Monday, July 30, 2012


Dear Mike,

I’m here at the AFT convention in Detroit, and I wanted to share some exciting news.

Yesterday, delegates to the convention unanimously approved the resolution against high-stakes standardized testing.

It was a moving discussion on the floor of the convention. Teacher after teacher stood up with stories about how the fixation on high-stakes testing hurts their students and their ability to provide high-quality instruction. Now that the resolution has passed, we will be able to push back against a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

With organizations like Stand for Children and lobbying groups like Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst pushing their corporate-style education policy throughout the country, this resolution against high-stakes testing is critical to effectively fighting against the privatization of our public schools.

I know we can count on you for these fights, but we need to grow our ranks. Can you ask your friends to help us by joining our activist list?

To combat the hundreds of millions of dollars that anti-worker and anti-public school groups are spending to privatize our schools, we’re going to need all hands on deck.

Click here to ask your friends to join us in the fight.

In solidarity,

Asher Huey

American Federation of Teachers


"Firing teachers is not a school improvement strategy...Killing a neighborhood school is like putting a knife into the heart of a community." -- Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch
"Value-added Assessment, used as it is today, is junk science."  -- AFT Convention speech 
Randi Weingarten
The fixation on testing, the attacks on teachers and their unions—they’re all proxies for attacks on public education. That’s what this comes down to: whether people believe that kids have the right to good public schools close to where they live (and despite what anyone says—parents are with us on that), or whether our public education system should be privatized, bled dry or abandoned altogether. -- Speech at the AFT Convention
J.C. Brizard
Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said Tuesday that an elected school board would be “a disaster for the city” due the possibility of cronyism, nepotism and political agendas of elected officials getting in the way. -- Defender
Anthony Cody
I will be there because SOS has once again created a crossroads for our movement, just as it did last summer. -- Living in Dialogue
Caterpillar striker Bruce Boaz
“It’s corporate greed, plain and simple.” -- Sun-Times
Sen. Bernie Sanders
"... not content to own our economy, the 1 percent want to own our government as well.” -- Republic Report

Friday, July 27, 2012

Meet Todd. He's CPS' New Common Core Commissar

Todd Babbitz is Rahm's new Chief Transformation Officer. What the hell is that, you ask? I'm not sure. In all my years working in and around public school districts, I've never heard of a Chief Transformation Officer. But according to CPS' announcement, Todd will "oversee the newly created Office of Strategy Management (OSM)."

What the hell is the OSM, you ask? Again, not sure. I've never heard of an OSM. But according to CPS' announcement, it has something to do with, "implementing the rigorous Common Core Standards and improving accountability systems at all levels."

What makes Todd qualified to implement rigorous Common Core Standards, you ask? Well that one's easy. Like Arne Duncan, Todd's mother was a teacher. But that's not all.  Todd also worked for McKinsey & Company. He was also the Chief Marketing Officer, Benefits Outsourcing for Hewitt Associates and previously served as a partner at the Chicago-based law firm of McDermott Will & Emery, focusing on antitrust law.

A perfect choice for the CTO of the OSM at CPS. Wouldn't you agree?

My only advice to Todd  -- be careful. The last major appointee at CPS was the new Chief Education Officer, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, and she has disappeared completely from view. Maybe she's hiding behind those file cabinets.

Ravitch, no Gates, at this year's AFT Convention

Bill Gates addressed the 2010 Convention
I don't expect anything too new or exciting coming out of AFT Convention, just starting in Detroit. The meeting is pretty well scripted and delegates, representing the union's 1.5 million members, are nearly all aligned with the Unity/Progressive Caucus and the current leadership is not up for re-election. But given the intensity of the attacks on public education, teachers, and all  public sector workers and their unions, this year's convention does take on special significance.

There are several important things are worth noting as the meeting gets underway. First is the setting in the Motor City which has become disaster capitalism's new great laboratory for corporate-style reform and union busting. Michigan's Tea-Party governor is putting entire cities under corporate control, disbanding elected local governments and turning entire school districts over the private management companies.

Detroit has become New Orleans without the storm and there's the growing possibility of a teachers strike now that Emergency Manager Roy Roberts announced he was imposing a contract to replace a deal that expired on June 30, using powers afforded his office through state law, Public Act 4. Following her speech to the convention, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten plans to lead a march of the 3,000 delegates over to Roberts' office, demanding an opening up of negotiations.

Then there is the anticipation of Diane Ravitch's keynote speech. Remember, two years ago the keynote was delivered by Bill Gates who left through the back door after his speech to avoid any confrontations with protesting teacher activists. Expect Ravitch to set a completely different tone of resistance which hopefully will be carried back to AFT locals.

Third is the presence of the Chicago delegation, led by CTU President Karen Lewis. The CTU has now become a reluctant but powerful symbol of fight-back unionism at a time when national leaders are counseling conciliation and going along with many corporate reform plans in order to get along. Cleveland and New Haven are among the latest examples where AFT leaders are accepting teacher evaluation and pay, based on student test scores while producing little in return for teachers.

