Archives for category: Chicago

Rahm Emanuel wants to privatize public education as much and as fast as he can. Aside from closing down 50 schools in one fell swoop, the mayor privatized custodial services to two companies for $340 million over three years, promising cleaner schools and cost savings.

But, as reported by Catalyst, a respected journal that covers education in Chicago, principals complain that their schools are filthy and rodent-infested. The corporations have promised to improve.

Sarah Karp of Catalyst wrote, in an article titled “Dirty Schools Now the Norm Since Privatizing Custodians: Principals”:

“The $340 million privatization of the district’s custodial services has led to filthier buildings and fewer custodians, while forcing principals to take time away from instruction to make sure that their school is clean.

“That is the finding from a survey done by AAPPLE, the new activist arm of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.”

The leader of AAPPLE, principal Troy LaRiviere, is an outspoken defender of Chicago’s public schools and its students.

Valerie Strauss summarizes responses from principals to the new arrangement:

“Principals reported serious problems with rodents, roaches and other bugs, filthy floors, overflowing garbage bins, filthy toilets, missing supplies such as toilet paper and soap, and broken furniture — issues they said they didn’t have before. Now, many said, they spend a lot of time trying to clean their buildings.”

One of the companies, Aramark, announced recently that it would lay off 476 custodians, 20% of the custodial workforce. This may improve its profits but is likely to worsen its services.

Ken Previti writes here about the illusion of democracy, the seeming choice between two candidates who are Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. He cites the Governor’s races in Illinois and Florida, where the differences between the candidates are not large, and both owe their fealty to the same monied interests. He might well have included New York, where the incumbent Governor has lined such an imposing campaign chest that it is hard for a challenger to be heard.

Let’s face it. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision unleashed a tsunami of campaign cash, and cash fuels campaigns. During one recent Presidential election, some commentator said that a major party candidate needed to raise $1 billion to be competitive. Well, who has that kind of money. The very wealthy. This unbridled campaign spending distorts our politics.

This could change, as it has in the past. We would need a Supreme Court that is concerned about preserving our democracy and not allowing the 1% to own the political system.

If enough people were aware and involved, we could take back our country. Let us all pledge to support candidates early who support the kind of society we want to live in.

Troy A. LaRaviere is principal at Blaine Elementary School. In this article in the Chicago Sun-Times, he explains how the city’s public schools got higher test scores than the city’s well-funded, politically favored charter schools. To my knowledge, the Chicago Tribune–a cheerleader for charters– has not reported this story, nor has Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged it. Please let me know if I am wrong.

LaRiviere writes:

“In terms of assessing the effectiveness of charter schools, I believe the most accurate comparison is to public magnet schools since both charters and magnets have lottery admissions processes that increase the likelihood of enrolling students with involved parents. In essence, charters are privately run magnet schools and therefore should be measured against publicly run magnet schools. I believe that turnaround schools should be compared to neighborhood schools since they both must accept students within their attendance boundaries. Using the Sun-Times results, the comparisons are as follows:

“READING

* The most dramatic performance gaps are in reading, where the public magnet school growth percentile is 83, while the charter score is 48.

* The public neighborhood percentile is at 75, while turnarounds are at 51.

* Although neighborhood schools must enroll any student in their attendance boundary, their students’ reading growth percentile is 27 points higher than that of lottery-driven charters schools. Neighborhood schools are at 75 and charters are at 48.

“MATH

* In math, the public magnet school growth percentile is 67, while the lottery-driven charter schools are at 49.5 — over 17 points lower.

* The neighborhood school growth percentile is at 55 while the turnaround school percentile is at 43 — 12 points lower.

* Even with their admissions limitations, public neighborhood schools outperformed the growth in lottery-driven charter schools by more than five percentile points, with neighborhood and charter schools at 54.9 and 49.5 respectively.

“A simple look at a list of the schools reveals even more. Of the 490 Chicago schools for which elementary grade MAP data was available, 60 of those schools are charter (12 percent), 24 are turnaround (5 percent), and 406 (83 percent) are traditional public schools. When sorted by growth percentile rank, I found the following:

* Although charters and turnarounds make up 17 percent of district schools, they account for none of the 60 schools with the highest growth percentiles.

* Of the 30 lowest performing schools in CPS more than half are charters or turnarounds.

* Of the 10 lowest-performing schools in CPS, seven are charters or turnarounds.

* Nearly nine out of 10 charter/turnaround schools are in the bottom half of CPS performance.

“In summary, charters and turnarounds are overrepresented among the schools with the lowest student growth, and not represented at all among schools with the highest student growth.”

