Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let's not lose sight of most dangerous racism

EYES ON THE PRIZE... A great point was made by Rev. Jesse Jackson re. Sterling/Bundy racism. Let's not lose sight of where the real problem lies. The Supreme Court and Congress are making changes in the law that will deprive millions of opportunity and equal justice. We should keep our eyes on the prize, and hold on.
The gang of five conservative justices on the Supreme Court has disemboweled the Voting Rights Act, making prior review more difficult. This comes as right-wing governors and legislators are passing harsh laws designed clearly to make voting harder ­— limiting when the polls are open, demanding official ID, purging voter files, abandoning same day registration, outlawing voting on Sunday, when black churches could organize parishioners to take their “souls to the polls.”
CICS teachers get organized.
GOOD NEWS...Another privately-operated Chicago charter school chain has moved closer to unionizing, putting it in line to becoming the 29th charter school in the city to join the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff. Employees at a fourth Chicago International Charter School (CICS) campus have moved closer to forming a union. Most teachers and staff at ChicagoQuest, a CICS middle and high school that opened in 2011, voted in favor of union representation during an informal election held in December.
The non-profit CICS holds the charter to operate Chicago Quest and 14 other schools in the city, but contracts out the management responsibility to five providers. One of the providers is Civitas Schools, a for-profit, limited liability corporation set up by CICS that manages operations at the three CICS schools that unionized in 2009. -- Catalyst
OUTLAWS...  Pakistani authorities said Wednesday they have jailed and intend to charge Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s former city comptroller Amer Ahmad after taking him into custody Monday with a fake Mexican passport, a forged visa to enter their country and a large amount of cash. --- PE&O

Then there's Former Illinois State Rep. Keith Farnham who was one of the Dems who voted for the great pension theft. Turns out that was his upside. At least while he was voting to steal retirees' money, he wasn't out raping little girls. Farnham was charged Monday with using both personal and state-owned computers to trade hundreds of images and videos depicting child pornography and engage in graphic online chats in which he allegedly bragged about sexually molesting a 6-year-old girl.

BURNING BRIDGES? I sure hope not. But be sure and follow the running dialogue between  me and my friend Deb Meier at Bridging Differences. It's her turn next.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

20,000 homeless CPS students. Not an 'excuse' but a reality.

Homeless Jesus statue unveiled in Chicago. But 20,000 homeless students remain invisible. 
I and many others have been trying to make the case for years, that children's lived experiences outside of school have as great, or even greater impact on measurable learning outcomes than anything that goes on in the classroom. Conditions of poverty, homelessness, poor medical care, pandemic violence, poor nutrition, etc.. all play major roles in shaping the student's connection to school.

Of course, great teachers, small classes and small, well-equipped schools, along with good school district, state and federal policies and leadership can do much to counter or soften the negative impact of poverty but nevertheless, today's widening poverty gap explains most of what is called, the "achievement gap."

In today's test-crazy school environment, the above statement is often attacked by corporate reformers as "making excuses" or "defending the status quo." But the facts are stubborn fellows and can't be dismissed so easily.

Take as a case in point Monday's public meeting by a state task force, which concluded that homelessness and transportation are two big reasons why so many Chicago Public Schools students are truant and that mass school closings in black and Latino neighborhoods have intensified the problem. The task force estimated that 20,000 CPS students do not have a stable place to live.
"Homelessness is not always those who live on the street or in shelters but also those staying with family and friends on a regular basis," said Antoinette Taylor, chairwoman of the 42-member Truancy in Chicago Public Schools Task Force. "And because of school closings it has forced students to travel even farther to get to school." -- DNAinfo
According to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, there were 2,615 homeless students attending the 99 schools that are being closed or scheduled to receive closing schools.

The Coalition warned Byrd-Bennett and Rahm about the potential consequences of the school closings and turnarounds for homeless students last May.
Under the massive plan, another 28 schools are impacted – five schools will become “turnarounds,” with all teaching and support staff fired and replaced, and 23 grade and high schools will undergo 11 “co-locations” in shared buildings. When including all 127 schools impacted by closure/mergers, turnaround and co-locations, a total of 41,096 students will be impacted, and  3,607 students (8.8%) are homeless.
Let's see what, if anything will change now that the task force has heard from community voices.

YESTERDAY'S CLASS -- Malcolm London, Schuette, Rocketship...

THANKS MALCOLM...Thanks to brilliant, young Chicago poet/activist/educator Malcolm X London from Young Chicago Authors for his guest lecture in my class yesterday. My students, all aspiring teachers, were bowled over as Malcolm recounted his experiences as a Chicago high school student and then read two of his latest epic poems. If you're not familiar with his work, High School Training Ground, performed here at his TED talk, is a good place to start.

SCHUETTE...The students have all expressed righteous revulsion and indignation at the racist spews of Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling. But only a couple were aware enough of the biggest blow against racial equality, the one that will likely impact the lives of millions of students and their families, to recognize the name, Schuette. The Supreme Court's decision, which has pretty much flown under the media radar -- both mainstream and social media -- has opened the door for states, both red and blue, to end affirmative action programs in hiring and college admissions. It's being called this court's Plessy v. Ferguson.

A comment or two from the President and his education chief would certainly help bring some awareness to the Schuette decision and not leave his own Court appointee, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, hanging in the wind. But  don't expect a peep out of either of them.