Another indication of the changing mood within the union has been its promotion of the national resolution on high-stakes testing, which puts the union on record as favoring a stronger stance against "the growing fixation on high-stakes testing."   

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This morning at CPS: The struggle continues...

M. Klonsky pics
Jesse Sharkey
Chicago union teachers sent a powerful message to Rahm/Brizard and corporate school reformers this morning when hundreds of them marched outside CPS headquarters. The message was -- It's not over yet. The struggle continues.

Union Veep Jesse Sharkey made that same point again to rousing applause.  He said the agreements won in ongoing contract negotiations,  including concessions by Rahm to hire back hundreds of experienced teachers rather than forcing teachers to work a longer school day, were only the beginning. He attributed these partial victories, not so much to skill of the union negotiators, but rather to the militancy of the thousands of teachers who have marched in the streets and voted in overwhelming numbers to support a strike if necessary.  
"We have fought back with widespread vocal opposition," Sharkey yelled. "We have occupied schools, we have marched, we have spoken out, we have filled auditoriums and, yes, we have authorized a strike vote. (The board) can no longer bulldoze us, so now they want to talk to us."
Even when a new contract is signed, said Sharkey the struggle for a quality education for all of Chicago's children will continue. Great speech, great day.

No money to pay teachers. Really?

Rahm & Burge

But Rahm just settled another police torture case for over $5.375 million bringing the total so far to $53.6 million. That's the price taxpayers have been forced to pay to defend torturer Burge and his Area 2 cohorts, compensate torture victims and pay a special prosecutor to investigate the 110 torture cases we know about.

The largest of the two new pay-outs — for $5.37 million — will go to Michael Tillman, who spent 23 1/2 years in the penitentiary based on a tortured confession only to be declared innocent by the chief criminal court judge.

Why did Rahm settle this case? So former Mayor Daley, a declared "conspirator" in the torture of prisoners, wouldn't have to testify. On the 25th anniversary of Tillman's arrest, District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer, in a precedent-setting decision, upheld Tillman's claims against Daley, ruling that they were sufficient to hold Daley as a conspirator in the scheme to torture and cover-up. That decision is what drove Rahm to settle the case and make it go away before his predecessor had to testify and possibly incriminate himself and the entire justice system.

Isn't it amazing how millions seem to appear magically when politically expedient?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CTU and community protests force more Rahm concessions

Rahm feeling the pressure
With national elections drawing near and a threatened teachers strike only 30 days away, Rahm is feeling pressure from inside his own camp to reach an agreement with the CTU. The Civic Federation is attacking his proposed school budget from one side while pro-union protests hit it from the other.  CEO Brizard can't go anywhere these days without being greeted by community protests, even backing out of a scheduled meeting at UIC last week which was cancelled for "security reasons."

The school board was scheduled to pass it's $5.2 billion 2012-13 operating budget which would have locked in a meager, strike-inciting 2% raise for teachers right in the middle of heated contract negotiation and on the heels of the fact-finders report recommending a much higher pay raise. But, this morning, faced with the threat of massive protests at Wednesday's board meeting, the board announced that the budget vote would be postponed until after an agreement was reached with the union."
We are going to wait until August to allow for contract negotiations to continue because our budget outcomes will have to reflect those decisions,” schools spokeswoman Becky Carroll said.

Jackson Potter of the Chicago Teachers Union called the delay a good-faith effort by the district in ongoing negotiations. “It’s common sense as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “This is an opportunity to stand away from the precipice and talk about what are the ways in which we can get our schools back on track by investing in them."
The decision to delay the budget vote drew an angry response from the city's charter school crowd which stood to gain millions of dollars at the expense of city schools if the budget was passed on Wednesday.

At a rally Monday, leaders from some of the city's most prominent charter networks, including the United Neighborhood Organization, Noble and Chicago International Charter Schools, attacked union teachers for demanding a double-digit raise and  called on the board to deliver on the $76 million allocated to them in the proposed budget. UNO's executive director, Juan Rangel, taking a page from The Sopranos, threatened,
"I know how this game gets played, and we're not going to allow the CTU to negotiate charters out."
But later today, the board announced even more concessions: 
Instead of requiring teachers to work a 20 percent longer day, the Chicago Public Schools have agreed to hire more teachers to handle “enrichment programs” that include art and music. Teachers will continue to work the same hours they do now. Additional time in the classroom — adding up to a 7-hour day in elementary schools and 7.5 hours-a-day, four-days-a-week in high school — will be handled by the new hires. 
Whether or not these announced concessions by Rahm's team are just a ploy or will be enough to avert a strike, community pressure for such concessions are certainly having an impact. Of course the devil is in the details and there's nothing in the board's announcements about teacher pay raises.

But it's clear that Rahm's strategy of posturing and refusing to bargain seriously has been upended. This in itself represents a victory for the CTU whose hand has been strengthened by growing community support and a solid 90% strike support vote of it's membership.