Ra Rmanuel has not disguised his dislike for public education or his love for charter schools. After all, he closed more public schools at one time –50–than any other school district in U.S. history.

Well, how about this? An independent report found that Chicago public schools outperformed Chicago charter schools, especially in reading, but in math as well.

“Austin community activist Dwayne Truss said neighborhood schools are burdened by negative stereotypes.

“There’s heavy marketing that somehow neighborhood schools are a horrible place and charter schools are better,” Truss said, adding, “we don’t have that advocacy in the political arena to say, ‘Hey, Mr. Mayor, we need to look at these numbers.’ ”

Paul Horton is a history instructor in the University High School at the University of Chicago Lab Schools. This post explains the Obama administration’s love for charters and its disdain for public schools.

Martin Nesbitt is the President’s best friend, and close associate of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who provided much of the start-up capital for Parking Spot, a very successful off airport parking company that Mr. Nesbitt directed for several years before Ms. Pritzker sold the company. Nesbitt and Pritzker also are invested in the Noble Charter Schools chain in Chicago. In the last year, Mr. Nesbitt has created an investment firm called the Vistria Group that seeks, in part, to bundle capital for Charter School investment.

Mr. Nesbitt grew up in Columbus, Ohio and credits the discipline he acquired at the private Columbus Academy for helping him deal with the violence, drug use, and the social dislocation that surrounded him growing up in a tough neighborhood. He sees the Noble Charter Schools as a vehicle to instill discipline in inner city youth. Like the President, he grew up, for the most part without a present father. They both see themselves as self made men and view charter schools as a potential path to success for inner city youth. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-01-21/business/ct-biz-0121-executive-profile-nesbitt-20130121_1_martin-nesbitt-michelle-obama-penny-pritzker)

Mr. Nesbitt and the President are basketball addicts. They play as much as they can and talk basketball incessantly. They, of course share this addiction with Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education and Craig Robinson, former Oregon State coach and Michelle Obama’s brother. Mr. Nesbitt sponsors and participates in three on three basketball tournaments all over the country.

During his first campaign, the President narrowed his friendship group, forcing long time friends Bill Ayers and Rashid Khalidi out of their social circles in response to attacks from the right concerning Mr. Ayers’s political past and from AIPAC on Professor Khalidi’s advocacy for Palestine and criticism of American Middle East Policy.

In Chicago, Mr. Nesbitt was the President of the Chicago Housing Authority in the late 90s where he worked with Rahm Emanuel and other power brokers to create public-private partnerships that created housing on Chicago’s south and west sides to replace the drug and crime ridden behemoth projects, the Robert Taylor Homes (see Gang Leader for a Day) and Cabrini Green.

The Commercial Club of Chicago worked with CHA to re envision the development of mid south and near west sides. A subcommittee created the “Renaissance 2010″ plan that sought to create mixed income housing in these area that was open to former project residents who worked thirty hours a week. “The Renaissance 2010″ plan resulted in heavy real estate investment in these areas and the creation of charter schools were seen as essential to attracting young urban professionals into these areas.

So the connection between real estate developers who speculate on land and building investment and the push for charter schools is very strong. Chicago real estate moguls lead by Bruce Rauner, the Republican nominee for Illinois governor, and the Crown family drive much of the Chicago push to close public schools to expand the charter sector. Indeed, the Commercial Club of Chicago, known as “the billionaires club” on the streets of Chicago, drives the Education policy of the mayor and funds, through connections with the Joyce Foundation (the Director of the Joyce Foundation sits on board of the Commercial Club) funds education “research” (non peer-reviewed) that is printed on the editorial pages of the Chicago Tribune to legitimate public school closings.

This pattern of connection between real estate developers, the creation of and public-private partnerships to build low density mixed income housing in impoverished neighborhoods, and the drive to close public schools and open charter schools has been chronicled in powerful detail by Education theorist and sociologist Pauline Lipman. I have addressed these issues in more detail in an Education Week piece, “Why Obama’s Education Policies will not Change and why ‘Change is Hard.'”

Mr. Nesbitt and Mayor Emanuel are the leading political actors who have orchestrated and executed public policy for the interests of the Commercial Club. Their chief supporters need the value of the land that they bought in gentrifying neighborhoods to increase. They see charter schools as a key magnet to attract middle class professionals back into neighborhoods within a three to four mile radius of downtown on the south and west sides.

The process appears to be working for developers on the near west side with the construction of a massive shopping mall, the sales of condos that were intended to be mixed income to middle and upper middle class white and black professionals, and the plans to build a new selective enrollment “Barack Obama High” smack dab in the middle of the former Cabrini Green.

