Archives for category: Chicago

Troy LaRaviere is a champion of children and a champion of public education. He is the principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago and president of the Chicago principals’ association. He has spoken out strongly against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s anti-public school agenda. He created a four-and-a-half minute video for the Chuy Garcia campaign where he says, “Of the 50 highest-performing schools in Chicago, all 50 are public schools that were here before he [Rahm Emanuel] arrived….Of the 20 lowest-performing schools in Chicago, 13 of them – over half – are turnaround and charter schools, which are cornerstones of the Rahm Emanuel education reform agenda.”

 

And now, in a letter to the parents of his school, he has advised them that they have his permission to opt out of PARCC testing. He even said that he planned to opt his own son out of PARCC next year when he is in third grade. He calls for all parents in Chicago, in Illinois, and in America to opt out. He definitely belongs on this blog’s honor roll!

 

The PTA of Blaine sent letters to parents encouraging them to opt out of the tests. Remember that teachers and parents were told by the city superintendent that the schools were not ready for the PARCC test, and that it would be given to only 10% of students. A few days ago, the city caved in to the state and federal government’s demand that it give the test to all students or the state would lose $1.3 billion in funding. It was undoubtedly an empty threat; Mayor Emanuel could have called either his friend Governor Rauner or his friend Arne Duncan and persuaded them to back off but he did not. So with only a few days notice, the children are expected to take a test for which neither they nor their teachers are prepared.

 

Principal LaRaviere wrote to his parents as follows:

 

I am writing to make it clear that the Blaine administration fully supports the PTA’s effort to maximize Blaine students’ instructional time. As a result we will respect and honor all parent requests to opt-out their students from the PARCC. Students whose parents opt them out will receive a full day of instruction. Teachers are developing plans that will provide enriched learning experiences for non-testing students during the testing window. I want to clearly state that whether you opt-out or not, Blaine’s administration and teachers will respect and support your wishes for your child…..

 

Opting out will not affect your child’s promotion and selective enrollment status for Fall 2015. There is also a belief that opting out will affect Blaine’s funding. There is no evidence for this belief. In fact, the test itself is decreasing resources that could have otherwise been targeted for school improvement. Each year, states and school districts spend billions of dollars on testing, while at the same time cutting budgets for instruction and learning. Our PTA believes it is time for parents to say “enough.” For more on the issue of funding, please see the statement released by the parent education advocacy organization, More Than a Score, at the following link:

 

http://ilraiseyourhand.org/content/response-isbes-misinformation-regarding-parcc-and-opt-out.

 

For more on the PTA’s opt-out initiative, please see http://blainepta.weebly.com/.

 

In closing, our PTA’s focus on teaching your children rather than over-testing them is commendable, and we applaud their efforts on behalf of Blaine students.

 

Very Respectfully,

 

Troy LaRaviere, Principal

 

But then, READ THIS!

 

Since releasing the above letter, I’ve been asked questions like, “Since the PARCC might count for something next year, do you think the kids should just take it this year so they can get used to it?” My response is as follows: If the schools announced that next year they were going expose your children to exhaust fumes for five minutes per day, would you be resigned to that inevitability and submit your child, starting his or her exposure this year so he or she can “get used to it”? That analogy may seem harsh and over-the-top, but it is my lived experience that this massive over-testing has been as toxic to education in Chicago as breathing exhaust fumes would be to a living organism. Over-testing–and the punitive measures that have come with it–has narrowed our curriculum; it has led to massive cheating scandals across the country; it has led to the shutting down of good schools in low-income neighborhoods; and it has led to a reduction in practices that would actually improve schools, like collaboration and increased professional development time.

 

Over-testing has also given politicians a way to blame public schools for things that are clearly a result of the actions and inactions of the failed politicians themselves. When students in a low-income neighborhood show up on day-one of kindergarten three years behind their counterparts in a high-income community, that is not the result of the failure of public schools; it is the result of failed public policies; it is a result of a political system that has failed to deliver critical human services to the people who need them most. From Rahm Emanuel to most local aldermen, our city’s politicians have failed low-income children from conception to kindergarten, and they use attainment based test scores to chastise public schools for picking up the pieces of their monumental failures.

 

So no. We don’t need to get used to this. We need to stop this.

 

My son is in second grade. Next year he will be among thousands of 3rd graders who are scheduled to take the PARCC for the first time. He will not take it. He will not take it in 3rd grade to get used to it by 4th grade; and he will not take it in 4th grade to get used to it by 5th grade.

