Monday, February 29, 2016


“I’m not a superpredator!” Ashley Williams, a young Black Lives Matter protester, tells Hillary.
"Oink oink" 
"And this is who your going after? This is where we start the battle? You fucking idiots!" That's consummate liberal racist Bill Maher going after young, black activist, Ashley Williams after she protested Hillary Clinton's "superpredator…bring them to heel" comments at a South Carolina campaign event. -- Raw Story
Derrion's mom finds herself in an Alvarez ad
The mother of Derrion Albert, the 16-year-old honors student killed in a melee outside Fenger High School on Sept. 24, 2009, says she was in shock.
 “I didn’t understand. I couldn’t believe it. Why was I in a commercial without my knowledge? And without my permission?” Albert asks. “How can they do that?” -- Sun-Times
Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard resigns from DNC to support Sanders
"As a veteran, as a soldier, I've seen firsthand the true cost of war. As we look at our choices as to who our next Commander-in-chief will be is to recognize the necessity to have a commander-in-chief who has foresight. Who exercises good judgment. Who looks beyond the consequences — who looks at the consequences of the actions that they are willing to take before they take those actions. So that we don't continue to find ourselves in these failures that have resulted in chaos in the Middle East and so much loss of life." -- Roll Call
Top Republican strategists
 A Trump nomination would not only cause Republicans to lose the presidency, they wrote, “but we also lose the Senate, competitive gubernatorial elections and moderate House Republicans.” 
Mitch McConnell
“We’ll drop him like a hot rock.”  -- New York Times

Trump quoting Mussolini

Friday, February 26, 2016

Pasi Sahlberg

At Harvard's Graduate School of Education, I got a handshake and a "keep up your great work" from renown Finnish educator, scholar, author and activist Pasi Sahlberg. 

Made my day.

Pasi is a former Director General of CIMO (Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation) at  Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture in Helsinki and currently a visiting Professor of Practice at HGSE. I've used his best-selling book Finnish Lessons 2.0 in my own courses.

I've been a fan of his ever since I saw this interview with Andrea Mitchell back in Sept. 2010.

He told an astonished Mitchell that the secret of Finland's celebrated school success was essentially doing everything just the opposite of current U.S. school reform policies. Some of the major differences: Finland puts the focus on collaboration rather than on competition. Finnish education policy supports public good and equity over privatization and school choice. The Finnish school system de-emphasizes standardized testing. Finland has implemented high standards for entry into the teaching profession, rather than using mass purges of the profession and school closings.

Good Flick...I told Pasi that I had just seen him in Michael Moore's new film, Where To Invade Next, where he tells Moore essentially the same thing he told Mitchell.

Check out Pasi's website: and Twitter: @pasi_sahlberg.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Standing up for Kim Foxx

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has never endorsed anyone running for states attorney before. Until yesterday, that is. That's when the 30,000-member union endorsed Kim Foxx, running against current SA Anita Alvarez and gambling industry shill, Dona More.

 And why wouldn't they? When Alvarez, began covering up cases of police misconduct, including the murder of 16-year-old Laquan McDonald, the election became a critical one for teachers. The school-to-prison pipeline, facilitated over the past few years by Alvarez, is an affront to all educators.
"We have never endorsed in a state's attorney's race, but we are at a turning point in Chicago," CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement, issued after a morning news conference to announce the endorsement was canceled. "This race is critical to everyone that cares about the future of our children. Kim Foxx is (the) only candidate with a real plan to invest in our next generation that will help end the school-to-prison pipeline." (Tribune)
 To get an idea of where Alvarez backers are coming from, read their pro-pipeline comments below the Trib story. Their lock-em-up mentality is directed only at disruptive students, ignoring the fact that it is Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke who's finally on trial here for murder.

To those who say that teachers and their union should "stick to teaching" and stay out of politics, I would remind them that it's hard to teach a kid with 16 police bullets in him. They should also consider the high cost, socially and financially of locking up, rather than schooling, thousands of our city's children.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

We pahked the cah...

Eve Ewing
We visited Hahvahd yesterday, only to find Chicago students tearing it up academically and politically, as expected.

First, we went over to the Law School where dozens of students have been occupying the Wasserstein Lounge, (which they've renamed Belinda Hall) trying to create a learning environment more relevant and safe for students of color. Occupiers I talked with, including Chicagoan and Whitney Young alum Keaton Allen, want more focus on critical race theory and more faculty of color.

Yesterday's speaker at the protest was none other than Harvard law prof Lani Guinier. Who could be more relevant at a time when Republicans have sworn to stonewall any Scalia replacement chosen by President Obama? Prof. Guinier is the first woman of color ever appointed to a tenured professorship at that institution.