The gentrification scheme of developers, however, is clearly not working in Bronzeville, on the near south side. According to a recent Harvard study that received some attention on NPR, real estate values in the mId south and Bronzeville areas on the south side is slowed by perceptions of violence. According to this study, white urban professionals are more likely to move into Latino areas like Humbolt Park and Pilsen.

To date, Mr. Nesbitt’s friends are scared to death about their investments in Chicago’s mid south and Bronzeville areas, explaining why this area has been targeted for several rounds of public school closings and charter school openings.

The take away from this piece is that many of the people who provided the funds to transform Mr. Obama into a viable national candidate after he passed the litmus test of Iowa are associated with the Commercial Club of Chicago were heavily invested in real estate speculation and building charter schools as a way to increase the value of property purchased by investors. All of this is couched in the language of making Chicago a global city and creating school choice for parents.

At the national level, Democrats for Education Reform stepped into the discussion over schools in exchange for raising money for Democratic campaigns that was needed to counteract the impact of the Citizens United decision.

The reason why those closest to the President are strong supporters of RTTT and charters is because they are connected to south and west side real estate investment in Chicago and bad press for public schools in the form of low test scores will create the pretext and legitimation for more investment and funding of charter schools that will lead to rising condo sales, condo values, and land values. Once values rise and more middle class professionals move into these areas, commercial shopping and retail investment will do its work to increase the value of real estate.

That the President’s best buddy, should attempt to capitalize on on charter school investment after playing a role in the shaping of the President’s education policy, is either the hallmark of a “free enterprise system” or more grease to the wheels of yet another episode of crony capitalism excreted by the proximity to power of buddies helping each other out.

I taught Mr. Nesbitt’s two oldest children and I have communicated my disappointments about the Obama administrations education policies to him.

I told Mr. Nesbitt several times that the Democratic party would pay a price for creating education policies that did not serve the interests of the majority of parents, students, teachers, and administrators.

He told me that “teachers do not deserve the amount of money that they make,” “that their salaries should be reduced,” and that they deserve no respect for sacrificing other career paths to answer the calling of teaching.

He seemed more concerned about reducing teacher’s salaries to create a profit margin for investors than about the impact the disruptive policies of school closings would have on human communities.

I recently sent him a note that explained to him that the majority of 3.7 million teachers in this country are very upset with policies that denigrate teachers, students, parents and communities for political gain.

For an administration that pretends to care about the disappearance of the middle class and rising income inequality, its lack of support for teachers and public schools is astounding. We have heard nothing from this administration when democratic state representatives all over the country threaten to steal pensions that were not adequately funded due to political incompetence and a willingness to pay political cronies rather than pension funds.

We now see an attack on due process for teachers gaining political support from both parties and the billionaires who will benefit from the destruction of public unions. The attack on due process rights for teacher unions will set precedents for attacks on due process rights for other unions.

Scarcely 12% of Americans belong to unions and real wages in the United States have declined as union membership has declined.

The curtain has been pulled back, and most Americans can see now who are pulling the levers. The Democratic Party no longer supports the working people of this country. it serves the commercial clubs in every major American city, Wall Street bundlers, and plutocrats all over the world.

Mr. Nesbitt, the 3.7 million teachers in this country will not be fooled by staged meetings between a few teachers in the White House, listening to a few BadAss Teachers at the DoEd, or calling for a congress of teachers. WE know that this is political posturing in advance of November elections.

Your administration has disrespected us, our communities, and our families. How stupid do you think we are? Your policies are an attack on our self-respect.

Unless you instruct Senators Harkins and Durbin to defund NLRB and RTTT, fire Arne Duncan, and begin pursuing a new path, very few of us will support you in November.

We know that your billionaire friends will profit from their investments only if you pursue policies that create more charter schools. We know that you and your friends are betting on Pearson and Microsoft stock.

Your blatant disrespect for students, teachers, parents, and school communities will cost you the upcoming election.

You are blinded by greed and ignorance.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports on FBI investigation of Gulen-related schools, which awarded large contracts to firms without competitive bidding. The firms as well as the schools appear to be related to the Turkish Gulen movement.

“In June, the FBI raided 19 Concept Schools locations in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, including the group’s Des Plaines headquarters. Search warrants showed they were seeking records concerning Concept’s use of the federal “E-rate” program and companies hired under that program, which helps pay for high-tech upgrades.

“The agents also were looking for records regarding top Concept officials, the Chicago Sun-Times reported last month.

“No one has been charged. The FBI has said only that the investigation is a “white-collar criminal matter.”

