Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Looking back to 2001: Death of the Small Schools Movement

"There were two strategies going on at the same time which were diametrically opposed to each other." -- Bill Gerstein
A 2004 article by Beandrea Davis, in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook, tracked the beginning of the end of the small schools movement to the Paul Vallas era in Chicago, circa 1995-2001. By 2004, this promising reform movement, led by teachers with support among parents and community activists, had met its match -- the so-called accountability wave of top-down, test-and-punish, mayor-controlled corporate "reform."

Before he was fired by Mayor Daley, Vallas had succeeded in replacing teacher-led, highly-autonomous small schools with privately managed charter schools and school re-design with school closings. It was a trend he would take to scale as CEO of Philadelphia Public Schools and later as school boss in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Davis quotes Vallas during a 2004 press briefing: "I really see charters as the way to create more small schools."  Vallas pointed out that he has more leeway to expand charter school options in Philadelphia than he did in Chicago.
Vallas's June 1995 appointment as CEO happened as the Chicago small autonomous schools movement, which emerged in the early 1990s, was starting to take off. Wanting to transform the city's large, impersonal, and often low-performing high schools by restructuring them into small, autonomous, community-centered schools, an alliance of educators, organizers, parents, and community members joined together... CPS insiders as well as outside partners with the district agree that conflict did arise between the Vallas administration's strong emphasis on improving student test scores in the short run and some advocates' efforts to promote small schools as a long-term school improvement strategy.
The Notebook article makes it clear that the early small schools and smaller learning communities were never envisioned as a panacea for "failing schools" the way that charter schools were later hyped. But rather as a teacher-led reform that could improve school climate, support teacher collaboration and professional development, and create better conditions for personalization and a sense of school community.

The story of the rise and fall of the modern small schools movement was developed more fully in  "Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society" by Michael and Susan Klonsky (Taylor & Francis, 2008).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Release to press of teacher data has become a rallying cry

Public debasing of teachers in N.Y.
N.Y. Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo may have won the legal battle to base teacher evaluations on student test scores and publish them in the press. But they may have also unwittingly awakened a sleeping giant of a resistance movement. Shades of what happened in Wisconsin in response to Gov. Walker's union busting legislation.

The Times reports that this latest assault on teachers has lit a spark.
In the days leading up to the release of ratings for thousands of New York City public-school teachers on Friday, hundreds of e-mails poured into the in-box of Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “Enough of cooperation,” one member of the union wrote to his leader. Others prodded Mr. Mulgrew to stand up against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, describing him as “untrustworthy,” in what he said was a call to arms of unparalleled intensity.
According to the Times, whatever last bit of hope City Hall had of striking a deal on a new teachers’ contract before the end of Bloomberg’s term "has all but evaporated", with Mulgrew focused instead on who might replace the mayor after the 2013 election.

Monday, February 27, 2012


“This is an amazing panel, so I’m thrilled to be part of it,” Mr. Duncan said in his opening comment.
Investigator Richard Hyde
“I’m shocked that the secretary of education would be fraternizing with someone who could potentially be the target of the investigation. The appearance of a conflict of interest is troubling because it can cause the public to lose faith in the investigation.” -- Amid a Federal Education Inquiry, an Unsettling Sight, Michael Winerip, NYT
J.C. Brizard
"Not once at the board meeting did I hear anyone talk about children,” Brizard said. “I kept hearing about adults. I kept hearing, ‘Don’t close my school. Don’t do anything.” Actually, some of the speakers said, video shows the speakers mentioned children over and over again and some students themselves spoke, arguing the closings would not help them. -- Sun-Times
Rick Santorum
"I understand why Obama wants every kid to go to college, because they are indoctrination mills.” Santorum had said earlier in the campaign that when he read John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech in which Mr. Kennedy said the separation of church and state should be absolute, “I almost threw up.”-- New York Times

Sunday, February 26, 2012

P.S. 234 -- It's no Lake Wobegon

Garrison Keillor
I rarely take statistics seriously when it comes to teacher evaluation. Especially when they're based on student test scores and published in the New York Times. But this one is too good to pass up.
At Public School 234 in TriBeCa, where children routinely alight for school from luxury cars, roughly one-third of the teachers’ ratings were above average, one-third average and one-third below average.
I mean, except in Lake Wobegon, isn't this what average means (no pun intended)? It's the perfect distribution. If you fired the bottom third, wouldn't one-third still be below average?

The Times story continues:
At Public School 87 on the Upper West Side, where waiting lists for kindergarten spots stretch to stomach-turning lengths, just over half the ratings were above average. The other half were average or below average on measure, based on student test scores.
Amazing! Half above and half below average. How do they do it?

