Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve but I'm just not feeling it

'Bring me flesh and bring me wine, 
Bring me pine logs hither, 
Thou and I will see him dine 
When we bear them thither.'

I mean, who talks like that?

Sorry, all you revelers, but I'm just not feeling it this year. No, it's not just that the year's ending with more assaults on public education, with a neo-fascist movement building within the NYPD or while 2.4 million, including way too many children, are languishing in prison. No, I'm too used to all that.

And there is cause for some New Year's joy in the movement here to unseat our own Little Emperor, Rahm Emanuel. Yesterday's endorsements for my guy Chuy Garcia by 100 African-American community leaders and activists should be enough to get me popping open a bottle of the bubbly around midnight. But it's not.

For one thing, I just left the perfect weather and waters of south Florida and landed back in Chicago with a sore back, only to be hit in the face by a sub-zero wind chill. Spirit Airlines charges $2 for a damn cup of coffee on top of $35 surcharge per carry-on and ten bucks more if you happen to want a seat.

Plus, if I see one more top-10 list from 2014 my head will explode. Remember, I've been listening all week to Christmas music on every station. No, I'm not joining the "war on Christmas" But enough!

So yes, I'm getting old and grumpy.

My friends Joan and Gus sum it all up for me. 

Speaking of little emperors and Christmas music, did you know that Good King Wenceslas was not so good, nor was he a king, nor was he necessarily Wenceslas? No, the first Christian martyr was actually a guy named Václav and he was the Duke of Bohemia.

Okay, so he may have gone out in the snow during the Feast of St. Stephen with his page to drop some alms on the poor. But the Duke only came to power after the murder of his grandma Ludmila, who raised him as a child, arranged by his mom Drahomira, a pagan (or so the story goes). While in power, Václav forced all the pagans to become Christians. Those who didn't -- well, let's just say, no alms for them. Václav the Good was then assassinated by his wicked brother, Boleslaw the Bad.

Ah, family!

Why am I rehashing this sad tale now, when we all should be getting together with family and celebrating the planet surviving another year? Well, aside from freezing my ass off this morning, I think it's a cautionary tale about 1%ers bearing alms. Except that our Little Emperor bears alms only for the city's billionaires. Maybe Václav the Good wasn't so bad after all.

Happy New Year! Chuy for Mayor!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chuy's support growing in the black community

Civil Rights veteran Timuel Black leads parade of endorsers for Chuy Garcia
THIS MORNING... more than 100 African-American community leaders and activists endorsed Chuy Garcia for Mayor and helped celebrate the opening of the campaign's newest office. Perhaps there's hope after all.

NYPD: Arrest only when you "really have to"
“He [Mayor de Blasio] is not running the City of New York. He thinks he’s running a f- -king revolution,” said Lynch, head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, during the private gathering in Queens last Friday. -- NY Post

Ah, if only it were so. After years of scandal, corruption and police shootings, a revolution within the department is precisely what's needed.

The aptly-named head of New York's police union, Pat Lynch now says the city's cops are striking back with a counter-revolution of their own, aimed at the citizens of New York, especially those in the black community, hands-up, don't-shoot marchers and their elected mayor who got 73% of the vote. How are they going to strike back? Well, it's kind of a work stoppage.

The New York Post reports that NYPD officers are making arrests only "when they have to," leading to a massive drop in their response to low-level crimes.

It all makes you wonder -- Who and why were they arresting before this change of heart? And if they had only implemented the arrest-only-when-necessary approach, would Eric Garner and dozens of other young black men still be alive today?

Chicago is a hyper-segregated city. Despite rampant gentrification in certain areas, Chicago is not a city of neighborhoods but a city of universes. People can spend lifetimes here never experiencing certain parts of the city due to age-old demarcated lines that live in our minds and bodies.
 To uproot massive numbers of people without any accountability is criminal. But as we say around here, it’s the Chicago way. -- Cities in Revolt: Chicago

Monday, December 29, 2014


President Robert Kelly of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 announces the organization's endorsement of Jesus "Chuy" Garcia for mayor of Chicago. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