ROCKETSHIP... "The fact that what's considered the gold standard for poor students in Milwaukee is considered unacceptable for kids in the suburbs is just wrong." -- Economist Gordon Lafer

The Rocketship charter school chain which originated in California and has spread to Wisconsin, with the enthusiastic support of state legislators and the local chamber of commerce in Milwaukee, is "a low-budget operation that relies on young and inexperienced teachers rather than more veteran and expensive faculty, that reduces curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on reading and math, and that replaces teachers with online learning and digital applications for a significant portion of the day," says Lafer

With no gym, art class, librarians, or significant science or social studies, Rocketship provides a stripped-down program of study with a heavy focus on standardized tests. Because of its extraordinarily high teacher turnover (the chain relies heavily on Teach for America volunteers), its large classes, and reductive curriculum, Rocketship subjects kids most in need of consistent, nurturing, adult attention to low-quality instruction and neglect. That model, which is also on display in Milwaukee's low-performing voucher schools, is demonstrably harmful to kids. But it has generated big profits for wealthy investors.

Readers may remember who's been pushing the Rocketship brand the hardest here in Chicago. Rahm pal, Timothy Knowles, director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute pumped the discredited charter privateer company back in 2012 in Chicago Magazine as part of a plan to turn the Windy City into the "Silicon Valley of the midwest".

Knowles wrote:
 “In California, the Aspire Public Schools and Rocketship Education charter schools have exceptional schools and the appetite to grow. Critically, they do it at the same per-pupil spending as we get in Chicago. Imagine that on a Chicago-size scale.
“No other U.S. city holds this mantle of education innovation. It would cost a couple hundred million. But Rahm, working together with the local education talent and the business and philanthropic communities, could make this happen in 12 months. And the payback for children would be long lasting.”
Payback indeed. Duck, kids!

Monday, April 28, 2014


A SMALLTALK SALUTE goes out to NBA Players Assoc. Pres. Chris Paul and the rest of the L.A. Clippers players who hung together in protest against the racism spewed by club owner Donald Sterling. Even though they were beaten by Golden State last night, they acted with dignity and grace. Though their protest was silent, nobody could mistake the clarity and forcefulness of their message.

STERLING -- "Don't bring them to my games."  EMANUEL -- "Don't bring them to my selective enrollment schools."  WHAT'S THE DIFF? Somebody tell me please.

From the Sun-Times:
The increase in the number of white students fulfills the predictions of education observers that minority students would be edged out of slots at the city’s top schools as a result of a 2009 ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras lifting a 1980 consent decree that had required Chicago’s schools to be desegregated, with no school being more than 35 percent white. -- "White students getting more spots at top CPS high schools"
Kocoras' 2009 decision came only a long, intense campaign to have the consent decree vacated, led by Arne Duncan, his successor Ron Huberman and Mayor Daley, who saw the deseg struggle as futile and as a drain on district funds.

I'll say one thing about Duncan. He's consistent. He's against "forced integration." Although he did support a little affirmative action for the daughter of billionaire Bruce Rauner.

As we approach the 60th anniversary of the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, it is a good time to acknowledge that the tools that dismantled Jim Crow 60 years ago are inadequate to address systemic inequality today. We need new tools to repair a socioeconomic, political and judicial system that, despite the numerous gains made in the last 60 years, remains separate and unequal. -- Modern racists just repeat conservative talking points: Donald Sterling, Cliven Bundy and the ugly face of GOP policies


Justice Sonia Sotomayor's brilliant dissent   
“In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable...The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”  -- Schuette v. BAMN
Civil rights attorney Shanta Driver
“This is a racist decision that takes us back to an era of state’s rights...The old Jim Crow [law] is now the new Jim Crow.” -- FOX News
John Cassidy
Did you see the statement from President Obama criticizing Tuesday’s SCOTUS decision upholding a Michigan ban on race-based college admissions? No, neither did I. (White House spokesman Jay Carney said the President had no immediate comment.) -- New Yorker
Mokoto Rich
In effect, Walton has subsidized an entire charter school system in the nation’s capital, helping to fuel enrollment growth so that close to half of all public school students in the city now attend charters, which receive taxpayer dollars but are privately operated. -- NYT: "A Walmart Fortune, Spreading Charter Schools"
Economist Gordon Lafer
"The fact that what's considered the gold standard for poor students in Milwaukee is considered unacceptable for kids in the suburbs is just wrong."  -- Public School Shakedown

Friday, April 25, 2014

More two-tier schooling in Rahm's Chicago

A couple of items before I shut down SmallTalk for the weekend and get busy on Bridging Differences with Deb Meier.

First is Rahm's decision to use $60 million from his TIF slush fund towards another selective-enrollment high school, this one named Obama College Prep, in the upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood. On the bad side, the planned school is too big. It's too selective and it's in the wrong location. On the good side...give me a minute.

Remember, the mayor just closed 50 schools in black and Latino neighborhoods on the south and west sides.

TWEET from Chicago poet Kevin Coval:
to b built on the grave of Cabrini Green It'll b selective enrollment We are ensuring a city for some rather than ALL
West Side activist Dwayne Truss called an Obama High near Halsted and Division “a slap to both black families and children.” Truss said the money planned for the school should be used “to provide adequate funding for all of Chicago’s neighborhood schools rather than cater to wealthy middle-class families the school is targeting.”