If this trend continues, we can only assume that in New York City (and in the universe as a whole), half the teachers will be above average and half below. And if these ratings are based on test scores, that must hold true for students as well. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Looking back to '09. Boy was I wrong!

 Three years ago today, opponents of Renaissance 2010 protest Chicago school board decision to close or "turnaround" 16 schools.
It was three years ago yesterday, still joyful from the great election victory three months earlier,  that I took a swipe at Diane Ravitch for her comment:  
"It looks like Obama's education policy will be a third term for President George W. Bush. This is not change I can believe in." (Politico)
My response back then: "What a joke! Obama has done more to save public education in one month than the entire Bush regime did in 12 years."

Well it turned out, the joke was on me us. Obama's early positives -- including his rejection of school vouchers (pushed on him by DFER hedge-fund reformers), his 2009 stimulus package which looked then like a new deal for public education, including millions for new school construction, early childhood support, increases in Headstart, and investments in heath care for children. But the stimulus money dried up and all that soon gave way to even more testing madness, mass teacher firings and school closings forced on school districts in exchange for badly needed federal funds. Obama's right-center strategy led to concession after concession to the conservatives. The president soon joined the teacher-bashing chorus and he openly cheered for the mass teacher firings in Central Falls, RI., setting the tone for the next three years. Race To The Top has become No Child Left Behind on Crack.

Ravitch's forecast was right on the mark. I apologized to her in these pages a few months later. Her attacks on Obama's ed policies were hard for me to accept with her still embedded at the conservative Fordham and Hoover Institutes. But her break with the right-wing think tanks has been genuine and her book and speaking tour became the catalyst for the current resistance movement.

I also owe readers Roger and Margo a dinner the next time I am in San Francisco (see comments section).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Survival of the Fittest" in Rahm's Chicago

The noise of change

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he’s sensitive to the “noise associated with change.” -- Sun-Times
Somehow the words, "sensitive" and "Rahm" just don't sound right in the same sentence. Chicago's mayor claims he's in a big hurry to make "radical" change and that his so-called reforms can't wait.
“I cannot wait another year and allow a child to be caught in a school system that, for five years running, has been on the watch list or the troubled list with no prospect of getting off of it. … Nothing to me is worse in the sense of discrimination than leaving kids in a system that, year-in-and-year-out, has been scored as failing.”
But wait a minute, Rahm. The last 5 years, like the 15 before them, had the schools strictly under the control of the mayor. You are not doing anything that hasn't been done before under Mayor Daley, ie. school closings in black neighborhoods, privately-run charters, mass teacher firings, and turnarounds (Remember Renaissance 2010, anyone?). Only you are doing more of it and doing it longer and longer.The results are the same or worse.

Listen to the noise. It's growing louder.

Cracks in the pavement

"This is Little Rock, 1957," Jackson told the board. "This is apartheid."
The mayor had no trouble getting his hand-picked gaggle of billionaires and their toadies on the school board to unanimously vote for more school closings and turnarounds. But it's become clear that mounting protests have begun to create some space for dissent among the minions. Media coverage of the protests seems to have moved somewhat out of the hands of Rahm's army of highly-paid spinners at CPS.

Latest to join the struggle to stop the closings were two important black, religious community leaders, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Paul Jakes. Both showed up at yesterday's packed school board meeting and each had a lot to say. Jaclson  blasted inequities in the school system and a lack of resources. After a string of speakers predicted spikes in violence as students make their way to new schools across gang lines, Jakes said:  "The Board of Education needs to work and help pay for some of these funerals that the families will have to go through.

Even the slick-talking J.C. Brizard couldn't escape the ire of the crowd.

Edweek reports:  
Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard told the crowd that school closings were challenging but necessary, but his remarks that CPS' process was "the most respectful of the community that I've ever seen" brought jeers from the audience.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chicago school board tells parents: We don't need no stinkin' research

A day after they were handed the latest study showing the poor results of their turnaround reforms, the mayor's hand-picked school board voted to turn 10 more neighborhood public schools over to a private turnaround company. This despite day-long protests outside their offices by hundreds of angry parents, students and community supporters (none of the mayor's paid counter-protesters even bothered to show up).

The board decided to ignore the research and a week of protests (including a march on Monday to the mayor's house) and voted to close five elementary schools, phase out one high school and "turn around" 10 schools by firing all the teachers and making them reapply for jobs.

Debunking turnaround claims of "unimaginable success"

As hundred of protesters gather outside of CPS headquarters this morning to try and prevent the handing over of 10 more schools to AUSL, a private turnaround company, a new study is released which debunks claims made by the mayor and his CPS spin squad about the supposed overwhelming success of turnarounds.