ATU Local 308 Pres. Robert Kelly 
“I’m a citizen of the city of Chicago. I’m tired of reading the papers and hearing about murders and school closings and transit issues,” said Robert Kelly, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, which represents CTA train operators. “It just makes me sick to my stomach. I’m tired of it, and so is everybody else. 
Kelly’s remarks came as the local he presides over endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, one of Emanuel’s most prominent challengers in the upcoming February election. -- Early & Often
George Will
Bush’s support of Common Core is much less nuanced and persuasive, and there seems to be condescension in his impatience with the burden he bears of taking seriously the most important reason for rejecting Common Core. It is not about the content of the standards, which would be objectionable even if written by Aristotle and refined by Shakespeare. Rather, the point is that, unless stopped now, the federal government will not stop short of finding in Common Core a pretext for becoming a national school board.
Bush says “standards are different than curriculum” and: “I would be concerned if we had a national curriculum influenced by the federal government. My God, I’d break out in a rash.”  -- Washington Post
"Public school bashers"
David Sirota
Taken together with the new Department of Education numbers, we see that for all the elite media’s slobbering profiles of public school bashers like Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Michael Bloomberg, for all of the media’s hagiographic worship of scandal-plagued activist-profiteers like Michelle Rhee, and for all the “reform” movement’s claims that the traditional public school system and teachers unions are to blame for America’s education problems, poverty and economic inequality are the root of the problem.  -- Salon
 Palm Beach Cty. Board member Debra Robinson
"We're not going to approve these charters that just fill out the paperwork properly and don't have anything special to offer our children. This is an act of civil disobedience, because some of this stuff we're told to do is crazy." -- Sun-Sentinel
Author Anne Farrow
Slavery in America was not a footnote, not "the sad chapter" of our history but the cornerstone of our making. -- Philly.Com, Shrouded History of Slavery

Friday, December 26, 2014

Why is CPS going after pregnant teachers? Interferes with testing.

Maybe AG Holder was in Chicago for more than just a Rahm photo-op.
The lawsuit also alleges that [Scammon Principal Mary] Weaver asked a teacher who was nursing, "When will you be done with that?" and told a teacher who announced she was pregnant, "I can't believe you are doing this to me. You are going to be out right before (mandatory) testing!"
No, it's not just one principal. Byrd-Bennett and the district leadership are fighting a federal anti-discrimination lawsuit.

The Tribune reports:
Weaver subjected pregnant teachers "to disparate treatment with regard to performance evaluation ratings" and other matters, and "there existed a regular, purposeful, and less-favorable treatment of teachers because of their sex (pregnancies)," according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
CPS issued a statement, saying it "will not tolerate the kind of discrimination or retaliation that is alleged to have taken place at Scammon Elementary" but also that it intends to defend itself against the suit. 
Rahm and Weaver
Weaver was awarded a bonus last year under a principal quality award program that's supported by $5 million from the city's philanthropic community.

But the CTU wants her put on administrative leave during the Justice Dept. investigation. V.P. Sharkey says, it's not just the harassment of pregnant teachers, but the "the incredibly toxic internal environment of fear" she's created at Scammon Elementary.

"No woman should have to make a choice between her job and having a family," Vanita Gupta, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a statement.

So maybe Eric Holder was doing something in Chicago besides a photo-op with Rahm.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

More unqualified teachers assigned to schools serving poor and minority students

Harvard students are calling for and end to the university's ties with TFA.

MORE STUFF WE ALREADY KNEW…The feds are telling us once again that there's a huge disparity in children’s access to fully qualified and experienced teachers. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has begun collecting data on student enrollment by race and ethnicity and teacher characteristics. Their data indicates that 1) black students are more likely to be taught by a first-year teacher than white students, 2) their teachers are more likely to be paid less and 3) they are more likely to have an uncertified or unlicensed teacher.

In states like Pennsylvania, with wild charter school expansion, more than 20% of teachers are unlicensed in the schools with the largest concentration of minority students. In largely white schools, just 0.2% of teachers lack a license.

In southern, so-called right-to-work states like Louisiana, with weakened teacher unions, 20% of classes in the most impoverished schools are taught by teachers who don’t meet the federal definition of “highly qualified” — which generally means they lack a bachelor’s degree, are unlicensed or don’t have a strong academic background in the subject they’re teaching. In the wealthier schools, fewer than 8% of classes are led by a teacher who’s not highly qualified.

As I pointed out in yesterday's post, in response to the Southern Poverty Center's lawsuit, Louisiana has admitted that the state under-served special-needs students and those with disabilities.

OK, interesting, but why and what to do about it? Conservatives and corporate-style reformers are calling for more Vergara-type suits aimed at getting rid of teacher tenure  and collective-bargaining agreements which they claim, serve only to protect incompetent teachers who too often end up assigned to teach the neediest students in the most impoverished schools.

But their argument has been debunked simply by looking at the widening gap between no-union states like Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, on the one hand,  and union-strong states like Massachusetts where tenure rights are protected, on the other. Isn't it obvious that you don't get rid of inequality by eliminating the teaching standards that lead to tenure and other means of attracting keeping experienced, qualified teachers in the profession?

A better approach would target the regulation of the conduct and the expansion of privately-run charters schools which are often allowed and encouraged to hire uncertified teachers and teachers teaching outside of their field.

Another would be to take a long, hard look at corporate-reform groups like Teach for America (TFA) which receive an obscene about of funding from school districts, charter operators and power philanthropists  for placing hundreds of unqualified or under-qualified teachers into schools that serve poor and minority students.

USE supplemental Title I funding to disadvantaged schools to boost salaries to attract and retain top teachers. According to a report in POLITICO, in nearly every state, teachers of minority students and students from low-income families earn significantly less than teachers in wealthier schools, even after adjusting for the local cost of living.

