Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sanctity of property

If this is all about sanctity of property... Did you know that Wells Fargo Bank first pushed sub-prime mortgages on thousands of working-class black families in Baltimore (referred to as "Mud People" by loan officers), then foreclosed on their homes. These "ghetto loans" or “affinity group marketing” as it was called by Wells Fargo bankers, tipped hundreds of homeowners into foreclosure, blighted black neighborhoods, crushed local schools, and cost the city tens of millions of dollars in taxes and city services. Wells Fargo is the largest residential home mortgage originator in the United States. No bankers were ever arrested.

 Mayor Rawlings-Blake walks back her "thug" language:
“There are no thugs in Baltimore,” the mayor, who is African-American, said at a church, where she met with members of the clergy. “Sometimes, my own little anger translator gets the best of me.”
Baltimore teacher 
Liam, a Baltimore student writes:
“I watched the mayor Monday night. It seemed like she wasn’t from Baltimore, had no connection to the people. She just didn’t care. She was talking about the rioters when she said, “These thugs…” That’s when I thought to myself, these people aren’t thugs. These are people I know, my age, people I grew up with, my friends.”
NYT reports ...When schools were closed on Tuesday, some teachers came to churches to help feed children who rely on meals they get at school. At Bethel A.M.E. Church on Tuesday, teachers from both public and private schools served sandwiches and cookies to kids who had missed lunch at school. Amber Johnson, a teacher at Patterson Park Public Charter School, talked to children aged seven to 15 about Mr. Gray’s death, the rioting and how they felt about it all.

At New York solidarity protest... Anthony Rosado, a 24-year-old teacher, said he came out so he could have something to discuss in his high school global history class in the morning.
“This is happening all the time,” said Rosado, who was born and raised in Brooklyn. “This is systemic. And it goes beyond police. It’s about power structures.”
Rosado said the agenda for his next class would be dictated less by a lesson plan than by his students. “We’ll talk about the protest in the morning,” he said, adding that he’s not going to force any issues on his pupils. “I’m just going to tell them I was here—but let them speak their mind.”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chuy was right. Open the books!

Remember when mayoral candidate Chuy Garcia was mocked by Rahm and by the media when he said he wanted the mayor to "open the books" before he made budget recommendations. Well, with the Feds in town looking at secret no-bid deals and CPS 'crats making $20 million addition/subtraction errors, who's mocking now?

Today's Sun-Times:
-- Fred Klonsky
Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley sold the $260 million Aramark deal to the Board of Education and the public by saying it would free up principals’ time, result in cleaner schools and save the cash-strapped district millions of dollars. Some of the savings was to come from layoffs of hundreds of custodians.
But the district was on the hook for some $20 million more to Aramark than it promised, essentially wiping out the $18 million Cawley said the district would save in its first of three years, as first reported by WBEZ.
That’s partly due to CPS miscounting some administrative offices, school branches and district stadiums, McCaffrey said. And then someone forgot to count entire schools, he added, but he was unable to say how many.
Oops! He forgot to count... Yes, that $20 million, with an M.

Baltimore 1968

Oh, Baltimore Man, it's hard just to live, just to live -- Randy Newman

This isn't the first time Baltimore has been burning or occupied by the military. I'm not old enough to remember the white racist Pratt Street riots of 1861. 

But I do remember, almost 47 years ago to the day, when Baltimore and 125 other cities, including my home town of Chicago, exploded in rage in direct response to the murder of another black man -- Dr. Martin Luther King.

Spiro T. Agnew, then Republican Governor of Maryland, called out thousands of National Guard troops and 500 Maryland State Police to occupy the inner-city. When it was determined that his mainly-white military force could not control the rebellion, even after leaving six dead, 700 injured, and 5,800 black people arrested, the governor requested Federal troops from President Johnson. 

Agnew, riding the wave of racist white reaction that followed, went on the be elected Richard Nixon's vice-president as part of Nixon's 1968 "Southern Strategy". He would later be forced to resign in disgrace and was convicted in a bribery scandal.

Baltimore 1968 -- Guess who's coming to dinner.
Between World War II and 1968, Baltimore had changed demographically, mainly due to white flight. The total population remained constant, but the black population had grown and the white population shrunk (both by about 200,000). Whites abandoned the city in favor of segregated suburban Baltimore County. Black communities were left with a collapsed tax base, segregated sub-par housing and schooling, high rates of infant mortality, and more crime and brutal policing. They also suffered disproportionately from job loss due to the collapse of Baltimore's manufacturing sector. Black unemployment was more than double the national rate, and even higher in especially poor communities and for black youth. Those who did have jobs were paid less and worked in unsafe conditions. A lot of this is documented in the TV show The Wire and in the book, "Baltimore '68: Riots and Rebirth in an American City".

Four decades later, when I visit the city's schools and neighborhoods, I find conditions in the poorest black communities basically unchanged and in many ways worse than they were in '68. While the inner Harbor area has been redeveloped as a base for expanding gentrification and tourism and the Orioles given Camden Yards baseball stadium, the economic, political and social chasm between black and white, rich and poor Baltimore has only widened. 