Teacher unions will be a key issue at SOS Convention

For those readers who don't know, I have spent much of the past year as an elected National Steering Committee member of SOS. It has been a difficult but rewarding experience helping guide SOS's development and transition from an ad hoc group of last year's march organizers into a viable national organization. In the remaining 10 days leading up to the SOS Convention in D.C., I will try and post some thoughts about key issues, challenges, and possibilities facing this emerging organization.

At this year's meeting, I am co-chairing a panel of teacher union activists, followed by a workshop on labor issues. Up until now SOS's stand toward and relationship with teacher unions and organized labor has been only vaguely defined and has been a hot topic of debate within and outside of the Steering Committee.

I'm hoping that the Labor Workshop will produce a statement of support for teacher unions and in defense of teachers' (and all public employees') right to belong to a union and bargain collectively -- a right that is currently under assault by corporate school reformers, Tea Party governors in Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, big-city mayors like Chicago's Rahm Emanuel and New York's Michael Bloomberg, to name but a few.

I'm also hoping that this statement will be adopted by the entire convention. But even more important than passing a resolution is a plan for building national active support for current teacher union struggles. And there is none more important or holding greater national significance at the moment than the current contract battle between the Chicago Teachers Union and the district's mayor-controlled and hand-picked school board. I'm hoping that the entire convention will come out united around an active program of support for the CTU, especially if there's a teachers strike in the fall.

Participants in our Saturday morning, Aug. 6th labor panel include: Dr. Michael A. Walker-Jones,  Executive Director, Louisiana Association of Educators; Fred Klonsky, Chicago activist, blogger, and former local union president of the Park Ridge Education Association, and Al Ramirez, Executive Board member of the  Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). SOS Steering Committee members Lee Barrios and I will help moderate and act as respondents.

If you are planning on attending the SOS People's Convention and haven't registered yet, you can do it here. I hope you will join us and take part in our panel/workshop.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Jesse Sharkey
CTU's Jesse Sharkey

As the threat of a teachers strike looms larger in Chicago, the result of Rahm's unwillingness to bargain seriously over job security and longer school day, Sharkey says:
“There’s still some more runway left where we can land this plane.”
Sharkey says a key to unlocking the stalemate is the hiring back of "effective veteran teachers" who currently are being replaced with lower-paid teachers who are just starting out, many of them TFAers. 
“We know that teachers just starting out have a 50 percent [dropout] rate. It’s actually a job that lot of people can’t do. This is something that would not only be the right thing to do, it would help settle the contract” with a smaller pay increase.
Bloomberg's perverse view of teachers
“The union keeps protecting people that shouldn’t be in the classroom that touch, have sex, whatever it may be.” -- School Book, "Question of the Week (Decade?): Are Charter Schools Better?"
Remember when Michelle Rhee took the same course in attacking D.C. teachers and then had to backtrack? She lied to the media, bragging:   
"I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school."
I suspect this is all in the Eli Broad union-busting playbook.

Bloomberg's new schools are a complete bust, according to a Daily News review.
 “This is additional evidence that these (new) schools are not performing better than their peer schools,” said NYU Prof. Robert Tobias, who led the city’s testing program before Bloomberg took office.
He can't blame the unions, since nearly all of his new schools are privately-managed charters which ban unions and would rather close or move their operations than have union teachers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rethinking Schools at upcoming SOS Convention

The upcoming SOS Peoples Convention in D.C. Aug. 3-5, is really shaping up nicely. This announcement came today from Stan Karp at Rethinking Schools

Last summer, the Save Our Schools march brought thousands of teachers, parents, and supporters of public education to Washington, D.C. The march and rally were hopeful signs of pushback against corporate ed reform.

From August 3 to 5, Save Our Schools supporters will gather again in D.C., this time for a "people's convention" focused on giving more shape and substance to the SOS effort. Rethinking Schools will be there, joining longtime friends and advocates for educational justice like Jonathan Kozol, Deborah Meier, Nancy Carlsson-Paige, and many others. We hope you will join us. More info here.

Rethinking Schools editor and parent activist Helen Gym and I will host a workshop session Saturday morning on education activism. We'll share some lessons from Rethinking Schools' 25-year history as a voice for social justice inside classrooms and communities. We'll also share our experience with efforts to create local, state, and national coalitions to defend and improve public education, and we'll invite discussion about how SOS might move that effort forward amidst the strongest corporate attack on public schooling we have seen in our lifetimes.

One topic will be strategies for countering the current mainstream narrative about education reform. That narrative is based on fundamentally inaccurate descriptions of the central problems public schools face and disastrous policy prescriptions misframed as the solutions our schools need.

For corporate reformers, the main problems in public education are low test scores, "bad teachers," and union contracts.

But in the real world, the core problems facing public education are poverty, inadequate resources, systemic inequality and racism, and the misuse of standards and tests. The real solutions are fair and sustainable school funding, poverty reduction, curricula that reflects the real world our students live in and engages them in improving it, better preparation and support for educators, and stronger partnerships with parents and communities.