Turnaround schools have become a central piece of Arne Duncan's Race To The Top strategy imposed on states and local school districts in exchange for federal funds. While billions are currently being invested by the federal government in turnaround schools nationally, little research has been carried out about their effectiveness. CPS officials, led by former AUSL execs like School Board Pres. David Vitale and CPS CAO Tim Cawley, claim that the company provides "an opportunity for academic achievement that would otherwise be unimaginable for students.

At a press conference yesterday, Dr. Donald Moore of Designs for Change, released his major new research study comparing the impact of: elementary-level "Turnaround Schools," run by private contractors like AUSL, to those in which parents, teachers, the principal, the community and students work together to strengthen to quality of education and achievement.
A key purpose of the study is to gauge the potential of School-Based Democracy and School Turnarounds to be carried out in a way that will have wider impact on hundreds of extremely low-income low-achieving elementary schools (primarily serving African American and Latino students) — both in Chicago and in the 50 largest U.S. cities, based on this evidence.
The study found that Chicago's turnarounds have failed to meet even their own criteria of success and that their pale in comparison to a large group of neighborhood schools being run more democratically with popularly-elected Local School Councils. More than 60 elementary-level high-poverty schools that have made school-based democracy a reality, out-achieved the top Turnaround School.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Research you can use

Experience matters 

Before districts go replacing veteran teachers with 5-week wonders from TFA, they should consider this.

Research has been consistent in finding positive correlations between years of teaching experience and higher student achievement. Teachers with more than five years in the classroom seem to be the most effective. Conversely, inexperience is shown to have a strong negative effect on student performance.
  • Experienced teachers produce higher student test scores. A comprehensive analysis by Greenwald, Hedges, and Laine (1996) examined data from 60 studies and found a positive relationship between years of teacher experience and student test scores. Similarly, the UTD Texas Schools Project data showed that students of experienced teachers attained significantly higher levels of achievement than did students of new teachers (those with one to three years of experience) (Rivkin, Hanushek, and Kain 2005).
  • Schools with more inexperienced teachers have higher drop-out rates. In a related finding, an analysis of math achievement and dropout rates in a sample of California high schools (Fetler 2001) found that schools whose dropout rates were in the highest 10 percent had 50 percent more new teachers than did schools in the lowest 10 percent. -- The Center For Public Education

Chicago parents pushing back on Rahm's longer school day

At yesterday's march to the mayor's house. (M. Klonsky pic)
At Drummond Montessori school, parents conducted a survey that showed that only 8.5 percent supported the seven-and-a-half hour day that Emanuel favors. Nearly three-quarters preferred a six-and-a-half or seven-hour day. Parents and students at two of the city’s selective public high schools — Northside College Prep and Walter Payton College Prep — have circulated petitions raising concerns about the longer school day.

Jonathan Goldman, a parent and Local School Council member at Drummond helped organize the survey. He told the Chicago News Cooperative that the district seemed more intent on selling the seven-and-a-half hour day than on listening to parent concerns. He said district officials have tried to marginalize opponents of the C.P.S. plan as a small group of parents.

“If you’re really interested in fostering an environment of input and discussion, you welcome all the input,” he said.

I'm interviewed at the protest

I was at the rally against school closings at Lakeview High School yesterday. Before the march to the mayor's house, I was interviewed by Chicago Tonight's Elizabeth Brackett.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bringing it all back home to Rahm

Community activists, parents and teachers plan to pray and sing outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home this evening, ahead of a board of education vote later this week that would turn more than a dozen Chicago public schools over to private operators. Over the weekend, several parents and dozens of Occupy Chicago activists staged a sit-in at Piccolo Elementary in West Humboldt Park. Some spent the night inside on the first floor and many more pitched tents outside. -- WBEZ


Republican frontrunner Santorum said the idea of public school was “anachronistic.”
Rick Santorum
“It’s about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology,” he said. “But no less a theology.” -- N.Y. Times
Valerie Strauss
Jon Stewart tried to engage Education Secretary Arne Duncan on “The Daily Show” Thursday night, but the effort was an exercise in the futility of conversing with someone who won’t deviate from his talking points. -- The Answer Sheet
Atlanta Supt. Davis 
“Education is the only industry in this country where failure is blamed on the workers, not the leadership.” -- N.Y. Times
Stephen Krashen
“Our average scores are less than spectacular because the U.S. has the highest percentage of children in poverty of all industrialized countries.” -- Dallas Morning News
Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang
An internally motivated approach to building self-control plays to traditional American strengths. Being self-motivated may lead to other positive long-term consequences as well, like independence of thought and willingness to speak out.  -- N.Y. Times

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"It takes a process to fail a child" -- Piccolo 7th grader

Riza Falk photo
"We need our school. If they've got the funding, give us the money and we'll do what we've got to do for Brian Piccolo." -- Parent Nedra Martin.
Piccolo is just one of ten CPS schools slated for turnaround, six of which would be run by AUSL. Parents question CPS's claims that the organization improves schools quicker, and they said test scores are up under Piccolo's new principal who was hired last summer.