The death of Freddy Gray while in police custody two weeks ago, like the murder of Dr. King 47 years ago, was simply the inevitable ignition point for a tinder box that was bound to explode sooner of later. I'm surprised it took so long. I doubt it will be the last time. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weingarten at Pearson Stockholders' Meeting

In a scene right out of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, AFT President Randi Weingarten goes to London, hat-in-hand, to plead (more sir) for Pearson's Board of Directors to stop spying on students who may have been chatting on social media about the PARCC exam.

Now there's nothing wrong with union leaders (even belatedly) joining with the thousands of their own members, parents and students, who have been demanding that Pearson end this vile practice. In fact, they should have been out front of the national revolt against Common Core standards and imposed testing madness in the first place. Yes, we need to turn up the heat, not just on Pearson, but on our own politicians who take campaign money from Pearson, and on those school district leaders who throw multi-million-dollar, no-bid contracts Pearson's way to impose their own mis-education policies on our teachers and public schools.

"Please sir..."
But there was something in RW's pathetic appeal to these global education profiteers -- recognizing their sovereign right to profit, while at the same time, asking them politely to temper their spying activities and to "mediate the contract language" that allows such practices -- that shamed me as an educator and a public school parent.

Weingarten's plea:
While I recognize the Pearson has a duty to its shareholders to be profitable, my question centers on another obligation. That is to conduct business in a way that befits the world's leading education organization.
This while the AFT and its own state affiliates have signed on to the very legislation that allows or mandates these practices. This while half-a-million parents back in her home state of New York are actively and courageously opting-out of Common Core testing. This also after her wishy-washy and bewildering response to a question posed to her by Diane Ravitch at the Chicago NPE meeting:
Ravitch: "Where do you stand on the Opt-Out Movement?
R.W.:  “Every parent should have the right to opt out or not to opt out.”
As if parents were being forced to opt out... by who? How?

I wish RW a speedy return to the U.S. so she can explain this gobbledygook to those parents.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Standing up for Freddie Gray in Baltimore
Twelve-year-old Charles Sheppard 
...leaned against the barricade, holding a sign with a quote attributed to James Baldwin: “Ignorance allied with power is the most ferocious enemy of justice.” -- Sun
Bruce Rauner
 Rauner dismissed questions about his own potential conflicts of interest: his acceptance of campaign contributions from executives at financial firms that manage state pension money. “They are just taxpayers. They don’t do business [with the state].” -- International Business Times
Chuy was right.
Ben Joravsky
 I'll tell you this: Chuy Garcia's idea for a systematic, top-to-bottom review of the city's finances doesn't seem like such a bad idea right about now. It generally takes at least a year after an election before buyers' remorse sets in and Chicagoans realize they messed it up -- again! -- Reader
Arne Duncan
“We had some stability, like any organization needs stability, and CPS in six years I’ve been gone, I think they’re on their fifth superintendent now. And might shortly be on their sixth, and that kind of lack of continuity, that lack of stability it, it’s difficult on a child. It just makes me sad.” -- Chicago Tonight
 Rahm Emanuel to Roger Goodell
 “Just call me. I’ll take care of it for you … You don’t call anybody else....” -- Sun-Times

Friday, April 24, 2015

War metaphors

Forrest Claypool, "wartime consigliere".
Some friends are critical of my use of war and military metaphors to describe the post-election atmosphere hanging over public employee unions, over city schools and over City Hall. But I'm sticking to my guns slingshot. It's war out here, folks. OK, it's one-sided class war to be sure, being waged by Gen. Arne Duncan, Gov. Private Equity and Mayor 1%, but war nevertheless.

Need more evidence? Look no further than Rahm's newly-appointed Chief of Staff Forrest Claypool, brought over from the CTA (like former schools CEO Ron Huberman --remember him?) to manage pension theft, negotiate a teachers contract, find a replacement for Byrd-Bennett (she's gone AWOL) and to cool out the feds investigation of the $20 million, no-bid SUPES deal.

S-T's Fran Spielman writes:
To do all of that without losing momentum on the mayor’s second-term agenda will require a wartime consigliere, to borrow a term made famous in the movie classic, “The Godfather.” Claypool fits the bill.

POWs I couldn't help comparing the long prison sentences handed down to black educators involved in the Atlanta cheating scandal (convicted of "racketeering") with...No jail time for former CIA Director Gen. David "Betray Us" Petraeus who leaked military secrets to his bed-mate Paula Broadwell. Petraeus currently is with private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Jon Stewart compared the “eerie” similarities between the Atlanta teacher cheating scandal with fraud on Wall Street, and discovered that the only difference between the two seems to be who was actually punished.

Want more? How about all the fuss over Spike Lee's naming of planned new film, "Chiraq"? Why not? Chicago streets have been turned into a war zone as a result of current policies of neglect, youth joblessness, school closings, easy access to guns, poor community policing strategies, etc...

It's war.