Solutions like these will only emerge from broad social movements that challenge the lack of democracy and equity both inside our schools and in the society around them.

As SOS re-gathers, we look forward to working with you and other activists to realize the potential of a grassroots national movement for educational and social justice.

In solidarity,

Stan Karp
Rethinking Schools editor

P.S. Learn more about the SOS people's convention and sign up here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

SOS Press Release: A Call to Action

Save Our Schools: A National Call to Action
  for immediate release

Organizers of the upcoming Save Our Schools (SOS) “Peoples Education Convention” today unveiled the list of featured speakers for their August 3 – 5, 2012 event at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in  Washington, D.C. event. Keynoters include author Jonathan Kozol MacArthur “genius” award winner Deborah Meier, civil rights attorneys Shanta Driver and Rose Sanders, and early childhood expert Nancy Carlsson-Paige.
Jonathan Kozol is a oft-honored author and lecturer whose best-selling books such as Death at an Early Age and The Shame of the Nation vividly describe the country’s educational challenges. Kozol will speak on the topic “Fire In The Ashes: Victims and Survivors, Kids and Teachers in Public Schools Under Siege — How Do We Fight Back?” 
Deborah Meier is a senior scholar at New York University’s Steinhardt School. She spent 45 years working in K-12th grade public schools in East Harlem and Roxbury including leadership of several highly successful urban schools. She is also a well-known blogger writing in tandem with Diane Ravitch. 
A graduate of Harvard University, Shanta Driver is the National Director of United for Equality and Affirmative Action, which organized the student intervention for Grutter v. Bollinger, the landmark affirmative action case. Ms. Driver is also the National Coordinator of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary. 
Rose Sanders, also known as Ora Rose TourĂ©, is a Harvard-educated litigator who has worked on some of the nation’s highest-profile civil rights cases. She was the first African-American female judge in Alabama and part of the winning legal team in Pigford v Veneman that led to the payment of a billion dollars in damages to black farmers by the U.S. Agriculture Department. 
Nancy Carlsson-Paige is a professor of early childhood education at Lesley University where she has taught teachers for more than 30 years. She has written five books and many articles on violence, conflict resolution, and peaceable classrooms and schools. Her most recent book is Taking Back Childhood. Her son, Matt Damon, spoke at the 2011 SOS March and Rally. 
Among the many well-known workshop leaders also scheduled to appear at the Save Our Schools Convention are Uniting4Kids Executive Director Angela Engel, FairTest Executive Director Monty Neill, student lobbyist Nikhil Goyal, Parents Across America leader Karran Harper Royal, and  Michael Klonsky, DePaul University faculty member and Director of the Small Schools Workshop. 
In addition to speakers and workshops, the event will develop strategies on key education issues including testing, privatization, and school funding. SOS participants will also refine platform planks for the “People’s Principles for Public Education,” which will be presented to both national political parties before their upcoming conventions. 
The program begins at 2:15pm on Friday, August 3 and runs through 12:30pm on Sunday, August 5. 
More details about the SOS Convention are online at:
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Duncan's new tests may be worse than the old ones

Arne Duncan's been telling us for years now, that the only problem with current standardized testing mania is the quality of the tests. So he's put together a consortium of testing experts, using $330 million in stimulus money through the federal Race to the Top competition, to design new "next-generation assessments" intended to measure critical thinking, particularly the critical skills emphasized by the Common Core State Standards.

Problem is, some of these new tests are in many ways even worse than the old ones. This according to a survey of  "education insiders" due to be published this week. 

Joy Resmovits at Huffington reports
Beyond the tests, the insiders believe that the Common Core itself faces a rocky path. School districts "are very unprepared" for the new standards, according to 80 percent of respondents, and only one-quarter believe teachers have "very strong" support for the Common Core. On the other hand, commercial vendors, three-quarters of "insiders" say, have strong or very strong support for the Common Core.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Last night's SOS Webinar was great

CTU Pres. Karen Lewis, flanked by Jitu Brown, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dyett High School student Diamond McCullough at Operation Push
Thanks to all who attended our SOS Webinar last night with Karen Lewis and Jitu Brown. Biggest crowd ever for one of our webinars and the capacity crowd stayed til the very end. Lewis and Brown were over the top. For those who missed it, I'm told you will be able to see it in full on the SOS website in a few days.

My next stop is the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) pre-conference in St. Louis where I'm speaking on "The Politics of Literacy: Taking on Chicago's power structure." Yes, the struggle for literacy is a central part of the battle here in Chicago and nationally, against the testing madness of the current system of corporate reform. My webinar guests made it clear last night that neither racing to the top nor longer school day gimmicks are providing the neediest kids with the kind of learning environments they need to become literate and engaged citizens.

Special thanks to great Univ. of New Mexico prof Rick Meyer, for the invite. Rick is an SOS activist and president of NCTE's Whole Language Umbrella.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Who at CPS leaked the Benn Report and why?