“The CPS-funded work done by the contractors named in the FBI search warrants has ranged from selling Concept computers and uniform polo shirts to organizing professional-development seminars.”

“The three Chicago Concept schools have paid more than $283,000 since the start of 2011 to Advanced Solutions in Education of Schaumburg, records show. The company and its founder and former chief executive, Ozgur Balsoy, were named in FBI search warrants served at Concept’s headquarters and at its schools in Rogers Park and Peoria.

ASE was a consultant for Concept on its applications for federal E-rate funding. The company also was hired to do other work for Concept, including organizing seminars for school administrators and teachers.

Balsoy previously was an administrator at a Concept school in Columbus, Ohio. He formed ASE in Ohio in 2009, expanding to Illinois in 2011. ASE listed him as “sole owner” until 2012. He’s now listed as vice president.

“ASE’s president, Erdal Aycicek, formerly served was treasurer of the Niagara Foundation, based in downtown Chicago. Like Concept and many of its contractors, the foundation was founded and continues to be led by Turkish immigrants, many of them with ties to the global Gulenist movement led by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in Pennsylvania.

“Two other ASE executives — Huseyin Alper Akyurek and Esat Albulut — also previously worked for Concept as administrators at schools in Ohio.

“ASE executives did not return calls seeking comment.

“Another company listed in the search warrants, Core Group Inc. of Mount Prospect, has been a major contractor for Concept’s schools in Chicago. The three schools have paid more than $550,000 to two Core subsidiaries for goods including computers and polo shirts with school logos on them.

“Core’s president, Ertugrul Gurbuz, who was named in the search warrants, also founded Quality Builders of Midwest Inc., a Concept construction contractor whose work included building a gym addition at CMSA at 7212 N. Clark St.”

The Chicago Tribune’s poll of voters‘ views of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school policies showed very low approval for the Mayor. The mayoral election is in February 2015, and it appears that education is Rahm’s weak spot. He favors charter schools and shut down nearly 50 public schools in one fell swoop, an act unprecedented in American history. He has fought bitterly with the Chicago Teachers Union over school funding. It is not working well for him politically, the poll shows.

“Asked about Emanuel’s handling of public schools, 65 percent disapproved, 26 percent approved and 10 percent had no opinion. The latest findings show a shift of 5 percentage points toward disapproval from a Tribune poll in May 2013 — just before a vote by the school board to shut nearly 50 public schools.

“While dissatisfaction with the mayor on education crossed racial lines, it was more intense among African-American voters. Critics contend black neighborhoods were disproportionately targeted for school closings. Fully 77 percent of black voters disapproved of Emanuel’s handling of the city’s schools while only 14 percent approved.”

“Among parents of children in Chicago Public Schools — about one-fifth of those taking part in the survey — nearly 4 out of 5 disapproved of the mayor’s handling of public education while only 19 percent approved. But even those without children in the public schools disapproved at a 62 percent rate, while only 27 percent approved.

“Emanuel’s approach on charters versus neighborhood schools was roundly criticized by voters: 72 percent disagreed with that approach, compared with 18 percent who agreed. African-American voters most severely opposed the policy — at 83 percent — while only 10 percent agreed with Emanuel. Nearly 8 in 10 parents of CPS children also were opposed, as well as 75 percent of female voters, 69 percent of men and 63 percent of whites.”

“Little more than 15 months ago, more than one-third of Chicago voters did not choose a side between Emanuel and the union. The latest poll finds that the bulk of those voters have opted to side with the union: 62 percent, up from 41 percent in May 2013. A total of 23 percent sided with Emanuel, up from 19 percent more than a year ago. Only 7 percent opted to choose neither the union nor the mayor in the new poll.”

The Tribune has been a vocal critic of the CTU. Friday afternoon is traditionally the time to release stories to get minimum attention.

The conclusion to be drawn from this poll is that Rahm is in big trouble because of his hostility to public schools and his devotion to privatization.

Will wonders never cease? Chicago seems to yearn for more Gulen charter schools, affiliated with the reclusive imam Fetullah Gulen. Gulen is the largest charter chain in the nation. They use a variety of names, but their boards are made up of Turkish men, as is most of their staff.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that a new Gulen school would open in a building owned by a bank whose chairman, David Vitale, happens to be president of the Chicago Board of Education. Vitale will recuse himself from the vote. The Gulen movement is expanding in Chicago and expects to have five charter schools. (see Fred Klonsky’s blog on this subject.)