 

We do not want our children–or our schools in general–to continue to have to get used to unproven backward education policy ideas like the theory that testing our children is going to somehow magically improve our education system. It’s time to end the PARCC; not just opt-out of it. It’s time to implement real evidence-based strategies for enhancing our education system. We’ve been blindly following the testing theory for 14 years now. The No Child Left Behind law launched this era of testing and accountability in 2001. Remember? The massive testing and accountability the law called for was supposed to lead to 100% of children meeting standards by 2014. Those years have come and gone with no appreciable difference in outcomes for our children. Testing and accountability did not work in the last 14 years and it won’t work in the next 14. It’s time to call a failure, a failure.

 

Let’s all say it together:

 

“The theory of testing and accountability has failed our children.”

 

Opt Out Chicago.

 

Opt Out Illinois.

 

Opt Out America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juan Garcia, crack investigative reporter for The New York Daily News, interviewed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia about his race against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

 

Emanuel had hoped to win a decisive victory, but Garcia forced him into a runoff.

 

Garcia’s theme echoes the winning theme of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio: Chicago has become “a tale of two cities.” A city where the rich and powerful prosper and become more rich and powerful, and a city where working people see their life prospects diminishing.

 

“People are feeling the effects of inequality in this city, and they don’t like it,” Garcia told me in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

 

“Rahm has run this city for the benefit of the select few, the high rollers, hedge fund managers, big developers,” he said, “and the people voted for change.”

 

The Chicago race has instantly turned into the next big test for the soul of the Democratic Party.

 

It is a face-off between the party’s progressive wing, led by folks like de Blasio, Ras Baraka in Newark and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and its corporate wing, leaders like Emanuel, Gov. Cuomo and Hillary Clinton.

 

All the experts predicted Emanuel would coast to victory. After all, he was a former top White House aide to President Obama and enjoyed the president’s backing. He is also an incumbent legendary for his take-no-prisoners style and affection for foul language. He raised $15 million, far more than all his rivals combined. And he enjoyed the endorsement of Chicago’s major newspapers.

 

Garcia, 58, was a little-known former alderman, state senator and community organizer. He didn’t even enter the race until October and he raised a mere $1.3 million. As recently as January, polls showed him with barely 20% support.

 

But on Election night, Emanuel captured just 45% of the vote – below the 50% needed to avoid a run-of – while Garcia emerged a close second with 33%. New polls now show the gap between the two tightening.

 

Garcia had the support of the unions, and Emanuel was the candidate of “wealthy downtown” Chicago.

 

School issues played a large role in the election.

 

Emanuel was the guy who shuttered 50 failing public schools, rapidly expanded charter schools, and faced off in a bitter 2012 strike with the teachers union.

 

“The school closings galvanized opposition to the mayor,” Garcia said. “Everyone knows when you close that many schools, you snuff out whatever life there is in a community.”

 

Garcia had organized a hunger strike by Latino parents a decade ago that forced the city to build the new Little Village Lawndale High School. He opposes further charter school expansion and has called for bringing back an elected school board in Chicago.

 

The key to the election is the black vote. Emanuel is targeting his TV advertising to black voters. Garcia is hoping they remember that he was a close ally of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor. Garcia, if elected, would be the city’s first Hispanic mayor.

Forget about all those stories you read that said the U.S. Department of Education had/has nothing to do with promoting the Common Core standards. Forget that it is a “state-led” initiative, that the standards were “written by the governors,” and that this just bubbled up from below while ED watched from the sidelines. Months ago, Chicago Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that the district was not ready, the students were not ready, the teachers were not ready. She said she would give the tests to 10% of the students, no more. But then the hammer fell, and the hammer is in Washington, D.C. The orders from ED (the Education Department): give the tests or Illinois will lose $1.4 billion in federal money. 

 

Is this legal? Three different federal laws prohibit any agent of the federal government from attempting to influence or control instruction or curriculum. It is a well-known fact that tests drive instruction and curriculum. Will anyone sue to stop this apparent, alleged, probable violation of the law?

Earlier, Chicago Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the city schools were not ready to give the PARCC test. She planned to give the test to only 10% of students. Federal and state pressure was applied, and the city caved to threats. It’s not about what’s best for children. It is power politics, and Arne Duncan’s demand that no child go untested.

NEWS RELEASE
IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
March 2, 2015 312-329-6250

CTU Statement on Chicago Public Schools’ Decision to Cower to Federal Threats and Administer PARCC Assessment

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union is extremely disappointed in the decision of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education to administer the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) throughout the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district in the wake of intimidation by the Illinois State Board of Education and U.S. Department of Education. The district’s choice to back down from state and federal threats to withhold education funding if the PARCC was not administered throughout CPS allows for continued policy measures to disrupt the lives of students, handcuffs classroom educators and holds the sword of disinvestment over children and communities who need resources the most.

