Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's $20 million no-bid for Supes-to-Nuts with Gary Solomon in Chicago

Supes Academy principal training in Chicago
The men who run Supes have, shall we say, a somewhat questionable track record. And all this in a city where major, well-respected universities already train principals, where 49 schools have shut down and others are losing teachers, classroom aides, clerks, lunch ladies and other workers and programs right and left, to the tune of $68 million in cuts -- or $82 million, depending on whose math you believe. -- Lorraine Forte at Huffington

A few principals attending the Chicago Supes training now in progress are texting me, telling me what a joke it is. It's not that the sessions are all that bad. It's that the principals themselves have taken it over. They are running it -- "sharing stories," they text me.

"Inmates have taken over the asylum," says one south-side principal. The joke is that BBB has given huckster Gary Solomon and his team a $20 million no-bid contract to run this thing. Supes, she says, brings nothing to the table. Any one of a number of local groups or university people could have easily facilitated.

Another text: We (the intellectually and skill bereft cohort) are now creating the sessions.

So why does this Wilmette-based, Broad funded, pro-charter Supes Academy land the largest no-bid contract awarded in years for professional development?

Well, that's an easy one.  Byrd-Bennett worked for the company as a coach up until the time she came on board at CPS as a consultant. According to Catalyst, "There’s also conflicting information about Byrd-Bennett’s involvement with another company owned by the same individuals who run the Supes Academy."

Writes Catalyst's Sarah Karp:
Up until April 2012, Byrd-Bennett worked as a consultant to the Supes Academy. At that time, she was brought on at CPS as the chief education advisor to then-CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, a contract position for which she was paid $21,500 a month.
In addition, Byrd-Bennett is listed as a senior associate for a superintendent search firm called PROACT Search, in documents dated August 2012—four months after taking the position with CPS. PROACT is run by the same individuals who lead Supes: Gary Solomon, the executive director, and Thomas Vranas, the president. (Another Supes founder listed on its website, Tim Quinn, is managing director of the Broad Foundation; Byrd-Bennett worked as an executive coach for Broad through this past April.)
Byrd-Bennett is one of four contacts listed in the proposal for services submitted by PROACT in its bid to do a superintendent search for the Norwalk, Connecticut, school district. She has an e-mail address listed in the proposal. When PROACT won the contract, an official for the company was quoted in the local newspaper touting that Byrd-Bennett, who by that time had been named as Chicago’s CEO, was a contractor with the firm.
You can read the rest yourself. I'll defer to the new federal prosecutor to determine the legality of all this. But if the $96 million UNO charter deal was legal, and the Zimmerman shooting was legal, then this is probably legal also. Most of our cynical and corruption-hardened citizenry might just shrug off Karp's excellent Catalyst expose as just more-of-the-same, to go along with UNO charter chicanery, pension demagogy, TIF-type slush funds, and Rahm's DePaul basketball swindles of the taxpayers. And of course they'd be right.

But there are a few things I found unusual in this latest boondoggle. One, is the response by UIC's Steve Tozer, quoted in the article. You would think that UIC's ed school (of which I am a proud grad and former employee) would be upset that they didn't get the contract and that BBB went out of town to bring in her old cronies. Instead we have principal trainer Tozer saying things like $20 million “is an okay price to pay if Chicago can produce good leaders.”
Tozer says the University of Illinois, which has a well-regarded training program for urban principals, would have looked into bidding on the contract had the process been open. Tozer had not heard of Supes until the organization had already been hired. 
But Solomon has been hustling business here for years. He's a Broad guy who also worked with Paul Vallas and ran his Synesi consulting company which has been trying to get back into the city ever since Mayor Daley sent Vallas packing off to Philly.

Solomon ran Vallas' consulting company
The $20 million contract is the fourth awarded to Supes since October of 2012. The three other contracts include two for $2 million each and a third for $225,000 for consulting services. In 2011-12, the Chicago Public Education Fund paid for training of Chiefs of Schools and Network Chiefs.

Karp writes:
Solomon went on to be a sales associate and then a vice president for the Princeton Review, a test preparation company, and counted CPS as one of his clients.
In 2005, he ventured out on his own and created two companies, one focusing on consulting and the other on web development. In Philadelphia, he marketed the consulting company as using the “Paul Vallas method of school reform.”
Maybe Tozer is just being a team player, hoping UIC gets a subcontract down the road. After all, it doesn't look like Supes has the talent to handle this by themselves.

They could end up like the dog that caught the bus.

The Legacy of D.C.'s Dunbar H.S.

Up! Men and brothers, be noble, be earnest!
Ripe is the time and success is assured;
Know that your fate was the hardest and sternest
When through those lash-ringing days you endured.
-- Paul Laurence Dunbar

The nation's first black public high school, named after the great African-American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and located less than two miles from the nation's capitol, opened its doors in 1870. But more than 140 years later, Dunbar — like many urban schools — has fallen on hard times. The crumbling, brutalist-style building is often described as a prison, and graduation rates hover around 60 percent.
But it wasn't always that way. Once upon a time, the yearbook read like a Who's Who of black America.
"It's really amazing because we're talking about people who literally changed America, who changed the United States," journalist Alison Stewart tells host Audie Cornish on All Things Considered. "The architect of school desegregation, Charles Hamilton Houston, was a Dunbar graduate. Elizabeth Catlett, the artist. Billy Taylor, the jazz musician. The first black general in the Army. The first black graduate of the Naval Academy. The first black presidential Cabinet member. The lists go on and on."
In 2008, then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee handed Dunbar over to a private, outside group to run. By 2010 the group had run Dunbar further into the ground and was given the boot by Rhee's successor, Kaya Henderson. Since then, it's been one new "reform" after another with a revolving door of leadership. Sounds a lot like Chicago's DuSable H.S., now "reformed" out of existence by corporate reformers and charter privateers to make way for neighborhood gentrification.