Pretty soon I expect to see selective enrollment schools popping up on every other north-side corner -- like Walgreens or Starbucks. Walter Payton (Bruce Rauner's fave is only a couple of blocks away). Then there's the super-selective IB program at Lincoln Park H.S. just down the road, which could be decimated by the new POTUS High. I can also imagine things getting intense as wealthy LP homeowners compete for seats in the new facility. I saw this happen a few years ago when wealthy suburban New Trier parents went to war over seats in the new school that was planned to relieve overcrowding. In that case, the competition was over who could stay at prestigious New Trier. It was resolved by turning the new building into a freshman campus.

South side parents and students at New Trier in 2008.
A FEW YEARS BACK... I rode the buses with hundreds of south-side students and their parents, up to Winnetka to try and register them at New Trier. Of course we knew that African-American kids whose parents could only dream of owning property on the North Shore, would not be allowed to enroll at Rahm's (and Donald Rumsfeld's) alma mater. But the demonstration did draw lots of media and the real issue of two-tier public education got some play in the press that week.

I assume the same issue will get lots of play here in the city as work on the new school gets underway and the 2015 elections draw near.

RAHMLAND...Speaking of 2015 and Rahm's plummeting ratings, the ego-maniacal little emperor made sure that the major CNN series Chicagoland would run like a paid campaign ad. He used his clout, his family connections and his boys to keep the propaganda series on message, especially about his school closings.

According to the Tribune:

More than 700 emails reviewed by the Tribune reveal that the production team worked hand in hand with the mayor's advisers to develop storylines, arrange specific camera shots and review news releases officially announcing the show.
Creator and executive producer Marc Levin [represented by Ari Emanuel's William Morris Agency] made a pitch to the mayor's office last May as Emanuel's hand-picked school board was two days away from a vote to close nearly 50 schools.
"This is a real opportunity to highlight the Mayors leadership – his ability to balance the need for reform and fiscal reality with compassion for affected communities and concern for the safety of Chicago's school children," Levin wrote of the school closings to Emanuel senior adviser David Spielfogel and two press aides. "We need the mayor on the phone in his SUV, in city hall with key advisers and his kitchen cabinet and meeting with CPS head BBB (Barbara Byrd-Bennett) and with CPD (Superintendent Garry) McCarthy."

Bundy's Racist Moocher Army Headed for Motown?

Cliven Bundy's moocher Army.
BREAKING... Justice Scalia announces he is deputizing Cliven Bundy and his Nevada moocher army to ride herd on Schuette decision. Moochers were last seen headed for Michigan to put down any  protests and to graze their cattle for free on the overgrown fields in Detroit. Their banner reads, "Slavery Worked Better. Let's Do it Again."

 “As Justice Harlan observed over a century ago, '[o]ur Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.'" -- Daily Kos
Yes, Scalia doesn't see color and has no class.

RACE MATTERS...Teacher unions spoke out forcefully on Schuette.

Randi Weingarten attacked the decision.
This ruling, taken with the Supreme Court's evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, takes us backward on racial equality. We agree with Justice Sotomayor that "this refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable."
So did NEA Pres. Dennis Van Roekel:
“Having spent 23 years in the classroom, I saw first-hand the important role diversity played in the classroom and how learning from people with different backgrounds and perspectives can benefit all students, our workforce and our country as a whole...Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, we find ourselves still separate and unequal, and the fight wages on to level the uneven playing field."
Progressive education bloggers and anti-testers...not so much. A blind spot?

The NEA, representing more than 3 million educators and joined by the MEA and SEIU, filed an amicus brief urging the Court to uphold affirmative action.

JOSE VILSON writes, "...when Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented in the recent affirmative action case, I nodded like my head was about to fall off."

STILL WAITING to hear something...anything on this landmark decision coming from POTUS OR Sec. Duncan. Is Obama going to leave is appointee Sotomayor hanging in the racist wind?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Schuette Decision -- This generation's Plessy vs. Ferguson

Justice Sonia Sotomayor: Affirmative Action ‘Opened Doors in My Life'
It's not surprising that the right-wing and conservative ed bloggers in particular, are applauding the Supreme Court's racist Schuette decision. The decision, called "this court's Plessy vs. Ferguson" by Shanta Driver, the attorney who argued the case before the Supreme Court, essentially puts the nail in the coffin of affirmative action plans in states like Michigan, where T-baggers like Gov. Snyder rule the roost.

Among the worst defenders of Schuette is EdWeek blogger Frederick Hess who slammed Justice Sonia Sotomayor for her dissenting vote. He accuses her of "thundering" that judges "ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society."

Sotomayor said the court "eviscerates" a key equal-protection guarantee that government should not make it harder for minorities to participate in self-government.
"I cannot ignore the unfortunate outcome of today's decision: Short of amending the state constitution, a Herculean task, racial minorities in Michigan are deprived of even an opportunity to convince Michigan's public colleges and universities to consider race in their admissions plans when other attempts to achieve racial diversity are unnecessarily hobbled in their pursuit of a diverse student body," Sotomayor wrote in dissent.
Thanks for your thunder, Justice Sotomayor.