"She's doing a turnaround. We don't need their turnaround. She's doing the turnaround," said Walls.

"The teachers know us. If they come in here, they don't know our personalities. And they just don't know us," said Yshanda Hudson, Piccolo 8th grader.

When asked if he agreed with CPS, which says teachers are failing children at the school, Piccolo 7th grader Larry Davis said, "I disagree what CPS says. They're not failing us. It takes a process to fail a child."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Parents, teachers and students occupying Piccolo

Saying no to privatization
Photos by A. Klonsky
The halls and classrooms of Brian Piccolo Elementary School on North Keeler are now home to dozens of parents, students and activists armed with a message.
"We want to hear from the mayor," said Latoya Walls, Piccolo parent. "Hear us. We are taxpayers. We have a right. We have a say so. These are our kids." -- ABC Channel 7
Protesters are occupying the school in protest of the Board of Education’s plans to fire all the teachers and turn the school over to a private company. The Board plans to vote on Wednesday to turnaround Piccolo and hand over management of the school to AUSL, Academy for Urban School Leadership, a privately connected firm with ties to City Hall.

To support the parents of Piccolo, go to Piccolo School, 1040 N. Keeler. Bring friends, food, blankets, and water. Support Our Schools, Don’t Close Them!


Driving up to University of St. Mary on the Lake for the annual North Dakota Study Group. My favorite group of progressive educators.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

SB1467, American Taliban's latest assault on teachers

If SB1467 becomes law in Arizona, the state's public school teachers could be fired for engaging in “speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the federal communications commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio.”

Because the language in the bill doesn’t distinguish between public speech or conduct and just plain old speech or conduct, the law could even require schools to fire teachers who use profanity and have sex in their private lives away from school.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chicago area "most corrupt." So let's put mayor in charge of schools

A study being released today says the number of public corruption convictions in the Chicago area was higher than in any other federal court district in the entire country from 1976 through 2010.

I've got an idea. Let's put the mayor in charge of the schools and make CPS a wing of City Hall. We can call it, "reform"

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two provocative articles for my students

 Waselenchuk’s judgment of the court’s geometry would make even Euclid wonder.
I'm giving my Philosophy of Ed students two provocative articles from the New York Times to consider. They have just finished reading John Dewey's Experience and Education and the articles exemplify the fundamental connection between experience and learning.

The first is, "A Field Trip to a Strange New Place: Second Grade Visits the Parking Garage" by Michael Winerip.
Experiences that are routine in middle-class homes are not for P.S. 142 children. When Dao Krings, a second-grade teacher, asked her students recently how many had never been inside a car, several, including Tyler Rodriguez, raised their hands. “I’ve been inside a bus,” Tyler said. “Does that count?”

When a new shipment of books arrives, Rhonda Levy, the principal, frets. Reading with comprehension assumes a shared prior knowledge, and cars are not the only gap at P.S. 142. Many of the children have never been to a zoo or to New Jersey. Some think the emergency room of New York Downtown Hospital is the doctor’s office.
 To understand how Kane Waselenchuk became the dominant player in the history of racquetball, one must embrace the teachings of the Bulgarian psychotherapist Georgi Lozanov... “He developed a way of teaching called Suggestopedia,” Jim Winterton, the coach, said about Lozanov. “In layman’s terms, it says that everybody has the capacity to be a genius, but the traditional education system screws us up. Children play using all their senses and learn all they know before school, and once they get there, it slows dramatically.”

Student protests hit Rahm's favorite charter chain

Julie Woestehoff, of Parents United for Responsible Education, speaks at a rally and march to call for an end to what they call “appalling” disciplinary policies at some schools. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
The mayor's favorite charter school franchise was the target of a parent and student protest yesterday. A FOIA report obtained by PURE, the Advancement Project civil rights group and a student group called VOYCE,  revealed that the operators of Noble Street Charter Network have pocketed nearly $400,000 by fining mostly low-income parents for their children's minor rules infractions. Violations included, not sitting up straight to carrying “flaming hot” chips.

This type of behavior modification approach has become standard fare in many privately-run charter schools like KIPP, which is infamous for making offending students wear dunce caps or signs around their neck reading "miscreant."