More importantly, stop debasing teachers and rating them on the basis of student scores on standardized tests and other test-and-punish "accountability" systems which only discourages teachers from working in the very communities that need them the most.

Finally, we need to look at the inequities in the distribution of qualified teachers as but one component of an apartheid-like, highly-segregated education system that systematically denies poor students and students of color, access to a range of resources including equitable funding, newer and better equipped facilities and learning environments,  a rich curriculum, small class sizes and up-to-date technology.

FINAL NOTE… Pres. Obama tried to push the issue by proposing $300 million in competitive grants to push new strategies for getting high-quality teachers in front of needy kids. But Republicans scrapped the program in the Omnibus budget agreement (which many Democrats then supported and Obama signed into law).

Go figure.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Landmark charter special ed suit settled in Louisiana.

Post-Katrina New Orleans
Remember when Sec. Duncan called Hurricane Katrina, “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans"? A suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center disputed that verdict, and shows that Duncan must have been ignoring, among other things, the plight of thousands of the district's special-education students when he made that idiotic assessment.

Governor Jindal and the state of Louisiana have now agreed to settle the landmark special education suit, agreeing that the state did not adequately educate children with disabilities in the fragmented network of charter and district schools that sprung up in New Orleans after the hurricane.

Duncan's positive view of the privatization/charter-ization of schools in Louisiana has been complimented by a host of embedded research groups. Most of these have ignored the consequences of racial resegregation and the displacement of thousands of families after the hurricane, which had a major impact--especially on N.O. schools. One Tulane research institute even had to issue a public apology for using discredited, so-called "Value Added Models" methods in assessing the progress of the privately-run charters.

Under the settlement agreement, the state must develop a plan to make sure all children suspected of having a disability are identified and evaluated. The state would also require charters to describe plans "for offering the full array of related services to students with disabilities who are or may come to be enrolled in the school," when applying for their initial charter or for renewal.

Okay, I'm not a lawyer. But it seems to me that Duncan is just a culpable as the state of Louisiana, since he put the official stamp of approval on this pattern of discrimination. 

Monday, December 22, 2014


Author Mike Rose
If we determine success primarily by a test score, we miss those considerable intellectual achievements that aren’t easily quantifiable. If we think about education largely in relation to economic competitiveness, then we ignore the social, moral, and aesthetic dimensions of teaching and learning.  -- The American Scholar
Mayoral Candidate Bob Fioretti
“We’re the only one in the whole state that’s not an elected school board? Aren’t we shaking our head and saying: 'what’s going on here?' I think the school board needs it. It would reflect the diversity of our city.” -- Sun-Times
Mayoral Candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia 
“This is the board that closed our schools and cut the education budget, following Mayor Emanuel’s orders. Would this have happened with an elected board, responsible to the citizens?” -- Sun-Times 
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is. Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. -- TIME

Belafonte and Williams
Jesse Williams (Grey's Anatomy)
“Police have been beating the hell out of black people for a very, very, very long time, before the advent of the video camera. And despite the advent of the video camera, there’s still an incredible trend of police brutality and killing in the street.” -- Washington Post
Adam Green
“There are a lot of unchecked boxes with Hillary Clinton when it comes to economic populism and corporate accountability,” said Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “There are definitely red flags.” -- Boston Globe
The Nation

Friday, December 19, 2014

The data 'washing machine'

Rahm's red light cameras had no real safety benefits.
Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, chairman of the council Transportation Committee, said the city's numbers come as no surprise: "Those numbers the city uses have never made any sense. Of course they are skewing the numbers."
Okay, I may be beating a dead horse here. In two previous posts, one on CPS's modest improvement in grad rates and one on supposedly rising growth scores, I added the following qualifier:
 If that is, you have faith in the transparency of the system and faith that the researchers are measuring the same thing. I don't. But that's for another blog post.
We'll here's another another post.

You see, in our new, data-driven world order, Rahm Emanuel's regime is quickly become number-one in lack of transparency and in data fudging. I actually started writing seriously about this last summer when the Chicago media couldn't get its numbers straight about how many shootings had taken place on a given weekend.

It was back in April when Chicago Mag writers Bernstein & Isackson kicked the whole thing off with their 2-part series, "The Truth About Chicago’s Crime Rates". They called the system of crime data collection, "the washing machine".
The city’s crime numbers seem too good to be true. One former lieutenant has a name for the system: the washing machine. “They wash and rinse the numbers,” the lieutenant says.
The pair went on to document how Chief McCarthy's boys had actually gone back in and reformed the crime data in the face of mounting criticism of how he and his boss, the Mayor, were handling the shooting pandemic on the west and south sides.