Keaton Allen & Amanda Klonsky
But in 1993, President Bill Clinton pulled back Guinier's nomination as attorney general in the face of a brutal and racist negative Republican-led media campaign, referring to Guinier as a "quota queen." One New York Times opinion piece falsely claimed that Guinier was in favor of "segregating black voters in black-majority districts." Guinier was portrayed as a racial polarizer who believed—in the words of George Will (Newsweek 6/14/93)—that "only blacks can represent blacks." But the key to Clinton's retreat was Guinier's abandonment by Democratic senators like Ted Kennedy and even Carole Moseley Braun. What a shame.

Having heard Guinier speak before on several occasions, I took off and ran over to the Ed School to hear a presentation to the weekly research colloquium by brilliant doc student and  Chicago's own Eve Ewing.  Eve's research dissects the discourse surrounding Chicago school closings, unmasking
immoral public policy. If you haven't followed her work, a good place to start is her recent New Yorker piece, “We Shall Not Be Moved”: A Hunger Strike, Education, and Housing in Chicago."

Must be something in the Chicago drinking water, besides lead.

FOR DESSERT I caught Michael Moore's latest film, "Where to Invade Next", in Brookline. Funny and hard-hitting at the same time. Could easily be taken as a promotion for Bernie Sanders. But it isn't.

Moore at his best. Don't miss.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Albert Woodfox, released from Angola prison after 43 years in solitary confinement. 
Albert Woodfox
 “I can now direct all my efforts to ending the barbarous use of solitary confinement and will continue my work on that issue here in the free world.” -- Guardian
Jamil Smith
Scalia’s passing underscores that waiting for bigots to die is a fool’s errand. It doesn’t excuse us from the work that needs to be done, both organizationally and politically, to further equality. -- MTV News
Donald Trump on his support for Iraq War. 
“I really don’t even know what I mean because that was a long time ago and who knows what was in my head.” -- NBC, Meet the Press
NEA Pres. Lily Eskelsen García
“We definitely hear something new coming out of [Interim Ed Sec. John King],” she said, adding that while his words “mean a lot to us,” teachers are interested in seeing how he backs up those words with actions. “There’s some power in making a speech. I think that actually tells people where you are,” she said. “But if that’s where it ends, we’re in big trouble.” -- Washington Post

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Yesterday's 'Walk-ins' at 200 schools

At Kenwood H.S.
CPS ‘WALK-INS’ -- “Protesters stage 'walk-in' at 200 CPS campuses," by ABC7's Jessica D'Onofrio: "
Protesters walked into nearly 200 Chicago Public Schools Wednesday as part of a national day of action in defense of schools. The Chicago Teachers Union organized the demonstration. The union said the ‘walk-ins’ are in protest of CPS and what they call the district's failure to address the needs of teachers and students. Teachers, parents, students and community members gathered outside each school about 30 minutes before classes began and marched in as a group. CPS sent a letter home to parents and staff Tuesday saying principals are not to let strangers into the buildings. The union and the district have recently been involved in tense contract negotiations.” --


Jay Travis: Yesterday was a good day

Jay Travis is the progressive hope, running for State Rep in the 26th Dist. against corporate reformer and pension grabber, Christian Mitchell.

JT reports from Springfield:
House Bill 557, calling for an elected representative school board for the people of Chicago, was passed out of committee by a vote of 15-9. That same morning, Chicago public school students, parents, community residents and teachers staged 'walk-ins' at more than a hundred neighborhood schools across the city to bring critical attention to the need to invest public dollars in our neighborhood schools instead of giveaways to wealthy, politically connected elites.
More on Mitchell...Chicago Reporter's Curtis Black, writes:
Indeed, Mitchell has been one of the top recipients of funds both statewide and nationally from Stand For Children, a group brought to Illinois by Rauner in an effort to undercut union influence and bargaining rights; it’s backed by a bevy of billionaires including Republican Ken Griffin.
But particularly on education policy, Mitchell does seem to have aligned himself with Rauner. ­(He’s also aligned on school policy with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose campaign committee gave Mitchell $28,000 last year.) This is a political vulnerability for him: Schools are a flash point, especially on the South Side, and especially under Emanuel. On the state and local level, in terms of the neoliberal agenda of privatization and union busting, school policy is where the rubber meets the road.
In Bronzeville, parents have felt under siege as they’ve watched school after school close, many to be replaced by charter schools, said Jitu Brown, national director of Journey for Justice and a longtime colleague of Travis’s. Mitchell provided no support for parents in his district fighting school closings, Brown said, or undergoing a hunger strike to save Dyett High School.
Mitchell refused to support a moratorium on school closings; opposed an elected school board (reversing himself after Travis declared her candidacy); and opposed a bill allowing parents to opt their children out of high-stakes tests. He’s backed charter schools down the line, repeatedly opposing efforts to give local voters final say in approving new charters and even opposing a measure requiring charters to follow federal regulations protecting special education and English learning students.
What more do you need to know?