Be sure and read the comments section which add some interesting history to Stewart's account.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CVCA, Chicago's behemoth high school, to be partially demolished.

Architecture writer Lee Bey has been following the various phases of reform and restructuring over the years at Chicago Vocational Career Academy. Now, he reports, a significant portion of CVCA, an architecturally-important building that is the city's second-largest public school, would be demolished as part of a $42 million bid to turn the structure into a tech academy.
The PBC on Monday issued a request for qualifications seeking contractors who can handle the three-phase overhaul of the former Chicago Vocational High School at 2100 E. 87th St.  When the dust clears, the school would become a six-year school with a curriculum focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.
Here's something I posted back in May, 2012 about the history of reform at Chicago Vocational in response to an earlier piece by Bey.
CVS was the first high school that joined the Small Schools Workshop back in the early 1990s. With nearly 4,000 students at that time, teachers and administrators were looking for ways to break through big-school anonymity, create a safer learning environment, and break down the wall between academic and vocational learning embeded in the old voc-ed model. After some initial successes, the project was lost to the district's shift to a test-prep regimen under Paul Vallas' regime.

The Safe passage charade

The mayor and Byrd-Bennett are hoping that warring gangs and assorted shooters will read and obey the new signs posted along school routes by the Dept. of Transportation. I hope so too, but I'm somehow not reassured.  (DNAInfo)
As we approach the opening of school, everyone in the school community is hoping that the 40,000 students impacted by Rahm's reckless CPS school closings make the trek to their receiving schools, across rival gang territory safely. But in deteriorating neighborhoods, awash with guns but left out of the mayor's TIF and infrastructure investment strategies, the threat of gun violence is ever present.

Parents in those neighborhoods are scared half to death, hoping upon hope that some judge somewhere, independent of the City Hall political machine, will issue an injunction in response to the two pending civil rights suits and keep schools open, at least until there is a reasonable transition plan in place.

Rahm is trying to reassure families by hiring hiring 245 residents to serve as guides along the walks to school, as well and by removing abandoned cars and graffiti and inspectingof abandoned buildings (like closed schools?) along those routes. He's also putting up dozens of Safe Passage signs with a picture of an adult and a kid walking to school together. Yes, that ought to do it.

A compliant City Council  is playing along with Rahm's charade by approving stiffer fines for possessing weapons along those routes.

Everyone by now should know that safe-passage plan is not sustainable and pure political theater.

DNA Info reports:
The first offense for having assault weapons or high-capacity magazines in those zones would mean a jail term of 120 days to six months and a fine of $1,000 to $5,000.  A third offense dictates a mandatory six-month jail sentence and fines up to $20,000.
Yes, beware shooters. Anyone who fails to read the Safe Passage sign and fires their high-capacity assault weapon at kids on the way to school could do 120 days at County and pay a small fine? Of course the fine will grow some after they do it a second and third time.

Feel better, parents? Me neither.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Right-wing Loony Tunes

EAG's Kyle Olson always appears on FOX in front of a faux bookcase. As if...
Right-wing loony Kyle Olson is at it again. You might remember Kyle as a guy who has made a career out of stalking teacher union activists, like my brother. You might also remember him and his EAG group for backing Rahm during the teachers' strike. Olson is a shade to the right of Rush Limbaugh, but his EAG group has a close affinity for Democrat Rahm's brand of union bashing. They even featured Rahm in one of their movies.

So what's Olson up to now? His latest "expose" produces a list of some of the many Chicagoans who signed on to a "letter of allegation" sent by The Midwest Coalition for Human Rights to the U.N.'s High Commission on Human Rights, asking the Geneva-based organization to watch for “potential domestic and international human rights violations” in Chicago when school starts this year.

The letter –- penned by University of Chicago law professor Sital Kalantry -- explains that school closures will force children to attend far-away schools, where they will have to travel through violent, gang-ridden communities. The letter suggests the school closings breach principles required in a number of international treaties signed by the U.S. It argues the closings violate the right to equality and non-discrimination in education, as they disproportionately affect minority students and students with disabilities and will result in lower-quality education for those affected.

The action comes alongside two federal lawsuits seeking injunctions to block the closure of the institutions by the nation’s third-largest public school district before the new school year begins.

The letter seems to have given Olson and his crew painful wedgies. His team of ace investigators (Did NSA or  Booz Allen help?) went right to work scanning the list of signers for any known rads, unionists, or civil rights leaders. And lo and behold, they came up with some of the usual suspects.
Among the signees: The Chicago Teachers Union, Action Now (formerly known as ACORN), domestic terrorist-turned-professor Bill Ayers, former Students for a Democratic Society leader-turned-professor Michael Klonsky, and retired professor and Barack Obama hero Timuel Black.
Great undercover work, Kyle. But let me just say that I'm proud to be in such esteemed company. And I don't mean yours.


CPS Budget Cuts: Lane Tech Takes Protest to Alderman Pawar's Office 

Susan Dobinsky, Lane Tech parent
"It's anti-democratic," she said of what she deems a "clear effort" to "dismantle" public schools. -- DNAInfo
Kathi Thomas, Texas parent
 “These few kids that would be able to get out of taking the test, they will still get all of the wasted time prepping. And on the day that they don’t take the test, they are going to be warehoused in a library, and they still won’t getting any learning out of it.” --  NYT, Texas’ Bid to Ease Mandatory Exams for Public School Students
Barack Obama
 “If we don’t do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise... Racial tensions won’t get better; they may get worse, because people will feel as if they’ve got to compete with some other group to get scraps from a shrinking pot.” -- NYT, Obama Says Income Gap Is Fraying U.S. Social Fabric
Chaka Kahn
Chaka Kahn
"Well the trial, number one was a travesty. Racism is still very much alive and well in this country. It has gone to more of a cerebral state. But it’s alive and well. The new slavery is keeping black men in jail." -- Chaka Khan Boycotts Florida 
John Wilson
Once known for having the most innovative and progressive public school system in America, North Carolina is now a trajectory of backwardness. -- Edweek

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer reading

I'm trying to catch up this summer on reading that's piling up in the Kindle. Aside from beach novels -- I've reloaded The Ninth Wave by Eugene Burdick, a favorite from my ill-spent youth in L.A.. Burdick also authored popular '60s reads, The Ugly American and Fail Safe --  I'm trying to get to the serious stuff.