Deb Meier

Special thanks to my friend Deb Meier for spending time with our group of local educators Wednesday and my doc students last night. Discussion topics ranged from Habits of Mind, to misuse of testing, to early childhood play, to the small schools movement. Deb is in town for AERA and for the upcoming NPE Conference where she is participating in three panel discussions on Saturday. You can keep up with Deb at

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Will Duncan Send Troops to Crush the Opt-Out Revolt?

EWA meeting in Chicago
Duncan said he expected states to make sure districts get enough students take the tests. “We think most states will do that,” Duncan said during a discussion at the Education Writers Association conference in Chicago. “If states don’t do that, then we have an obligation to step in.” -- Interview with EWA writers
What a week! Edu-conferees are flowing in and out of O'Hare at a record pace. First their was AERA. Then EWA. And next comes NPE. Chicago is definitely the epicenter of corporate-style education reform and the revolt against it. The only one of these meetings where Arne Duncan would dare show his face was at the Education Writers Association (EWA) National Seminar. It was there that he threatened to take action against the growing opt-out movement.

Yes, Duncan is threatening federal intervention  if states fail to put an end to the massive testing boycotts. No one is sure what form that intervention may take. Some fear economic reprisals. But I worry about an Iraq-style invasion.

Arne's army is equipped with these military assault rifles. 
A lot of people may not know this, but the DOE Inspector General's Office has its own well-equipped military wing and Duncan has shown that he's not afraid to call out his troops against community residents. In 2011, his troops made an armed assault on at least one wrongfully-suspected student loan deadbeat.

Duncan has had to apologize for using his own particular racial theories to describe parents who are critical of over-testing as “white suburban moms” who were upset because their kids were doing poorly on new, more rigorous exams linked to Common Core.
“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought … and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said.
Duncan claims that annual standardized exams beginning with 3rd-graders are essential for tracking student progress and monitoring the so-called "achievement gap". He pooh-poohs the idea that so many high-stakes tests are "too stressful" for young children or that current testing policies take too much time and resources away from teaching. He blames parents for exaggerating the traumatic effect that testing is having on their own children.
He says the tests are “just not a traumatic event” for his children, who attend public school in Virginia. “It’s just part of most kids’ education growing up,” he said. “Sometimes the adults make a big deal and that creates some trauma for the kids.”
Yes, I'll bet there's hardly any stressful testing at Arne's kids' progressive suburban school. It's the same at the Obama kids' private school in D.C.

You see, it's parents, not the testing, stressing out the children. So Duncan is preparing to take action" on his own. Maybe it's time to take to the hills and hide the children. Oh, I forgot. We have no hills in ChiTown.

Despite federal investigation, the battle rages on in post-election Chicago

KOCO Executive Director Jawanza Malone responds to latest attacks.  (Jeffrey Bishku-Ayku)
“Peace: A period of cheating between two periods of fighting.” -- Ambrose Bierce. 
Please excuse all the military metaphors, but it's war out here on the third coast folks.

Those of you who were hoping the post-election Little Emperor would turn back into sweater-wearing Mr. Rogers -- think again. Even while a full-scale federal investigation of pay-to-play at CPS is going on and with Barbara Byrd-Bennett on the lam, the spoils of war are being spread around to Rahm's loyalists with impunity, while the guillotine is being greased up for the progressive opposition.

First on Rahm's agenda is consolidating power in the City Council by handing out key committee positions to toadies like Will Burns. But that won't be so easy given the victories by all seven members of the Progressive Caucus who ran for re-election and the stunning upset victories by progressives over Rahm-back incumbents out in the wards.

Victorious Sue Garza & Chuy
We're all celebrating yesterday's announced victories of Sue Sadlowski Garza over Petcoke Pope in the 10th and Milly Santiago over Rahm's deputy mayor and yes-man Ray Suarez in the 31st.

S-T's Mark Brown calls Garza, "tough as steel rivets". He's right.

Pope will also have to be replaced on Rahm's Infrastructure Trust. I doubt that he will appoint Garza. Don't you? But the Progressive Caucus will be all the stronger for her presence.

Now comes word that the day after the election, the CPS Office of Innovation and Incubation received at least 50 charter school proposals. This despite BBB's promises not to allow any charter schools to open in school buildings shuttered in 2013.

KOCO leader Jitu Brown leading the fight for Dyett
As for the guillotine, they're hoping to use it on the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO)  the group leading much of the resistance to south-side school closings and taking it right to Ald. Burns in the battle to save and transform Dyett High School. The attack on KOCO is being led by Rep. Christian Mitchell, who despite being bankrolled by the machine and pro-privatization groups like Stand For Children and backed by powerhouse County Board Pres. Toni Preckwinkle, barely squeaked by KOCO leader and community activist Jay Travis. But taking on KOCO won't be so easy. Community support for the organization is strong and building.

Did I mention that Travis and newly-elected Ald. Carlos Rosa will be on our panel at Saturday's NPE Conference? And KOCO leader Jitu Brown is among the keynote speakers. Should be exciting.

Some good news on the charter front. The House just passed a bill by a 60-40 vote, that would strip away power from the State Charter School Commission. That's especially good news for those inner-ring, mostly-black and Latino suburban districts who have become the target of charter school expansionism. Charter profiteers are banking on the Commission to overrule local districts who vote against them.