This morning's Tribune's report on Rahm's red-light cameras shows more of the same data washing. The Trib's study demolished the mayor's claims that the massively expensive installation of hundreds red-light cameras had large safety benefits for the citizens.
Emanuel has credited the cameras for a 47 percent reduction in dangerous right-angle, or "T-bone," crashes. But the Tribune study, which accounted for declining accident rates in recent years as well as other confounding factors, found cameras reduced right-angle crashes that caused injuries by just 15 percent.
 At the same time, the study calculated a corresponding 22 percent increase in rear-end crashes that caused injuries, illustrating a trade-off between the cameras' costs and benefits.
And then, when the numbers aren't there to produce the needed politically-necessary outcomes, the cheating begins. Just look at the national pandemic of cheating cases relating to standardized testing madness.
In the wake of Tribune revelations, the city's contractor was fired, that company's top executives were ousted and federal prosecutors charged a former City Hall manager with taking up to $2 million in bribes from the former CEO of the company, Redflex Traffic Systems, to build its Chicago business into the largest automated traffic enforcement program in the country.
But the real story here is about numbers and what meaning we make of them, whether about miracle jumps in test scores, and drops in crime statistics. The red-light cameras turn out to be just another regressive tax while the mayor's data-washing machine takes us all to the cleaners.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Garcia and Fioretti working the neighborhoods to challenge Mayor 1%

Don't miss Curtis Black's excellent piece today in the Chicago Reporter, "Mayoral candidates drum up community spirit." Black focuses on the efforts of Rahm's two top contenders, "Chuy" Garcia and Bob Fioretti, as they work the neighborhoods, trying hard to pick up the grassroots support they need to keep Mayor 1% under 50% and send February's election into a run-off. 

Black shows "Chuy" picking up the endorsement of a new activist group in Bronzeville, People United for Action. A huge turnout for him from the African-American community will be essential for him to have any hope for victory.

Fioretti is seen working South Chicago -- not too far from the neighborhood where he grew up, Roseland — to support the Alliance of the South East and the Coalition for a Lakeside CBA, pushing for a community benefits agreement from the developers of the vast tract that once held U.S. Steel’s South Works.
Emanuel has been a protest magnet throughout his administration, beginning with his closing of six mental health clinics.  Add the NATO summit, the teachers strike, the school closings and various other mayoral actions, and it’s undeniable that he has done much to energize the labor-community movement that demands new priorities for the city.
Under Emanuel, “we get school closings, we get speed cameras all over the place, our residents are being nickled and dimed to death, we’re forced to pay higher property taxes,” said protest organizer Rebecca Martinez.  “And yet the poverty rate has gone up under this administration.  Downtown continues to progress and our neighborhoods continue to go down.”

PRO-BONO,,, I've given my brother the number of my distinguished attorneys at Pro, Bono & Plead as I'm expecting SEIU 73's sell-out leader Christine Boardman to threaten him, as she did me, with lawsuits, if he keeps up his blog exposures. See his latest (with cartoon) here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Karen Lewis, Milwaukee Vouchers, and NEA's Worst

Brother Fred asks a great question: Why didn’t Arne Duncan make the NEA’s worst of 2014 list? Has Arne gotten any better since the NEA membership called for his resignation at its Representative Assembly back in July? Or has the leadership just forgotten what the rank-and-file had to say?

Students board buses at Milwaukee voucher school.
Sadly for Milwaukee, it will long be remembered as the birthplace of the nation's miserably-failed school voucher system which takes badly-needed public school funds and turns them over to private (including) Catholic schools.

See my recent piece on the city's early voucher proponents, Howard Fuller and the late Polly Williams. Before she died, Williams had become a vocal critic of voucher expansion and of the direction her own movement had taken, under the leadership of the right-wing think-tankers.

The latest episode in this sad saga comes to us from Journal Sentinel reporter Erin Richards who exposes the foul play of the private Ceria M. Travis Academy, one of the city's longest-operating voucher schools and one of its poorest performing.

The invisible hand...When prolific blogger, Jennifer Berkshire (EduShyster) was in Chicago last month, not only did she speak to my class of education undergrads at DePaul, she also did a great interview with CTU leader Karen Lewis. Here's a piece:
Berkshire: The Chicagoland version of the invisible hand always seems to end up in the cash register. For example, the Chicago Tribune recently ran a devastating investigative series on how risky bond deals are costing the Chicago public schools a fortune, even as these deals enrich Mayor Emanuel's allies.
Lewis: And now they're getting ready to do the same thing again with the pre-K program. People need to understand who the players are here. Because we don't have the ability to elect a school board, the president of our school board is a bankster. He is unrepentant about these toxic swap deals that were made, and argues that, well, they were good deals at the time. Well these deals may be great when the stock market is up, but because of the crash in 2008 we owe tons of money to banks, tons of money to pensions. And so now you have the same people who got us into this saying "you have to give up your pensions so we can balance the budget." No one says that maybe the banks shouldn't get paid. The problem is that as long as the mayor controls the school board, there is nothing we can do.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rahm says he really means it this time. Unveils his 'roadmap' to end the violence.

Johnson College Prep High School basketball player Demacio Bailey dedicated Monday night's game against Marist High School to his twin brother Demario, who was killed this past weekend during a robbery. After the game, the team exited the locker room alongside the boys’ family. With Demacio in the lead, the players lined up single-file and marched to their bus chanting, “We will live, not die.”
Rahm says, this time he really means it. He says that last weekend’s slaying of Johnson College Prep student Demario Bailey reminds him of the "urgency of this work."