Remember how Rahm's spin machine demanded that teachers hold off on their strike vote until after the release of the fact-finder's report? The implication being that CPS would abide by the report's recommendations for a teacher pay raise.

Now the question is, who from CPS leaked parts of the fact-finder's report to the Tribune days before it was supposed to be released, and why? Or let me put it another way. Why, with less than 4 weeks to go before teachers are forced to strike, does Rahm/Brizard seem hell-bent on sabotaging the contract negotiations?

This morning's Trib carries an ass-covering editorial -- on the one hand denouncing Edwin Benn's recommendations as "irrelevant" while on the other, claiming: "We haven't seen Benn's report yet."

Please join me this evening for an SOS Webinar, when I interview CTU Pres. Karen Lewis and KOCO community organizer Jitu Brown. You can register for the webinar here and join in at 8 P.M. (CDT). For those of you who don't know what a webinar is, think of it as an online, interactive radio show, where you can participate by asking my guests question or making comments as time allows. Otherwise just listen and take it all in. All you need is a computer with internet access and a working mic (if you want to speak).

Monday, July 16, 2012

Despite total focus on testing, CPS scores stay flat

Despite Rahm/Brizard making a total fetish of testing while diverting thousands of hours of classroom time and millions of badly-needed dollars towards test-prep, scores remain flat in CPS elementary schools. In fact during the first year of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s watch scores rose by the smallest margin — only 0.9 of a percentage point (statistically insignificant) — since 2005. Charter schools — whose $76 million planned expansion drew boos and hisses at recent budget hearings — posted increases that were only fractionally better than the district average.

Only 17.8 percent of CPS elementary schools “exceeded” state standards. Both the “meeting” and “exceeding’’ gains were the smallest since 2005. This year's gap between African-American and white students remained at nearly 22 percentage points, and between white and Hispanic students about 15 percentage points.

This didn't stop Rahm's overstaffed, giddy-with-success CPS spin squad from talking about "record high scores" and attributing even this statistically insignificant bump to the top-down-imposed longer school day. Nobody was buying that B.S. CPS Chief of Instruction Jennifer Cheatham (pronounced cheat-um) said she was “excited” about the “promising” longer day results but even she had to admit that, “it’s hard to attribute the [longer] school day in isolation to test score gains.’’

By the way, what is a chief of instruction anyway, and how is that different from the system's currently missing chief education office. Inquiring minds want to know.

The Sun-Times reports
Three of the five longer-day "Pioneer Schools" actually posted worse gains than the system. Two went down; one (Skinner North) showed no change in its 100 percent passing rate but dropped 10.5 percentage points in its "exceeding state standards" rate. Two went up -- including Fiske Elementary, where the passing rate jumped a massive 11.8 percentage points. Of the 12 schools that started a longer day by January, half had better gains than the system and half had worse. 
Some 220 elementary schools that did not receive up to $150,000 per school and teacher stipends to institute a longer day also beat the systemwide average gain, according to the S-T analysis.

Consultant Barbara Radner of DePaul University’s Center for Urban Education calls the CPS analysis “distorted,’’as it drew averages from only a handful of schools with widely mixed results.
“This is inaccurate, misleading and dangerous. Clearly the minutes were not the magic….. Other schools without the 90 minutes did better. So the question is, what should schools do with the minutes they do have? The question is what is the best way to teach kids, not how many minutes do you have. The emperor has no clothes. I would call this a failed experiment.’’


Jesse Sharkey, CTU vice-president
"We've said to our teachers that we want fair compensation. We've also said we want a better (school) day and we want to make sure class sizes don't spike. (Our members) know that we simply don't have a wage demand." -- Chicago Tribune
Jacky Grimshaw
“If he [Rahm] ignores the community, if he ignores the aldermen, if he continues to be driven by what comes out of his brain and those of his advisors to the exclusion of the community, that’s a problem for him. Then, it becomes a charade that you really don’t want public input.” -- Sun-Times, "Crime, schools and race all hound Rahm Emanuel"
Penny Pritzker
Jodi Kantor and Nicholas Confessore
"For Ms. Pritzker, her high-profile backing of Mr. Obama came at an unexpectedly bitter cost. Their relationship made her a punching bag for the labor movement, which targeted her for what union officials call exploitative practices toward housekeepers by the Hyatt hotels." -- NYT
Andy Spahn, Democratic consultant
“Donors have asked, ‘Where’s Penny?’ We have called her and not gotten callbacks.” -- NYT
"Mommy, I want to change," Shania said a week into the school year, according to her mother, Laynory Loaiza. "There are too many kids in my class, and when I try to talk to the teacher, she doesn't pay attention to me." -- Huffington

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gates ponders how teachers should be paid in his 'new universe'

But as long as we spend the time and money to get each element right; as long as we don’t let politics block the common core; as long as we let teachers use new technology in the classroom, this could be the educational equivalent of the Big Bang – creating a new universe of learning and discovery for our teachers and students. -- Bill Gates, master of the "new universe."
Bill Gates hasn't made up his mind quite yet about merit pay. Even though the world's second richest man (behind Mexico's Carlos Slim) considers himself to be an education expert, he and his gaggle of consultants are having a difficult time figuring out exactly how teachers should be paid. All this, while Gates-funded school districts, teacher unions, anxious teacher families, and Arne Duncan's DOE await his decision with bated breath. 