Two good points

Hillary Clinton at her Chicago campaign rally yesterday...
“[Gov. Rauner's] plan would turn Illinois around, all right, all the way back to the robber barons of the 19th century,” Clinton said. She criticized the governor, laying the blame on the Republican for cuts to drug addiction programs as well as to higher education. -- POLITICO
The Empire strikes back

The Rauner administration had a sharp response to Clinton's criticisms, referencing big fees she's collected for speaking engagements -- including to the private equity firm he helped found -- GTCR.
 "Quite ironic coming from someone who cashed a $280,000 check for a paid speech to GTCR less than two years ago," Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said of Clinton's Wednesday remarks. -- TRIBUNE

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hillary's here, but where's the mayor?

‪#‎walkintoCPS‬ rally at Goethe Elementary this morning
Hillary Clinton picked a fine day to visit Chicago. The sun is out. Snow is melting, uncovering fresh mounds of dog poo on every sidewalk and back alleyway. New potholes are bursting open like spring azaleas. The town is jumping.

Thousands of parents are walking-in at their neighborhood schools, demanding good schools for all kids. Many more have taken that long, boring ride down to Springfield to protest Gov. Rauner's threat-and-bluster budget speech.

Rahm is poison to Dems … Funny thing, the mayor is nowhere to be found. Like it was a few weeks ago when Chelsea Clinton came to town, she was told to avoid Rahm at all cost. Then last week, he stayed clear when his old boss, President Obama, revisited the State Capitol steps where he launched his historic presidential campaign. Again, no Rahm.

Hillary's mainly here to raise money from her wealthy pals, open an office on the south side (something the couldn't do in '08 when she ran against Obama) and hold a campaign rally. But she's keeping a low profile considering. Except a mention in  Sneed's S-T column, there's not a word about Hillary's visit in either paper this morning. Strange.

CTU Pres. Karen Lewis at walk-in in L.A.
Sneed asks, "Is Rahm being kept at arm's length?" Of course she knows he is. He's like the guy with B.O. who never gets invited to high tea.
At last peek Tuesday, Sneed was told Emanuel’s public schedule did not include plans to meet Dem presidential contender Hillary Clinton when she hits town this week to open up two new campaign offices. One is on the South Side.
Response: “No. Nothing is scheduled. But he could meet with her privately,” a source familiar with Emanuel’s schedule said. “But the mayor has been in touch with two of Hillary’s advisers.”
Hillary's supposedly here to woo black voters. She knows she can't beat Bernie Sanders, let alone Donald Trump, without them.

She held a "get out the vote rally" at the Parkway Ballroom in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood with Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, at her side.

And Rahm's the last guy you want to be seen with these days, on the south or west sides of the city where he's polling with single-digit support.

Rahm tells WLS Radio’s Bill Cameron, he wants to put all that Laquan McDonald cover-up stuff behind him and "look forward, not backward." He claims that Chicagoans want his leadership to continue.
“The city just went through two months with some difficult issues. Now, what they want is my leadership [audible pause] and the participation of everybody in making changes, where you have the grit and the determination to make the necessary changes.”
He obviously hasn't been paying attention to the writing on the wall. #RahmResign.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

On the so-called 'failure' of the small schools movement

Holy Cross prof, Jack Schneider, writing at EdWeek, makes a pretty fair assessment of the small schools movement.
In the eyes of Gates and company, the problem was with small schools as a particular policy fix rather than with the thinking behind the fix. Collective faith in silver bullets—in finding "what works" and "taking it to scale"—remained absolute. Never mind the obvious disregard for the importance of context or inescapable complexity of improving schools. The backers declared small schools a failure and moved on.
But while the modern small schools movement, which began as a teacher-led movement in East Harlem, for social-justice and democratic education and met its death when it was trampled by the top-down, corporate-style reform wave of the past two decades, was never envisioned as a panacea or a technical reform for ailing schools. Rather it was seen by us early educator/activists as a way to drive change from below. Small, was about far more than the size of buildings or even school population. It was a metaphor that gave us a way to confront anonymity and talk about schooling in personalized, human terms.

Gates money, translated into Gates' takeover and proved to be the irresistible kiss of death, as many of us suspected it would be.

Writes Schneider:
As it turns out, small schools do exactly what you might expect. Smallness can create more opportunities for young people to be known, both by one another and by the adults in the building. The relative intimacy of small schools can foster trusting, caring, and attentive relationships. Deborah Meier, the godmother of the small-schools movement, consistently made this argument in the 1980s and 1990s when explaining the importance of size. As she put it in a 1989 op-ed essay, small schools offer young people better opportunities to learn forms of participation" necessary to becoming a member of a democratic society." But they are, at best, only one piece of a complex puzzle. And early proponents of small schools were clear about that. As Meier, who also writes an opinion blog for Education Week , prudently observed: "Small schools are not the answer, but without them none of the proposed answers stand a chance."
For more on the life and death of the small schools movement, read our book, "Small Schools: Public School Reform Meets the Ownership Society." Maybe it's time to reopen the conversation on small schools.

