Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Trump should think about Daley's shorts.

Donald Trump should take his cue from former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. Some will remember back in 2001 when Daley's shorts got "scrootened".
Daley was asked about the increased scrutiny he would face if his brother Bill had continued the campaign for governor. "Scrutiny? What else do you want? Do you want to take my shorts?" Mayor Daley said. "Go scrutinize yourself! I get scrootened [his word] every day, don't worry, from each and every one of you. It doesn't bother me."

Monday, May 30, 2016


Dept. Supt. John Escalante after 54 holiday weekend shootings: "It's a big city and it's a safe city. It's about 1,500 people driving this violence. I'm confident we'll be able to turn this around." --  DNAinfo
Arthur Goldstein
“Teachers now have a real voice in the United Federation of Teachers, and that voice will not be silenced.” -- NYC Educator
GOP Strategy
Shortly before he died, Reagan’s strategist Lee Atwater explained the game plan of the Southern Strategy in a matter-of-fact clinical policy. “By 1968 you can’t say ‘n***r’ — that hurts you, backfires,” Atwater emphasized. “So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. And you’re getting so abstract now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.” But Donald Trump doesn’t do abstract and that is what has sent the GOP into a tizzy. -- Carol Anderson at Salon
Breaking up is hard to do.
Kurt Summers
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s hand-picked city treasurer, Kurt Summers, is breaking away and joining the call of unions, asking Emanuel to sue big banks over controversial interest rate swap deals. 
“This has been a different question that no one around the country has asked until now. The city of Philadelphia just today joined this lawsuit and they’re in the same position we are as a city. Every municipal government or state has to look at this and pursue it fervently. Our fiscal situation is such that we don’t have a choice.” -- Chicago Tonight
 Ben Joravsky
[Rahm's] lectures go like this: a contract between a city and a bank is etched in stone and can never be renegotiated. While a contract with pensioner is written in sand and can be washed away with the tides. In short, don't mess with my banking boys! -- The Reader

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Congrats to the MORE/New Action Caucus

A SmallTalk Salute goes out to the social-justice activists within the York teachers union who have been fighting for years to democratize the UFT. Latest election results show the MORE/New Action candidates swept the seven high school teacher seats on the union’s Executive Board.

“Teachers now have a real voice in the United Federation of Teachers, and that voice will not be silenced." says new board member, teacher Arthur Goldstein.

The Caucus' goals are clear and progressive:
  • Enforce Our Contract and Organize for a Just Contract in 2018 
  • Defend Public Education
  • Combat Systemic School Segregation and Racism
  • Support Opt Out and Oppose Common Core, Danielson Evaluations and High Stakes Testing
  • Make the UFT a Democratic,Transparent and Accountable Union
The vote totals show big gains for the activists over previous elections in a union, the largest AFT local in the country, tightly controlled by President Michael Mulgrew's misnamed Unity Caucus. Mulgrew won his third term as the union’s president with 76% of the vote.

The UFT represents approximately 75,000 teachers and 19,000 classroom paraprofessionals, along with school secretaries, attendance teachers, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, adult education teachers, administrative law judges, nurses, laboratory technicians, speech therapists, and 60,000 retired members. They also represent teachers and other employees at a number of private educational institutions and some charter schools.
Current UFT leadership, along with AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten, supports Common Core to the point where Mulgrew even threatened to "punch in the face" anyone who tried to "take away" his Common Core standards and tests.

The MORE/New Action gains follow an emerging democratic trend of rank-and-file victories in the largest big-city teacher unions over the past few years -- Los Angeles, Chicago, and Milwaukee.

Brother Fred posted videos of Mulgrew and Marcus McArthur who won a high school seat Thursday, for you to compare and contrast.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A collage of what passes for school reform around here.

Correction: Thanks to John Merrow and several other readers for catching this error in the story below. As John points out: The Emerson Collective is run by Laurene Powell Jobs, not Mark Zuckerberg and Pricilla Chan. While there is a former USDE official working there, it's not Jim Shelton; it's Russlynn Ali.  I actually knew this and had it right on my Schooling in the Ownership Society post from a week ago. --- M.K. 
If somehow we could collage these four articles from today's Tribune, it would offer a realistic look at the current state of what passes for Chicago school reform:
Can Duncan save Lucas' ghastly Star Wars Museum?
Article #1 --Yes, Arne Duncan is back in town. In case you were worrying about whether or not Obama's former Ed Secretary would land on his feet after the Race To The Top Debacle, fear not. He's doing fine, thanks to billionaire friends like Mark Zuckerberg, Pricilla Chan, and George Lucas.

Zuckerberg and wife Pricilla hired Duncan for a leadership role in their so-called Emerson Collective where he joins up again with his own former U.S. Education Department deputy secretary Jim Shelton to advise of corporate-style reform and privatization matters.

No word yet on how much they're paying him. Whatever it is, it's just chump change to MZ. He's the guy who once dropped $100M to underwrite Newark's version of school reform under Gov. Christie and former mayor, Corey Booker. Nobody knows exactly how all that money was spent. But suffice to say, it hasn't done much to improve teaching/learning. Most of it, I'm told, went into the pockets of the charter school operators.