On top of the new pile is Charter Schools and the Corporate Makeover of Public Education: What's at Stake? by Michelle Fine and Michael Fabricant. It came out a year ago but I'm just getting to it. I try and keep up with everything Michelle writes but it's an impossible task -- she's prolific.

Sports writer supreme, Dave Zirin wrote this great piece, Rahm Emanuel's Zombie Pigs vs. Chicago's Angry Birdsin The Nation, back in May. Just got to it. It's a take-down of Rahm's insane plan to build a new basketball stadium for DePaul, which fellow sports writer Rick Telander calls, "a new arena of stupidity," with millions in tax payer dollars -- money that could be used to save our schools.

Chicago teacher  Greg Michie, author of We Don't Need Another Hero and Holler if you hear me,  has a strong response today to Rahm and Byrd-Bennett's "students-first" mantra.
What's happening in Chicago schools -- and in many other places across the country -- is not about putting students first. It's agendas first. Ideology first. Test scores first. Efficiency first...It all can be so discouraging. What provides a measure of hope, though, in places like Chicago and Philadelphia and Seattle and many others, is that so many teachers, parents, students, and community activists are refusing to simply accept this misguided direction for our schools. In increasing numbers, people are speaking up, doing grassroots research, organizing, fighting back. -- Huffington Post 
I'm planning to be in D.C. on August 28th for the 50th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington. Hope to see you there.

After being ousted as Bridgeport Supt., Vallas gets schools to pay his legal fees

 “We thought we had a good guy,” said Tammy Boyle, a parent leader and mother of two children. “But at each and every turn, he has ignored the wishes and the voices of the people of Bridgeport.” -- New York Times
The great education hustler and architect of top-down "reform", Paul Vallas, has pulled off yet another great hustle. After being ousted from his job as Bridgeport's superintendent by a superior court judge, Vallas has the cash-strapped school district paying his legal fees. Vallas must have learned the tactic from Chicago's torturing cop, Jon Burge who soaked the city for millions in legal fees before finally being put away. Of course, I'm not comparing Vallas' to Burge. Just saying.

I received this statement from Taylor Leake, Communications Director of the Connecticut Working Families Party.
"It's a true shame that the Board of Education voted to waste public money defending an unqualified superintendent. That money should be used to educate students, not for legal fees. It would be far better to spend money hiring more teachers to reduce class size, expanding, instead of cutting, special education programs, enriching the curriculum with elective activities that keep students engaged and in school, providing targeted vital services like free and reduced meals, medical services, and counseling to address non-academic issues that hold students back, and training and support for teachers."
My favorite Vallas quote has him responding to his critics by referring to us bloggers as "electronic graffitti". I'm thinking of using that on the SmallTalk logo. Thanks Paul.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rahm -- 'Let them eat chaos.'

While protesting teachers marched outside, parent Chitunda Tillman Sr, who has 3 kids who are CPS students, tells the board exactly what he thinks about their school budget cuts. (Alex Wroblewski~Sun-Times)
 “With a historic billion-dollar deficit, we are taking every step we can to minimize any impacts to the classroom."  --CPS Liar-in-Chief Becky Carroll
Homeowners, prepare to dig deeper. Schoolchildren — especially high schoolers — prepare to get less. -- Sun-Times
The Carroll quote is from a few weeks ago. The other is the lead-in to today's CPS budget story. Remember LIC Carroll assuring parents that budget cuts wouldn't target the classroom? Well they have, slashing classroom spending by $68 million. This while throwing the whole system into chaos by closing about 50 schools, mostly in African-American neighborhoods, further disrupting the lives of more than 40,000 children and their families and costing teachers and staff more than 3,000 jobs.

BBB claims that the big hit on classrooms is in response to the pension "crisis." Nothing could be farther from the truth. The CPS budget cuts have little to do with the size of retiree pensions or health care since the city and state haven't been paying their share into the pension fund for years. Rather it's a revenue problem in a state where the very rich and the big corporations pay little or no taxes.

Rosemary Vega wants at 'em as well.
Raising property taxes, and depleting district budget reserves, are wrong answers to a long-term funding problem. They're  the wrong way to generate revenue for the schools. Instead, Rahm should be pushing for a  larger and more progressive state income tax with less reliance on county property taxes. He should also be directing his huge TIF fund surplus towards school spending.


As you might expect, with Rahm in control of city schools, not everyone came out losers in this year of draconian budget cuts. The pension "crisis" doesn't seem to have affected big budget winners including UNO's scandal-ridden charter schools and charter networks run by Chicago Int'l. and Noble St. who made out like bandits.Taking the biggest hits were Curie, Kelly, Fenger, Phillips and Morgan Park H.S.

Another big budget winner was Teach For America (TFA) who's 5-week wonders will be contracted with in record numbers to replace Chicago's fired teachers and staff. Since arriving in Chicago with 34 recruits in 2000, TFA's numbers have surged to a corps size of 500 this year, with over 1,700 alumni in the region.
A lot has changed in Chicago's education ecosphere since the '90s, however. Nowadays major budget cuts, layoffs, and school closings in Chicago have left an absence of vacant teaching positions. The added influx of TFA corps in the city means they now compete head-to-head for jobs with traditional teachers. But after almost two decades of sending their minimally trained elite college graduates into struggling schools across the county, the non-partisan data on TFA corp members' success is mixed at best. -- Gapers Block
Don't miss this HuffPost Live segment on TFA, including an interview with Chicago teacher activist, Katie Osgood.