Speaking truth to power

Chicago School Principal Challenges City Hall
Chicago Public School Principal Challenges City Hall "Since Mayor Emanuel began his political career, financial institutions and investment banks have contributed the most money – by far – to his campaigns. LaRaviere says they are the ones profiting, while the schools are suffering."
Posted by Aapple on Tuesday, February 16, 2016

As teachers and parents prepare for tomorrow's Walk-Ins for the public schools all of our children deserve, local media is focusing in on some of the key players in the city's progressive movement.

Don't Miss...WGN is running a two-part feature on Chicago's rebel principal, Troy LaRaviere. Troy has been reprimanded by the mayor's hand-picked board for being outspoken about the real causes of the city's and CPS' financial mess. The problem for them is that he leads Blaine, one of the city's highest-performing schools and he enjoys strong community and parent support. Some (including CTU Pres. Karen Lewis) have even mentioned him as a possible mayoral candidate.
Last night, he focused on the pension crisis.
Zeroing in on the Emanuel administration – he is drawing attention to the mayor’s strategy of borrowing, which he says is only making the problems much worse.
Indeed according to a financial analysis prepared for the Board of Education, the district’s pension costs are projected to increase 32% over seven years, but the debt service on borrowed money is projected to increase 350%.
 Since Mayor Emanuel began his political career, financial institutions and investment banks have contributed the most money – by far – to his campaigns. Laraviere says they are the ones profiting, while the teachers are suffering.
He adds,
“Would I ever want to run against this mayor?  I want a better city.  I want the city that I talked about for my son, and I’m willing to do anything I have to do to make sure he gets that city.”
ALSO...Watch CBS News tonight for Mike Parker's feature story on Harish I Patel's campaign. Harish is the independent anti-machine Democrat running for State Rep in the 40th. Should be good. Look for it.

Monday, February 15, 2016


ADVISORY FOR                                             CONTACT: Ira Arlook
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2016         202-258-5437,

Parents, Students and Teachers Plan “Walk-Ins” 
at 800 Public Schools in 30 Cities to Demand the Kind of  Education that All Children Deserve

Call for Adequate Funding Too Long Denied to Public Schools Serving African American & Latino Communities

Decry Role of Wall St. & Corporate Billionaires
in Attacks on Public Education

Thousands of parents, teachers and students will stage “Walk-Ins” at over 800 public elementary and high schools in 30 cities on the morning of Wednesday, February 17, as classes begin. They will gather, placards in hand, thirty minutes before the start of the school day, then walk into their public school buildings to show support for an adequately funded approach to public education that they call “community schools,” now implemented in systems serving five million students. The largely African American and Latino parents and students want the benefits afforded by community schools for their children. In some cities, Walk-In participants will focus on efforts to secure tax revenues for their public schools, to stop over-testing, to end school takeovers, and other local issues.

The Walk-Ins are the opening salvo in a major battle--a national campaign--to ensure that the country that invented public education as an essential feature of a democratic society continues to offer it. Here are the basic demands in the words of the campaign’s participants:

  • We demand a world class public education for all children—the kind of education that all children deserve and the very kind that has often been denied to black, brown and poor children. Our country has the resources to fully fund our schools and the obligation to our children to do so.

  • We demand accountability and transparency for Charter Schools and operators. Every school that receives public funds is held to the same high standards of transparency and student success, including schools serving students of color, students with special needs and low-income students. And we want to stop the growing involvement of billionaires, like the Walton Family, in public education.

  • We demand revenue to fully fund our schools. We want those Wall Street and corporate titans who claim to be education reformers to contribute their fair share of the tax dollars needed to ensure adequate public school funding for the low-income African American and Latino communities that need it most.

Public schools and public education are under attack and most aggressively by Wall Street and hedge fund billionaires—many of whom nearly brought down the entire U.S. economy in 2008—and companies like Walmart, infamous for the mistreatment of its employees and low wages that harm communities that need the most help. Wall Street and Walmart lobbyists continue to press for unaccountable charter schools and other dubious approaches that promise much but so often fall short in practice, while siphoning off taxpayer dollars that our public schools need to succeed. These are the people who have received the lion’s share of the nation’s wealth over the past several decades but who continue to resist paying their fair share of the taxes needed to fund our public schools adequately.
We know that our public schools can provide tools, time and support that students need whatever their zip code to inspire their natural curiosity, imagination and desire to learn. But only if they are funded to offer relevant and challenging curriculums, emphasize high quality teaching rather than constant high-stakes testing, more one-on-one instruction time, positive discipline, needed support services like vision testing and food banks as well as parent involvement in planning and decision-making.

Schools that incorporate these features produce better results than other approaches and do so without closing schools – a problem that now plagues so many neighborhoods where insufficient or misallocated resources have failed our students. This effective approach to educating our children, embodied in community schools, is much needed in low-income African American and Latino communities.