According to Hess, who doubles as a spokesman for conservative think-tank AEI,
 One way that citizens in a big, diverse country can find its way is to recognize the right of other citizens to live under different rules. Too often of late, in education and elsewhere, the smug and self-impressed have sought to impose their vision of the good on the nation. 
Sorry, Mr. Hess, when it comes to racial equality under the law, the question of "different rules" for different states was supposedly settled by the Civil Rights Act 60 years ago. Civil rights, including the right to overthrow long-standing and embedded white affirmative action in hiring, housing, education, etc... are not just the property of the "smug and self-impressed", they were won both in the courts and in the streets. But it's a battle that will have to continue being fought, as the Schuette decision shows.

I'm hoping for lots more thunder and a louder and more militant opposition voice and mass protests coming from the ranks of students, labor and ed activists. The Schuette decision, which allows states the right to eliminate affirmative action and ban any reference to race in admission decisions is a real blow to black, Latino and low-income families for whom college is growing less and less accessible.

How can we fight racism when we can't name it?

But it wasn't just the far-right who were connecting with Schuette. Some liberals were also enamored with the court's "race neutral" rhetoric. Take Richard Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, for example. While Kahlenberg was critical of the decision as "discouraging for racial diversity", he says there's "good news" as well since, "there are alternative ways to achieve diversity that can also deal with economic inequalities.”
“Fortunately, there are proven race neutral policies that universities can, and have already adopted to deliver more opportunities for minority students to enroll in, and succeed at college."
I'm still not sure what "race-neutral" means, especially in this period when racial gaps in education are growing wider. Is this really the post-racial era as some claim? How can we fight racism and racial discrimination when the word race is banned? And does Kahlenberg really believed that states like Michigan will enact affirmative action plans that "deliver more opportunities to minority students" post-Schuette?

I can't help but thinking back to Arne Duncan's announced opposition to so-called "forced racial integration" and his failure to have the back of Atty. Gen. Eric Holder in suit against the state of Louisiana's "choice" program and wondering if this didn't open the door for the Supremes?

Racist Rand Paul in Chicago
And speaking of smug and self-impressed, there was Tuesday's sponsorship of Rand Paul's appearance at a Chicago private school last week by the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS). Paul calls for rolling back the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying it impinges on the "freedom" of business owners to serve whomever they choose. Paul used the Chicago speech to promote so-called "school choice" programs as a way of expanding Republican influence in cities like Chicago. No wonder the charter hustlers like him.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Gresham Students
Despite strong community opposition, the Board of Education prepared to wipe clean teachers and staff at three schools designated for "turnaround" at its monthly meeting Wednesday. -- DNAInfo

Here's a statement by the Chicago Teachers Union on today's CPS decision to "turnaround" three elementary schools:
CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released the following statement upon news that the Chicago Board of Education voted to “turn around” three elementary schools on the city's South and West sides. The move will transfer the schools’ authority to a politically connected business organization with ties to city hall:

“Today’s hostile takeover of three of our neighborhood school communities by the mayor’s handpicked Board of Education makes it quite clear that there is a war on older, African-American teachers and administrators, as well as the school communities in which they serve,” said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

“After being starved of resources for many consecutive years, Dvorak, Gresham and McNair, three promising elementary schools, were set up for failure by our school district. While we are proud of the members we have working in 'turnaround schools' operated by the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL), our issue is that this dubious, corporate reform model has proven to do little but take over schools discredited by CPS and then, after receiving millions of dollars in support, take credit for the sudden but short-lived academic success among students.

“Nearly a year ago we witnessed thousands of parents, community leaders, clergy, educators and students begging to be heard as the Board destroyed nearly 50 schools. Today parents, administrators and teachers were forced to beg the Board of Ed for the right to a future, only to be slapped down and have their cries fall on deaf ears. Where are the leaders in our school district who are protecting the interests of these students and their constituents? This is why we stand strong in our call for a democratically elected, representative school board.”

Rahm finds $100M for air conditioners. Does Ari have an A/C company client?

A cool $100M for A/C. 
A hundred million here. A hundred million there. It soon adds up.

But that doesn't seem to be a problem for Chicago's mayor, who can always find $100M lying around whenever he needs it for one of his favorite projects. It just so happens that contributing the city's required share to the pension fund or paying teachers and municipal employees what they deserve is not one of those projects.

This week, air conditioners are.
Chicago Public Schools put a $100 million price tag Tuesday on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s sudden mandate to air-condition classrooms in 206 schools, even as CPS faces a $1 billion shortfall and many other pressing capital needs.
Irony is that the CTU pushed to make air-conditioned classrooms, especially following Rahm's longer-school-year mandate, part of the contract negotiations back in 2011. The mayor's response then was:
“Everything here is down to two final issues, and it’s not air conditioning, OK? ...We don’t go on strike for air conditioning.”
The change in course wasn’t lost on the teachers. “We were told it wasn’t possible to get, it was cost prohibitive. They couldn’t promise us and we would create a committee to discuss it. That committee hasn’t met. We never discussed it,” CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey said. -- Sun-Times
The number of schools without air conditioning, 1 in 4,  is about the same as the number of CPS schools without libraries or librarians.