Of course the bill must first get through the Senate and then be signed by Rauner. Not likely. So enough votes must be garnered to override his veto. But it's something.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our Panel Saturday at NPE

I hope to see you at this weekend's NPE 2015 Conference at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Featured speakers, include Yong Zhao, Diane Ravitch, Lily Eskelson Garcia, Randi Weingarten and Chicago’s own Karen Lewis and Jitu Brown.

Don't miss our panel, Saturday afternoon from 2:45-4:00: Educating Our Kids While We Fight Back.

Carlos Rosa, Jay Travis, Larry Miller and Fred Klonsky
I will be moderating a great group of education activists which includes: Ed Blogger and union activist Fred Klonsky; newly-elected, progressive Chicago Alderman, Carlos Rosa; community activist, Jay Travis, and Milwaukee School Board member and Rethinking Schools editor, Larry Miller.

You can register for the NPE Conference here.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Mercer Hall & Gina Sipley
No self-respecting educator can condone dishonesty under any circumstances, but the proliferation of cheating practices is happening concurrently with the augmented emphasis on high stakes testing. Public education is in crisis, and now is the time for parents, educators and concerned citizens to urge the repeal of legislative mandates that have created a desperate system in which deviance has become the new normal. -- AlJazeera

Judge Baxter
Scott Lemieux
During a sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter announced that the crime under consideration was "the sickest thing that's ever happened in this town." Given that Atlanta, the town in question, has seen crimes including racist and anti-semitic lynchings, the serial murder of children, and a terrorist bombing at the Olympics, the bar is rather high. -- America's broken justice system
Wendy Katten
“We brought this to the current board’s attention over and over at multiple meetings over the past two years,” said Wendy Katten, who heads the parent group Raise Your Hand. “We don’t want to wait for the feds to have to get involved for CPS to do the right thing, to act ethically.” -- Sun-Times
Vitale & Ruiz complicit in SUPES scandal
New schools CEO Jesse Ruiz
 “Many of us . . . engage with organizations which we no longer have a relationship with, which may still provide quality services to Chicago Public Schools." Ruiz added after the press conference, that he voted for SUPES because “I thought it would be a prudent action to make.” -- Sun-Times

Friday, April 17, 2015

Is Rahm just 'lucky' or what?

Could BBB have made the $20.5M no-bid deal with SUPES without nod from Rahm & Vitale?
Answer: Or what...

S-T's Fran Spielman says:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is lucky the FBI investigation targeting his hand-picked schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett came to light one week after the election instead of one week before it.
C'mon Fran. You know better than that. Luck is when your meter ran out a half-hour ago and you return to the car and find no ticket on the window. We all know what "getting lucky" means and it has nothing to do with the feds holding off their announcement of an investigation until after an election.

I also believe that Spielman is wrong in thinking that current contract negotiations revolve around the "girlfriend" relationship between Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Karen Lewis. BBB came into the 2012 negotiations the same way she is leaving them in 2015 -- in hiding. She played Rahm Emanuel's pawn then and she's taking the fall for him now. Does anyone really believe that BBB could have handed out $20.5M no-bid contracts to Paul Vallas' partners, on her own? With no nod from Rahm or David Vitale?

No, the reason she will take her (paid) leave before her contract expires in June (spend more time with her family?) is to avoid lengthy criminal-trial blood spilling where the public sees how the sausage is really made at CPS as well as on the 5th floor of City Hall. It's in open court where the name of the buyers as well as the sellers of a deal-gone-bad usually comes to light.

In the mean time, it's getting pretty crowded with former top, black, CPS administrators down here, under the bus. Right, J.C.?  Right, Eason-Watkins? Lesson for potential successor.

These contract negotiations, like the last ones, won't be settled over breakfast at Meli's.

'A startling act of mass civil disobedience' -- Tens of thousands opt out

He'd rather be learning: Derek Rudley, 10, a student in Ossining Union Free School District, stayed home and read Tuesday. Mom had him opt out of New York state standardized tests. (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News)
999 is the magic number. No, I'm not referring to crazy Republican pizza guy, Herman Cain's campaign slogan in 2012. I mean 999 the computer code signifying a student who has opted out of N.Y. state testing. If Tuesday's protests are any indication, the 9-key on district computers will soon be worn out.

According to Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News:
The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.
Still, officials in both the state and city departments of education claim they don’t know yet how many of the 1.1 million pupils scheduled for testing in grades 3 to 8 joined the boycott. Protest organizers said Thursday that at least 155,000 pupils did — with only half of school districts tallied so far. At some Long Island and upstate school districts, abstention levels reached 80%.

Gonzalez called it, "a startling act of mass civil disobedience, given that each parent had to write a letter to the local school demanding an opt out for their child".

Among the many reasons behind parent and teacher anger are the inappropriate use of test scores in teacher evaluation and the time taken away from teaching/learning to administer the latest tests. Then there's the lack of validity and reliability in the whole testing process. For example, back in 2009, the old state tests showed 77% of students statewide were proficient in English. The next year, the pass level was raised and the proficiency percentage dropped to 57%. A few years later, Albany introduced Common Core and the level plummeted even more — to 31% statewide.