As backup, Arne has secured a spot on the Lucas Museum's Board of Directors. They are all hoping that this appointment leaves a glimmer of hope that the horrifically ugly Star Wars Museum will still end up on the city's valuable lakefront property, for free.

Duncan, who also served as Chicago Public Schools chief from 2001 to 2009,  previously worked at Ariel Investments, where George Lucas' wife, Mellody Hobson, is president. Ariel's CEO, John Rogers. has long been one of Duncan's benefactors.

Hey, if a man can't call on billionaire friends for a job, what kind of society have we become?

"Reform Specialist"
Article#2 -- A "reform specialist" retires. This Trib story about the retirement of North Chicago's Chief Education Officer Ben Martindale, refers to him as the district's "reform specialist" who got his high-paid position when the district (4,000 mainly poor and children of color) became the target of a state takeover five years ago.

Fast forward to today to see the only results the reformers seem to care about.
 On the academic front, only 10 percent of North Chicago students met or exceeded state standards in math and English language arts last year on the new statewide standardized exam called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, compared to 33 percent statewide, according to state data. About 7 percent of North Chicago students scored a combined score of at least 21 on the ACT, an indicator the state uses to determine college readiness, compared to 46 percent statewide.
"There's a lot of room left to go in terms of improvement," Martindale said.

Something to consider. Maybe the district's students needed something more than a state takeover and a "reform specialist."

Article#3 -- Rahm won't go to Springfield to lobby for CPS funding.
The reason, he's got no juice. Nobody, from Gov. Rauner to Speaker Madigan, gives a damn about what Rahm wants or thinks.
As it stood Tuesday, an Emanuel trip to the Capitol this week seemed unlikely, said top administration officials who were not authorized to discuss the mayor's schedule public.
 For the mayor, deciding whether to insert himself into the delicate situation at a stalemated Capitol carries some risk. Though he could claim some measure of credit if a funding bill that helps CPS passes following an eleventh-hour visit, Emanuel could get stuck with an even bigger share of the political blame if he goes there and the legislature then doesn't act on education funding, or passes a bill that doesn't help Chicago the way he wants.
So this isn't really about school funding, is it? Rahm won't advocate in Springfield for the school for fear of being rejected. Luckily thousands of union members heading for the capitol don't see it that way.

Schools are filthy but Magic cleans up. 
Article@4 -- Millions more for SodexoMAGIC.  So far, Rahm's privatization of custodial services has been a disaster for garbaged-up schools and their principals. But that won't stop the mayor from doubling down. 
The district, citing its bleak financial condition, privatized many building maintenance duties in 2014 but quickly started receiving complaints about dirty schools.
"These are the same companies with complaints against them for dirty, filthy schools," William Iacullo, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143, told the school board Wednesday. "But you guys are going to reward them with an expansion."CPS has so far paid Johnson's company more than $37 million since the district's 2014 budget year, according to school records. The Aramark division responsible for school maintenance has received about $167 million.
So there's the picture. It ain't pretty. Is it? Reform needs reform.

Tale of two cities. Another new school for South Loop

At Least 20 Shots Fired On Woodlawn Block As School Lets Out -- Yesterday's DNAinfo headline. 
So far this year, as of Tuesday, at least 1,382 people have been shot in Chicago and at least 244 of them have died of their wounds. Last year at this time, 904 people had been shot, 157 of them fatally.
No, I don't blame MRE personally for 50% increase in the shootings (of mostly black and Latino youth) over the past year, on his watch. No one individual should bear that responsibility alone.

But I do blame the mayor for his misguided tale-of-two-cities policies, some of which are based on the notion that this is first and foremost a matter of policing strategy, stop-and-frisks, and mass incarceration. Cops, who have a role to play in protecting the community, at times have been the initiators of the gun violence. Problem is, they are usually a post-violence response. Rahm's police-based strategy has been a complete bust.

I will give him some credit for coming clean back in December, amid the fallout of the Laquan McDonald murder, about the "code of silence" within the CPD. His statement certainly won't endear him to the little fascist clique that runs the FOP and will probably open the city up to lawsuits and big payouts to the victims of police malpractice, torture, and shootings. But the mayor still appears unwilling to testify before a federal jury about the code. Why not?

This, even while his newly-appointed Supt. Eddie Johnson maintains that he has never seen even one case of police wrongdoing in all his 27 years on the force.

But nothing has been done under Rahm's watch to alleviate the city's concentrated poverty or prevent easy access to guns in the community. Quite the opposite.

Instead we see widespread gentrification and the continued isolation of poor and African-American communities and the push-out of black and poor from the city ("whitenization"). Chicago lost about 2,890 residents between 2014 and 2015. This, on top of the loss of 181,000 black residents between 2000 and 2010, pre-Rahm. On top of that, CPS and Emanuel closed nearly 50 schools in poor neighborhoods in 2013 and still about 313 schools--more than half of all schools--are considered underutilized, according to CPS.