It is a bitter irony that so many of those Wall Street billionaires and corporate CEOs who have acquired almost all of the new wealth created over the past several decades continue to deny and deflect attention from what African American and Latino communities know only too well, that their public schools have been sabotaged by consistent, long-term underfunding. These moguls foist upon us failed, undemocratic alternatives including school takeovers and for-profit control of our schools rather than pay their fair share of the tax revenues needed to provide the education that all our children deserve. Over the coming months, and however long it takes, we will fight to reverse this state of affairs and ensure that public schools in low-income communities of color survive and flourish.



Justice Scalia Dead Following 30-Year Battle With Social Progress -- The Onion
Justice Anton Scalia (Departing words)
African-American students do better in "less-advanced schools." -- The Hill
Donald Trump
"Delay, delay, delay…" -- WaPo
Elizabeth Warren
Senator McConnell is right that the American people should have a voice in the selection of the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, they did — when President Obama won the 2012 election by five million votes. -- FB Post
Laura Washington
Yet, in that 60-minute speech, there was not one word about what matters so much to so many who elected him:  Race matters. Black lives matter.  Not a word. -- What Obama did not say in Springfield
Stanley Nelson, director "Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution" 
"When black men started bearing arms, these people who we think of as being pro-gun are saying, 'We ought to change this law." -- Mother Jones

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Little to cheer about latest CPS suspension/expulsion rates. Charters are main culprit.

There is no evidence that  frequent reliance  on removing  misbehaving  students improves  school safety or  student behavior. -- Skiba & Losen 
Rahm and spin team at CPS are cheering the good news. District leaders are claiming that they've  expelled and suspended fewer students last school year than the year before. But are their claims real? Partly yes and partly no. Is there much to cheer about? Uh uh.

They've been on a push to reduce school suspensions and expulsions since 2014, when Pres. Obama and the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder released a set of guidelines warning schools that disciplinary policies could not have a “disparate impact” on minorities. Disgraced CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett did lead a push away from the district's horrible "Zero Tolerance" policies, giving more discretion to principals and school staff is deciding who when to suspend/expel. But African-American and Latino students still are suspended and expelled at extremely higher rates than white students to the point of absurdity.

The numbers tell the story. Let's start with expulsions. Can you believe that not one white student was expelled from CPS last year? Compare that with black students who account for 39% of CPS students (district-run and charters) but 68% of 61,349 suspensions and 81% of expulsions in the 2014-15 school year.

White students, made up about 9% of enrollment but just 3% of suspensions and zero expulsions.

Latino students fell somewhere in the middle. 

There has been some lowering of suspension rates from last year. But only in district-run schools. In charters, suspension/expulsion rates are higher and the gap between white students and students of color has grown wider.

At charter schools, for example, black students accounted for 82% of expulsions, up from 77% in 2013-14, while in district-operated schools, expulsions of African-American students fell to 76% from 87%.

That shows little has changed since this report came out in 2014 showing charters expelled 61 of every 10,000 students while the district-run schools expelled just 5 of every 10,000 students.

CPS says it has continued to invest in “restorative justice” programs that coach and counsel instead of just punishing, though the Chicago Teachers Union has questioned the depth of the district’s commitment to the idea. I don't see much when I'm out in the schools. 

The district also says it is working with charter operators to train them in the same practices that are keeping CPS students in classrooms — but it cannot under state law require them to change their discipline practices.

Hey wait. I thought district schools were supposed to be learning from the charters.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Moskowitz tells her charter students, 'No more foreign languages'

”We can’t do everything... And by the way, Americans don’t tend to do foreign languages very well.”​ -- Eva Moskowitz  
One can only imagine who Moskowitz is referring to as "Americans". 

Moskowitz, speaking in 2014 at a forum sponsored by the right-wing American Enterprise Institute (AEI) told the audience, ”Something had to go,” Turns out that “something” was foreign language classes. She just doesn't believe that her students, mostly African-American and Latino, are capable of reading and speaking more than one tongue. 

She's most likely the world's greatest --certainly the highest paid-- charter school hustler. She pulls down a cool half-million yearly, running the so-called Success Academy network of charters in New York City. Using her hedge-fund money connections, her political clout and relationship with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Moskowitz' charter operation grew to the point where she now operates 34 charters with 11,000 students in them.

Unfortunately for those kids, they will no longer be able to learn a language other than English. The Success Academies have dropped foreign language education from their curriculum. This despite the fact that the state of N.Y. (and most states) requires it for graduation and many selective colleges and universities require it as a pre-req for admission. More importantly, the world today, and certainly the city in which her students are growing up, is increasingly multi-lingual and multi-cultural

And as Leslie Salzillo writes in Wednesday's Daily Koz,
.... Many employers see a foreign language background as a plus.  Given the Hispanic/Latino growth in America today, high school and college graduates who can speak Spanish as a second language have a substantial advantage over others jumping into the job market. 
Moskowitz has switched public relations companies several times over the last year in an attempt to tamp down critical coverage of her network. She's fond of calling her critics "haters". So be it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

More evidence that PARCC test is bogus. Parents were smart to opt-out.