At yesterday's press conference community groups released released the data on Noble Street's policies. Hundreds of students and their parents then marched on City Hall.
Donna Moore labeled the fees a “hidden tax.’’ She said her son was forced to repeat freshmen year at one Noble Street high school based mostly on minor infractions — like running a pencil along the edge of a desk and not “tracking the teacher’’ with this eyes -- that did not endanger school safety or disrupt class. Moore said her son has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and a stress syndrome that make some Noble rules oppressive. -- Sun-Times
Emanuel recently hailed Noble Street for having the “secret sauce’’ to success. Noble’s disciplinary policy is “not a secret, but it’s part of our sauce,’’ CEO Mike Milkie said Monday. Milkie has drawn the ire of parents, students and other district educators in the past for his anti-LGBT policies, like banning the student Gay/Straight Alliance. 

VOYCE students donned chefs caps to poke fun at Emanuel’s comments, chanting during the news conference that, “Zero tolerance should not be allowed. Oooh, that’s not the right sauce.” Carrying signs reading, “It isn’t Noble to push out students,’’ they then marched on City Hall, demanding a fairer disciplinary policy from Noble Street and Chicago Public Schools.

Later addition: 

From today's L.A. Times:
Activists press council to ease truancy fines
Rally at Van Nuys City Hall urges lawmakers to revise policy allowing LAPD to cite students who are late to school. The ACLU says the law unfairly targets Latinos, blacks and low-income students.

No surprise -- AP pass rate mirrors family income

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the gap in student achievement across the region tracks almost exactly the differences in wealth between the state's richest and poorest jurisdictions. -- Baltimore Sun
Maryland leads the rest of the nation in AP test scores. But what the test results really show is that kids from wealthy Maryland districts like are scoring high while the gap between them and their fellow students from low-income communities is growing ever wider. Fewer than 3 percent of Baltimore city students passed an AP exam, for example, and that represents an improvement.

Despite the "no excuses" mantra of the corporate school reformers, this disparity has less to do with anything going on inside the classroom or with "bad teachers" as it does with the lives of students outside of school.

According to the Sun report:
As one might expect, the reason is that affluent families have far more time and resources to devote to their children's upbringing and education than do poor families, and the differences start long before a student ever sits down to take an AP exam. The intensive intellectual cultivation and stimulation that affluent parents — who are themselves likely to be more educated than their low-income peers — lavish on children literally begins in infancy continues throughout their school careers, and it includes everything from better diet, nutrition and health care to cultural activities, weekend sports and family vacations.

Monday, February 13, 2012


Rahm Emanuel 
"So, I have been and I continue to be very public about what I am doing and I am upfront about what I am doing and then I don't even control it." -- Interview with Tribune reporter, David Kidwell
Andrew Breitbart
"Behave yourself...behave yourself...behave yourself...stop raping people" -- To Occupiers at CPAC
Crane student, RaySean Walker
“I think about it all the time,” said RaySean Walker, a senior guard. “If we do something big, maybe it can send a message to the board to not close our school down.”  --Chicago News Cooperative, "If a High School Dies, Where Does the Glory Go?"
Diane Ravitch
Transferring control of public dollars to private hands is not reform. It is privatization. This strikes at the very heart of public education.  -- Montgomery Advertiser
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) 
"It is not legally or morally acceptable that these so-called “schools of choice” that are concentrated in urban communities and supported with public funds, should be permitted to operate as segregated learning environments where students are more isolated by race, socioeconomic class, disability, and language than the public school district from which they were drawn." -- Schools Matter

Friday, February 10, 2012

Remember Deborah Gist?

She's the State Supt. of Rhode Island. You know, the one who pushed a local superintendent to fire teachers and staff in mass at Central Falls High School back in February of 2010. In the face of massive protests, Gist was forced to retreat and most of the teachers were hired back. But the school and the entire town of Central Falls may never fully recover from the debacle, once hailed by President Obama as an "act of courage."

Well guess what? Now two years later, Gist has found God. She now claims that she favors teachers being "involved in the reform process from the beginning. "But, as she explains in this Hechinger Report interview, "being involved" simply means, "do what you're told" and give up a little feed-back ex post facto.
Before the Rhode Island Model is fully implemented in school year 2012‐13, we want to ensure that educators get a chance to practice implementing the system and provide feedback to the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Who will reform the reformers?

Rahm's urban removal project
Here's more on Chicago's top-down, corporate-style school reform -- the "miracle" that propelled Arne Duncan into the Sec. of Education job.

The latest study by the  University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research finds that after 20 years of reform efforts, reading scores in the city's weakest elementary schools didn't budge. An editorial in today's Sun-Times summarizes the Consortium study, including the news that, "among African-American students, reading scores essentially were unchanged from 1990."

