, S. (2002). School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence. Tempe, AZ: Education Policy Studies Laboratory.
[4] Kozol, J. (2006). The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. New York: Broadway.
[5] Myers, J., & Anderson, V. (2005). Assessing Inequities in School Funding with Chicago Public Schools. Chicago: Catalyst Chicago.
[6] Justice Policy Institute. (2002). Cellblocks Or Classrooms?: The Funding Of Higher Education and Corrections and Its Impact on African American Men. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute. Kim, C., Losen, D., &  Hewitt, D. (2010). The School to Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform. New York: NYU Press.
[7] Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. (2006). Funding a Quality Education Requires Fiscal Reform. Chicago: CTBA.
[8] Cassidy, L., Humphrey, D. C., Weschler, M. E., & Young, V. M. (2009). High School Reform in Chicago: Renaissance 2010. Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research. Fleming, J., Greenlee, A., Gutstein, E., Lipman, P., & Smith, J. (2009). Examining CPS’ Plan to Close, Phase Out, Consolidate, Turn-around 22 Schools. Data and Democracy Project, Research Paper #2. Chicago: CEJE. Gwynne, J., & de la Torre, M. (2009). When Schools Close. Chicago: Consortium on Chicago School Research.
[9] Barkan, J. (2011, Winter). Got Dough? Public School Reform in the Age of Venture Philanthropy. Dissent Magazine.
[10] Arsen, D., & Ni, Y. (2008). The Competitive Effect of School Choice Policies on Performance in Traditional Public Schools. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Wolf, P. J. (2010). The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program: Summary of Third Year Reports. Fayetteville: University of Arizona School Choice Demonstration Project.
[11] Karp, S. (2010, August). Budget Landmines. Catalyst Chicago. Miron, G., Urschel, J. L., Mathis, W., & Tornquist, E. (2010). Schools without Diversity: Education Management Organizations, Charter Schools and the Demographic Stratification of the American School System. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Woestehoff, J. (2008). Public Accountability and Renaissance 2010: A Report of Parents United for Responsible Education. Chicago: PURE.
[12] Mathis, W.J. (2010). The “Common Core” Standards Initiative: An Effective Reform Tool? Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Educational Policy Research Unit.
[13] Eisner, E., & Day, M. (2004). Handbook of Research and Policy in Art Education. New York: Routledge. Illinois Creates. (2005). Arts at the Core: Every School, Every Student. Chicago: Illinois Arts Alliance. Kroll, A. (2009, August 30). Fast Times at Recruitment High. Mother Jones. Zehr, M. (2009). Access to Arts Education. Education Week, 25(5), 5.
[14] Kupiainen, S., Hautamäki, J., & Karjalainen, T. (2009). The Finnish Education System and PISA. Helsinki, Finland: The Ministry of Education.
[15] Forum on Educational Accountability. (2007). Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning: Principles and Recommendations for Federal Law and State and Local Systems. Boston, MA: Forum on Educational Accountability.
[16] Hinchey, P. (2010). Getting Teacher Assessment Right: What Policymakers Can Learn From Research. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Holme, J. J., Richards, M. P., Jimerson, J.B., & Cohen, R. W. (2010). Assessing the Effects of High School Exit Examinations. Review of Educational Research, 80(4), 476-526. Sirotnik, K. (2004). Holding Accountability Accountable: What Ought to Matter in Public Education. New York: Teachers College Press. Tollefson, K. (2008). Volatile Knowing: Parents, Teachers, and the Censored Story of Accountability in America’s Public Schools. New York: Lexington Books.
[17] Grossman, G., & Loeb, S. (2008). Alternative Routes to Teaching: Mapping the New Landscape of Teacher Education. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press. Heilig, J. V., & Jez, S. J. (2010). Teach For America: A Review of the Evidence. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.
[18] Molnar, A., Rosenshine, B., Lugg, C., Howley, C., Downey, D., Glass, G., Bracey, G., Kupermintz, H., Finn, J., Carini, R., Reitzug, U., & Barnett, S. (2002). School Reform Proposals: The Research Evidence. Tempe, AZ: Education Policy Studies Laboratory.
[19] Meier, D. (2002). In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization.  Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Strike, K. (2010). Small Schools and Strong Communities: A Third Way of School Reform.  New York: Teachers College Press.
[20] Gilliam, W. (2005). Prekindergarteners Left Behind: Expulsion Rates in State Prekindergarten Programs. New York: Foundation for Child Development. Gregory, A., Skiba, R., & Noguera, P. (2010). The Achievement Gap and the Discipline Gap: Two Sides of the Same Coin? Educational Researcher, 39(1), 59-68. Himmelstein, K., & Bruckner, H. (2010). Criminal-Justice and School Sanctions Against Non-Heterosexual Youth: A National Longitudinal Study. Pediatrics, 127(1), 48-57. Lochner, L., & Moretti, E. (2004). The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests, and Self-Reports. American Economic Review, 94(1), 155-189. Losen, D., & Skiba, R. (2010). Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis. Montgomery, AL: Southern Poverty Law Center.
[21] Anderson, G. L. (2009). The Politics of Another Side: Truth-in-Military-Recruiting Advocacy in an Urban School District. Journal of Educational Policy, 23(1), 267-291. Diener, S., & Munro, J. (2005). Military Money for College: A Reality Check.  Peacework Magazine. Hagopian, A., & Barker, K. (2011). Should We End Military Recruiting in High Schools as a Matter of Child Protection and Public Health? American Journal of Public Health, 101(1), 19-23.
[22] Biegel, S., & Kuehl, S. J. (2010). Safe at School: Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and Legislation. Tempe and Los Angeles: Education Policy Research Unit and UCLA Williams Institute. Illinois Safe Schools Alliance. (2010). Visibility Matters 2010: Higher Education and Teacher/Social Work Preparation in Illinois: A Web-based Assessment of LGBTQ Presence. Chicago: ISSA. Kosciw, J. G., & Diaz, E. D. (2009). Shared Differences: The Experience of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Students of Color in Our Nation’s Schools. New York: GLSEN.
[23] Collier, V. P. (1989). How Long? A Synthesis of Research on Academic Achievement in a Second Language.  TESOL Quarterly, 23(3), 509-531. Gandara, P., & Hopkins, M. (2010). Forbidden Language: English Learners and Restrictive Language Policies. New York: Teachers College Press.
[24] Fry, R. (2003). Hispanic Youth Dropping Out of U.S. Schools: Measuring the Challenge. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center. Lopez, M.P., & Lopez, G. (2010). Persistent Inequality: Contemporary Realities in the Education of Undocumented Latina/o Students. New York: Routledge. Mehta, C., & Ali, A. (2003). Education for All: Chicago’s Undocumented Immigrants and Their Access to Higher Education. Chicago: UIC Center for Urban Economic Development. National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (2005).  Policy Alert. Income of U.S. Workforce Projected to Decline if Education Doesn’t Improve. San Jose, CA: NCPPHE.

Prepared January 2011 by
 (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education)

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