 I bet it got Rahm's attention.
Sneed hears [CTU Pres. Karen] Lewis may be enlisting the advice of a bazooka, the silent victim of Rahm’s verbal war: former Mayor Richard M. Daley, who made peace with the teachers union during his tenure in office — and who is the unnamed culprit in Rahm’s criticism of the Chicago school system.
◆ To wit: Sneed has learned that Lewis and Daley were spotted huddling at Gibsons eatery Tuesday in the wake of CPS officials announcing what Lewis called a bloodbath”: The layoffs last week of 2,113 teachers and other employees, a month after 850 CPS layoffs because of school closures. -- In Sneed's column this morning.
The Art of War
 If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. -- Sun Tsu

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Progressive" Ald. Moore, one of Rahm's toadies, now under FBI investigation

Moore (left) has become one of the mayor's boys. 
Ald. Joe Moore was once considered to be a "progressive" who stood up once in a while to the Daley machine and owed his allegiance to the people in his community. But now, Moore has become little more than a toady for the mayor, especially when it comes to closing schools and bashing the teachers union. He was one of the founders of the so-called Paul Douglas Alliance in the City Council, a rump group set up to counter the Progressive Caucus which has been critical of Rahm. Moore has even joined Rahm in his effort to weaken the investigative powers of  the city's Inspector General.

Maybe now we know why. He didn't want to get thrown under the bus by party bosses.
July 23, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- ABC7 has learned Chicago's 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore did not attend a White House event Tuesday, where he was supposed to have been honored. On Monday, Moore said he spoke with the FBI about an ethics case involving alleged campaign work in his aldermanic office and the firing of an employee in 2009. He denies any wrongdoing. White House officials said they became aware of the Inspector General's report on Monday and decided to hold the honor until the results of the FBI investigation are complete.
Oops! Too late.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

With Tim Tyson on Moral Monday in N.C.

Tim Tyson
Susan and I stopped in and paid a visit with old friend Tim Tyson in Durham, N.C. yesterday. A professor at Duke University, Tim was on his way over to the Moral Monday protest in Raliegh. 

Susan Klonsky reports from Durham:

Tim is a historian with a long view of the current wave of retrograde legislation and its connection to the history of race in North Carolina. He is one of the organizers of Moral Monday and has been arrested numerous times in the sit-ins. His 83-year-old father, Rev. Vernon Tyson, was recently arrested, as have been pretty much all the members of the Tyson family.

At yesterday's protest
Yesterday at the North Carolina Statehouse in Raleigh more than a thousand protestors convened the 12th weekly "Moral Monday" where more than 70 people were handcuffed and arrested, bringing the total of arrests to more than 900. The protests have focused on the draconian cuts in school funding as well as the rampant resegregation of schools in Wake County.  They have also targeted the current assault on  civil rights and social programs currently being rammed through the Republican-dominated North Carolina state legislature. The weekly protests include sit-ins inside the Statehouse, resulting in the arrests of hundreds (nearly 1000 arrests to date).  Moral Mondays were initiated by the NC NAACP and its state president, Rev. Dr.William Barber II. Moral Mondays are now supported by a gigantic statewide coalition of educational, civic, and charitable groups of every description. The protests have focused especially on cuts to education as well as to health care, food stamps, and voting rights.

Tim Tyson (arm raised) at Moral Monday
"Every week we protest all the cuts in every domain," Tyson explains,"but every week we emphasize one area." This week the focus is on the gutting of voting rights in the state. Each week the protest rallies have grown in size and breadth. This week they expected and got the biggest turn-out yet. Gov. Pat McCrory is pig-headedly forging ahead with measures designed to restrict voting rights, especially a voter ID law. McCrory's popularity has plummeted as a result of his cuts to public services, destruction of education and health programs, and the radical move of turning down a no-cost federal unemployment subsidy. "He's trailing slightly behind non-poisonous snakes" in popularity, Tyson notes.

As civil rights protections are rolled back, he explains, the main attacks are against the entire system of public education in the state. Multiple ways are being engineered to undermine the public schools and to incentivize parents to pull out. A voucher bill has just been passed, which will provide $4000 subsidy to any child who is pulled out of a public school and enrolled in a private school. Parents who opt to home-school their kids will receive a sizeable tax break per child. North Carolina, Tyson explains, was the last state to implement school desegregation--17 years after Brown. "They've been waiting all these years ever since for their chance to undo desegregation, and here it is."  Last week's drastic education budget destroyed the jobs of 5000+ teacher's aides. The legislature also removed the limit on the number of charter schools that can be formed, "opening the sluice gates for charter operators to flood the state."  And teacher due process, especially teacher tenure, has been wiped out altogether.

Art Pope (New Yorker)
Much of this action is backed politically and financially by right-wing powerhouse Art Pope, whom Tyson describes as "the third Koch brother." Head of a chain of retail stores,  Pope  has made his fortune in the low-income communities which are now under attack. He is joined in this enterprise by right-wing Raleigh businessman Robert Luddy, president of a company that manufactures kitchen ventilation systems and the founder of a charter school and private schools.
These guys know there's money to be made.

 I asked Tyson if this state of affairs has him down in the dumps. "Absolutely not! We haven't seen a movement like this since the 60s. We're growing a coalition, learning to work it together on all issues. It's true that the poverty is worse right now than it has been in decades. People are really hurting. The conservatives who control the state right now are more virulent than we've seen in years. There has even been a proposal put forth to legislate Christianity as the official state religion of North Carolina! But the point is the resistance. It's a movement. It's growing. It's spreading. It's far from over. We're kicking butt and we're going to win." But not without a fight.