Same teachers, same students, same schools. But the reformers' conclusion -- the kids are getting dumber and teachers have gotten worse. No wonder parents are pissed.

Tisch is blaming it all on the unions. From editorial in the Journal News:
Already, defenders of "reform" have produced an excuse for the test-refusal movement: teachers unions are behind it. Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents and chief architect of New York's foundering education program, said on MSNBC Tuesday evening that more kids would be taking the tests if the tests did not affect teacher evaluations. "Our kids got caught in a labor dispute," she said.
There's obviously something wrong with Tisch's hearing. She needs to go and so does Common Core, PARCC and Pearson along with her.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Feds back in Chicago. Rahm, Vitale suddenly gag up

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.[A casino worker gives Renault a wad of money.]Casino Worker: Your winnings, sir. -- Casablanca
Catalyst deserves award for breaking Supes/BBB story back in July, 2013. We bloggers have been writing about this for two years. But feds didn't announce their move until a week after the election. Why not? And where have you been all this time, Sun-Times, Trib, Crain's, Chicago Tonight...? 

Back in August of that year, I asked: "Why is media burying the $20 million, no-bid Supes contract story?"
Why the blackout by the Sun-Times on the Supes contract? The Tribune barely mentioned it. It's buried at the end of a school budget story this morning.  Sarah Karp at Catalyst has given reporters everything they need to begin asking the right questions and should win an award for her reporting. -- Klonsky Blog
Rahm, Vitale and the gang deserve acting awards for gagging up and feigning surprise after news of the federal investigation broke. 
“As part of that investigation by the federal authorities, they asked us not to give a lot of information out, even though we don’t have a lot of information, and we’re going to honor that.” -- Rahm Emanuel
"Yesterday the Board of Education was made aware that federal authorities are investigating a matter at CPS and have requested interviews with several employees. We take any allegation of misconduct seriously, and we are fully cooperating with investigators who requested that we not discuss any specifics regarding the ongoing investigation.” -- School Board Pres. David Vitale
Vitale and Rahm?
Yesterday, made aware? Who are you crappin', Captain Renault? CPS signed its initial contract with SUPES for leadership training not long after Byrd-Bennett took office. You both knew that she had worked for the company before joining CPS as a consultant in April 2012.

And we know that you know that we know, you've been meeting about how to stonewall this for weeks, even discussing the possibility of appointing an interim CEO before the story broke. You've sent BBB into hiding even though you are in the middle of contract negotiations with the CTU.

Your own inspector general's office began an investigation into the contract with SUPES Academy and Byrd-Bennett's relationship to the company in 2013. The U.S. attorney's office started its own probe, and a grand jury has been reviewing evidence for at least a year.

Even your usually silent and compliant principals raised holy hell last year, about the deadly $20M SUPES workshops, after they were forced to take time away from their own schools. At one point, they even revolted, ran out Gary Solomon's facilitator, and took over the trainings themselves.

There can be only one explanation. This is only the tip of the iceberg. It goes way beyond BBB who will likely be dumped unceremoniously and soon, like her predecessors Brizard and Huberman, with only her golden parachute to land her softly. If she's indicted, you can bet it won't be on RICO racketeering charges like the teachers down in Atlanta or carry a 20-year-sentence. She may even decide to pull an Amer Ahmad and flee the country. More likely, a deal is already in the works.

But this thing goes even higher up the ladder and the A.G. knows it. After all, this is a system of mayoral control of the schools and a no-bid contract to one of Paul Vallas' Synesi consulting partners would never have been handed out without a nod from Rahm and Vitale.

Also, this goes way beyond Chicago. Solomon, Vallas and Synesi have been running this scam since Vallas left Chicago on his way to Philly, New Orleans, Haiti and points north and south. It should make us take a fresh look at how and why Vallas was made Pat Quinn's running mate for the second highest office in the state?

More, much more, to come on this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rhee sentenced to 20 years for erasing grades -- Just a dream.

They're whistling Dixie in Atlanta this morning. 
I had a strange dream last night. Michelle Rhee was standing in front of a crazed, media-hungry judge who sentenced her to 20 years in the penitentiary under RICO statutes for "racketeering" stemming from her leadership role in the D.C. cheating scandal. He also confiscated her Mercedes. Alas, it was just a dream. When I woke up, Arne Duncan (who had promised to visit her in prison) hadn't even taken back the Blue Ribbon he awarded Rhee and the district for the amazing, but temporary bump in test scores.

This was not a dream -- Today's Daily News reports:
The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.
Pay attention, Hillary Clinton.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Darling-Hammond has some smart things to say about testing

Linda Darling-Hammond thinks that passage of a new bipartisan ESEA bill is "really possible". I doubt it. But I don't run in those circles.

Writing this week in Huffington Post, she says any new federal legislation has to represent a break from the old No Child Left Behind, especially on testing and assessment. She correctly points out that despite NCLB's focus on more and more standardized testing, "achievement gains have slowed in the NCLB era, and achievement gaps have remained stubbornly large". Many of her criticisms of current testing approaches also apply to the new PARCC exams.