At a recent speech to the Education Commission of the States conference in Atlanta, Gates, employed the wisdom of Solomon, to solve his dilemma.
Now, let me just say that at this time, we don’t have a point of view on the right approach to teacher compensation. We’re leaving that for later. In my view, if you pay more for better performance before you have a proven system to measure and improve performance, that pay system won’t be fair – and it will trigger a lot of mistrust. So before we get into that, we want to make sure teachers get the feedback they need to keep getting better.
How thoughtful. How wise.

What they're saying in ChiTown

West tells tourists not to worry. Says, shootings only happen in black and Latino neighborhoods. Not where you go.
 "The shootings we have seen have been almost 100 percent isolated to neighborhoods outside the downtown core of Chicago where tourists and visitors from around the world frequent." -- Don Welsh, president of Choose Chicago, the city's tourism organization.
“Despite cutting more than a half-billion dollars over the last year alone, it’s not enough to undo years of revenue losses and misplaced priorities that landed the district in the financial quandary it’s in today.” -- CPS Spokesperson Becky Carroll, blaming the Daley administration
"I'm not surprised by your reaction." -- CPS chief bureaucrat, Tim Cawley after being booed by teachers and school activists responding to his announced budget plan with it's 2% raise for teachers.
"The board recently announced an 85 percent cut in capital spending, and that happens at the same time that we have schools without playgrounds, that we have schools that are scheduled to meet this summer with no air conditioning, that we have 160 schools without libraries." -- CTU V.P. Jesse Sharkey
“There is no support for this. I would not be surprised if they came forward with another budget.” -- Rod Estevan of Access Living, who specializes in CPS budget issues.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Rahm's 1-percenters worry about...

The early headline in this morning's Sun-Times reads: Is City Violence Hurting Tourism? By 10 a.m. the mayor's overstaffed spin department was doing damage control. Go online now and the new headline reads: Official backs down from claim crime hurting city’s tourism effort.  But Fran Spielman's story remains the same.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office swung into full damage-control mode Wednesday after Chicago’s convention and tourism chief was quoted as saying that a 38 percent spike in the city’s homicide rate and a troubling return to mob attacks downtown was hurting efforts to promote the city.
Don Welsh, president and CEO of Choose Chicago, told the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board, "... We hope this sunsets quickly because all the good work we’re doing regionally, nationally and internationally, if this is not contained in a reasonable period of time, it will have an impact/”
 After a poke from the mayor's office, Welsh is claiming that his remarks had been “misinterpreted” and “taken out of context.”  Now he and his team are beside themselves trying to assure potential convention planners that the city is safe for white people. Welsh tells them:
"The shootings we have seen have been almost 100 percent isolated to neighborhoods outside the downtown core of Chicago where tourists and visitors from around the world frequent.”
What the rest of us worry about... 

Gee, what a coincidence! These are exactly the same neighborhoods where Rahm is closing schools, laying-off teachers, where dropout rates are the highest, and where test scores are the lowest. These are also the areas that are going to his hardest by budget cuts.

The mayor's proposed $5.6 billion schools budget, unveiled yesterday before angry crowds at the board hearings, gives an extra $76 million to private charter operators while draining Chicago Public School reserves down to zero. The spending up of the reserve fund has already led Moody's to downgrade CPS' bond rating.

Boos and hisses and Cries of “Why?” and “For the 1 percent!” greeted CPS top 'crat Tim Cawley (who I like to remind people, lives in the North Shore suburbs) as he outlined plans to "stand tall" on charters, which receive public dollars but operated very much like private schools.

According to the Sun-Times:
The plan to increase total spending on charters to nearly $500 million “is a plan to just give schools away to private operators because you apparently don’t know what to do,’’ said CTU organizer Noreen Gutekanst. “Well, we educators know what to do.’’
Gutekanst called for lower class size, especially in the early grades, and reading specialists to work with the system’s youngest, struggling readers.

The budget, due for a school board vote later this month, also proposes $144 million in cuts and generates $62 million in revenues by raising property taxes for schools to the maximum allowed by law. It writes in a meager 2% pay raise for teachers after the board reneged on the 4% raise won in the last contract negotiations. Rahm must know that won't fly. One can only assume he wants a strike.