So what is the Mayor going to do in response to Demario's death? He's unveiling a new "road map" to combat violence. I haven't seen this new map and don't know what's in it or in which direction it takes us. But if there's nothing in the plan to deal with equitable use of well-trained, professionalized police resources, the re-opening of shuttered schools and health clinics, providing jobs for massively unemployed and under-employed black youth, and for slowing the flow of drugs and guns into the neighborhoods, then it's a map to nowhere.

According to the Sun-Times:
 Some of the recommendations include: creating a “training bridge” for kids to build on skills they learned during city summer jobs programs; enlisting “high-profile ambassadors” to help promote city youth programs; create a pilot “homicide crisis response” model that helps surviving victims deal with the emotional trauma of violence.
A training bridge -- really Rahm?

Monday, December 15, 2014


John King behind NY Common Core disaster
Carol Burris on John King 
Despite the spin of supporters, King’s move to Washington during the final two years of a lame duck administration is hardly a promotion. King will now work for Duncan as a senior advisor, even as Congress has defunded Race to the Top. -- WaPo What Arne Duncan’s new senior adviser did to N.Y. schools

Arne Duncan
He called New Orleans an example for the nation in school innovation and noted that New Orleanians, more than most, know the pain that comes with drastic school change. In the battle for better public education, he said, "you are absolutely winning."
Asked about a statement he once made that Hurricane Katrina was the best thing to happen to New Orleans education, Secretary Duncan apologized for that remark. He says, though, there is no doubt New Orleans is getting better faster than the rest of the state, and he is in awe of improvements here. -- New Orleans Public Radio
John Kass
If you get Rahm into the deep water of April, out where Rahm's feet won't touch the ground, if you get him out there alone, one-on-one, then Rahm's well-larded political war chest isn't all that scary. And then you'll see what happens. --Tribune
Ald. Bob Fioretti
We should demand a full audit and accounting of Chicago’s TIF fund and declare a surplus with the vast sum that is not committed to any specific projects or debt. That money is the beginning investment we need to restore our public education program, guarantee the retirement we promised to our teachers, police, firefighters, and other public employees, and put Chicago back on track to financial health for all. -- Sun-Times
Keith Olbermann
America does not negotiate with terrorists, unless it's a group of terrorists...and it comes from a city. For argument's sake, then, let's call these terrorists...Citigroup. --The Fucking News

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why not blame torture on teacher unions?

OINK! -- Rudy Giuliani blames "liberal guilty whites", teachers, and their unions for violence in black community. He claims that by resisting vouchers, expansion of privately-run charters, and teacher pay based on test scores, teachers are fomenting black violence.

BTW,Giuliani is an admitted water-boarder (of Americans and Italians).

MIXED SIGNALS...And how about former Chicago cop Steve Mandel, sentenced yesterday to life-plus-5 years for plotting gruesome kidnapping and torture. I guess it's illegal -- unless the government does it. I doubt that even monster Mandel could have imagined rectal feeding.

The Chicago PD has an inglorious record of such stuff. And it's not just about Daley's guy Commander Burge. Last month, a U.N. committee addressed the issue of torture committed by Chicago Police Department Commander Jon Burge and other police officers between 1972 and 1991 and share its dismay that no officer has been “convicted for these acts of torture for reasons including the statute of limitations expiring.”
It acknowledged that a federal investigation had asserted there were no “prosecutable constitutional violations” uncovered, however, the committee criticized the fact that the “vast majority of those tortured—most of them African Americans—have received no compensation for the extensive injuries suffered.”
Now top U.N. officials are calling for  individuals responsible for the "criminal conspiracy" revealed in the torture report to be "brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes." Good luck on that one.

Maybe Burge, Giuliani, Brennan, and Cheney types will blame it all on the teacher unions.

BEST CHUY QUOTE...Chuy Garcia held a news conference at Dyett High School in Bronzeville where he embraced the community's plan to turn the school that has been on the chopping block for years into the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School.

Emanuel’s handpicked school team recently reversed course and announced that Dyett would remain open. But instead of adopting the community plan, CPS is issuing a request-for-proposals from all comers.

Garcia likened the mayor’s decision to ignore the community plan for Dyett to his giveaway of 17 acres of precious lakefront parkland to movie mogul George Lucas to build a new interactive museum.
“You fly into Chicago from Hollywood. You give the mayor a lot of money and say, 'I would like to build a museum for Darth Vader.'” City Hall says, 'I like it. Here’s some of our lakefront. We’ll lease it to you for a $1. The mayor calls it 'bold,' " Garcia said.
“If you don’t live in Hollywood—if you have to take the bus downtown from Bronzeville—[but] still, you bring a plan supported by thousands of people to improve your community and save your high school. You bring a plan backed by the best institutions. City Hall says, 'You don’t know what’s best for your own kids. You’re not an expert. You don’t understand your own neighborhood.’ ”

CPS score-rigging adds new meaning to 'growth'

In yesterday's post on Chicago's reported gains in graduation and college completion rates, I added this qualifier:
 If that is, you have faith in the transparency of the system and faith that the researchers are measuring the same thing. I don't. But that's for another blog post.
Well, here's that post. 