You might remember that Darling-Hammond was unceremoniously dumped and exiled back to Palo Alto by an Obama administration that had bought uncritically into the worst aspects of corporate-style reform. Fearful that she was too teacher/union friendly, they handed the D.O.E. over to Arne Duncan instead. The consequences have been disastrous for public education.

I still think Darling-Hammond is too accepting of Common Core standards and of testing as a driver of curriculum. But, I think she offers some smart ideas about how and why we test. They include:
  • Assessment results should be reported and used for information and improvement, rather than for labeling schools or administering sanctions, a purpose for which they were never intended. 
  • Federal law should no longer prescribe technical features of tests - how they are designed and administered -- in ways that prevent innovation and change. 
  • States should be invited to create integrated systems of state- and locally-administered assessments that provide information for the multiple purposes they need to serve, combining rich assessments to describe annual student learning and progress in ways that can inform teaching. 
  • ESEA should encourage accountability systems based on multiple measures of student success, as well as students' opportunities to learn.
She gives examples from other countries like Singapore, New Zealand and Australia (What? No Finland?), where externally-administered tests are less frequent (usually once or twice before high school, plus examinations at the end of high school to inform college and career decisions), but much deeper than in the U.S.
These open-ended exams, which feature essay questions and complex problems, often include project-based components completed during the school year and scored by teachers who are trained to ensure consistency. Rather than treating tests as black boxes to use as hammers for sanctions, these countries understand that assessments of, as, and for learning should be integrated into instruction and support better teaching. 
Good ideas, Linda. Good luck in getting any of them through this congress.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Newly elected 29th Ward Ald. Chris Taliaferro

Chris Taliaferro, newly elected 29th Ward alderman 
"The thing about the progressive caucus, to me, is they have always seemed to be looking out for the people in their neighborhoods and voting that way." -- Chicago Tribune
Clinton Adviser Paul Begala
 “I don’t think people should say a right-wing Democrat won". -- Politico
Maureen Dowd 
 As the old maxim goes, if you can fake humility, you’ve got it made. But seeing Rahm and Hillary do it in the same season might be too much to take. -- Grandmama Mia
Singer-songwriter Jill Sobule to Rand Paul
When you say you want to "take our country back", what the f*%k do you mean? -- Huffington
Pres. Obama on Cuba
 “The United States will not be imprisoned by the past, We’re looking to the future.” -- PBS 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hey Spike. Why not name the film, 'ChiRahm'?

The city has recorded 355 shootings this year as of Monday compared with 253 shootings for the first quarter of 2014, according to crime statistics released by the Chicago Police Department on Wednesday. Eighty murders were recorded in the first quarter of 2015. There were 62 in the same period last year. -- USA Today
But it was clear that the mayor was none too pleased. If he wants to press the issue, Emanuel could use the Hollywood pipeline provided by his brother, super-agent Ari Emanuel, to make his feelings known to Spike Lee. -- Sun-Times
Yes, Spike Lee is naming his new movie "Chiraq". That is, unless Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls brother Ari, out in Beverly Hills and asks him to pressure Spike otherwise.
Rahm calls Ari: "Hey bro, it's Rahmbo. I need you to put an arm on Spike Lee. He's naming his next film, 'Chirac' and that's going to scare tourists away."
Ari: "I'm on it little brother. He'll change the name or he'll be through in this town. He'll never set foot in Nate & Al's deli again."
Let's see how that works.

The mayor is pissed at Spike. He's afraid the word "Chiraq" will conjure up an unfair image of HIS city. Scare off potential visitors who might mistakenly think Chicago is a city where shootings are up by 40%  and homicides 26%  over a year ago. How silly of them!

He also calls on his pal, Sen. Double D to spread the good news:
“There’s no question that Chicago, as most cities, has its share of violence, but the honest answer is we’ve seen a decline in the numbers. . . . So I hope this is not creating an image of the city that is unfair.” -- Sen. Dick Durbin
Sen. Durbin and Sen. Kirk
Remember when Double D stood next to his buddy, Republican Sen. Kirk who called for the rounding up and jailing of 18,000 black men as a way to cut into Chicago's crime rate?

Then Rahm drudges up one of his city council puppy dogs, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), to carry his water on this one. Beale tells the Sun-Times:
“We’re trying to attract tourism. We’re bringing jobs in to Chicago. The city is growing. We’re trying to promote the good things in this city every single day. To highlight the problems we’re having with that type of name is an insult.” 
Yes, Beale is so concerned with Spike Lee's threat to tourism that he doesn't mention the hundreds who have fallen victim to the city's pandemic gun violence, mostly black and Hispanic men between 20 and 35, many in Beale's own ward.

Beale says he also has a problem with the Constitution. Fran Spielman asks him: "What about the 1st Amendment?"
“Freedom of expression still does not mean you can insult the people of this city,” says Beale.
Rahm & Ald. Beale
He obviously never passed his high school civics class thereby making him extra-qualified to become a Chicago alderman..

