Archives for category: Chicago

Why do so many people find it so hard to tell the truth in the face of injustice? That’s easy: they are afraid. Afraid of being fired, afraid of being ostracized, afraid of standing alone.

More interesting to ask is why some people are fearless. Why are they willing to fight when others silently support them but remain silent?

Troy LaRaviere is unafraid. He is a champion for students. He is a principal of an Elentary school in Chicago who speaks truth to power. In this post, he is interviewed by EduShyster.

Here is his answer to one of her questions:

“The MO of this administration has been to take services that the public pays for and benefits from and hand them over to a private corporation that benefits from our loss. You know, I used to wonder why Emanuel left the White House to come to Chicago. I thought *he must really love it here to leave the White House to come and be mayor.* I didn’t get the trade off, but now I get it. If you want to rob a bank and rob it blind, what better way to do it than become the bank president and have the authority to create contractual relationships to direct the flow of tax revenue from services that benefit the people to schemes that enrich private corporations? And not just the billions of taxpayer dollars, but using the power of the city’s name to borrow additional dollars that we’re going to have to pay back to venture capitalists, vulture capitalists and corporate CEOs?”

LaRaviere has spoken out repeatedly on the failure if corporate education reform. He published an article recently showing that the public schools in Chicago outperform the charter schools. Time and again, he has lambasted budget cuts and privatization.

This principled principal deserves to be on the honor roll as a hero of American education.

This mom in Chicago opted her child out of the state tests. She remembered that when she was in school, there were a few standardized tests, and they were about her growth. Now the tests are pervasive, and constantly comparing her child to other children. She decided to opt out.

“When I look at my kids’ progress reports and academic records, the picture is a bit more murky. Which is surprising. It should be more clear than something that happened 30-20 years ago. And yet, my childrens’ academic records are numerical to the extreme. ISAT score: number. NWEA score: number ranges. STEP level: number. Selective Enrollment score: number. These numbers can be useful. But they are, for the most part, comparative.

“They tell me less about how my kids are doing as they do about how my kids are doing compared to everyone else. Do my children know more than the average American 6th, 4th, and 2nd graders? Yes. But what does this mean for them and their future success? I cannot answer that. And neither, really, as far as I can see, do the test results.

“If test results in 3rd grade are prescriptive of future life success, why not just sort them all out then and be done with it immediately? “O brave new world, That has such people in’t!”

“Yeah, no. That is, fortunately, not yet how it works in this world.

“Instead, (two of) my children will take the PARCC assessment this year. I took the sample assessment for ELA for 3rd grade. It is hard. I remember taking the ACT in 1991 as a high school junior, and I think the types of reading comprehension questions I answered then were easier than the exercises that the PARCC asks 8- and 9-year-olds to complete. If my conclusion, based on this exercise, is that I am dumber than the average 8-year-old, I can only imagine the effect such tests will have on the average 8-year-old. And I’m not the only adult struggling with the PARCC practice exam. And we’re only parents. At least one school board is also struggling with the validity and need for administering the PARCC.”

Will she subject her children to nine hours of PARCC testing?

Let’s hope not.

Karen Lewis, speaking to members of the Chicago Teachers Union by video, endorsed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for Mayor. She also urged members to vote for Governor Pat Quinn, who is running against billionaire Bruce Rauner. Karen, who is recuperating from major surgery, was wearing a turban and speaking strongly. She looked beautiful.

Amy B. Dean explains why the inability of Karen Lewis to oppose Rahm Emanuel due to her health is a huge loss, not only on a personal level to all those who love and admire her, but because she was a threat to the Democratic political establishment that has severed its ties with the labor movement. Once upon a time, there was a coalition of Democrats, labor unions, and civil rights groups. The rise of the business-minded politicians like Rahm Emanuel, Dannel Malloy, and Andrew Cuomo has shattered that coalition. Such right-of-center politicians rely on Wall Street and corporations for the campaign funds they need, and they actively fight labor unions. Karen Lewis would have revived the sturdy progressive coalition that once commanded American politics. Will there be others to take her place?

Chicago Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett wants to delay the adoption of the PARCC test for Common Core.


“”At present, too many questions remain about PARCC to know how this new test provides more for teachers, students, parents and principals than we are already providing through our current assessment strategies,” Byrd-Bennett said.


“Her request comes amid rising concerns over new tests based on more rigorous Common Core standards. Critics have questioned the cost of the new exams, the quantity and time involved in testing, and the loss of local power over standards and testing.”


States and districts in PARCC are expected to set aside 9-11 hours for PARCC testing, which must be done online (the same for the other federal testing consortium), with costs that are expected into the billions across the nation.


Stephanie Simon of Politico sees Chicago’s step back from PARCC as part of a growing national revolt that is now reaching into districts, even the one most closely associated with Arne Duncan. Defenders of the tests express concern that the revolt could catch fire (note: it already has).


Valerie Strauss writes on The Answer Sheet blog in the Washington Post that the federally-funded PARCC consortium might be in big trouble. It initially had 26 states signed up. The number has dwindled to 12 plus DC.


These tests, Arne a Duncan predicted in 2010, when he paid $360 million for them, would be “an absolute game-changer.” What he calls a “game-changer” looks more and more every day like a card game of 52 Pick-Up or an amusement park ride called “Wreck-EM cars.” Unfortunately, it is not a card game or an amusement park that he is toying with, it is our nation’s system of public education.