PARCC officials are still working to determine the full scope and causes of last year’s score discrepancies, which may partly result from demographic and academic differences between the students who took the tests on computers and those who took it on paper, rather than the testing format itself. -- EdWeek
Touted by Arne Duncan, bankrolled by the Gates Fundation and designed by Pearson Education Inc., the world's largest textbook/testing company, PARCC was supposed to provide us with the new and better model of "game changing", 21st-Century, high-stakes standardized testing. Aligned with Common Core standards and curriculum, it was billed as a high-validity measure, not only of student progress in learning, but teacher competency.

But now there's compelling evidence to show that what PARCC really measured had less to do with anything going on in the classroom than it did with demographics (race and class) and familiarity with computers.  Questions have arisen around the validity of the 2014-15 PARCC test results after officials from the testing consortium revealed that students who took the tests on computers scored, overall, lower than those who did not. Four out of every five students took the test via computer.

It was a year ago that Chicago's prison-bound schools chief, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, tried to delay giving PARCC for a year because the district didn't "have enough computers" to properly administer the tests. But threatened by State Board Chair Rev. James Meeks with a loss of federal funds, she and her boss, Rahm Emanuel, complied and gave them anyway, with some kids taking PARCC on computers and others taking the pencil-and-paper version.
Therefore, we are directing you to administer the PARCC assessment to all students. If any district does not test, ISBE will withhold its Title I funds. We will also seek to recoup the state funds spent on any test booklets unused by the district, as well as any restocking fees charged to ISBE by our testing vendor.” -- ISBE Chairman Rev. James Meeks 
It turns out, BBB was on to something. Now we learn that students who took the computer version of PARCC, scored lower on average than students who used paper and pencil.

Test results for the state's two million students plummeted to their lowest point in a decade with nearly 70% failing the PARCC.

Gov. Rauner's schools chief Tony Smithwhistled past the graveyard.
"I think the promise of PARCC is greater than the promise of most of the other assessments we’ve ever had. Kids can test to the edge of their knowledge."
Arne Duncan agreed...
"It actually doesn't concern me at all. What Illinois and many other states are doing is finally telling the truth." (EdWeek)
Yes, the truth.

The truth is that the thousands of parents who opted their kids out of PARCC testing were the smart ones. But it's the kind of smarts that standardized tests don't measure.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Changing face of the city, schools and politics

Here's what has replaced public housing in Rahmville.  2 Bedrooms In Cabrini-Green's New High Rise Start At $3,200 A Month. The units boast such amenities as Nest Thermostats, floor-to-ceiling glass windows and exposed concrete ceilings. The building's shared spaces include a rooftop with a chef's kitchen and two dog runs.

Selective -enrollment high schools are ubiquitous in Lincoln Park and Rahm keeps trying to build more despite a shrinking population in that area. Many of Chicago's wealthiest neighborhoods are dramatically below their peak populations. Selective enrollment magnets, originally created as a result of a court-ordered desegregation mandate, are now used like charter schools,  to promote racial and class resegregation.

And now, a lifetime ban and possible heavy fines imposed on families who try and "cheat" their way in. That doesn't apply of course, to the clout-heavy or to wealthy suburbanites, like Bruce Rauner, whose kid didn't meet entrance requirements at Payton, but got in through the back door after Rauner made a phone call to Arne Duncan.

According to Chicagoist,
...a goldmine for developers who have planned new, luxury high rises for the Near North Side area not far from where the dilapidated public housing towers once stood.
With Chicago in the midst of a housing crisis we can't help but see the promises of these luxury developments coinciding with the displacement of Chicago's working class and the hastening demise of its affordability for anyone making less than $72,000 a year (that's how much you'd have to make to reasonably afford a studio apartment at $1,825 a month, based on this popular rental formula).
Change in Chicago's population
Former Cabrini residents got a housing voucher, amounting to a one-way ticket out of their neighborhood and in many cases out of town. Waiting lists for subsidized housing vouchers in Illinois are closed. Nearly 82,000 households use housing vouchers, commonly known as Section 8, but  advocates say there’s a deficit of 321,394 affordable rental units in the state.
“This means that people who need affordable housing to avoid being homeless can’t even get in line and this signals that we need more resources,” said Bob Palmer, policy director for Housing Action Illinois.
Net loss to Chicago -- The 2010 census showed the city of Chicago lost 200,000 people over the last decade. The city now has about as many people as it did in 1910. There are nearly a quarter-million fewer African-Americans in the city than there were two decades ago, a drop of nearly 20% and tens of thousands fewer in the region as a whole. An estimated 1 million Blacks remain — about one-third of Chicago's population.