The predictable response from Rahm Emanuel's CPS crew is that this time around, things will be different, reform is working. This even though their reform is basically more of the same, ie. mayoral control, school closings, privately-run charter schools, mass teacher firings, salary and pension cuts. Rahm's only addition -- more seat time for kids, with even fewer resources for schools.  If that's reform, who will reform the reform?

Even the autocratic Rahm is meeting with resistance in his attempt to close Crane High School. An independent hearing officer has recommended that, no decision on the phase-out of Crane should be made until school district officials analyze a “well-thought-out’’ Crane-proposed plan for the school’s rejuvenation.  
The recommendation, a vindication for Crane faculty, came after a battery of elected officials — including Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd), Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) and state Sen. Annazette Collins (D-Chicago) — showed up at public hearings to oppose the CPS plan to gradually turn over the Crane building at 2245 W. Jackson to Talent Development Charter High School.
The high schools that would-be Crane freshmen would be routed to are “only marginally better,” David Coar, the hearing officer found. Meanwhile, Crane faculty and supporters have “put forth a well thought-out plan” that includes support from Strategic Learning Initiatives, “an organization with a track record of school turnarounds.”

Chicago Teachers Union officials and Strategic Learning Initiatives president John Simmons have repeatedly contended that Strategic Learning has produced success in failing schools with far less disruption to staff and at one fifth the cost of current CPS turnaround models.

Who will turnaround the turnarounds?

"We note with continued dismay that Chicago's unelected school board members continue (to) drain millions of public dollars from regular neighborhood schools while they instead invest in charters, private-sector school models which have been shown to educate students no better." -- Chicago Teachers Union

Last summer, we learned that L.A.'s mayor-run and privately-operated turnaround/charter schools were a miserable failure,  even when compared to struggling regular district-operated public schools. Similar results are now being reported in other urban districts where contract-hungry corporate reformers are imposing top-down turnaround solutions to complex problems.

Now the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research reports that, after four years, “turned around" high schools in Chicago have failed to outperform the city's similar struggling high schools. The report studied 36 schools that adopted one of four models required for federal funding under Race To The Top  — replacing principals, replacing staff through either district-led or AUSL-managed turnarounds and replacing under-performing neighborhood schools with charters, and then compared them to the worst schools in the district that underwent no change, seeing how far they deviated from district averages.

Elementary schools being run by politically-connected AUSL, showed some statistical gains. But only with greater resources. Even with those resources there is no evidence that these initial bumps can be sustained. the pattern has been for those test-score gains to flatten out over time. But at the high school level, the report concluded that CPS' efforts — overhauling school staff or closing schools and then opening charters in their place — "had little effect."

The Sun-Times reports that CPS bureaucrats were quick to seize on the small bump in elementary scores to tout AUSL, which ran 12 of 36 schools studied and, if approved, will oversee six more.
“I would say the report shows there’s promising and encouraging data about our turnaround models in particular and about AUSL as an example,’’ said CPS Chief Education Officer Noemi Donoso.
Of course Donoso, like other CPS officials who now serve only at the pleasure of the mayor and spin things accordingly, can say what she wants. But the spin is politically, not educationally driven. Clout-heavy AUSL has from the start, benefited from backing from the Civic Committee, former mayor Daley, current mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sec. of Ed Arne Duncan. Emanuel even selected a former AUSL top executive to oversee CPS' finances and named AUSL's previous board chairman, David Vitale, as president of CPS' Board of Education.

Donoso should at least mention that in elementary schools, the AUSL model comes with $300,000 in one time start-up costs and $141,000 for an assistant principal. One can only imagine what comparative outcomes might have looked like if struggling neighborhood schools got that kind of support.

Actually, for all the public attention and extra political and financial support, AUSL's results have been mixed; some students have made  progress, but as a group they still lag well behind district averages ... with many ending up on par or even below comparable neighborhood schools. According to the Tribune, AUSL has also been accused of "kicking out lower-performing students in the turnaround process to enhance academic gains."

Yesterday, the Chicago Teachers Union responded by announcing it planned to file a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the Feb. 22 school board vote to give AUSL even more schools to operate.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An important part of movement building

As usual this time of year, there's a debate about the value of taking the struggle to save our schools into the electoral arena. Some see it as a diversion. I see it as walking on two legs. Why is it important for educators and ed activists to support progressive candidates? Here's one reason why.
State Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago), chair of the task force, has proposed HB 4487, which would bring all closings, consolidations and phase-outs on facilities to a screeching halt through the 2012-2013 school year. Previous proposals for a closings moratorium in Chicago have failed. -- Catalyst
There's three other young, progressive candidates running for office in the Chicago area who've taken good stands in defense of teachers and of public education. Rudy Lozano, Jr. is running for State Rep. in the 21st Dist. of Illinois. Ilya Sheyman is running for congress in the 10th Cong. Dist. And Will Guzzardi is running for state rep of the 39th District

No Super-PACs behind these three. But all three are running winnable campaigns and deserve community support. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ThyssenKrupp -- Rahm's "perfect example..."