The S-T quotes Wendy Katten of the parent group Raise Your Hands who says the budget seemed to reflect a “disinvestment in neighborhood schools” at the expense of charters. Her neighborhood school, Amundsen, lost 13.5 positions and $1.5 million in funding.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thanks for the SOS plug, Diane Ravitch

See what Diane Ravitch blog reader and others have to say about SOS and our upcoming conference in D.C.
I also look forward to hearing Jonathan Kozol speak. I believe the issue of civil rights is at the very core of education reform and Jonathan’s work will lead us to create a 21st century model that puts civil rights in the driver’s seat. While corporate reformers tout their ideas as a means of achieving civil rights, the policies they have mandated have effectively segregated America’s schools to a point worse than the 1950′s. This “savage” impact is what drives many of us who are battling corporate reform.

Darling-Hammond responds to report on 21st Century Learning

A special report released yesterday by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science in Washington was intended to define just what researchers, educators and policymakers mean when they talk about "deeper learning" and "21st-century.

The committee found these skills generally fall into three categories: Cognitive skills, such as critical thinking and analytic reasoning; interpersonal skills, such as teamwork and complex communication; and Intrapersonal skills, such as resiliency and conscientiousness (the latter of which has also been strongly associated with good career earnings and healthy lifestyles).

Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond said she was pleased with the report's recommendation to focus more research and resources on interpersonal skills such as complex communication and teamwork and intrapersonal skills such as resiliency and resourcefulness.
"Unless we want to have just a lot of hand-waving on 21st century skills, we need to get focused and purposeful on how to learn to teach and measure these skills, both in terms of research investments and in terms of the policies and practice that would allow us to develop and measure these skills.
Those are the things that determine whether you make it through college, as much as your GPA or your skill level when you start college. Putting that back on the table is a particularly useful thing; we have tended to de-emphasize those skills in an era in which we are focusing almost exclusively on testing, and a narrow area of testing."  -- Edweek

Tonight's SOS Webinar with Barbara Madeloni

They Challenged and Conquered Corporate Education Reforms 
To Hear How Join Us Tonight!

SOSBdg Save Our Schools Webinar
"Teacher Education/Social Justice"
with Professor Barbara Madeloni
and her Student Teachers
Today, Wednesday, July 11, 2012  
8 PM Eastern Daylight Time [EDT] 
It is Time to Walk the Talk with the Many Who Do

Corporate reformers, Stanford University, along with test publishing company Pearson, implemented policy that changed the face of pedagogy. Students studying to be Teachers Protested. Local School Districts offered their dissent. Professor Madeloni stood with the two and received a non-renewal letter from UMass. You may think all hope is lost. We cannot change or conquer corporate education reforms. The truth is...

Yes! We Can Challenge and Conquer Corporate Ed!

The New York Times shared part of the story.  There is more... Professor Susan Theberge of Keene State College, New Hampshire wrote in The Daily Hampshire Gazette...
After three months School of Education administrators relented, agreeing that students, as human subjects in a research study, must be given the choice to participate or not. Sixty-seven of 68 secondary level student teachers refused to participate. 

The Mandeloni Webinar articulates our eternal endeavor to Save Our Schools and seek greater activism. If you choose, please help us bring more persons and students to the conversation. 
It is Time To Walk Our Talk!

Contribute what you choose. We request $25...$250 would be nice. Any amount will do.

SOSBdg Save Our Schools Webinar
"Teacher Education/Social Justice"
with Barbara Madeloni
and her Students
Tonight, Wednesday, July 11, 2012  
8 PM Eastern Daylight Time [EDT] 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

There's no fix without fight in Cleveland

Mayor Frank Jackson, center, and Cleveland Teacher's Union president David Quolke, right, listen as schools CEO Eric Gordon talks about the agreement that was reached on the mayor's school plan.
Yesterday's Wall Street Journal headline:
A School Fix Without a Fight
Cleveland Mayor Works With Governor and Teachers to Link Pay to Test Scores
By Stephanie Banchero

The Republican governor of Ohio, the Democratic mayor of Cleveland and the local teachers union have united to overhaul how teachers are hired, fired and paid, a rare example of cooperation in education that some critics warn could still face challenges in the implementation.

The overhaul, signed into law by Gov. John Kasich this month, will allow the district to link teachers' pay, in part, to student test scores, and to lay off teachers based on performance instead of seniority. It will also let the district fire teachers after two years of poor performance, based in part on test scores.
The headline is somewhat misleading. There has been a fight of sorts. Banchero notes that the union faced a “united front” of other powerful interests including local business groups, the governor and the mayor (who controls the Cleveland school board). She could have mentioned both the national Democratic and Republican Parties as well.

Despite that, some of the most draconian parts of the original plan were beaten back (see comments from "Ohio Reader" on my earlier post). Remember, this is a state that spends over $100 million/year on school voucher programs.The school district suffers from a $66 million budget deficit and announced layoffs of more than 500 teachers this spring. Those layoffs followed two years of cutbacks and $25 million in concessions from the union. Some classes are reported to have  more than 40 children.