Rahm & Ari.
My guess is that brother Ari or one of his pals must have a stake in the air-conditioning business. Maybe like Ari's stake in Uber, the web-based share-ride firm being hailed as the new alternative to taxi cabs. It's also become a favorite of the Mayor who's greasing the way for Uber to create hell-on-earth for cabbies everywhere.
Christian Muirhead, a spokesman for Ari Emanuel’s William Morris Endeavor agency, confirmed Tuesday that the agency continues to hold a stake in Uber. In a phone call from the agency’s offices in Beverly Hills, Muirhead said he couldn’t provide the exact size of the investment. “We made a minimal investment in Uber a few years ago,” he said. Minimal is, obviously, a relative term. Uber has reaped total investments of more than $410.6 million, according to PrivCo, a provider of financial information about private companies. -- Politics Early & Often
To paraphrase former Mayor Richard J. Daley: If a man can't reach out and help his own brother, what kind of society are we living in?

The city's cab drivers haven't had an increase in 9 years and are now trying to unionize. Good move cabbies.
Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the 17,000-member New York Taxi Workers Alliance and the president of the National Taxi Workers Alliance called cabdrivers among the “most exploited” workers in America because they are universally “misclassified” as independent contractors. But she called the working conditions for Chicago cabbies a new low. “It’s unacceptable to have conditions where thousands of taxi drivers are earning below minimum wage after laboring 60 to 70 back-breaking hours” a week, Desai said. -- Sun-Times
 I can relate. I wish we had a union back in the days when I was driving for American United and going to school at night to get my doctorate.

In Chicago, it's profits uber alles.

NO SURPRISE HERE...Guess what? Out of the 10 ten schools named best in the state by USNWR, 5 are CPS schools. All 10 have union teachers. And there's not one charter school or virtual school in the bunch. Go figure.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

'The reform movement in US is led by a bunch of Ivy Leaguers, obsessed with data.'

Jiang Xueqin
Quotable Jiang Xueqin

In December, China stunned the world when the most widely used international education assessment revealed that Shanghai’s schools now outperform those of any other country—not only in math and science but also in reading. Some education experts have attributed these results to recent reforms undertaken by the Chinese government. Jiang Xueqin has been active in Chinese education since 1998, when as a Yale undergraduate he taught for six months at one of the top high schools in China, Beida Fuzhong, or the Affiliated High School of Peking University.
The reform movement in the US is led by a bunch of Ivy League people who are obsessed with data. They have allies in the media like Thomas Friedman and are bankrolled by billionaires like Bill Gates. They want to bring “accountability” to the American school system. That means testing. They use China as the Yellow Peril. “If our kids can’t do math, China is going to kick our ass. Our kids are going to end up as Chinese slaves.” The media loves it because fear sells.
 It is amazing to see it. You have this system in the US that’s great for elites but is not so great for everyone else. In China you have a country trying to create an elite system. -- NY Review, "Solving China's Schools".

Monday, April 21, 2014

Let's do it again in 2015

WE DID IT...I love this post card that came in the mail today from the Guzzardi campaign. We sure did. Let's do it again.

NOBODY'S BUYING Rahm's or McCarthy's claims about dwindling gun violence in Chicago. It all depends on whose neighborhood you're talking about.  Even doctoring the data didn't help the Rahm brand. After this latest bloody Easter weekend  -- at least 9 dead, 44 wounded -- the best Rahm and McCarthy can come up with as part of "Operation Impact" is cops on bikes. Give me a break.

U.S. Attorney Fardon announces "special unit"
So the feds are sending in a special unit. More bad press for Rahm in a city that's out of control. And control is what the 1%ers brought him in for. What's next? The Untouchables? Marshall law? Drones? Afghan troop redeployment? Is that what Rahm plans to run on in 2015?

Rahm says he supports the feds' intervention in Chicago.
"When (U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon) first came into office, this is exactly what we talked about," Emanuel said. 
But if he really supported it, he would at least know what the IT is. Don't you think?
"I don't know whether it means more resources, I don't know what it exactly is, but I'm pleased they're doing it."
Rahm is on the defensive as his ratings plummet and at least two viable potential opposition candidates wait in the wings. He lashes out at parents and community residents, accusing them of  "not living by a moral code" or instilling "the right values" in their children. Wrong answer, Mr. Mayor.

Rahm - "They have to live by a moral code."
TRUTH IS there's not much sense blaming the cops either. There's not enough of them, they're concentrated in the wrong places, and they only come into play on the back end of the gun violence. Only small part of the violence in Chicago is a policing or law-and-order issue. Guns are flowing more freely than ever into the inner city and both Congress and the IL Legislature are too scared of the NRA to do anything besides talk about sensible gun-control, even with a Dem governor and Dem majority in both IL houses.

TALE OF TWO CITIES...Concentrated poverty and a widening wealth gap; rising black youth joblessness; wide open drug market, draconian cuts in social services, massive school closings contributing to growing blight on the south and west sides, death-culture profiteering, are the real issues.

Filling the jails (the New Jim Crow) with young black men has only made things worse, much worse. The Feds should send in a "Special Unit" to deal with those things I just listed?

Yes, let's do it again in 2015.