“This has the potential to blow up and be a tremendous failure, because CPS itself has said the district may not be able to handle a proper rollout at this time due to technical issues and frustration among students, teachers and administration over administering the test properly,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “But instead of understanding those issues, the state and the feds decided to threaten to withhold resources from a district that’s one of the most poorly resourced in the nation.”

By changing course on a previous decision to limit the PARCC to just 10 percent of CPS schools students, the district will continue to burden elementary school students with the inhumane pressure of over-testing, valuable time away from classroom instruction. A number of CPS teachers who have taken the sample PARCC test have stated that the assessment is inappropriate for the target 3rd through 8th grades, and is coyly designed for students to fail.

The district’s decision to administer the PARCC test comes nearly a year to the day after the boycott of the now-defunct Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) by teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy on March 3, 2014.

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Investigative reporter Rick Perlstein writes that Rahm Emanuel failed to reach the 50% plus one threshold against a crowded field because of the widespread perception of corruption.

Some saw him as “Mayor 1%,” taking care of the powerful. But there was more:

“Perhaps what turned some voters against Rahm at the last minute—or motivated them to go to the polls in the first place on a cold Chicago day that started out in the single digits—was an Election Day exposé that appeared in the British paper the Guardian by investigate reporter Spencer Ackerman. “The Disappeared” revealed the existence of Homan Square, a forlorn “black site” that the Chicago Police operate on the West Side.

There, Chicagoans learned—many for the first time—arrestees are locked up for days at a time without access to lawyers. One victim was 15 years old; he was released without being charged with anything. Another, a 44-year-old named John Hubbard, never left—he died in custody. One of the “NATO 3” defendants, later acquitted on most charges of alleged terror plans during a 2012 Chicago protest, was shackled to a bench there for 17 hours.

It “struck legal experts as a throwback to the worst excesses of Chicago police abuse, with a post-9/11 feel to it,” the Guardian reported. And for a candidate, Rahm Emanuel, who ran on a message he was turning the page on the old, malodorous “Chicago way,” the piece contributed to a narrative that proved devastating.

“Indeed, the mayor faced a drumbeat of outstanding journalistic exposés all throughout the campaign. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Deborah Quazzo, an Emanuel school board appointee who runs an investment fund for companies that privatize school functions. They discovered that five companies in which she had an ownership stake have more than tripled their business with the Chicago Public Schools since she joined the board, many of them for contracts drawn up in the suspicious amount of $24,999—one dollar below the amount that required central office approval. (Chicago is the only municipality in Illinois whose school board is appointed by a mayor. But activists succeeded—in an arduous accomplishment against the obstruction attempts of Emanuel backers on the city council—to get an advisory referendum on the ballot in a majority of the city’s wards calling for an elected representative school board. Approximately 90 percent of the voters who could vote for the measure did.) “

Mike Klonsky wrote about the resistance to charters in the suburbs of Chicago. But not every suburb repelled charters, according to this reader:

“There is a charter in the south suburbs; specifically Rich Township H.S. District 227. It was ok’d by the state as part of Race to the Top. The effects have been devastating to our district. More than $8 million (actual figure–I’m one of our union negotiators) dollars of our already diminished general state aid goes straight to the charter because it is a public institution serving students from our district. We have had our school day shortened from 7 periods to 6, This, of course resulted in fewer choices for our students, particularly in the areas of electives, and massive lay-offs in both our certified and classified staff groups.

“As for their results: they graduated their first class last May. Of the original 125 in the class, only 71 remained by graduation. They of course claimed huge success because all 71 were accepted into some kind of post secondary education. Not many people thought to ask about the other 54 students who came back to us.”

In a surprise result, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to receive 50% plus one of the vote and was forced into a runoff with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Emanuel will go down in history as the mayor who closed 50 public schools in a single day, most enrolling children of color. This action is without precedent in U.S. history.

“With 95.7% of precincts reporting, Emanuel had 45.3% of the vote and Garcia had 33.9%.

“Emanuel, who raised more than his four rivals combined, buried his challengers in $7 million in campaign advertising in his unsuccessful attempt to avoid the runoff.

“He even turned to President Obama, who Emanuel served as White House chief of staff from 2009 to 2010, as his chief surrogate….

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Rahm Emanuel faces runoff in re-election bid

William Spain and Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY
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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to the press after leaving a restaurant where more
CHICAGO — Rahm Emanuel was dealt a tough political blow on Tuesday, after he was forced into a runoff election to hold onto his seat as mayor of the Windy City.