PS:  Be sure to read Diane Ravitch's blog post: A Tragic Day For Public Education in North Carolina, a succinct comment on the education situation by Yvonne Brannan of Public Schools First NC.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Xian Barrett protests Chicago school closings. He was one of 2,100 teachers and staff fired Friday. CPS called his mother to tell her, son has been fired from his job.  
Fired Chicago teacher Xian Barrett
“The fact that there’s a script and it has in it, 'Thank you for the service to the kids’ but no details — the fact that it’s always done this impersonally. It’s not just about firing. It’s how CPS treats their students. They’re interchangeable, and the relationships in their lives are interchangeable.” -- Sun-Times
UIC Prof, Dick Simpson
“Many people know one of the fired school employees. They were fired — not because they weren’t doing their jobs, but because of how school finances were handled... Rahm Emanuel is losing the African-American vote. And independent voters are gonna be swayed by school closings and bond ratings.” -- Sun-Times 
Princeton Prof, Douglas Massey
"Unlike cities such as Chicago or Philadelphia, where segregation produced disinvestment in certain neighborhoods, the nature of segregation in Detroit meant that the entire city suffered disinvestment." -- Auto troubles, race at root of Detroit collapse 
New York teacher, Katie Lapham
The new Common Core state tests have left me despairing of the future of public education in both NYC and throughout the country.  -- WaPo, Teacher: Why the last school year was ‘crushing’
Retired Detroit worker, Vera Proctor
“Where’s the nearest street corner where I can sell bottles of water? That’s what it’s going to come down to. We’re not going to have anything.” -- NYT, Cries of Betrayal as Detroit Plans to Cut Pensions

Friday, July 19, 2013

A new (even worse) version of NCLB is on the table

It's been 12 years since Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law with support from the Democrats.
After 6 years of failed attempts to reauthorize NCLB, a new bill, named as you might expect -- the Student Success Act --  has been brought to the House floor for a vote. But this bill is even worse than than the old one -- if that's possible.  The latest version is sponsored by  Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a Romney/McCain conservative with presidential ambitions, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Committee. Kline has enriched himself and his campaign coffers by fronting for education profiteers and the student-loan banking industry.

Kline has championed linking teacher evaluations to student test scores—but on Thursday he backed killing the requirement, leaving it up to the states, most of which are all too eager to use the link to punish teachers and bust union contracts.

But while it does essentially get rid of Common Core standards -- not a bad thing in my opinion -- the so-called Student Success Act still  preserves the standardized testing regimen in reading and math first imposed by No Child. It severely cuts federal funding for the neediest kids and their schools, locking sequestration cuts into place. And it basically returns schools to the states' rights era when racial segregation was the law of the land.
 During a six-hour debate Thursday, though, one point of unanimity emerged: Republicans and Democrats want almost nothing to do with President George W. Bush’s signature 2001 education law. The bill would repeal the federal requirement that schools make “adequate yearly progress” – the heart of No Child Left Behind. States would still be required to test students in reading, math and science, but they could set their own standards and punish failing schools in their own way. -- Politico
While the Student Success Act will likely pass in the House, Republicans will probably have to wait until after the mid-term elections, when they are likely to gain the majority in the Senate needed to make the bill law. Obama has promised to veto it. But Obama has promised a lot of things.  Democrats are attacking the bill for retreating from the civil rights protections that they said the original law was meant to provide -- but didn't. The problem is that the Democrats have no viable alternative to offer except a rehash of NCLB in the form of Arne Duncan's Race To The Top, and couldn't get anything passed if they did.

On second thought, I should never underestimate the willingness of Dems and some union leaders to cave in and play ball with anti-public-school conservatives on this to preserve their "seat at the table". Maybe a tweaked version of the bill could make it through the Senate after all.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Gang expert Hagedorn warns federal judge to stop Chicago school closings

John Hagedorn 
A SmallTalk salute goes out to UIC prof John Hagedorn for speaking truth to power during a second day of testimony before a federal judge who's considering a temporary injunction to stop the district from closing dozens of schools, nearly all in the city's mainly black south and west-side communities.

John, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Illinois-Chicago's Great Cities Institute and Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, has been researching and writing about Chicago's street gangs from multiple perspectives for decades. He's the author of People & Folks, Gangs, Crime, and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City. This book, published in 1998, re-framed the study of gangs in the United States by focusing on the impact of de-industrialization. He's currently studying why Chicago's homicide rate has not declined like New York City's.

In his 2008 book, A World of Gangs, he writes:
… institutionalized gangs and other armed young men [that] have become permanent fixtures in many ghettos, barrios, and favelas across the globe are an ever present option for marginalized youth. [G]angs are unmistakable signs that all is not well and that millions of people are being left out of the marvels of a globalized economy. 
FOX News reports:
Taking the stand for lawyers opposed to Chicago Public Schools' recent decision to shutter about 50 public elementary schools, John Hagedorn also testified that rival gangs already are posting warnings on Facebook for the incoming children from other neighborhoods to stay off their turf.
"It's already aggravating gang conflicts," he said about the pending closings. And if the closings ahead, added the University of Illinois at Chicago professor, "It is likely a child will be shot and killed."
John told Judge John Lee that it's not a question of whether there will be shooting in neighborhoods kids must walk through. He says shootings are happening now. He adds school closings already are prompting gang Facebook postings warning students to stay away.

"The old times where one gang controlled one neighborhood are gone," he said. "Those changes are what make it especially dangerous to children."

According to the Sun-Times:
Hagedorn displayed gang maps, showing how students would have to cross gang boundaries to get to their new schools and arguing that CPS doesn’t have an effective safety plan in place. For example, he said, children transferred from Pope Elementary to Johnson Elementary in North Lawndale will “literally be walking down a line of fire” on Albany Avenue, where the New Breeds have clashed with rival gangs.
CPS’ “Safe Passage” program, which pays community groups to chaperone children, won’t “protect them from bullets,” he added.
Thanks John.