Today's Sun-Times reports that CPS quietly changed some growth scores from standardized test results released in August, resulting in a rise in school ratings for seven charter schools. AAPPLE, an activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, pointed out the discrepancies after school ratings were released last week — differences the Sun-Times confirmed in its own analysis.

AAPPLE head Troy LaRaviere has called for a full investigation by the district’s inspector general.
“In a system based on ‘choice,’ parents and other stakeholders must be provided with accurate indicators of school quality. [CPS’ ratings system] cannot serve this purpose if there are clouds of suspicion about tampering with the data used to determine these ratings,” LaRaviere said in an email.
Furthermore, he said, “the changing of scores happened without any public disclosure.” CPS would not say why the ratings usually released in October around school report card pickup were delayed.
The back-room rigging of growth scores proved an embarrassment even to the charter schools whose scores were raised.  The chief of strategy (yes, they have such a position) for Chicago International Charter School, which saw ratings for four of its schools rise, agreed.
“I would have preferred the asterisk. We essentially asked for an asterisk at one point,” Daniel Anello said. CICS had always used the test that wasn’t aligned to the Common Core through the school year to measure their students’ learning, so they saw no reason to change it while it remained an option, he said.
Figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

On Chicago graduation rates. They're dizzy with success.

 "This is a moment to celebrate." -- Consortium senior researcher Kaleen Healey, lead author of the report.
According to a study by the U. of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research, CPS' graduation rate is up 4 points this year and more of those grads are enrolling in college and graduating (14%). Last year, 57.2% of CPS graduates enrolled into college, which was an increase of 1.2% from 2012. That's good, isn't it? It's an estimated rise of 6% over 8 years (Wow!). If that is, you have faith in the transparency of the system and faith that the researchers are measuring the same thing. I don't. But that's for another blog post.

Rahm and Byrd-Bennett are dizzy with delight, as is the Sun-Times editorial board. The Mayor bristles at the suggestion that the rising high school graduation rate might be the result of changes put in place under former Mayor Daley, saying his administration has “doubled down on that strategy” (what ever that strategy was).

While he may give a perfunctory nod to teachers and school administrators in his CPS press releases, it is clear from all the photo ops around the release of the report that he's happy to take credit. And Rahm deserves it, say the pundits (especially in an election year), for all the extra time he and BBB have put in, teaching and coaxing kids who might have otherwise dropped out or abandoned hope of going to a 4-year university after catching sight of the state tuition rates.

The Consortium gives credit to its own research, which they say has led to successful early interventions on the part of BBB and the school district. There may be some truth in the claim. But the way it's being spun -- good data trumps poverty -- makes me leery. I'm not exaggerating. Here's a quote from U of C's Tim Knowles:
Suddenly, addressing the dropout problem was not about the host of factors over which educators have no control — neighborhoods, poverty, violence or prior academic achievement. There was a single, manageable intervention point: ninth grade course performance.
So wait. Let's not pop the cork on the bubbly quite yet, Kaleen and Tim.

A closer look reveals lots of spin and cherry picking of the data to cover over the continued widening of the racial gap on grad rates Take the rates among African-American male students for example. It's true that their grad rate went up slightly over past years. But the rate of degree attainment remains in the single digits for black boys, at 6%. It was only 4% 6 years ago so you could say that's an amazing increase, percentage wise. Yes, you could say that if you're the incumbent mayor, running for re-election and in charge of the entire school system.

Or you might compare it to the grad and degree attainment rate of white males which improved from 17% to 27% over the past 6 years, or a 62% increase, nearly double the rate of black student improvement.

Of course, one can spin these numbers any which way. And since school data has become little more than political fodder, one will. But here's the essentials, at least the way I see them.
  • Talking about percent increase is meaningless here. Grad and college degree rates of CPS students are still dreadfully low, especially for black and Latino students. 
  • There is a trend upward, here and in most urban districts. But it's relatively small and uneven.
  • The Consortium Report gives no indication of any causal relationship between the mayor's imposed education policies and any of the gains in graduation or degree attainment. 
  • While most racial, ethnic and gender groups have shown slight increases in grad and college-going rates over the past decade, the gap continues to widen and educational inequities continue to grow.
  • All this may have more to do with demographic changes in the city and nationally over the past decade than anything going on inside of school classrooms, ie. a decline in the black student population (200,000 black people have left Chicago) or the worsening of living conditions for families on the south and west sides of the city while post-recession economic conditions improve on the north side.
  • Whenever we talk about quality of life statistics or chances of success or survival statistics (crime, shootings and murder rates, unemployment), we really need to examine them from the "two-cities"-- increasingly separate and unequal-- perspective. This, rather than averaging them all in together, which tells us little about what's really going on in the schools. 
It's my opinion and many others in the field that educational inequality, not school, teacher, or parent "failure" is the central problem facing CPS and other urban districts. It's the issue that Rahm, as well as his two main contenders need to address directly as we approach election time in February. We should be happy about any upswings in reported graduation rates. But we should keep a critical eye on the research and on early calls for celebration. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Common Core tests designed for failure

Regardless of what goes on in the classroom, the new Common Core tests have cut-off scores designed to anticipate the failure of more than half of those tested. It's all too predictable.