I see that Rahm is offering the upscale South Loop (Rahm-friendly Ald. Pat Dowell) a new elementary school. But, according to the Sun-Times,  the "broke" school district doesn’t have details about how it will pay for the school to be built in the South Loop for up to 1,200 elementary students (way too big). This as CPS is facing a $1 billion deficit and has told principals to expect to cut an average of 26% from their budgets. S-T says that the flurry of new schools and school additions will apparently be "bankrolled by that $45 million school construction levy." I believe that's a fancy way of saying, more taxes.
That allows Emanuel to curry favor with aldermen emboldened by his 25 percent approval rating by unveiling school construction projects all over town.
From my post, this is just more have/have-nots division of a shrinking pie. How about from yours?

Does anyone think this is a recipe for good schooling and less violence?

Monday, May 23, 2016


Troy LaRaviere
"I don't think Rahm can be elected dog catcher, and I think he knows it... Right now, I want to be president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. I take that office on July 1 and that's the only office I'm concerned about right now...Who knows what the future holds, but right now that is not on the table." -- Morning Spin
Launa Hall
When policymakers mandate tests and buy endlessly looping practice exams to go with them, their image of education is from 30,000 feet. -- A third-grade teacher on why "data walls" don't work.
"I don't want to have guns in classrooms. Although, in some cases, teachers should have guns in classrooms." -- CBS News
Willie Davis
Bullies are almost never the problem—it’s the people standing next to the bully, laughing at his jokes that hurt. Without them, the guy calling you “dickwad” or “gaywad” (’90s bullies were very wad-centric, I’m belatedly realizing) looks ridiculous. -- Salon.com
 “Some 400 of Hillary Clinton’s superdelegates came on board her campaign before anybody else announced. It was anointment. And that is bad for the process.” -- Guardian

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Now reformers want to "give back" New Orleans charters. 'Can't avoid democracy forever'.

“You can’t avoid democracy forever, nor should you.” -- Neerav Kingsland, who worked for New Schools for New Orleans
In a move designed to, "close the wounds left by the state takeover" without threatening the power of private charter school management boards, the state of Louisiana is "giving back" the 52 charters schools it took from the New Orleans public school system in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

According to the Washington Post:
In the decade since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and swept away its public school system, the city has become a closely watched experiment in whether untethering schools from local politics could fix the problems that have long ailed urban education.
Before we go any further, let's be clear about one thing. It wasn't Katrina that "swept away" the N.O. public school system. It was a gaggle of opportunistic profiteers and union-busters who made the hurricane their rationale for firing every public school teacher in the Big Easy and for breaking their union. What they did in N.O., Detroit and other cities was no natural disaster. It was man-made.

The district's charter operators are still fighting off attempts by their teachers to unionize.

As for the so-called "give-back", Karran Harper Royal, an advocate for special-education students and their families, called it a “Trojan horse.”
“This is the kind of bill you get when the charter schools want to give the impression that schools are returning to local governance,” she said. “It feels like a very patriarchal view of communities of color, and white people deciding that black people, or people of color, don’t deserve democracy.”
According to the Brookings Institute:
 The change in actual school functioning, at least in the short term, looks modest.  SB 432 preserves charter schools’ prominent role in the New Orleans school landscape.  It demands that local districts “shall not impede the operational autonomy of a charter school under its jurisdiction,” preserving the discretion over curriculum, instruction, and management provided to schools in their charters.
More from WaPo...Advocates for such choice frame it as a way to ensure that all children have fair access to good schools, no matter where their families live or how much money they earn. But critics argue that eliminating neighborhood schools has undermined the most vulnerable students by uprooting them from their communities and scattering them to schools citywide.
Harper Royal pointed to a 2015 Tulane University study estimating that there are more than 26,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor employed in the New Orleans metro area. They account for 18 percent of all the area’s young people, significantly higher than the national average of 13 percent.
Such high numbers of disconnected youth — as well as high rates of child poverty and unemployment — should factor into how the city’s education experiment is evaluated, she said: “You have to look at how it is working in the lives of the people, and it isn’t.”
She favors a competing bill that would have returned the schools to the Orleans Parish School Board without preserving the system of charter schools.

Louisiana has about 140 charter schools authorized by state and local school boards. The bill, signed by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards returns some oversight of charters to the Jefferson Parish School Board and  abolishes outside charter authorizer groups, who are not accountable to anyone but themselves. But the state will still have the power to overrule local districts when it comes to authorizing charters.

Unpacking Big Data...One of my current favorite thinkers on so-called school reform is Finnish educator and scholar, Pasi Sahlberg. His running theme -- If you really want to improve your system of education, do pretty much the opposite of current U.S. ed-reform policies.

In their May 9 WaPo piece, Pasi and Jonathan Hasak, take a hammer to one cornerstones of corporate-style school reform, the reliance on big data to drive policy.
One thing that distinguishes schools in the United States from schools around the world is how data walls, which typically reflect standardized test results, decorate hallways and teacher lounges.  Green, yellow, and red colors indicate levels of performance of students and classrooms. For serious reformers, this is the type of transparency that reveals more data about schools and is seen as part of the solution to how to conduct effective school improvement. These data sets, however, often don’t spark insight about teaching and learning in classrooms; they are based on analytics and statistics, not on emotions and relationships that drive learning in schools. They also report outputs and outcomes, not the impacts of learning on the lives and minds of learners.
 You can follow @pasi_sahlberg and @JonathanHasak on Twitter. I do.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The imminent death of a public school system. Rahm brought in ax-man Claypool to chop CPS.