LSC revolt grows against Rahm's budget slashing

Bell's LSC meets in response to Rahm's budget slashing.  (Sun-Times)
Parents, teachers, and faculty of Audubon Elementary voted Wednesday to reject, for the second time, a sharply reduced budget. Even with an extra $100,000 dollars in hush money now being offered by CPS, the budget of the Roscoe Village school would have been about $300,000 less than last year’s budget, a reduction that leaves the art and music teaching positions, as well as several administrative jobs, in jeopardy.

The Sun-Times reports that six schools, all in well-to-do areas, so far have rejected their draft budgets — four outright: Blaine Elementary, Whitney Young Magnet High School, Edgebrook Elementary and Kellogg Elementary School. Two more, Audubon and Bell Elementary, rescinded previous approval votes.

Who will 'reform' the reformers?

"Please stop 'reforming' Pelican Bay, writes Truthout's Maya Schenwar.
These changes constitute "reforms" in the way that school closings in poor communities have been dubbed "education reform," or the way in which Reagan's tax cuts for the super-wealthy were championed as "tax reform." Early advocates of the prison system—the folks who brought us solitary confinement in the first place—called themselves "reformers," too.
Also see Pelican Bay prisoner, J. Baridi Williamson's piece, "Why We Strike - Pelican Bay Prison Hunger-Strikers."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The old Confederacy is whistling Dixie again

Moral Monday protest in N.C.
The Supreme Court's disgraceful gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act has the old Confederacy waving the bloody flag and whistling Dixie again. From Florida to Texas, Republican governors and legislatures are moving at light's speed to pass restrictive voting and registration laws reminiscent of the Jim Crow era.

In North Carolina, 4 bills are currently before the legislature, ready to be passed and put on Gov. McCrory's desk with hardly any debate. Despite large weekly protests, passage seems likely. This would severely restrict the rights of black voters and all but guarantee that there's no repeat of anything like Obama's stunning victory in the state in 2008. First and foremost is their effort to do away with early voting, where Democrats have out-polled the Dixie-cans by huge margins.

Arrested in Raleigh
North Carolina’s voter ID bill could pose problems for 1 in 10 voters, according to an analysis by the State Board of Elections. About 613,000 North Carolinians lack the required government-issued ID. Nearly a third of these voters are black, while over half are registered Democrats.


On Monday, more than 100 people were arrested after their singing and clapping protest outside the state Senate chamber was declared an unlawful assembly, in what has become a weekly demonstration against Dixie-can initiatives. More than two-thirds of those arrested were women, as organizers focused on women's rights while legislation that could close most of the state's abortion clinics nears a final vote. More than 800 people have been arrested at the Legislative Building in expressions of civil disobedience since the "Moral Monday" protests began in April.

Testing the limits in Bizarro World

Students didn't suddenly get less intelligent. They were not doing as well in the past as everyone was led to believe. The state had dumbed down the tests and lowered cut scores to avoid sanctions from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. -- Tribune editorial. 
In the Bizarro World that is Chicago's corporate school reform, worse is better. If students score too high on standardized tests, they simply re-norm the tests to push scores downward, causing angry parents and students lots of grief and fear while elating the corporate reformers and school privateers over at the Civic Committee. Then, faced with the data showing that less than half our kids scoring at or above grade level (not the 75% they were claiming a year ago), they turn around and declare how awed they are by the "steady progress" being made (despite that nasty, disruptive teachers strike).

Says the Trib:
The results will be ugly. Thousands of students statewide who were rated as meeting standards in 2012 will not make the cut in 2013. Teachers, principals and ISBE officials are bracing for a torrent of angry, confused and disappointed parents. 
But says Rahm, "these are indicators of where progress is being made on the importance of an education of our children … You want a highly-educated, highly-skilled work force and that’s gonna happen at schools."  Gonna, indeed.

Heiress Robin Steans, who heads the state education policy group Advance Illinois (authors of SB7), but who has no business (no pun intended) being around public schools, says she's “pleasantly surprised” with the results which she called a more honest assessment of children’s progress.

I'm so glad m'lady approves. So does BBB.
“I actually believe this is much better for our children, in the long run it’s going to help our children to be far more successful in getting ready for college,” schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said of the apparent decrease on a conference call Tuesday.
Steans is "pleasantly surprised"
Ah yes, everything they do is "for our children." That includes closing schools throughout the black community (talk about disruptions) and sending tens of thousands of them across dangerous territory to receiving schools that will become severely overcrowded with swelling class sizes.

Now we learn that according to the latest "revised" test results, that several of the closing schools are making amazing progress, while their receiving schools are sinking like stones.

Of the 48 closing, 23 improved, 23 declined, and one remained the same. The 48th is a high school program whose students don’t take the ISAT.
Some of the biggest gains among the closing schools happened at Bethune Elementary School, which leaped to 38.4 percent meeting or exceeding from an adjusted 22.4 percent. 
A few closed schools outpaced their receiving schools, including Morgan Elementary with 34.9 percent meeting or exceeding, compared with 27.9 percent at Ryder. Of the schools chosen to receive those children, 22 increased their scores, 18 decreased and the rest were not available.
Chopin Elementary dropped to 67.4 percent meeting and exceeding from an adjusted 80.9 percent, while students it will take in from Lafayette Elementary improved a bit to 35 percent meeting or exceeding from an adjusted 33.8 percent. And Manierre, which was spared from closing at the last minute, increased to 30 percent while its intended receiving school, Jenner, dropped to 16.6 percent. -- Sun-Times
Remember CEO Byrd-Bennett promising to send "every" student from closing schools to "a school that is academically better:? I do.

Then there's the matter of teacher evaluations which will soon be based disproportionately on student test scores, and will drive teacher "merit" pay.