Because the tests are high-stakes, the arbitrary cut-off scores set by the two main state consortia could have devastating effects on graduation rates, college admissions, teacher evaluations, and even the survival of neighborhood schools.

Edweek's Catherine Gewertz reports:
In a move likely to cause political and academic stress in many states, a consortium that is designing assessments for the Common Core State Standards released data Monday projecting that more than half of students will fall short of the marks that connote grade-level skills on its tests of English/language arts and mathematics.
One participant said that when the standard-setting panelists saw the data projecting how many students would fall short of proficiency marks with their recommended cut scores, “there were some pretty large concerns. And it was very evident that this was going to be a problem from a political perspective.”
I hope so.

Needed -- 'Body cameras on bankers'

Some NBA hoopers wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts: LeBron James, Derrick Rose, Kevin Garnett, Kyrie Irving, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, Alan Anderson.
Matt Yglesias Tweets: "If your big worry is that water is too clean and children too well-nourished, here's some good news."

Yes, Republicans, threatening to shut down the government again, are preparing to roll back the school meal rules, phased in since 2012 and championed by first lady Michelle Obama, that require more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in the lunch line. The standards also limit sodium, sugar and fat.

Father Pfleger has a point
“Our justice system is broken. Body cameras don’t make a difference if we can see it and still don’t convict anybody.” -- Sun-Times
Rev. Jackson has a point--put cameras on bankers
The official reaction to police immunity for the killing of unarmed black boys and men Ferguson and Staten Island and Cleveland and Brooklyn has focused, not surprisingly, on the police. The president has created a Task Force on 21st Century Policy, with instructions to report in 90 days. He’s committed millions to put cameras on police. But he might be better advised to put cameras on bankers. Reckless, unaccountable and murderous police behavior must end, but the police are simply the gatekeepers assigned to keep order. -- Sun-Times
Tim Black's birthday party at Room 43.
Happy 96th to the great Professor Timuel Black. His birthday celebration Sunday night at Room 43 was over the top. And happy birthday to my favorite grandson, Oscar. The Big O turned 15 yesterday. Damn, that must make me...

Monday, December 8, 2014


We, the Executive Board (Rita Kohli, Alyssa Hadley Dunn, Keisha Green, La Mont Terry, Katy Swalwell, Bianca J. Baldridge, Nicholas Daniel Hartlep, Cleveland Hayes) of the Critical Educators for Social Justice (CESJ) special interest group (SIG) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), stand in solidarity with communities working to challenge racism.

Based on recent grand jury decisions not to indict the officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and as educators committed to equity and justice, we feel a responsibility to take a formal stance against the anti-blackness that plagues our schools, justice system, and society. The events in Ferguson, Missouri and Staten Island, New York provide two examples of blatant racial injustice woven into the fabric of the United States. Even since the killing of Michael Brown on August 9, 2014, we have seen multiple cases of unarmed Black youth shot and killed by the police, including twelve-year-old Tamir Rice.

Our SIG has, at its heart and in our mission, a commitment to “the struggle for social justice, human rights, and democracy in education for diverse communities.” This includes a challenge to the ongoing and systemic racial oppression that we see in Ferguson and beyond. As critical education scholars, we must recognize the socializing message of this callous disregard of Black lives. We have a responsibility to reframe the discussion and illuminate that ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter. We cannot afford to stay silent.

Please see our full statement (linked below and here: and share with your communities. You will see that we have committed to a dialogue about #BlackLivesMatter and its implications for the academy at AERA's annual meeting in Chicago in April 2015.


Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Warren Buffett 
Ben Joravsky wrote a devastating Sun-Times expose of Rahm Emanuel's promised expansion of Pre-K to about 2,600 new students. Melissa Sanchez at Catalyst also has an excellent piece.  Still more must be asked about this curious program, which transfers about $17 million in public school money over to the big banks.

By guest blogger Susan Klonsky

Rahm's shiny new pre-K program contains a recipe for civil rights violations--especially against children with special needs. Buried within the loan agreement is an insidious incentive aimed at reducing the number of children who receive special-education services after pre-kindergarten.
The new CPS pre-K program will be funded with loans from Goldman Sachs, the Pritzkers, and other hedge funders and financial Houdinis. They're calling these loans “Social Impact Bonds” (aka SIBS). 