Rahm's ax-man, Forrest Claypool. 
The mayor's announced 40% budget cut could be the final nail in CPS's coffin. And make no mistake, this is exactly what he brought in ax-man Forrest Claypool to do.

According to the Sun-Times:
The district says principals have to “plan for the worst — higher class sizes, loss of enrichment activities, and layoffs of teachers and support staff” while waiting for the General Assembly to take action on proposed pension help or revising the state’s funding formula, spokeswoman Emily Bittner said.
The base per-pupil rate will drop from $4,088 to $2,495 if the proposed budget becomes final. It includes an equivalent cut for charters, too, she said.
According to a report in EdWeek, by the end of the school year, in late June, the Chicago school district will have just $24 million in cash—enough to support two days of operations.

As for the state, its declining "investment" in K-12 and post-secondary education, coupled with (self-inflicted) deficits from the city's mounting pension liabilities and debt service, have put Chicago's schools more than $6 billion in long-term structural debt. Last year, the school board approved a budget with a $480 million hole in it, hoping state lawmakers in Springfield would come up with, what they're calling a "bailout". They didn't. It seems that bailouts are reserved only for the big banks.

Question: Will this also mean a 40% reduction in PARCC testing? Doubt it.

You might call the assault on the nation's third-largest public school system, a joint venture or bipartisan effort on the part of Rahm Emanuel and his current nemesis, but long-time drinking partner, Gov. Rauner. As always, Rahm is playing the role part of victim, blaming all the city's ills, from it record-high murder rate to great sell-off of public space on the previous administration or on Springfield. And of course, there is plenty of blame for mismanagement to go around, including lots for the Daley administration and Daley's school chief, Arne Duncan.

Yesterday's union rally against Gov. Rauner's agenda. 
But even while House Speaker Mike Madigan holds firm (for now) against Rauner's assault on the state's schools and Senate Pres. Cullerton at least offers up a plan (a cockamamie plan with no added revenue) to equalize state school funding,  Rahm and Claypool have been too busy attacking the unions or firing dissident principal Troy LaRaviere, to offer up more than token resistance to the governor.

While Madigan was speaking at the rally in Springfield, fist held high in the air... [Sorry, still LMAO] ... Rahm was nowhere to be seen.

Rahm is the worst kind of autocrat. He holds total power over the school system, but wants no transparency or  accountability for the mismanagement, corruption seeping into CPS from City Hall.

In fairness to the mayor, he's put himself in such a weak position, nobody in Springfield really gives two sh*ts anymore what he thinks. Even long-time pal Hillary Clinton, who's in townhttp://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/politics/ct-hillary-clinton-chicago-park-ridge-fundraisers-20160518-story.html and in the burbs today raising money, won't come within blocks of him.

Now it's up to the teachers union, principals, parents and community groups to stop the 40% budget cuts and demand that Rauner release a budget with adequate funding for all state school districts and special education.

It's now or never for CPS.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

PARCC predicts college 'success'. So what?

Got this in my mail today from the right-wing think-tankers at the Hoover Institute: "PARCC and Massachusetts state exams predict college success equally well." 

My response: So what? So does poverty.

They're notifying us ed bloggers about a "first of it's kind" study comparing PARCC and MCAS as predictors of college success.

But unfortunately, there's still no better predictors of college success than poverty and race. That's especially true now that college tuition rates and the cost of student loans has made a college degree barely accessible to all but the children of the wealthy.

Without getting into all the methodological problems with this un-amazing new study, I will just say that it in no way measures the probability of high school students' college success -- meaning graduation with a degree in a reasonable and affordable number of years.

Instead, it looks at high school test-takers' grades in their freshman year of college. And guess what this break-through study finds? The same kids who scored high on PARCC and MCAS in high school also got high marks in their freshman year at college. Amazing discovery!

The study doesn't track students beyond that year and doesn't look at other factors, like creativity, perseverance, collaboration, vision and self-discipline, which are just a few basic qualities that correlate with college success. So the think-tankers are claiming way too much. And it made no difference which tests the students took. The results came out the same. 

College degree completion by race. 
Not to mention (but I will) the fact that MCAS was never designed as a predictor of college success. Rather it was supposed to measure students’ proficiency relative to statewide curriculum standards. That all changed with the adoption of Common Core and the PARCC exam, designed by Pearson, Inc. and underwritten largely by the Gates Foundation. 

The stated purpose of PARCC is to measure whether students are on track to succeed in college. Since standardized test scores align most closely with family income and education, school districts could have save billions by cancelling the tests and simply asking parents to send in the IRS forms. 

By pushing these tests as predictors, the think-tankers and test makers are actually turning them into gate keepers. 

The topper -- many of even the elite universities now pay little or no attention to applicants' standardized test scores. So much the better. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Power of Language -- Banning 'Code of Silence'

When a pair of Chicago Police officers try to make the case that they were ostracized for reporting wrongdoing by fellow cops, city lawyers don’t want jurors to hear the words “code of silence” uttered in the courtroom. -- Sun-Times
They also want Judge Gary Feinerman to bar: "Thin blue line", "Blue veil", and "rats."