Education activist Mike Klonsky reminds everyone that what Karen Lewis wanted most was to drive Rahm Emanuel out of power. Her friends must now unite to realize her goal.

He brings news of a new study by Myron Orfield showing that charters in Chicago are intensifying segregation.

And he reminds us that Arne Duncan supported Indiana’s Tea Party Governor Mitch Daniels. Add him to a long list of anti-public school figures that Arne has praised, including John White in Louisiana and Hanna Skandera in Néw Mexico.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis underwent five hours of surgery for removal of a brain tumor.

Those of us who admire her, love her, and are inspired by her will continue to pray for her complete recovery. We need her.

Kisses to you, Karen, from your friends.

Teachers and educators across the nation are sending love and concern and whatever good things they can think of to our beloved Karen Lewis.


Here is a post from Jersey Jazzman, cross-posted on Blue Jersey, a Jersey-focused blog. I was searching on the web for a picture of the two of us together, Karen and I, when I came across this short post. Karen invited me to speak to the Chicago Teachers Union. She did that a few times, and I always came to Chicago when Karen invited me. It usually meant that I would get to spend time with some of her superb young community organizers, the men and women who built a solid base of support for teachers and public education among parents and communities.

Journey for Justice, led by Jitu Brown of Chicago, has filed complaints with the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, on behalf of children and parents in Newark, Chicago, and New Orleans, claiming that they are victims of discrimination.


Their children, parents say, are the victims of reformers. Maybe they mean well, but the results for the children have been disastrous.


Far from being “leaders of the civil rights issue of our time,” as the reformers assert, the reformers are violating the rights of black and brown children.


Jitu Brown, founder of the Journey for Justice, is a spokesperson for the angry parents of these cities. He says “reform” is actually “a hustle.”


Brown, a lifelong Chicago resident who has been working with inner-city schools and neighborhood organizations since 1991, says that school choice has really just been an excuse for politicians to sack neighborhood schools and funnel government money to charter operators, which operate schools that on average take just 64 percent of the money that their district counterparts take.
Brown points to a number of examples in which, he says, Chicago Public Schools intentionally sabotaged successful schools in an effort to prop up charters, using tactics like offering laptops and iPads to lure high-performing students out of traditional public schools and into charters.
“These people are almost like drug dealers and the children are the narcotics, and they flip ’em until they’re able to finally make enough profit,” he says. “That’s how drug dealers work. It’s no different. It’s really no different.”
A report from the Chicago Teachers Union (pdf) released last year detailed how Simon Guggenheim Elementary School in West Englewood was set up for failure, while Jacob Beidler Elementary School, in East Garfield Park, was set up for success. The two schools have similar percentages of low-income students, and both are in communities facing high rates of violence, but Guggenheim, the report says, was denied resources in order to destabilize the environment.
Brown alleges that Chicago Public Schools has done this on several other occasions, citing examples like Beethoven Elementary on the city’s South Side. Once a high-performing school in a poor community, it was inundated over a number of years with students from closed schools in different neighborhoods around the city that ultimately dragged the school’s test scores down to a level where it is now failing.
“[The school district has] been closing schools in this neighborhood since 1998 as they’ve been trying to gentrify the area,” he says. “Those closings accelerated around 2004. We realized that it wasn’t really about school improvement; it was about freeing up that public area for the incoming gentry….”


“In Newark, students and their parents in the city’s South Ward boycotted the first day of school to protest One Newark, the school-choice enrollment plan that moved some children far from their neighborhood schools. Weeks later, hundreds of high school students walked out of class in protest.
“More than a month after school started, some parents say that hundreds of children still have not been assigned a school, and frustrations over transportation issues, uncertainty about where to send their children and dissatisfaction over closed neighborhood schools have led to many more not showing up for class.
“For me, as a parent, I know that my children deserve better,” says Sharon Smith, a mother with three children in Newark schools. “And not because they’re just mine, but because every child deserves the best opportunity that they can receive with education. But that’s not happening here. The parents here are stuck with whatever decision the district makes.”
Smith and other critics have chided One Newark on behalf of families without cars, who, she says, sometimes have to put children on two buses to get them to school. The plan doesn’t provide wholesale transportation, and many charter schools don’t offer it.
Zuckerberg’s $100 million matched donation has vanished, mostly into pockets of contractors and consultants and given to teachers unions as back pay. As Vivian Cox Fraser, president of the Urban League of Essex County, famously remarked in a New Yorker story about the debacle, “Everybody’s getting paid, but Raheem still can’t read.”



Mike Klonsky documents the disastrous history of school reform in Chicago. It started when Secretary of Education Bill Bennett came to town and said Chicago’s schools were the worst in the nation. One reform followed another: Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, Rahm Emanuel….and a legacy of failure.

Rahm closed more public schools than any public official in history (not counting Hurricane Katrina). he loves to turn neighborhood high schools into selective-admission schools. This promotes gentrification and disperses the neighborhood kids. His current plan is to do this to Hancock High School:

“It’s Rahm’s fascination with selective-enrollment schools as a driver of neighborhood gentrification. In this case it’s his plan to turn around Hancock High School on Southwest Side, which now is home to mostly poor Hispanic students, by getting rid of all the teachers and students and calling it a selective-enrollment school. The school will no longer guarantee any of its seats to neighborhood children, about 95% of whom are Hispanic and 97% low-income, according to CPS.”

Yes, this will “turnaround” Hancock by getting rid of the students.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 116,822 other followers