Jim Hightower
The grubby little secret of today's ivory tower is that it is being propped up by an ever-growing, exploited underclass of educators. "Adjunct professors," they're called, and the term itself is a measure of the disrespect they're shown. -- Hightower Lowdown
Ras Baraka
"Today, the ministers of Newark have joined me in calling for a moratorium on the destructive One Newark Plan to close our schools, a plan already being implemented against the will of the people of Newark.” -- Diane Ravitch Blog
LaGuardia Dance Teacher Michelle Mathesius
“We find it ironic and extremely worrisome that, in this era of increasing accountability, the most talented children are refused admittance to the very school where their talent could be recognized and developed, while applicants with higher grades and test scores, but less talent, are accepted instead. Such a practice is more than unjust: it is discrimination, pure and simple, a disservice to the children of this city.” -- N.Y. Times
Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam
 “You have this unlikely marriage of folks on the far right who are convinced this [Common Core] is part of a federal takeover of local education, who have joined hands with folks on the left associated with teachers unions who are trying to sever any connection between test results and teacher evaluation.” -- N.Y. Times

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sun-Times editors know exactly what's wrong with 'turnaround' strategy

The Sun-Times editorial board has things all figured out. They know exactly why Byrd-Bennett's "radical" plan to turn more schools over to the private turnaround operators at AUSL will be a disaster. They say so themselves:
Radical, indeed. This treatment rips a community apart, including many teachers who sought out the toughest assignments only then to be unfairly blamed for the conditions they sought to improve.
They even have some clues as to why at least one of those schools, Gresham Elementary, is struggling and that it's little fault of their own.
[Gresham Principal] Brown deserves to be heard loud and clear in one area. She claims that CPS policies destabilized Gresham, contributing to its decline — and it’s hard to argue with her. For months last year, Gresham was on a closure list because of low enrollment. It was spared, but that undoubtedly hurt the school climate, and test scores dropped last spring. And this year, after a deal to share its building with a charter school fell through in August, Gresham’s budget was cut. Brown lost six positions, including three teachers and two adults who worked on social and emotional development with parents and students.
CPS acknowledges these destabilizing forces — and here’s the worst part — but said other candidates for a turnaround had undergone even greater recent changes.
So the S-T board knows exactly what's going on here. They know that the cause of the problem is not the school's nor the teachers' but rather, CPS neglect and mis-leadership. And they know that turnaround is the wrong answer for the the challenges facing neighborhood schools. They also know that the turnaround plan will further destabilize neighborhoods and demoralize hard working and committed teachers.

So naturally, being who they are, they come out WHOLEHEARTEDLY IN SUPPORT of the turnaround plan. Why? Because they saw an early study of turnaround schools by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, which they say, showed that while AUSL controlled schools remained low-achieving, their test scores went up slightly.

And to the education experts on the S-T editorial board, that's all that matters.


Tuesday's protest to save Gresham        (Sun-Times)
DIEDRUS BROWN...the principal of embattled Gresham Elementary on Chicago's south side, continued her very vocal fight Tuesday to save her school from undergoing a so-called “turnaround” — but this time with about 40 teachers, parents and students marching with her.

SUSPENSIONS...Dozens of students marched from Chicago Public Schools headquarters to the Thompson Center Wednesday in support of state legislation that would set new limits on suspensions and expulsions. The march, organized by Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, protested alleged bias in school disciplinary practices and backed state Senate Bill 3004 setting stricter standards for offenses that can result in suspension or expulsion.
"We're not asking for no discipline," said Mariama Bangura, a junior at Roosevelt High School and a youth leader for VOYCE and the Albany Park Neighborhood Council. "We're asking for common-sense discipline." -- DNAinfo
KAREN LEWIS is on the case. The CTU prez has an op-ed in yesterday's S-T, making no bones about where the union stands on school closings and on Rahm's wild expansion of this city's privately-run charter schools.
CTU believes instead that there should be a moratorium on charter school expansion because the 20-year experiment has proven to be too costly, too disruptive, and it did not deliver on its promises. 
Lewis' piece comes in response to an April 11th op-ed by DFER's Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, which cynically called on the CTU to join them in closing even more "under-performing" Chicago schools.

DON'T FORGET to Bop For Democracy Monday, April 21 from 6-9 p.m. at the Velvet Lounge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New study on inequity and teacher "effectiveness" misses the mark

Yes, there's lots of evidence to show poor kids and children of color are generally being taught by teachers with less experience (or no experience) which puts them at a severe disadvantage. But the Huffington headline calling schools "racist" is one-sided and misleading. Credit instead should go to Race To The Top. To TFA. To the power philanthropists, corporate reformers, re-segregationists and private charter operators. They all contribute on this.

But a recent study from Center For American Progress takes this worthwhile exposure of discrimination and inequality to a different level. After basing their study on the new evaluation practices and teacher rating systems now in place in Louisiana and Massachusetts and accepting the premise that teacher quality can be assessed entirely or mainly on the basis of student test scores, (La. requires every teacher to be evaluated, with 50% of the evaluation rating based on test scores or  "student growth") they conclude that minority students have "less effective teachers" in general.

My problem with this broader, negative assessment of teachers who teach in schools with high concentrations of poverty, is that it measures the symptom and not the cause of the so-called achievement gap. The results from tests that are being used to measure teacher effectiveness are often correlating more with parent income, rather than what students are actually learning or anything going on in the classroom. And the so-called VAM or value-added model of teacher evaluation has already been proven to be flawed and unreliable. In Florida, for example,  hundreds of teachers were evaluated based on test scores of students they never taught or in subject areas they didn't teach.