Officers Shannon Spalding and Daniel Echeverria filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the department in 2012. This was well before Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged the existence of a “code of silence” in the department in a speech to the City Council in December 2015, after protests erupted across the city following the release of the video of Laquan McDonald being fatally shot by a Chicago police officer.

When Spalding and Echeverria reported fellow officers who were stealing cash from drug dealers, their supervisor told them:
“I’d hate to one of these days have to be the one to knock on your door and tell your daughter you’re coming home in a box.”
Apparently the phrase, "Coming home in a box" has not yet been banned.

Rumor has it...City lawyers also want Judge Feinerman to barSimon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence," the movie, "Silence of the Lambs,"the horse-in-the-bed scene from "The Godfather," and any references to the words, "thin," "blue," or "line." Also to consider: Elvis's "Blue Hawaii," "Blue Suede Shoes," or any mention of B.B. King.


Pres. Barack Obama on Trump
“In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue,” Obama said. “It’s not cool to not know that you’re talking about. That’s not keeping it real or telling it like it is. That’s not challenging political correctness. Facts and evidence matter.”  -- Rutgers commencement speech
Columnist Mark Brown
There’s no doubt Blaine Elementary School Principal Troy LaRaviere has been an insubordinate Chicago Public Schools employee. Too bad there aren’t more like him. 
Sure, there has to be a chain of command, but that’s no reason to squelch dissent. CPS is not a paramilitary organization like the Chicago Police Department. -- Sun-Times
Rev. William Barber II
“This is not about bathrooms. It’s about whether or not you can codify hate and discrimination into the laws of the state.”
“This is about November. It’s about wedge issues, and it’s about sexual and racial fears,” Barber said. He said it is the latest manifestation of the “Southern strategy” employed by Republicans to gain political support based on fear of the other.
Jedidiah Brown, founder of the activist group Young Leaders Alliance
"He [Rahm Emanuel]has not changed, and it's only a matter of time before there's another situation with another name, another personality, and it will be the same thing. He has not shown with his leadership that his heart is for the constituents. It's all about self." -- Tribune
Mayor Rahm Emanuel
“If you’re going to make changes, you don’t want the Justice Department coming and saying, ‘You got that wrong. Now, do it again.'"-- Emanuel to scrap police review authority

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Hey Rahm. Why are these suburban high schools opting for shorter school day?

Township H.S. Dist. 214 Supt. David Schuler: "Our kids are more than a standardized test score."
Memo to Mayor Rahm Emanuel:

Remember, you banked your entire school improvement plan for Chicago on an imposed longer school day? More seat time for students with no plan for how that time would best be used. And no plan for how to pay for it. You told us that your change model was Houston, TX and even made up this cock-and-bull story to make your point.
"If you start in the Chicago Public School system in kindergarten," offered Rahm, "and your cousin lives in Houston, and you both go all the way through high school, the cousin in Houston spends three more years in the classroom."
But Rahm, do you see what they're doing in wealthier and whiter northwest suburban districts, like Township H.S. Dist. 214 where today, the school board will vote on a plan to make the school day shorter, start school later, and put a limit on homework? Under the new plan, students would still receive the same hours of instructional time. But the school day would be restructured with the health and well-being of students in mind.
The plan aims to reduce stress and let students get more sleep for the students who attend schools in six suburbs. The plan also proposes to ease up on the amount of homework.  
"We've come to the decision that our kids are more than a standardized test score. We want them to be well rounded global citizens who can contribute in a meaningful way," said District 214 Superintendent David Schuler. -- ABC7 News
Wow! What a concept.

Oh, and BTW Rahm, here's the latest news from Houston:
Alicia's daughter came to Texas two years ago and began third grade in HISD. Since then, she has not conducted a single science experiment, has never had a social studies lesson and has been assigned one book to read in class. Instead Alicia's daughter has taken 75 practice STAAR tests and has completed approximately 1,200 STAAR prep worksheets.
Parents have had enough. We are opting out, or boycotting the STAAR test, to support stronger public schools and to oppose the high-stakes testing culture that is making our schools worse, not better.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Great victory in N.Y. teacher VAM case. But...

Dumb & Dumber

In a case that could have national repercussions, New York Supreme Court Judge Roger McDonough has ruled New York teacher Sheri Lederman received an evaluation that was “arbitrary” and “capricious” as part of an assessment system that was developed when John King, the new U.S. education secretary, was the N.Y. State education commissioner.

According to the Washington Post:
Lederman’s suit against state education officials — including King — challenges the rationality of the VAM model, and it alleges that the New York State Growth Measures “actually punishes excellence in education through a statistical black box which no rational educator or fact finder could see as fair, accurate or reliable.”
The judge's ruling confirms what educators and evaluation experts have been saying for years about the Value Added Model (VAM) which rates teachers on the basis of students' standardized test scores. In many cases, VAM ratings have determined teacher pay, job security, school funding, and often the very survival of schools under state accountability rules.

The ruling follows two years of mass anti-testing protests across N.Y. state, including a burgeoning opt-out movement of parents. The judge also heard evidence from national ed experts like Linda Darling-Hammond, Carol Burris, Jesse Rothstein, Audrey Amrein-Beardsly, Aaron Pallas and others.