The Mayor boasted that the new pre-K program is chock-full of incentives for the lenders. Not just the unusually high rate of interest on the loan, which in itself is quite a tidy sum. My grandson will  be paying for this loan when he’s a grandpa himself.

No, there’s still more money to be made in the promised BONUSES for "success." In fact, this is called a Pay-For-Success loan.  No bonuses to the schools or to the educators (as in so-called “merit pay” for high test scores). These are bonuses for the LENDERS themselves…on top of the interest they will receive.

The bonuses are promised for supposedly measurable improvements in or reductions in certain outcomes. The announcement  described them as follows:
The SIB targets would be met with payments for each pupil who, after pre-K, does not get placed in a special education program ($9,100 per pupil), is deemed ready for kindergarten after pre-K ($2,900), and scores above the national average for third-grade reading ($750).
The most egregious incentive is the one that reduces the number of special-needs students. For any child who, after attending one of these funded pre-K’s, does NOT receive an IEP or special education services, the lenders will rake in an additional $9100 per student.   

This deal brazenly incentivizes civil rights violations—indeed,  it is all but a conspiracy to deprive young children of essential services to address special needs. For every kid who does NOT get a speech therapist or a classroom aide in elementary school—Ka-ching! 9100 bucks goes into the hopper for Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and Chicago’s own Penny Pritzker. 

So whatever fast move Rahm thinks he’s pulling here to score some bread for his Wall Street friends, he’d better set something aside to defend against the lawsuits for civil rights violations against children with disabilities. They’re coming.


Charles Blow
There seems to be a new age of activism rising. From Occupy Wall Street, to the “Stop Watching Us” march against government surveillance, to the Moral Monday protests, to the People’s Climate March, to the recent nationwide protests over the killings of men and boys of color by police, there is obviously a discontent in this country that is pouring into the streets. -- New York Times
Jesus "Chuy" Garcia
“I’m hoping we’ll be successful. And if we weren’t, I would go to federal court to change that because I think the right to elect a school board is a constitutional right that comes from the right to elect those who govern an institution so vital to our city. Schools systems are, perhaps, the main government body that affects the lives of a majority of our citizens, especially minorities in Chicago.” -- E & O
S.W.A.T. teams in schools
Ron Avi Astor, a professor of social work and education at USC
 “There’s an illusion that having all these video cameras, metal detectors, sensors, SWAT kinds of people on campus makes the place safer. The problem is from an educational perspective: It doesn’t feel safer. It feels like a prison.” -- New York Times

General Michael V. Hayden
 “We’re not here to defend torture. We’re here to defend history.” -- New York Times
From Twitter

Friday, December 5, 2014

Duncan's Race To Top & Dante's Circles of Hell


In yesterday's post about Barbara Byrd-Bennett's Level 1-5, school rate-and-punish system, I compared it metaphorically to Dante's 9 Circles of Hell. Then I kept staring at the circles in the Divine Comedy painting, trying to remember where I had seen that image before. Aha! Race To The Top.

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten who was arrested in N.Y. yesterday for blocking traffic to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict the New York police officer who choked Staten Island resident Eric Garner to death.

Last night in Chicago: CHICAGO (WLS) -- Hundreds of protestors marched in downtown Chicago for several hours on Thursday - and even briefly shut down Lake Shore Drive - in the wake of a grand jury decision to not indict a New York police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Selma, AL 1965
From CNN --  If the color were removed from the boundless images of protests on America's streets over the last two days, they might be mistaken for black-and-white photos of the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s. 

Civil Rights, not corporate-style reform, remains "the civil rights issue of our time".

A good question: Why did Mike Madigan block the state minimum wage bill? Isn't he a "Democrat"? Who benefited from his move?

Can't keep Karen down...Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis says she’s eager to campaign for mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia — but isn’t quite ready. In a rare appearance since her October diagnosis, Lewis had stepped out Wednesday night to introduce Garcia at the union’s House of Delegates meeting. She said by telephone Thursday that she’s not yet campaigning for the Cook County commissioner set to take on Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"I will be, but not right now," Lewis said. "It won't be behind the scenes. I’ll be out front."

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chicago schools no longer on 'probation'. Language of criminality.

Dante's 9 Circles of Hell

Finally, Chicago schools will no longer be placed on "probation", says Byrd-Bennett. 

A school’s rating determines how much support — or punishment — it receives and is now based on a several weighted factors including growth on test scores, attendance and results from the My Voice, My School 5Essentials Survey from the 2013-14 school year. College enrollment and dropout rates also factor into a high school’s rating.

Gone, too, is the term “probation,” which Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis had long complained had a criminal connotation. About 200 schools used to be on academic probation.
“I had lots of conversations with the CTU very specifically with Karen, and we both agreed that that language that I inherited here in Chicago and she had lived with — ‘probationary’ is not a good term, not a good descriptor about what we think about our children and think about our schools,” CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call.
Instead they will just be called, Level 1-5 schools. You know, like Dante's Limbo, Purgatory, Upper Hell, etc...