We can only wait until next year when the negative effects of massive teacher layoffs, overcrowding, increased school violence, and a longer school year with sweltering class rooms come into play. Ah but don't worry. When it becomes politically expedient, manipulating test score data is a relatively simple matter. Scores can be normed up or down as easily and adjusting a thermostat.

Remember how Arne Duncan was able to ride the Chicago "miracle" all the way to the top of the D.O.E.? I do.

But actually, outside the Bizarro World of corporate-style school reform, none of these scores mean a damn thing with regard to what children are actually learning. From the wildest leaps at Bethune to the sudden dips at Chopin, the ups and downs on test scores have little or nothing to do with anything new or different going on in classrooms and lots to do with what's going on outside, in the lives of children and their families.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TFA in trouble as internal revolt brewing

Teach For America (TFA) which has been used as a wedge against higher paid, veteran teachers in mainly  urban district for years, is now feeling the layoff pinch themselves, according to NBC News Philly..
According to [Isha] Lee, during the 2012 school year, TFAGP had 115 total teachers in Philadelphia. That's down nearly 46 percent compared to a corps size of 252 in school year 2011. And in 2012, only 20 of the 115 corps members were in placed SDP schools; the rest were placed in charter schools. When the district laid off 676 of its teachers last month, all but two of the 20 TFAGP corps members in SDP were included in that number.
TFA claims some growth in Mississippi, according to a report in the Clarion-Ledger.
 Despite large or long-term TFA presences, overall results are still poor in many districts, including Hazlehurst, Holmes County and Greenville. Nationally, some research shows that Teach for America’s members do at least as well as other teachers. But critics say one of the biggest drawbacks is they’re likely to be gone after two years.
It costs TFA about $41,000 over two years to recruit and train a teacher in Mississippi. State taxpayers put up about 60 percent of TFA’s budget here each year. Though some states give public money, Nurnberg said Mississippi’s public share is unusually high. He attributes that to a shallow pool of wealth in Mississippi. The next largest donor to TFA in Mississippi is Arkansas’ Walton Family Foundation.
Non-Profit Quarterly reports that Minnesota hasn’t been all that welcoming to TFA. In May, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton vetoed a $1.5 million TFA earmark in the state budget.
Despite the Waltons’ all-in support, TFA seems to be facing some pushback. One cause is that the short training period results in TFA’s least experienced teachers being placed in classrooms in desperately need of teachers with experience and solid educational training. Another is that in the places where most TFA candidates want to work, there really aren’t teacher shortages, resulting in low-paid, non-union TFA people replacing higher-paid unionized teachers.
Teach for America has been a sacred cow of social enterprise ever since founder Wendy Kopp got the nonprofit going and added Laura Bush as the honorary chair of the TFA board when George W. Bush was elected president. Are we seeing some nonprofit and community leaders becoming willing to challenge this favorite of education reformers?
I wasn't able to attend last weekend's summit meeting of TFA alums at the Free Minds, Free People conference, and am anxiously awaiting a report.

The Atlantic Wire carried a story, "Meet the Teach for America Resistance Movement That's Growing From Within", leading up to the meeting of alumni  who have become outspoken critics of the organization. The anti-TFA summit was also the topic of an earlier piece in American Prospect, "Teach for America's Civil War" and in the Washington Post.

Monday, July 15, 2013


"No justice, no peace!" Protesters gather on Hwy.10 in L.A.

Zimmerman Prosecutor Angela Corey following the verdict
"This case has never been about race..." -- MSNBC post-verdict interview
Anthropologist Sarah Kendzior
Americans should not fear riots. They should fear apathy. They should fear acquiescence.  -- Aljazeera 
Madigan spokesman, Steve Brown
“Somebody asked for help. That’s what public officials do, day in and day out. People ask for help.” -- Sun-Times
 Attorney Heidi Lambros
 “Daley was the boss. His prosecutors took the lead from him. Maybe he truly didn’t know, but he should have.” -- Sun-Times, Former Mayor Richard M. Daley subpoenaed to testify in police-torture case 
Norman Isaacs, principal of L.A.'s  Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts
"We have a $65-million theater and no money to run it." -- L.A. Times

Friday, July 12, 2013

'63 School Boycott revisited

The Hyde Park Union Church was packed last night for the remembrance of the historic 1963 Chicago school boycott. It was the kick-off of this weekend's Free Minds, Free People national conference.

We got a sneak peek at a new Kartemquin film about the boycott (you can watch it here). The highlight of the evening was re-enactment by Civil Rights Opera Project, of the '63 community meeting leading up to the boycott, complete with a SNCC activist up from Mississippi, comedian Dick Gregory, Bill Berry, Daley machine man Bill Dawson, and others. I was hoping for a character portraying  school segregationist villan, Supt. Benjamin Willis, infamous for his notorious Willis Wagons.

Follow-up panelists included Civil Rights Movement veterans Timuel Black and Fannie Rushing.


Today's movement to save our public schools, stop the mass school closings targeted at the city's black community, and against school re-segregation connected with charter expansion and privatization, is part of the legacy of the '63 boycott movement.

The '63 boycott linked the movement in Chicago (most segregated city) with the struggles in Alabama and Mississippi. It shook the very foundations of the Daley machine and institutionalized school segregation.

Missing from last night's program was any mention about what's going on today in Chicago, ie. Rahm Emanuel, school closings, etc...

The boycott strategy was effective then. Could it be again when school opens in the fall? You bet.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Yes it's 2013 and prisoners can finally talk with their families in languages other than English

Chesa Boudin
I'm immensely proud to know Chesa Boudin, a young (damn, he's not a kid any more) super-hero without cape, who seems to pop up whenever the powerless need a voice. 