Sanders only candidate to oppose high-stakes testing. 
But because Judge McDonough's ruling was limited to the Lederman case, VAM remains the standard in evaluation, leaving teachers to fend for themselves in expensive court cases against state and federal evaluation policies. And now the culprit in the case has been promoted to replace VAM supporter Arne Duncan as Pres. Obama's education chief.

Hopefully, the Lederman case will open the door to further broader rulings and VAM will end up in history's trash bin, replaced by more authentic and valid models of teacher evaluation.

What a pity that this struggle has to fought against, rather than with the power and might of the U.S. Dept. of Education.

So far, Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate to stand openly against this misuse of standardized testing.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

No, don't leave minimum wage, testing, or school deseg to the states

Just got a robocall from CTU organizer Brandon Johnson reminding me to call my state senator (Iris Martinez) and push for passage of HB557, the elected school board bill. So I did. Thanks Brandon.

Donald Trump now says, he supports a raise in the minimum wage. Good thing I'm wearing my flood pants. The campaign bullshit is already ankle-deep.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Trump told Chuck Todd, “I don’t know how people make it on $7.25.” Soon after, on ABC’s “This Week,” the Republican added, “I haven’t decided in terms of numbers, but I think people have to get more.”
 TODD: Right. You want the fed– but should the federal government set a floor, and then you let the states– 
TRUMP: No, I’d rather have the states go out and do what they have to do. And the states compete with each other, not only other countries, but they compete with each other, Chuck. So I like the idea of let the states decide. But I think people should get more. I think they’re out there. They’re working. It is a very low number. You know, with what’s happened to the economy, with what’s happened to the cost. I mean, it’s just– I don’t know how you live on $7.25 an hour. But I would say let the states decide.
I haven't heard so much states-rights pandering since the Supreme Court ruled on Brown vs. Board of Ed in '54,  when the big scare in Dixie was that the federal gov't was going to force school desegregation at gun-point upon the states. That sure as hell didn't happen. Did it?

Ironically, it was Pres. Obama's right-hand man in education, Arne Duncan, who undercut the Justice Dept's own move against Louisiana's use of vouchers and charter schools to promote re-segregation. Duncan's argument against "forced integration" echoed those of AR Gov. Orville Faubus and AL police chief "Bull" Conner in the '50s.

Trump says, let the states compete over minimum wage with corporate-tool govs like Bobby Jindal in LA, Bruce Rauner in IL, Scott Walker in WI, or John Kasich in OH leading the charge. Great plan, Trumpf. Isn't that what we have now? MW will be down to a dollar a day.

As a direct result of the Fight For 15 Movement, several cities have already passed $15/hr. minimum-wage ordinances on their own. And guess what? The Golden Gate Bridge hasn't fallen into the bay. In fact, biz is booming wherever the MW is the highest. Companies are not fleeing San Francisco, Pittsburgh, L.A., or N.Y.  A federal minimum-wage floor would ensure that they can't.

But Trump isn't the only one raising up the new states-rights banner. After all, isn't that the gist of the new national education law that even the teacher unions are raving about?

Pres. Obama signs new ESSA law. 
ESSA supposedly ends the years of testing madness imposed by the DOE (good) and greatly limits the federal government’s control of education policy that began in 1965 when the original Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) passed as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.

I guess the war is over. Poverty won.

But there's no indication that leaving testing (or poverty) in the hands of the states will eliminate or reduce testing madness or improve learning outcomes.

Arguments for or against federal power mean little without content. Yes, keep big gov't (state and federal) hands off our cell phones, churches and out of our bed rooms. Cut the Pentagon war machine, yes.

But on things like environmental protection, federal lands and national parks, enforcement of civil rights law, gun control, and protection of our drinking water (Flint, MI) -- hands on.

As for unrestricted states power over education, take a look at what's going on in IL.

Chicago Public Schools are now 10 months without a budget. Gov. Rauner continues to hold the budget hostage, hoping for a pro-business, "grand bargain" with Boss Madigan that includes draconian cuts to social services and the neutering of the state's teacher unions. State colleges universities like Chicago State, are on the brink of collapse and corrupt charter school networks like UNO are laughing all the way to the bank.

Where are you feds?

Monday, May 9, 2016


Mayday Protests, 1971
“If the government will not stop the war, we will stop the government.” -- Bill Moyers
CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner
 “This decision demonstrates that Governor Rauner’s attempts to drive CPS into bankruptcy are misguided and wrong. While CPS faces a $1 billion budget deficit next year, it can be solved if we all work together, as we are committed to doing.” -- Fortune
UNC Pres. Margaret Spellings
Bush's former Sec. of Education says, while she doesn't endorse the new state law limiting protections for LGBT people, the university will enforce it, despite warnings from the feds. Spellings maintained her anti-gay stance, dismissively describing homosexuality as a “lifestyle.”-- Slate
Trump gets it all wrong on education
 "Now, if you look at education. Thirty countries. We’re last. We’re like 30th. We’re last. So we’re last in education. If you look at cost per pupil, we’re first. So we — and by the way, there is no second because we  spent so much more per pupil that they don’t even talk about No. 2. It’s ridiculous." -- Washington Post
Trump: 'I don't know how people make it on $7.25 an hour'
"But I'd rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide.” -- Politico
Sen. Elizabeth Warren & Rep. Tammy Duckworth
Corporations should be free to pay their CEOs whatever they choose, but taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize those salaries  — especially not when it gets in the way of our most vulnerable citizens leading more secure lives. -- Sun-Times

Friday, May 6, 2016

No 'Grit' at Lab or Francis Parker

"What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children." -- John Dewey, founder of the Lab School
The latest curriculum for poor kids. 
I checked. No, there's no "Grit" curriculum being taught at the University of Chicago's Lab school or at chichi Francis Parker, the schools where Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schoools CEO Forrest Claypool send their children at upwards of $34,000 a kid.