“Concept, whose Des Plaines headquarters were raided by the FBI in June, says it will pay $210,000 to rent the property on a one-year lease, with options to extend the lease for another year or two, tapping taxpayer money provided by the Chicago Public Schools. The rent would go up 3 percent a year.”

Gulen schools have names like Magnolia Science Academy, Horizon Science Academy, Sonoran Science Academy, Lisa Academy, and many more.

They frequently take legislators on jaunts to Turkey. Why Americans are turning to Turkey for science instruction is unknown. .

Fred Klonsky writes that in 2007, the Chicago Tribune praised CEO Arne Duncan because he would not be content with principals drawn from the ranks. not Arne! He was looking for superstar principals. Duncan was CEO because he lacked the experience as a teacher or a principal to be a superintendent.

The Tribune singled out one of Duncan’s “superstars”: Terrence P. Carter.

““Used to be, as long as the lights were on and the heat was working and teachers reported to school, your job as principal was basically done,” said Terrence Carter, principal of Clara Barton Elementary School in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. “Now, in the age of more accountability, there’s a paradigm shift for what skills principals need to have.”

“For Carter, who also attended that day, the training reviewed skills he already knew. Carter represents a new breed of principal, many of whom recently entered the profession from the business world through a selective principal training program called New Leaders for New Schools. In that program, prospective principals focus on becoming academic leaders and conducting rigorous evaluations of teachers, students and curricula.

“That’s the challenge and the opportunity for Chicago: to draw dozens more leaders like Terrence Carter into the most challenging public schools and to help them thrive.”

Klonsky writes:

“Carter is now the center of controversy in New London, Connecticut where his application for school superintendent is on hold while the board investigates his claims of a doctorate from among other universities, Stanford University in California.

“Stanford denies he received a doctorate from them.

“Prior to applying for the job in New London, Carter worked as a principal for CPS and as an executive director for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. AUSL is responsible for managing most of CPS turnaround schools.

“CPS board president David Vitale and chief administrative officer Tim Cawley both come from the ranks of AUSL.”

Yet, Klonsky writes, the Chicago Tribune has not seen fit to report about Arne Duncan’s superstar, and Duncan has no comment.

The Chicago choice system works exactly as every choice system works: It segregates students by ability.

“But a new WBEZ analysis shows an unintended consequence of the choice system: students of different achievement levels are being sorted into separate high schools.

“WBEZ analyzed incoming test scores for freshmen from the fall of 2012, the most recent year data is available. That year, the district mandated that every high school give students an “EXPLORE” exam about a month into the school year.

“The 26,340 scores range from painfully low to perfect.

“WBEZ found few schools in the city enroll the full span of students. Instead, low-scoring students and high-scoring students in particular are attending completely different high schools. Other schools enroll a glut of average kids.”

And more:

“The findings raise some of the same long-running questions educators have debated about the academic and social implications of in-school tracking. But they also raise questions about whether the city’s school choice system is actually creating better schools, or whether it’s simply sorting certain students out and leaving the weakest learners in separate, struggling schools.

WBEZ’s analysis shows:

Serious brain drain. The city’s selective “test-in” high schools — among the best in the state — capture nearly all the top students in the school system. There were 104 kids who scored a perfect 25 on the EXPLORE exam. One hundred of them — 96 percent — enrolled in just six of the city’s 130 high schools (Northside, Whitney Young, Payton, Lane, Lincoln Park, and Jones). In fact, 80 percent of perfect scorers went to just three schools. Among the city’s top 2 percent of test takers (those scoring a 23, 24, or 25 on their exam), 87 percent are at those same six schools. Chicago has proposed creating an 11th selective enrollment high school, Barack Obama College Prep, to be located in the same area as the schools already attracting the city’s top performers.

“Clustering of low-performing students. Fifteen percent of the city’s high schools are populated with vastly disproportionate numbers of low-performing students. More than 80 percent of incoming students at these schools score below the district average. The schools enroll 10 percent of all Chicago high school students.
Black students are most likely to be affected by sorting. WBEZ’s analysis shows African American students are doubly segregated, first by race, then by achievement. Of the 40 most academically narrow schools in Chicago, 34 of them are predominantly black. Even though just 40 percent of students in the public schools are African American, Chicago has black high schools for low achievers, black high schools for average kids, black test-in high schools for high achievers.
Within neighborhoods, more sorting. Schools within a particular community may appear to be attracting the same students demographically, but WBEZ finds significant sorting by achievement. Especially in neighborhoods on the South and West sides, the comprehensive neighborhood high school has become a repository for low performers; nearby charters or other new schools are attracting far greater percentages of above-average kids.”

Some reform.

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