AP --  Utah prisoners will be allowed to talk with visitors in Spanish or any other language now that a long-standing English-only rule has been scrapped. By Aug. 1, signs in the Utah state prison saying, "All visits will be conducted in English," will be taken down in a policy change ordered by Utah's new prison boss, Rollin Cook.
That will put an end to the nation's only written rule from a state prison system forbidding foreign languages during visits, said Chesa Boudin, a federal public defender in San Francisco and one of three authors of a Yale University law school study that reviewed prison rules across the United States.
"I was shocked," Boudin said  when he learned of the rule. "This is a country that prides itself on its diversity: racially, ethnically, linguistically. Utah, while not the epicenter of immigration in this country, has many language groups."
Then there's Chesa's uncle, Rick Ayers, career educator supreme, armed with a razor-sharp pen. Don't miss Rick's latest jab at TFA -- Doctor for America to Debut This Fall, on Huffington.
What about surgery? "Hey, sometimes you have to use the ambulance personnel, emergency medical technicians, you know? They are pretty awesome. But for a lot of surgery... did you ever see those Civil War movies and those doctors working with saws and tourniquets? Awesome stuff." We will rely on a battery of tests to determine if patients are well and to evaluate how quickly the hospitals manage to move them out.
Hey Rick, I think one of those DFA guys "fixed" my broken finger after my last b-ball injury. Now seems to go off in direction of its own.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chicago's gun violence epidemic worse than L.A. or New York. Why?

Greg Hinz at Crain's has an interesting column today on Chicago's gun violence scourge. Hinz asks U of C researchers and other experts why Chicago leads New York and L.A. in homicides? The answer he comes up with sounds simple and obvious -- the relative abundance of firearms here compared with the two coastal cities -- but it isn't. The U of C people tell him, "it's complicated" (I agree) and that they're still looking at it.  

For one thing, it doesn't explain a 40% jump in gun violence last year on the heels of Rahm Emanuel's election as mayor. I don't have any explanation for that either, but the question is certainly worth asking. A year later, Rahm and Chief McCarthy are cynically high-five-ing the slight decrease in the homicide rate for the first 6-months of 2013 -- "only" 1,000 shootings so far. Although if last weekend is any indication, the death toll could be rising again.

What neither Hinz nor the experts he questions consider as possible explanations, are the higher neighborhood  concentrations of poverty in racially isolated neighborhoods, the city's higher unemployment rate, especially for young people, the mayor's devastating budget cuts in education and social services and the city's policy-driven, ever-widening gap between rich and poor.

Yes, the easy availability of guns is a major factor, especially with bordering Tea-Party led, gun-crazy states like Indiana and Wisconsin nearby, making Chicago's gun-control laws useless.

The greatest fear in the community these days, is that Rahm's closing of some 50 schools, mainly in the black communities on the south and west sides, will drive those numbers even higher as tens off thousands of children are forced to cross rival gang boundaries on the often long trek to receiving schools.

Hinz and the experts he surveys, all tend to look at it mainly as a policing problem. But new deployments of cops and mass arrests of young black and Latino suspected gang members have done little more than fill the  already overcrowded prisons, creating even more devastation for families of both the suspected shooters, their victims and communities in which they live.

I hope that the U of C researchers come up with better data and analysis than that which Hinz is presently receiving.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Reproducing inequality

Back to the Caucasus

My summer session Philosophy of Ed class just finished reading Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow and discussing the role schools often play in reproducing the social order. The framing question my students are asking is: How can I be an ethical, socially conscious teacher in an unjust, inequitable system? Can't wait to read final papers.

The new Jim Crow
Over the weekend, we were handed a gift in the form of a New York Times piece, Has ‘Caucasian’ Lost Its Meaning? by Times economic reporter Shaila Dewan
The use of Caucasian to mean white was popularized in the late 18th century by Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, a German anthropologist, who decreed that it encompassed Europeans and the inhabitants of a region reaching from the Obi River in Russia to the Ganges to the Caspian Sea, plus northern Africans. He chose it because the Caucasus was home to “the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgians,” and because among his collection of 245 human skulls, the Georgian one was his favorite wrote Nell Irvin Painter, a historian who explored the term’s origins in her book “The History of White People.”
Language is an expression of power relationships. Who has the ability and power to define themselves and others and to privilege one language and culture over the other, or declare one "official" and the other not?

Jewish/Israeli charter school franchises. Really?

A charter school operator running a lucrative chain of Jewish charter schools is able to redefine Judiaism as a non-religion to avoid separation of church-and-state issues, even while using his schools to teach from religious texts and celebrate Israeli Independence Day.
For Deutsch, the whole point of Ben Gamla, which opened its first school in Hollywood, Fla., in 2007, is to draw Jewish children who otherwise would attend regular public schools into an environment where their Jewish identity can flourish. -- JTA
Jewish charter schools, run with public tax dollars, explicitly set up to draw kids away from public schools? It sets my mind awhirl with thoughts of the white Christian academies in the 1950s and '60s, created as alternatives to newly-integrated (at least by law) public schools in the south.

Racist attack on Arab language school in N.Y.
I'm also thinking back to 2007 and the anti-Arab uproar in N.Y., led by Bloomberg/Klein and racist N.Y. Post columnist Daniel Pipes, over the opening of the Arab language and culture school, the  Khalil Gibran International Academy. A manufactured crisis over the word “intifada” on a T-shirt made by a local Arab-American organization led to the defaming of the school's  founding principal Debbie Almontaser and ultimately to the school's demise.

In 2009, there was a move to ban all Arabic speech in the Dearborn, Michigan public schools and in Nashville, Tennessee.  And in 2010 there was the banning of a Mexican-American Studies curriculum in Arizona, supported by a court decision a year later.

In Chicago, the closing of public schools, mostly in the black south and west-side communities, while at the same time, opening dozens of new, privately-managed charter schools, is another expression of these racial power relationships, enforced by law.

In the field of sociology, there's a polite name for all of this. It's called social reproduction, emphasizing the structures and policies leading to the transmitting of social inequality from one generation to the next. The schools continue to be arenas in which the battles over social reproduction are continually being played out.