Emanuel, who raised about $15 million for the campaign, finished first in the five candidate field, but fell far short of garnering the 50% plus one vote he needed to win outright and avoid a runoff election. He will now face the second place finisher, Cook County Commissioner, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, on April 7.
With 95.7% of precincts reporting, Emanuel had 45.3% of the vote and Garcia had 33.9%.
“We came a long way, and we have a little bit further to go,” Emanuel said.
Chicago ceased holding partisan primaries in 1995, when it switched to the current election format. It marks the first time that the city will hold a runoff mayoral election.
Emanuel, who raised more than his four rivals combined, buried his challengers in $7 million in campaign advertising in his unsuccessful attempt to avoid the runoff.
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He even turned to President Obama, who Emanuel served as White House chief of staff from 2009 to 2010, as his chief surrogate….

“Emanuel’s latest television advertisement featured a clip of Obama wrapping Emanuel in a hug at the Pullman event and a sound bite of the president touting the mayor as “making sure that every Chicagoan in every neighborhood gets the fair shot at success that they deserve.”

“But the president’s influence wasn’t able to help Emanuel close the deal.
“We need to upgrade our communities by building more and better schools,” said Tracy McGrady, a college student and part-time construction worker. “Instead, Rahm is closing them.”

“In Chicago’s Bronzville neighborhood, a predominantly African-American neighborhood, Emanuel supporters appeared to be a rare breed.”

Mike Klonsky reports that Chicago suburban districts have thus far been able to block charters from moving in.

These are not affluent districts.

“Chicago Heights is a south-of-the-city suburb with a high concentration of poverty and a rapidly-growing Mexican immigrant population. District #170 schools have in many ways borne the brunt of an eroding tax base, loss of manufacturing jobs and the recession of the past decade. While the schools struggle to implement the district’s reform plan, including a new middle-grade STEM academy, and prepare at the same time, for the next round of PARCC tests, progress remains slow. Test scores remain the carte du jour for judging schools and teachers, leaving districts like the Heights vulnerable to interventions by the state.

“Gov. Rauner now threatens even more draconian cuts to school budgets and health and social services that will negatively impact the schools and communities in Chicago’s inner-ring suburbs. He’s proposing that suburbs’ income tax revenue be cut in half

“Towns like Chicago Heights have become the new target areas for poorly-regulated, expanding networks of privately-run charter schools which have already saturated the inner-city market. Recently, District #149 in Dolton/Calumet City was able to beat back a charter takeover attempt by over-hyped Urban Prep.

“Nearby South Holland also rejected an assault on their district by a company called LIFE Academy Charters. Their board also voted unanimously in September 2013 to reject a charter proposal by Urban Prep.”

The charter chains are eying the suburban districts. Governor Rauner loves charters. Will he override the will of the local school board?

This statement was released on Mike Klonsky’s Blog.

Chicago Area Researchers Slam Rahm’s Failed Ed Policies

From Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE)

February 20, 2015

Contacts:
Isabel Nunez, CReATE Coordinator, (312) 421-7819
Mike Klonsky, (312) 420-1335
Brian Schultz, (773) 442-5327
David Stovall, (312) 413-5014

LOCAL EDUCATION RESEARCHERS SLAM MAYOR EMANUEL’S FAILED POLICIES

On the eve of the Chicago mayoral election, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE), a network of 150 education researchers from universities in the Chicago area, is releasing Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions (2015).

In response to Mayor Emanuel’s claims of major success for his education policy initiatives, CReATE calls into question major parts of Chicago school reform under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership. CReATE reviews how reforms of the past four years and earlier have impacted Chicago children, families and school communities.

In response to recent policy initiatives, CReATE proposes a series of research supported alternatives to mayoral appointed school boards, school closings, the ever-expanding chartering and privatizing of public schools, as well as the curriculum and teacher evaluation designs and increased high stakes testing being imposed by Common Core State Standards and the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top policies.

The position statement also includes contact information for university-based education researchers who can provide more detailed commentary on specific areas of education policy.

CReATE’s Statement on Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions is available online at http://www.createchicago.org/

Michael Klonsky here gives us an update on the Chicago mayoral election, which is a week away.

 

Will Rahm get away with his unprecedented closure of 50 public schools to make way for privately managed charter schools?

 

Klonsky quotes an astute observation by Stephanie Simon of Politico.com:

 

If Rahm can get re-elected after fighting the teachers’ union, after closing 50 schools in mostly black communities, by expanding privately managed charter schools, by attacking tenure, and tying teachers’ evaluations to test scores, it will embolden other Democratic mayors to act like Republicans. (Last point was mine, not hers!)

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