Professor Duckworth didn't intend it for their kids. Fixing the poor is the burden of the rich, white and powerful.

According to a story in this morning's Tribune, both Rahm and Claypool were "prickly" (ah, that's the word I was looking for) when asked by a reporter about why they, who run CPS, send their children to expensive private schools.
"I've got to be honest, I don't think it's a fair question, and I'll say why," Emanuel said. "My kids go to the same school that President Obama sends his kids to school, and nobody said anything when President Obama was leading the fight for Race to the Top. I don't live in public housing, but I do fight for fairness in housing. I'm not homeless, but I do fight for resources for homelessness. So if it's only about whether I as a parent make a decision, that's not actually, it's not about my kids, it's about the kids of Chicago."
Claypool said the fact his kids attend the exclusive Francis W. Parker School in Lincoln Park is "a parental choice. It's appropriate, OK?"
I remember N.J. Gov. Christie practically chewing a parent's head off for asking the same question.

Point of fact, I and many others, blogged plenty about Obama/Duncan's so-called Race to the Top and its reproduction and reinforcement of our two-tier school system.

And what a strange analogy Rahm's making between public schools -- created for everyone-- and public housing and homeless shelters, specifically reserved for the poorest and neediest of us. It's clear that the mayor views public education as some sort of poverty agency rather than as the cornerstone of a democratic society. And therein lies his problem and ours.

Nobody I know is challenging the right of the rich and powerful to send their children to private schools. That's not the point. The point is that the corporate reformers now running public ed, including our autocratic mayor and his hand-picked CEO, don't want our kids in public schools to experience the best educational practices, now reserved for their own.

Not banned at Lab or Parker. 
Remember back in 2013 when Rahm's felonious schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett banned the book Persepolis from CPS libraries? I made a quick call to the Lab School librarian only to find out that Persepolis was part of the middle school curriculum and readily available to all middle school students in the Rowley Library. In fact, the middle school library has 7 different editions of Marjane Satrapi's book, both in English and in French.

In 2011, the mayor forced a longer school day and school year on resistant Chicago schools even though he had no plan for what to do with the added seat time or how to pay for it. Again, I checked with Lab only to find out that their day and year was shorter than Chicago's.

Common Core? Nothing common about Lab or Parker.

Over and improper use of standardized tests? You won't find it in Lab or Parker.

In conclusion -- the best way to learn grit is by standing up to the bullies and pretenders who think they know what's best for other people's children.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A win-win proposition

Although I'm squarely against Rahm's lakefront land giveaway to his billionaire campaign donor pal George Lucas, I am open to a compromise into order to keep George, Melody and their money from abandoning Chicago.  How about this one?

We replace the monument to fascist, anti-semite Italo Balbo in Burnham Park, with a statue of Yoda and rename Balbo Drive after Princess Leia.

A win-win. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Rahm. It's safe to come out now. But not too far out.

Looks like Friends of the Park has iced Rahm's land give-away deal with billionaire George Lucas.
Note to Rahm: Yes, it's probably safe to come out from under your desk now. Now that you've dumped Supt. McCarthy and the voters have fired Anita Alvarez, things seem to have quieted down around the Laquan McDonald murder and cover up.

I know what you're thinking. The mayoral election is still three years away and there's no single unifying progressive alternative opponent yet in sight. Your divide-and-rule tactics in the communities have worked to some degree. And there's still plenty of time to re-brand and clean up your image and even hand pick a successor if you choose to move on.  After all, you've got the best clean-up team money can buy.

By 2019, your pal Hillary Clinton will most likely be be in the White House, federal dollars will be flowing into Chicago and Laquan McDonald, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, school closings and the teachers strike of 2016 (if there even is one) will be just a faded memory.

The Obama Library, the DePaul basketball arena and George Lucas's Star Wars "Museum" will all be in place, shining beacons to your accomplishments.

I see you've already taken off your fuzzy sweater and dropped that unbecoming, contrite, frowny-face, and gone back to taking revenge on your critics (principal Troy LaRaviere) and rewarding friends, pre-Shakman style.

Zopp, new deputy mayor in charge of whatever.
But hold on, Rahm. You may be moving just a little too fast? I mean making Andrea Zopp your new, highly-paid (thought we were broke) deputy mayor in charge of whatever has just about every one in stitches. I know you owe her a debt of gratitude because of her votes to close schools in the black community while she was a member of your sham school board. I guess by pulling her back from political Boot Hill after her abysmal loss to Tammy Duckworth in the senate primary, you're trying to send a message to your few remaining faithful machine followers that you still have their backs. A stand-up guy. But deputy mayor? C'mon. You made that up.