The political implications are great. A big power-shift marked by redrawn political maps and black pols losing their base of support. The loss of black cultural and educational institutions. Mass school closings in historically black neighborhoods, replaced by privately-run charter schools. Even Chicago State University is now on the chopping block.

I'm sure these numbers haven't eluded machine political strategists and they make plans to maintain their hold on the city and it's school system based on the new demographics.

Monday, February 8, 2016


"Special place in hell…" -- Albright
Madeleine Albright assails young women Democrat Sanders supporters
“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!” Mrs. Clinton laughed, slowly clapped her hands and took a large sip of her beverage. -- N.Y. Times
Gloria Steinem says they're boy crazy
“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’ ” -- New Republic
Kim Foxx
Daily Herald Editorial Board
In the case of Laquan McDonald, it took Alvarez 400 days. That's more than a year. It was long after the city of Chicago had settled the civil case. And more than 50 percent longer than the national average she cites. Where is the swift justice in that? We endorse Kim Foxx in the Democratic primary for Cook County state's attorney. -- Endorsement: Alvarez slow on police shooting; we back Foxx 
Tom Corfman, Crain's political editor
Affluent Chicago families are directed to increase their supply of water from the Fiji islands. -- Chicago's Flint Problem, On Politics
Nikhil Goyal, author of "Schools on Trial"
From a President Clinton, unfortunately, I don’t expect anything better than what we’ve seen under President Obama. I don’t expect her to be any better; I think she’s still a proponent of charter schools and this pay-for-performance model. -- Salon

Friday, February 5, 2016

Parent and community support builds as teachers hit the streets

CTU rally shuts down traffic in the Loop
Watch aerial video of CTU rally in the Loop, shutting down traffic. WGN's Sarah Jindra says expect major delays on Congress going to and from Eisenhower.
Posted by WGN TV on Thursday, February 4, 2016

Left Coast -- I'm excited to see this, even from 1,800 miles away.

The best news is that the embattled CTU is gaining mass support from parents and community members as another teachers strike seems more likely. According to the latest Tribune poll, Chicagoans support the union over Rahm Emanuel (a low bar) by more than three-to-one. That matches the support striking teachers had back in 2012.

The other day, Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown blasted the CTU for not accepting the board's first "serious" contract offer. As I said at the time, it's easy for Brown to push for the teachers to cave on the contract without much of a fight. He doesn't have to live with the results.

Tribune poll on eve of 2012 teachers strike
But now the worm has turned. Sun-Times owner Mark Ferro has bought controlling interest in the Tribune, threatening to turn Chicago into a one-paper town with a probability that more Sun-Times writers and reporters will lose their jobs.

From Crain's
The news of the Ferro group's investment spooked shareholders, who sent the newspaper company's stock down as much as 27 percent yesterday before closing at $7.98, down 11 percent. It also sent shockwaves throughout the embattled newsrooms of both Chicago's daily newspapers, leaving employees uncertain of what the shakeup will mean for their futures.
While many Sun-Times reporters appear to be sympathetic to teachers facing the threat of massive lay-offs,  I can't help but wonder if Brown is now wishing he had a fighting union like the CTU at his back and 3-1 support from the community over his owner/investors.

Good luck, Mark and what's left of S-T reporters and staff.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Claypool threatens war on schools if CTU won't bend.

Claypool's threatening letter
LEFT COAST--I'm blogging from L.A. this week and missing all the action back in Chiraq. If I had the dough, I would fly back just for Thursday's big blowout CTU rally in response to Rahm's threatened $100M in new school cuts.

A letter sent by Forrest Claypool to the union Tuesday said that within 30 days, CPS would stop paying the teachers’ share of pension contributions (as if they'd been paying them up until now), order school administrators to cut $50 million by laying off 1,000 teachers and "re-shuffle" $50 million that goes toward general education funding to schools. That re-shuffling of Title I and II funds will hit hardest at kids with special needs and English-language learners.

Claypool says he will drop the threats if the union would only agree to his contract offer which CTU's bargaining team unanimously rejected. I believe that's called blackmail. Or maybe -- hostage taking.

The CTU calls it "war" on the schools. Thursday's a good day to battle.

Very very...The first meeting Rahm Emanuel’s newly formed Police Accountability Task Force produced the quote of the week from Lori Lightfoot, chair of the task force and president of the Chicago Police Board.
Lightfoot said officers who violate Rule 14 — making false statements — are taken “very, very seriously.”
Notice the two verys, showing that this time Lightfoot really really means it. She's has been complicit in the cover-up of police shootings and misconduct up til now. The cost to the city, of police misconduct (a strange name to describe torture and shootings) comes out to more than $640M over the past decade. This according to a report from the BGA. You may notice that this is roughly the same amount as is needed to plug the current budget hole at Chicago Public Schools.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Clinton, Trump burned in Iowa. CTU says no to Rahm's contract offer

The voters sent a clear message that income inequality weighed on their minds, with more than one in four Democratic voters saying the issue was the most important facing the nation, according to surveys of voters leaving the polls. -- New York Times
Impressive win for Bernie... He's finished dead-even in Iowa. Split the delegates. 6 coin flips was Clinton's margin of victory. Did somebody check the coin?