The Value-Added Metric Used to Evaluate Teachers
y = Xβ + Zv + ε where β is a p-by-1 vector of fixed effects; X is an n-by-p matrix; v is a q-by-1 vector of random effects; Z is an n-by-q matrix; E(v) = 0, Var(v) = G; E(ε) = 0, Var(ε) = R; Cov(v,ε) = 0. V = Var(y) = Var(y - Xβ) = Var(Zv + ε) = ZGZT + R.

Studies like this and the recommendations that follow, miss the point. It's not just a matter of more and better professional development or redistributing effective and experienced teachers to resourced-starved or low-performing schools -- although that could help. Instead there needs to be more valid and reliable ways of evaluating and sustaining teachers as well as a focus on equity, desegregation, and improving the conditions, in and out of school, of students and families living in poverty.

Otherwise the focus shift entirely on teachers and we get to the point where the same teachers who are rated "highly-effective" when they are teaching in higher-income schools will suddenly be rated "ineffective" when teaching low-income kids. Not a good way to incentive-ize a more equitable distribution of teaching talent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Following up on this morning's Jackie Robinson post where I pointed out that Jackie's family had been part of the great black migration from the plantation South. They migrated in the 1930s to southern California and settled in Pasadena where there were lots of jobs in a booming defense industry as well as a burgeoning black community.

Pasadena was actually founded in 1886 by Midwestern entrepreneurs, most of them anti-slavery Republicans (one of John Brown's sons is buried here.)  The First African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1888, followed by Friendship Baptist and other black houses of worship. New groups like the Afro-American League, also founded in 1888, and a black newspaper, The Enterprise, added to the sense of community and focused attention on a series of racial incidents. A white streetcar worker was shot by a black in a dispute over a few coins in 1903, leading to an attempt to bar blacks from all local restaurants. 
The city's NAACP chapter began in 1919, one of the first in the state. Insults to black Pasadenans continued. The public swimming pool at Brookside Park was open to blacks only once a week--on "International Day," just before its weekly cleaning. NAACP lawyers sued, but the practice continued until 1944.
Jackie's older Mack, was also an outstanding Pasadena athlete and placed second to Jesse Owens in the 200-meter run at the 1936 Olympics. Returning home after two years of college in Oregon, however, the only city job he found open to him was cleaning sewers. "I looked forward to a hero's welcome," he said, "but the family greeted me and that was basically it."

But as late as 1986, a headline in the L.A. Times read: Black People Find Pasadena to Be an Island of Opportunity.

Fast forward to today where Pasadena is home to the Rose Bowl, Cal Tech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but has lost about one-quarter of it's black population in the past decade. 
A lack of affordable housing and shifts in the real estate market spurred black families to leave town, according to observers, while Asian families from around the San Gabriel Valley opted for a Pasadena address. The number of whites and Latinos, who together represent more than 60% of city residents, changed little between 2000 and 2010. But the city saw a 24% reduction in the number of black residents, from more than 19,000 to 14,650. The number of Asians and Pacific Islanders grew 46%, from 13,500 to nearly 20,000. -- Glendale News Press
Pasadena Housing Department Senior Project Manager Jim Wong says:
“Right now the federal government is cutting back on affordable housing programs, and in California there’s legislation on the books that would eliminate redevelopment housing,” Wong said. “I don’t think the city is going to be fully meeting its needs, certainly not in the very near future.”
  “No city in the country is meeting their affordable housing needs; the resources aren't there,” he said. “Pasadena, compared to other cities, is ahead of the game.”


Eddie Farmer, 75, lives with belongings thrown on the curb after a foreclosure next door to his home  in the Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. (Chicago Tribune)
THE WHITENING OF THE CITIES...Soaring rents are driving poor and middle-class folks, especially African-Americans out of the cities. A major factor along with loss of jobs, evictions, foreclosures,school closings in targeted black communities, gun violence, and draconian cuts in city services, ie. health clinics, markets, etc... Here in Chicago, rent as a percentage of income has risen to 31%, from a historical average of 21%. In New Orleans, it has more than doubled, to 35% from 14%. In L.A. it's 47%. -- NY Times

HOW BAD CAN THEY BE? I'm still trying to wrap my brain around this interesting data set. Chicago's privately-run charter schools expel students at a vastly higher rate than the rest of the district. But even with their push-out of so-called low-performing students (mostly poor, black & Latino), these same charters continue to score below the very traditional CPS schools they are trying to replace. I mean, what's up with that, charter hustlers?

HOW ABOUT SOME COMMON CORE STANDARDS when it come to corporal punishment directed at black children in Mississippi schools?
In Holmes County, where 99 percent of the public school children are black, students say corporal punishment traditionally starts at daycare and Head Start centers, where teachers rap preschool-age students lightly with rulers and pencils, cautioning: “Just wait until you get to big school.” -- The Nation
42...It was the great W.E.B. DuBois who wrote: "...the problem of the 20th Century is the problem of color line." The great American tragedy is that well into the 21st Century, it still is.