I'm happy that Spike Lee is making his movie here and shining another light on the horrific conditions of violence and joblessness, especially for black and Latino youth in the city's neighborhoods. I predict filming it here will be great for tourism. It will also provide some jobs for lots of black actors and those working behind the cameras.

My problem with the name "Chiraq" is that may reflect badly on Iraq. It has been pointed out that young African-American men are statistically safer in Baghdad or Kabul then they are on the streets of Chicago.

I'm suggesting that Spike name the film, "ChiRahm" instead of "Chiraq". But I'm guessing he will tell me the same thing he tells Rahm and Ari.

Friday, April 10, 2015

We've already surpassed Detroit

We've already surpassed Detroit in boarded-up schools.
I half-jokingly floated this idea this morning on Twitter.

But I'm not really all that concerned about the site for the library. Yes, it belongs in Chicago but I assume that's already been decided one way or the other by the Obama's. I'm much more concerned now about the lack of CPS school libraries and librarians.

But I was actually trying to provoke some discussion about the 47 out of 50 closed Chicago schools that remain vacant, boarded-up blights on their communities and what's going to happen to them, now that the campaign is over. Rahm never was asked to speak to this.

Other stuff missing from the campaign chatter

The media lent itself to fear mongering and racial code-talk about Chicago turning into Detroit if Chuy Garcia had won the election. You could make a case that this play on racial fears was actually the basis for Rahm's successful campaign strategy. A new and improved Willie Horton strategy for those who are old enough to remember. After all, it proved effective in Gov. Rauner's campaign, as our late colleague Mark Anderson had pointed out.

But the Mayor was never asked about the incredible number of stop-and-frisks, mostly of young African-Americans by Supt. McCarthy's boys. There were 250,000 of these S&Fs in only 3 months last summer, far surpassing even New York -- let alone Detroit-- in that department. I don't attribute harassment on this grand scale simply to the racism of a few cops. Rather to policy coming right from the top of the system.

So no, I'm not raising the specter of the next four years under Rahm Emanuel turning the city into another Detroit. Rather I'm saying that in these and many other areas, he's already far surpassed Motown.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Achievement Gap or Opportunity Gap?

At last... researchers in Boston are talking about the "opportunity gap" rather than just the "achievement gap." An Annenberg Institute study, released in November, revealed stark opportunity gaps and a separate, lesser educational track for black and Latino males in Boston.
Black and Latino males collectively make up about 78 percent of Boston schools’ male population. At every stage of education, black and Latino males have limited access to rigorous coursework such as advanced work classes, elite exam schools and college readiness curricula. As a result, the report says, black and Latino males in Boston schools have lower attendance rates, higher suspension and dropout rates, lower proficiency rates and lower graduation rates than peers. -- Learning Lab
Another recent study authored by UC Berkeley prof, Bruce Fuller,  found that a significant percentage of Mexican-American children who matched their white counterparts in cognitive growth at 9 months of age had fallen behind by the time the children reached 2 years old.

These findings exist even though other research has found that based on other measures, such as social and emotional growth and physical health, young Mexican-American children are quite similar to white children.
"These youngsters grow up in warm and supportive families and that yields emotional and social agility," Fuller said in an interview. "But all that caring and support isn't necessarily infused with rich language and asking kids questions and asking kids to articulate words and their own feelings." 
Mexican-American children who demonstrated strong cognitive growth in the study were more likely to have had mothers who had completed some college, worked outside the home, and read to their children daily, the study found.

Fuller's conclusions reflect his own racial bias as well. They reflect a whitenized vision of what good parenting is. Omit assets Mexican-American children carry with them.

Studies like these shine a light on the process of  systemic social reproduction, meaning the structures and activities that transmit social inequality from one generation to the next.

For example, our increased reliance on standardized testing as the indicator of "student achievement" only serves to maintain social and economic inequality. Higher education, rather than being the great social equalizer, threatens to become the great gate keeper as tests are used increasingly to sort and track kids rather than diagnostic tools for educators. Poverty and racial discrimination are seen simply as a "excuses" for poor performance.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A fight worth fighting

The fight was worth fighting.
While Rahm Emanuel had all the money in the world to pound home his message, Garcia had believers willing to battle Goliath in Chicago’s neighborhoods and City Council. -- Carol Marin, Sun-Times
Okay, I still haven't quite got my head fully around yesterday's election outcomes. Lots of contradictory thoughts and emotions. I'm feeling battered and bruised but not surprised by Emanuel's 12-point margin of victory. It turns out he got almost exactly the same vote he received in 2011. How could that have happened?

I left the precinct where I had worked all day, in the 15th Ward, feeling jubilant. Our team had helped turn out lots of voters leading to an 82% win for Chuy and underdog Rafael Yanez losing by only 2 votes. Talk about a tale of two (or three) cities!

But then my emotions came crashing down when I turned on the radio to hear that Chuy had lost with both the black and white vote going heavily Rahm's way as it had done in 2011.