It's also a battle-ground state in the November elections and plans like Cleveland's are favored by both parties -- especially by Obama/Duncan. The plan fits perfectly with Duncan's Race To The Top. To really stand up to it, the Cleveland Teachers Union would have to be ready to take on the weight of the entire system and buck Democratic Party and AFT leaders as the CTU is trying to do in Chicago.  AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten has been pushing hard on local unions to accept these type of deals. She and local union prez,  David Quolke hailed a similar plan in New Haven as "a model" for the rest of the county.

Kasich's attempt last year to totally crush the state's unions was defeated when the entire labor movement and national allies rallied and voters beat back his SB5 bill. This time around, he and the  corporate reformers were able to push through a plan, with help from Democrats and union leaders, that applied only to Cleveland and not the whole state. The tactic worked and is now being used in other states, especially in cities like Chicago where there's mayoral control of the schools.

The new plan shifts even more resources away from city schools, closes more of them and turns them and over to privately-managed charters. It makes it easier to fire veteran teachers without due process. Teacher pay and evaluation linked to student test scores is now embedded in the law. Union leaders, including Weingarten from the AFT signed off on this without any real Chicago-style mobilization of city teachers and community supporters. No line in the sand has been drawn -- yet.

Will public education and the union live to fight another day as a result of this agreement and the concessions made? Anti-union conservatives like Stanford's Terry Moe are worried about that. He predicted that, as details of the plan get negotiated, union leaders will “do whatever they can to water them down and make them as non-threatening as possible.”

Maybe. We shall see. But what's repulsive is the sight of union leaders hailing these plans as a national models of collaboration. It's one thing to lose a fight to a more powerful (at least for now) foe. It's quite another to call that defeat a victory. 

There can be no doubt that the city's teachers, it's 44,000 students and parents all take a big hit under the new Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools and that corporate reformers based at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the Cleveland and George Gund foundations, and Breakthrough Charter Schools and others. are jubilant over this "new era of cooperation." But the plan sets the stage for a new round of struggles around implementation and further contract negotiations. Does the union have the heart for such a struggle? Are current leaders up for it? If not, there's really bad times ahead for Cleveland schools.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Nat'l. Resolution on High Stakes Testing

In the mail box

From: Bob Schaeffer at FairTest

Thank you for endorsing the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing!

The Resolution campaign is off to a great start. We now have more than 10,000 individual signatures and endorsements from nearly 400 organizations. Our work has earned national attention, including from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The Resolution has generated particular strength in Florida. School boards in several of the state's largest districts and the state PTA have endorsed it, and the Florida State School Board Association passed a parallel resolution. With similar outreach in other states, we'll have an even stronger impact!

To do so, we need your help. Please take a few minutes to build this important movement. You can find sample letters for use with friends and colleagues, school boards, PTAs and other groups, and legislators posted on the web at

First: Tell your friends!

If each signer contacts just four family members, co-workers, and activist colleagues, the number of signers will soar. Can you reach out to a handful of other people who care about the damage high-stakes testing is doing to our children? (You can use the sample letters.)

Second: Introduce the resolution to organizations! These could include:

School boards. More than 550 Texas school boards representing two-thirds of the state’s children have passed a similar resolution, and boards around the country have endorsed the national resolution you signed.

PTAs and PTOs. PTAs and PTOs are especially strong voices in educational matters because they represent so many parents (and thus voters). State and local PTAs and PTOs around the country are starting to endorse the Resolution. Get your local and state PTAs and PTOs on board.

Civic organizations, religious denominations, Chambers of Commerce and other organizations. Many community organizations are strong advocates for high-quality education. If you are a member, ask them to sign on.

Third: Inform your elected officials of your position! Local, state and federal representatives need to know that a broad spectrum of voters opposes high-stakes testing. Send a letter or schedule a personal visit with an official or his/her staff. (You can reach your U.S. Senator or Representative through

Thanks again for your help!

The Sponsoring Committee for the National Resolution on High-Stakes Testing

Where is Byrd-Bennett?

Back on April 30th, CPS made a major announcement. Barbara Byrd-Bennett had been named to replace Noemi Donoso as the interim Chief Education Officer. Donoso jumped ship after serving less than a year in the Rahm/Brizard regime. Donoso herself  was brought in more than a year after the departure of Barbara Eason-Watkins.

BBB, the former “executive coach” for the Broad Superintendents Academy, who during her time in Cleveland was the highest paid school superintendent in the nation,  was supposed to come in to town on May 1 to serve as "chief education advisor." Then, upon Donoso's official departure on May 31st, she was supposed to be officially named interim chief education officer.

But now it's July 9th and we haven't seen hide nor hair of her and the CPS website still refers to BBB as "chief education advisor."

It's not like the system's top educator, especially an African-American educator, has any real power in the current old-boys network, mayoral-control system of school management, but BBB hasn't even shown her face since being appointed. The last time her name was even uttered in the Chicago media was on April 30th.

What gives, Mr. Mayor? What's up with that, CEO Brizard? Doesn't the system need a top educator? Why isn't anyone asking, Chicago media? Did you think this story would just go away?