Today is the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking through baseball's color line in 1947. Arguably this country's greatest athlete (not just in baseball), Jackie's story is also a story of the great migration of African-Americans from the Jim Crow South. In this case, from Cairo, Ga. to Pasadena where he became a multi-sport great talent and football star at John Muir High School and then at Pasadena City College and UCLA.

He's also the reason, despite living in Chicago since 1975 and aside from growing up in a left-wing family in L.A., I remain a loyal Dodger fan.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are you ready to rumble? Looks like we have a candidate.

“What happened to the hundreds of children from closed schools who never made it the welcoming schools on the West and South Sides?” Fioretti said.
It's cold and gloomy outside. But I'm smiling ear to ear. Here's why.

Ald. Bob Fioretti just gave a powerful speech at the City Club. It was a solid left hook to Rahm's jaw and sounded to everyone like the opening salvo in the 2015 race for mayor. And guess what? He received a standing O from not only CTU Pres. Karen Lewis, but from the suit-and-tie business folks as well. It looks like it's not just the 99% that are fed up with Rahm's arrogance, bullying, divisiveness, and mismanagement.

From the Sun-Times:
 Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) on Monday accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of presiding over the “widening of Chicago into two cities” and hinted strongly at a race for mayor. With Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis cheering him on from the City Club audience, Fioretti unveiled a liberal, pro-union agenda that would make newly-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proud.
From DNAInfo:
Fioretti's speech was met with a standing ovation from the crowd of local business leaders. In his keynote speech, the 2nd Ward alderman reflected on his seven years in office — and especially on the Emanuel administration's last three years at the helm.
"There are the kind of problems that are preventable: the kind that those in the Emanuel administration either chose to create or stumbled into without thinking through the impacts."
Fioretti called the mental health clinic closures "inexcusable" and added it to a long list of "ill-founded policy decisions" he said point to "a basic issue of competency" within the Emanuel administration.
"If you turn your back on communities, you shouldn't be mayor," he said. "If you close schools in communities when 20,000 people come out, you shouldn't be mayor. If all you're concerned about is raising the money to fend off anybody that's going to run against you, you have a problem as mayor.
Fioretti read from poet Coval's "Two Cities"
 In closing, Fioretti read an excerpt from poet Kevin Coval's response to a recent episode of CNN's "Chicagoland":
"Rahm Emanuel is building a Second City. One white, one black. One for the rich, one for the poor. One for private schools, one for closed schools. A new Chicago for the saved and the damned. Gold Coast heavens and low-end hells."
Are you ready to rumble? Yes indeed.


French Economist Thomas Piketty
Economist Thomas Piketty
There is a fundamentalist belief by capitalists that capital will save the world, and it just isn't so. Not because of what Marx said about the contradictions of capitalism, because, as I discovered, capital is an end in itself and no more." -- The Guardian, Occupy was right
Arne Duncan responds to mass teacher protest...
Tells  the crowd the state had an opportunity to “help lead the country where we need to go,” despite the “drama and noise” now on display. -- DuncanDonut
 Ed Commissioner John B. King Jr.:
 “We’re poised to lead the country. It’s within our grasp.” -- CCSSRules
Quinn, NEA Pres. Cinda Klickna, & Rauner at IEA RA
Pat Quinn at IEA Conference
"Don't compare me to the Almighty," said Quinn. "Compare me to the alternative over there." --  #NotToWorry
Times Editorial 
The myth of the superpredator helped spawn a generation of misguided laws that treated young people as adults, despite evidence that doing so actually increases recidivism. -- Echoes of the Superpredator 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Quinn: 'Don't compare me to The Almighty...'

IEA members pick their poison
Stunning that Democrats like Gov. Quinn now feel it necessary to stand in front of 1,200 educators at the IEA Regional Assembly in Chicago and assure them that,
"Eliminating collective bargaining is not part of my agenda."
"I respect teachers" [No, really I do].
"I'm not going to charterize this system of education in Illinois."
"I'm absolutely opposed to school vouchers."
He did tell the teacher union delegates that he would be willing to negotiate pension "reform" with them. But only IF the courts throw out the unconstitutional pension-busting bill he signed.

And then he offered them this:
"Don't compare me to The Almighty..."
Not to worry, Gov. Not to worry.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Supporting Chicago's Progressive Caucus...Flexible Arne.

Two of my favorites
I got to hang out with some of my favorite folks at last night's Progressive Caucus fundraiser at Buddy Guy's. I'm glad we got there early, the room was so packed, they had to stop letting people in. A good sign for upcoming elections. Maybe a mayoral candidate will emerge from this crowd.

MORE DUNCAN DONUTS... It all depends who Arne is talking to. First he tells newspaper editors, Common Core is the "single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.” 

Then Stephanie Simon at Politico has him telling the House Appropriations Committee, “I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is sort of secondary.” 

But yesterday, Rupert Murdoch's boys at the Wall Street Journal run a wire story with the headline "US education secretary sticking with Common Core". However, the story itself goes on to say that,
 "During his address to students and invited guests, Duncan avoided specifically saying "Common Core."
The same WSJ story has Duncan defending embattled New York State's education chief John King Jr. after teachers wanted King fired for forging ahead with CCSS over mass teacher protests. Duncan, who never met a union basher he didn't appreciate, called King a "remarkable leader" and then reminded everyone once again that "education is the civil rights issue of our generation."

Flexible Arne.