Even funnier was your appointment of Aaron Koch as the new Chief Resilience Officer (or "CRO" as I like to call him). I must admit, you really got me on that one. Padding the bureaucracy with positions that don't even exist. I can't wait to see how Chief Koch is greeted by all the other resilience officers working under him.

Aaron Koch in charge of "grit".
I would have applied for the job myself, but while I could use the money and pension boost, I didn't feel resilient enough to handle the pressure. My problem -- I never took any of those now-fashionable "Grit" courses when I was in school. You know, the ones where they beat down the kids with testing and racial abuse as a way to prepare them for the crappy, low-wage jobs that await them after graduation.

Yes, things may be looking a little brighter from where you're sitting, Mayor One Percent. I see you're even smiling about the slow down in the city's steadily rising murder rate. April was a good month for you since the murder rate was up only a tick from a year ago. And a slow increase in the murder rate under your administration is better than a fast one. Right? It's like the glass being half-full.

But a warning. Not much has changed down here on the ground.

The city's debt is mounting. While the CTU probably won't strike this month, that no victory for you. If you make another move to unilaterally violate the contract or fail to negotiate seriously, all bets are off.

The CPD is still out of control with services being withheld in several black and Latino neighborhoods as payback for community protests of police killings.

Friends of the Park have just iced your sweetheart land deal with George Lucas.

Your school system is barely able to stay afloat, nine months without a budget.

Another summer of gun violence is around the corner, largely a result of your failed policies.

And finally, the people of Chicago just don't like you.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Rahm's hand-picked school board. Where democracy goes to die.

Board Pres. Frank Clark (the man from ComEd), also chaired Rahm's School Closing Commission. 
“Often there are public meetings by the school board and hundreds of people may show up and testify. And the general perception is that the school board doesn’t listen, that the decisions don’t follow the will of the people who come before them, the teachers, the parents, the community.” -- Dick Simpson
For the past three years, parents and community members have been complaining about the board's policy of making people sign-up for the limited 2-minute speaking spots at board meetings, a full week before the agenda is posted.

When complaints were filed with Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s (potential candidate for governor) office, that the policy violated the state’s open meetings act, Madigan agreed. On April 13 she sent a letter to CPS, saying the requirement “unreasonably restricts the public’s statutory right to address the Board.”

Her letter seems to have gotten a rise out of Board Pres. Frank Clark (ComEd/Excelon) who now will allow those wishing to speak tosign-up on line (www.cpsboe.org), at 10:30 a.m. on the Monday before each board meeting, a full half-hour after the meeting agenda has been posted.

Now for the first time in years, citizens will be able to speak -- wait for it -- directly in response to matters being voted on at the board meeting. Hallelujah!

But the question still remains. Is anyone listening.

Clark was so pleased with himself, he could pee. He lauded his own “steps to bolster public engagement” that include online tools to make appointments with board members and equal speaking time for non-English speakers — which followed a Sun-Times story about Spanish speakers denied more time to allow for simultaneous interpretation.

S-T's Lauren Fitzpatrick writes:
Board members also will begin holding informal office hours at schools instead of just downtown, starting the appointments at Earle Elementary School next week.
But unlike his predecessor, Clark has yet to hold a meeting after business hours out at a community school rather than at CPS’ downtown headquarters. And he has not yet ruled on suggestions to open up board briefings so the public can watch the mayor’s handpicked board members ask questions and challenge district staff before casting typically unanimous votes to approve CPS recommendations.
“Posting the public agenda before registration opens will allow community members to make informed decisions about their participation in meetings, which should foster more productive and focused meetings,” Clark said in a press release.
He might have added, ,,,which is why we have avoided doing it until now.

The real purpose behind this "reform" appears to be an attempt to slow down or head-off the push for a representative elected school board, which is gaining support in Springfield. Another purpose may be to make things easier for charter school proponents to mobilize support for more privately-run charters whenever that topic is on the agenda.

To Rahm's appointed head-nodding board members, it never really mattered what speakers had to say anyway. Board votes are merely all pro-forma and unanimous, with direction coming right from the 5th floor at City Hall through CEO Forrest Claypool, and certainly not from the gallery.


Coach tells Trump: Let's drop the big one. 

Bobby Knight compares Trump to Truman
“Harry Truman with what he did — in dropping and having the guts to drop the bomb in 1944 — saved billions of american lives.”  [Note to Coach Knight: Truman wasn't president in '44 and dropped the bomb in Aug. 1945. U.S. population has never reached a billion.]-- Mediaite
Hillary Clinton, yikes!
"I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak." -- Interview with CNN's Jake Tapper 
 Yesterday's May Day march in Chicago.
Larry Wilmore 
But I have to say, it’s great, it looks like you’re really enjoying your last year of the presidency. Saw you hanging out with NBA players like Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors. That was cool. That was cool, yeah. You know it kinda makes sense, too, because both of you like raining down bombs on people from long distances, right? What? Am I wrong?  -- At the White House correspondents’ dinner
Pedro Noguera
 “Like it or not, schools are competing for kids, and public schools don’t even realize it. Like it or not, that’s the set-up.” -- L.A. School Report
 Terry Mazany, the chairman of the NAEP governing board
 “This trend of stagnating scores is worrisome." -- New York Times