Boehner tours Krupp plant in Ohio
This is the corporation that Rahm Emanuel lured to Chicago, calling it a "perfect example" of the "greatest companies around the globe."
Reese said he will never forget the first time a white supervisor used the n-word. It was to instruct a mechanic to “n----- rig” an elevator and use the “n----- head” to hoist the elevator up.  “He referred to it as an n-head because it’s a pulley system that includes a black disc with a cable around it that looked like a noose around a black person’s neck,” Reese said. -- Sun-Times
In lavishing praise on ThyssenKrupp, the mayor is marching in lock stop with Republic House Speaker John Boehner who toured the ThyssenKrupp Bilstein of America Inc.’s Ohio shock absorber plant yesterday. Boehner thanked the company for expanding, as he criticized the Obama administration for high taxes, too many regulations on business.

Monday, February 6, 2012

In my mailbox

Dear Parents and Community Members,   
As concerned parents we ask that you call Mr. Brizard, Chicago Board of Education CEO, on Tuesday, January 31, and urge him to immediately withdraw plans to close 6 schools and turn around 10 others. It will send a strong message if CPS receives many calls on the same day. Also, please call each Tuesday--February 7, 14, and 21—prior to the February 22 Board meeting when they will vote on the proposed actions. Please forward this email to others, share on facebook, and spread the word!
School closings and turnarounds are harmful to children, their families, and their communities. These 15-year old policies have failed. When schools are closed students have to walk or be transported out of their neighborhoods. This results in an increase in violence and disruption of students' education. Students lose up to six months of academic achievement for each school change. At turnaround schools administrators and teachers are fired. This disrupts the continuity of students’ relationships and academic instruction in a traumatic way. The affected schools are in low-income African-American and Latino communities. Would the mayor and Board members inflict these policies on their children?   
Call Mr. Brizard at 773-553-1500. Parents, please identify your child’s school when you call.
Tell him...
Mr. Brizard, I urge you to immediately withdraw plans to close 6 schools and turn around 10 others. Closing schools and turning them around did not work in the past and will not work now. These 15-year old policies increase violence, disrupt students' education, and have not led to higher academic achievement. That students will attend better schools has proven to be a false promise. CPS should make every neighborhood school a great school.
Closing schools and turning them around blames teachers, administrators, students, and families. But the root causes of the problems are (1) the effects of racism and poverty (2) CPS’s refusal to invest sufficiently in high poverty schools (3) policies like high stakes tests and large class size.
Privatization continues. CPS proposes that six of the 10 turnaround schools be run by Academy for Urban School Leadership--a private corporation. AUSL's record shows it has not improved schools, even as they have been paid millions--at taxpayer expense. Chicago Board of Ed Chair David Vitale and CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley are former AUSL employees. In whose interests do these public servants serve?
Please email us at to let us know CPS heard your voice. We’d like to keep track of how many calls they receive. Parents 4 Teachers is a new group of parents who have come together to stand up for teachers and defend public education.
Thank you very much,
Parents 4 Teachers
Defending Public Education


Chicago Mayor (right) with Krupp CEO Torsten Gessner
Rahm Emanuel
“By combining transportation, infrastructure, and the best workforce in the world, Chicago is a destination for the greatest companies around the globe, and ThyssenKrupp is a perfect example of this.” -- City of Chicago press release
Brian Jackson, ThyssenKrupp's lawyer
"We look forward to having our day in court." -- Chicago Tribune
Deborah Meier 
"As we once reminded colleagues, Nazi Germany had a successful school system—so what?" -- Bridging Differences
Jackson Potter
"We just worry about the extent to which these politically connected individuals are using AUSL as a method to alter the landscape of neighborhood schools," said Chicago Teachers Union staff coordinator Jackson Potter. "Because they're not the ones that have to deal with the fallout that comes as a result of these decisions. It's the community." -- Chicago Tribune
Tim Cawley
"But political contributions had nothing to do with the way decisions were made. Nothing." -- CPS Chief Administrative Officer, ran AUSL's finances.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Rahm lures Hitler's favorite company to Chicago

Here's what they brought with them 

I heard the mayor boasting the other day about how he had lured the German-based company, ThyssenKrupp to Chicago to set up its regional headquarters. Rahm claims the move will add about 100 employees to its payroll. Big whoop!
“ThyssenKrupp’s decision to locate their North American headquarters in Chicago is a testament to the world-class business environment the city offers,” Emanuel said. “By combining transportation, infrastructure, and the best workforce in the world, Chicago is a destination for the greatest companies around the globe, and ThyssenKrupp is a perfect example of this.” -- City of Chicago press release
Yes, a perfect example.

Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland points out  the company's abominable history. The company that armed the German war machine in World Wars I and II (not to mention the Austro-Prussian and the Franco-Prussian wars) is coming to Chicago.
The Krupps were the main suppliers of Adolf Hitler’s rearmament project in the 1930s. After the war, the company’s president, Alfried Krupp, was sentenced during the Nuremburg trials to 12 years in prison for using slave laborers in particular for building a factory near Auschwitz and leasing Jewish prisoners at four Deutsche marks a day.
Ok, you night say. That was then. This is now. We sure could use those 100 jobs. After all, Krupp got out of the armaments business and later renounced nazism. Right?

Not so fast. Headline story in today's Sun-Times shows what Rahm should have known before he made the deal.
ThyssenKrupp — the German conglomerate that has agreed to make Chicago its North American regional headquarters — created a racially hostile work environment at a Chicago office that included frequent use of the n-word and a black face routine at a company meeting, the Illinois Department of Human Rights has ruled.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rahm's imposed longer school day -- "Messing up what works"

“They [CPS officials] should look at the quality of the school day, not the quantity. ... If the system is working for Northside, why do they want to mess up what works?” -- Northside College Prep parent
Northside College Prep
The elite public schools in Chicago want no part of Rahm's longer school day boondoggle. For one thing, there's no basis for it in education research.  For another, the mayor sends his own children to a private school that has a shorter school year than Chicago's and one that rejects his notion that more seat time in school translates to better learning outcomes.

At Chicago's top-scoring high school, parents are up in arms over the mayor's autocratic mandate.

The Sun-Times reports  that more than 2,000 parents and supporters of Northside College Prep have signed an online petition asking that the state’s highest-scoring public high school be exempted from a longer school day this fall. They say the change would undermine the school’s trademark shortened “colloquium’’ day of boutique electives — in the past everything from Baseball Statistics to life-guarding — for kids.

Changing the current nearly 3 1/2-hour colloquium day to a 7 1/2 hour one ­— as required by new CPS guidelines — would cut into critical free time students now use for homework, extra-curriculars and just plain decompressing, petition supporters say. Northside students “get a lot of homework. That’s the day to catch up,’’ said Northside Parent Network member Raj Patel.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

SmallTalk salute to Pedro Noguera

A SmallTalk salute goes out to Pedro Noguera who resigned from the State University of New York Board of Trustees, one of two groups with the power to approve charter schools, saying the university is approving charters that increase inequality and needlessly divide the community.

In an interview, Noguera said he sees a lack of political leadership about the role of charters and the deep divisions that occur when charter schools move into the same buildings as traditional public schools, a controversial policy known as co-location.
“Policymakers who are elected and accountable to the public should be thinking through the implications of what they’re doing, and I don’t see any evidence that that’s happening right now in New York state,” he said.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 1, 2012 

Teacher Activist Groups (TAG) invites you to participate in No History is Illegal: A Campaign to Save our Stories, a month of solidarity teach-ins in support of Tucson's Mexican American Studies (MAS) program. Right-wing Arizona politicians recently banned the teaching of Mexican American Studies. In the month of February, strike back against this attack on our history by teaching lessons from and about the banned MAS program. On the No History is Illegal website you will find a guide that includes sample lesson plans from the MAS curriculum as well as creative ideas and resources for exploring this issue with students. Whatever happens in Arizona, we can keep the ideas and values of MAS alive by teaching about them in our classrooms, our community centers, our houses of worship, our homes. 

TAG is launching this campaign today because February 1 is the first day on which Tucson schools must comply with this law. It is also the first day of African American History Month. And as Dr. King warned us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” What is happening in Arizona is not only a threat to Mexican American Studies, it is a threat to our right to teach the experiences of all people of color, LGBT people, poor and working people, the undocumented, people with disabilities and all those who are least powerful in this country.
Our history is not illegal. Please join us by pledging your support.

What a night! The People Speak

Lupe Fiasco performed last night at The People Speak [M.Klonsky pic]
Packed house went wild last nigh at Metro in Chicago for The People Speak. Opened with Matt Damon reading Howard Zinn's "The Problem With Civil Obedience", Malcolm London doing Fred Hampton. Lupe Fiasco, Idris Goodwin, Avery Young (an amazing version of Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam"), Angela Jackson, She'Kira McKnight, Rick Kogan, Rami Nashashibi doing a brilliant reading of Dr. King's "Where do we go from here" (1967), Kevin Coval, doing Nelson Algren, much more... Take this on the road please.