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to Bernie's campaign field workers and organizers, many who drove out from Chicago, who out-organized Clinton's team. I don't know this, but I'm guessing there were lots of teachers doing Bernie's door-knocking and caucus debating despite premature Clinton endorsements by AFT and NEA.

Yesterday marked significant losses for Wall Street-backed Clinton and Trump. Imagine if there were no Citizens United or SuperPACs. Sanders would have romped. Sanders' average donation was $28, an amount that will allow him to return to his contributors for more money during the spring. Only a few hundred of his 1 million individual donors gave the maximum of $2,700 for the primary.

Look for a major Clinton staff shake-up following this debacle.

Trump showed he's all blow and no go. It's one thing to hold a rallies or appeal on talk shows to the same tiny wing-nut hard core, cheering your every fascistic, militaristic, racist and misogynistic cliche. Big Republican money may now go to Rubio as the only hope to save the party. Not much hope there.

CTU Big Bargaining Team unanimously rejects board's first "serious" contract offer. Tells Rahm to sharpen his pencil. That's why they call it COLLECTIVE bargaining.

S-T columnist Mark Brown is miffed. He can't understand why CTU members aren't all giddy and jumping for joy over Rahm/Claypool first offer in over a year. Of course, Brown hasn't read the contract offer. Nor does he have to live with the results. He criticizes CTU Pres. Karen Lewis for not leading her members by the nose.
There are times when union membership has to be led. 
He obviously doesn't know CTU.
Looking at it from the other side, how does schools CEO Forrest Claypool and his team negotiate with a union bargaining committee that can’t confidently speak for its members?
Brown should be asking, how the CTU membership can trust anything Claypool says or does? Remember, teachers and staff will have to live with this contract for the next four years. If Rahm doesn't want another strike, which would be another coffin nail in his political future, he'll have to come back with a better offer.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Burns bails. Rahm's rubber-stamp.

In October, parents and community groups carrying anti-privatization signs, gathered in front of Ald. Will Burns (4th) office, demanding that Burns be replaced as Education Committee chair.
Ald. Will Burns (4th) Rahm's most dependable rubber-stamper in the council, is bailing out. He's abandoning his post for a job at AirBnB. No, I'm not making this up. Got it straight from NBC Chicago and Mary Ann Ahern.
Still no explanation for his sudden departure. Some are asking, do they have something on him? I have no idea. The feds and IG are all over the place, but I haven't heard Burns' name mentioned.

Ald. Burns has taken a political beating over the past year and has even been abandoned at times by his own puppet master, the mayor. Remember, he took the lead in attacking the Dyett hunger strikers and opposing their demand for keeping Dyett open as a neighborhood school in Bronzeville. Burns pushed for making it a privately-run charter only to have Rahm and Claypool flip at the last minute and concede to the hunger strikers' main demand, opening Dyett as a neighborhood school.

Then there was his losing battle to stop production of Spike Lee's film, "Chiraq". Burns had urged the state not to give Lee and his company, Forty Acres and A Mule Filmworks, a $3 million tax break for filming in Illinois. He lost that one too.

But Burns' biggest sense of betrayal may have come this week when Claypool, in a contract offer to the CTU, agreed to a moratorium on charter school expansion. This was a major defeat for Burns who had been primed as the mayor's lead blocker on charter schools in the black community.

Back in September, when Black Caucus leader Rod Sawyer, called for a moratorium on charters, it was Burns who fought against it.

Burns leaves as a power-house wannabe who even had been mentioned as a potential Rahm successor. I'm sure there will be more to come on this one.


Rahm's council rubber-stamp, Ald. Will Burns bails out. Takes job with AirBnB.
CTU Vice-Pres. Jesse Sharkey 
“The Big Bargaining Team will tell us if there’s a [tentative agreement].” -- Sun-Times
Freep Editor Stephen Henderson on Flint
This is about cities themselves, and how Michigan’s system of governance permits and even incentivizes the creation of poor, isolated urban centers that don’t have enough population or resources to deliver services. This is about race and class, and the historic emphasis of suburban development on moving away from black and poor communities, stripping them of the tax base and other resources they need to survive. -- Detroit Free Press
Rahm Emanuel on $1.3B O'hare expansion
"We went after this like a heat-seeking missile." -- Crain's
Brother Fred on Iowa Caucus
If Trump gets 25% that's 30,000 people. That wouldn't be a sell-out crowd at Wrigley. -- Iowa Caucus Project
Donald Trump on his donations to the Clinton Foundation
 “Again, I was a businessman, and it was my obligation to get along with everybody, including the Clintons, including Democrats and liberals and Republicans and conservatives. As a businessman, I had an obligation to do that.” -- The Hill