Looking back now, I'm buoyed by how well Chuy Garcia and the progressive movement showed in a campaign that few believed could even get past February primaries. Yes, lots of mistakes were made and I'm sure there will be plenty of time to rethink the campaign's coalition-building strategy and tactics. I hope that can be done as free from recrimination and blaming as possible. In my mind, it's never been about one campaign or one election.

And what about those ward elections where so many insurgent progressives, running with little or no money, kicked butt on Rahm's machine-bankrolled city council stooges? Even the pundits who bought into Rahm's fictional media narratives are now forced to admit that the face and shape of Chicago politics has been changed.

I hear that Sue Garza is now widening her lead over Rahm's lap-dog, John Pope and looks like a winner in the 10th Ward. Wow! Check out Kari Lydersen's piece in In These Times for the Garza back story. And it looks like Milly Santiago has defeated Ray Suarez, Rahm's deputy mayor, in the 31st.

Sue Sadlowski Garza (center) and supporters.  (Kari Lydersen)  
Progressive stalwart John Arena has won in the 45th despite having a target on his back, drawn by Rahm's Chicago Forward superPAC. He along with Scott Waguespack (32nd), Toni Foulkes (15th), and Nick Sposato (36th) and Rick Munoz (22nd) will form the core of veteran leadership for the Council's Progressive Caucus (minus sellout Bob Fioretti) which now includes, Chris Taliaferro (29th), David Moore (17th) and Carlos Rosa (35th). Put Garza and Santiago in the mix and you've got a formidable opposition to Rahm Love.

I'm hearing that Tara Stamps gave incumbent machine tool Emma Mitts a helluva run for her money, losing by only 500 votes. Tara is the daughter of late Civil Rights activist Marion Stamps and is a CPS teacher and Chicago Teachers Union supporter. Her political future looks bright to me.

More broke machine tools include Ward 41 incumbent Mary O’Connor, Ward 18 incumbent Lona Lane, Ward 7 incumbent Natashia Holmes, and Ward 29 incumbent Deborah L. Graham. Their political futures looks dim.
"A pretty good night for the caucus, and mainly for what the caucus stands for — independence," Sposato said Wednesday morning. "A bad night to be a rubber-stamper, good night for the independents."
Yes, money still talks in big city as well as state and national politics. But in Chicago's neighborhoods, where community organizing was invented, independent and progressive politics trumped machine dollars. Citywide, where the cards are really stacked against us, the fight was and is still worth it.

It goes on.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Opening Day. Chuy at bat.
Chuy Garcia 
"This past week, Rahm Emanuel made a comment to the effect that you can't protest a problem. And it really flies in the face of everything that Dr. King stood for, and for the civil rights movement in this country, and the women's rights movement in this country, and the immigrant rights movement in this country, as well as the Fight For 15 movement in this country. It's time to fire Rahm Emanuel." -- On 47th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dolores Huerta, civil rights and union activist
“We are on the eve of making history. This is not just going to be about Chicago. This is going to be about the United States of America.” -- At Chuy rally
David Sirota
“I have no idea as to why CPS would need a lobbyist, given the mayor's control of the school board and his majority on the city council..." -- Chicago Elections Chief Got Lobbying Contracts from Rahm Emanuel's Adminstration
Cornel West 
 Cornel West
“Brother Rahm is not a brother of integrity. He’s too mean and arrogant. He’s too condescending. He’s too paternalistic. That day is over. It’s a new day in Chicago.” -- At Chuy Rally
Carol Marin
There is no question there has been a rebellion of voters in the wards. -- Sun-Times
Jill Barshay
But most states have never created a level playing field, and new data show that it’s getting worse at a time when we’re asking schools to raise standards and demonstrate test score gains. -- The Hechinger Report

Friday, April 3, 2015

Chicago shakes

This morning at Darwin Elementary. 
At a rally and presser this morning at Darwin Elementary in Logan Square. Chuy and a host of parents and community leaders are calling us to stand up against Rahm's devastating austerity policies, school closings and privatization. Biggest applause came when Chuy laid out his plans to undo Rahm's toxic stock-swap deals with banker friends and his support for an elected school board.

Chuy patiently (bless his soul) tried to explain his strategy to reporters, many of whom seem to believe that there's a magic bullet out there to undo the damage done to city finances over the fast few decades. One even asks him for a "guaranteed fix."

Rahm to his appointed department heads: "Get the f*^k out of Dunkin Donuts and find a precinct to work. And don't give me any of that Shakman crap or you'll be back pouring coffee at Dunkin for $8.82 an hour."

Sneed's column this a.m.
Early voting bodes well... Buried in this story about departing Election Board Chairman Langdon Neal, is this bit of good news for the Garcia campaign.
Some of the biggest percentage increases in early voting from Feb. 24 until now are in Hispanic wards, which bodes well for mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. But the highest overall numbers are in the 41st Ward (5,522 early votes), the 19th Ward (5,233), the 45th Ward (3,502), the 47th Ward (3,222), the 18th Ward (3,215), the 34th Ward (3,094) and the 43rd Ward (3,035). 1.4 million registered voters citywide, up 1.4 percent from Feb. 24 and by 5.3 percent since November 2014.