Archives for category: Chicago

Remember a few months ago when everyone was wringing their hands and agreeing there was too much testing? Remember Arne Duncan said testing was sucking the oxygen out of the classroom?

That was then. This is now. Duncan is upset that Chicago is backing away from Commmon Core PARCC testing.

Mike Klonsky reports that Duncan threatened to cut off $1.2 billion in state aid if Chicago doesn’t give the PARCC.

This is crazy. The Secretary of Education is not supposed to tell states and districts what tests to use. He has overstepped his bounds, as he has done so often in the past. He has no understanding of federalism or of the limits of the federal role in education. The law says that no federal official may try to direct, control, or influence curriculum or instruction. Tests influence curriculum and instruction. By funding two tests and then compelling states to use them, he is flouting the law.

If he cuts any funding, Illinois should sue him.

I am endorsing Jesus (Chuy) Garcia for Mayor of Chicago. You might well ask why I, a resident of the state of New York, am making an endorsement in a Chicago election. I figure that if the Koch brothers can spend $889 million to influence the election of the next President of the United States, I should be able to endorse anyone anywhere. And so can you. All I have is my voice, and if it convinces someone to vote for Chuy (pronounced Chewy), then so be it, that’s democracy. Buying elections doesn’t sound democratic. It should be illegal. When two billionaires can spend more than either the Republican party or the Democratic party, that seems to me to be a threat to democracy. Endorsements are not.


I gave the following statement to my friends in the Garcia campaign to use as they see fit:


Many of my Chicago friends have asked me to endorse a candidate in the race for Mayor. I have watched events in Chicago very closely, and I believe strongly that it is time for a change in direction. I endorse Jesus (Chuy) Garcia for Mayor of the great city of Chicago.


I endorse him because it is time to end the destructive policies of the past 20 years. It is time to stop closing schools. It is time to give the public school children of Chicago the resources they need to have a good education, a great education, one that prepares them to be independent and responsible citizens and lifelong learners.


I endorse Garcia because he has pledged to bring Chicago an elected school board; he voted against mayoral control when he was in the Legislature. It is wrong that Chicago is the only district in the state whose public schools are controlled by the Mayor, not the people. The Mayor has used this power to close an unprecedented number of public schools, despite the protests of students and parents. He has used this power to cut essential programs and services. He has used this power to do what he wants regardless of public opinion. Chicago should have democracy in education, just like every other district in the state.


Garcia has pledged to limit testing to the minimum required by law. He understands that testing is not teaching, and that testing consumes time and resources that should be devoted to instruction. The children of Chicago need more time for the arts, for learning foreign languages, for civics, and for science, not for testing. Garcia knows that parents, students, and teachers are tired of seeing the tests–which are a single measure–used to label students and to grade teachers and schools. The tests now have far too much power in the lives of children, and they distort the real meaning of education.


I am very impressed by Chuy Garcia’s deep understanding of the needs of education today. He is a real reformer. His reforms will restore democracy in education; will restore true education–not test scores–as the center of school life; and prioritize the needs of children, not data.


Because I believe so deeply in the pledges he has made–and the actions he has taken to support his promises–I endorse Chuy Garcia with enthusiasm. If Chicagoans elect him, it will send a signal to the entire nation that the bold and misguided effort to privatize our public schools has failed, and that the people of Chicago intend to reclaim public education to its true purpose: equal opportunity for all the city’s children to learn and succeed.

The PARCC Common Core test is in trouble. Mississippi canceled its participation last week, bringing the number of states participating in PARCC to only 10. Now the Chicago Public Schools have decided to give the test in only 10% of the district’s schools.


According to Sarah Karp in Catalyst:


CPS officials say that the district will go against the state’s testing plans and refuse to give all students the controversial new PARCC exam. Spokesman Bill McCaffrey said Friday evening that district leaders plan to have only 10 percent of schools take the PARCC, the new state-mandated test that is geared to the Common Core standards. McCaffrey called it an expanded pilot and said that the schools taking the PARCC will be representative of the entire district.


He said he was not immediately certain of the possible consequences for CPS. State officials, who have insisted that all school districts in Illinois administer the PARCC to all students, said they will continue to work with Chicago.


New Governor Bruce Rauner has not taken a stand on the PARCC or whether the state should go forward with full implementation. Several states that originally said they were going to administer the PARCC have pulled out and now only 11 states are still committed, according to PARCC’s website.


“It is a big victory for right now,” said Raise Your Hand’s Wendy Katten. Katten’s group, More than A Score, and other active parents fought diligently against the PARCC. They gathered more than 4,000 signatures on a petition and met with more than 20 legislators.


The parent groups argued that the PARCC is not yet ready to be rolled out, asserting that the test questions are confusing and the test is too long. In general, the groups also are against high-stakes standardized testing.


While the delay is something to celebrate now, Katten said it could be short-lived if the PARCC isn’t improved and the state insists on keeping it for next school year. Katten said her group will continue to push for a bill allowing parents to opt their children out of standardized tests. As it is now, students must refuse the tests themselves.


Sarah Chambers, a special education teacher at Saucedo Elementary who helped lead a testing boycott last year, said she thinks CPS made the decision because they were afraid that large numbers of parents would have their children opt out.


The Chicago Tribune reports that Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett says the district is not prepared to give the tests. Almost 2/3 of the students, especially in the younger grades, do not have regular access to computers, and the PARCC test is given online.


The Chicago Teachers Union also opposes the test and has approved a resolution opposing implementation of the test, which replaces the Illinois Standards Achievement Test. CTU President Karen Lewis said she shared concerns similar to those of Byrd-Bennett.


“When we have teachers without desks and students without books, and we’re still trying to mandate a computer-driven test without any of the infrastructure we need to do that with,” Lewis said. “This is another unfunded mandate that comes down to punishing people for being poor.”

The Second Annual Network for Public Education Conference Registration is Now Open!

Here is the master information page for all conference information:

Early-bird discounted Registration for the Network for Public Education’s Second Annual Conference is now available at this address:

These low rates will last for the month of January.

The event is being held at the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, and there is a link on the registration page for special hotel registration rates. Here are some of the event details.

There will be a welcoming social event 7 pm Friday night, April 24, at or near the Drake Hotel — details coming soon.

Featured speakers will be:

Jitu Brown, National Director of the Journey for Justice Alliance, the NPE Board of Directors, and the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.
Tanaisa Brown, High School Senior, Newark Student Union

Yong Zhao, Author, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?”

Diane Ravitch in Conversation with Lily Eskelsen Garcia and Randi Weingarten
Karen Lewis, President, Chicago Teachers Union

There will be a special optional luncheon on Saturday that will feature a conversation between Edushyster and surprise guests.

There will be dozens of workshops and panels offered by activists from coast to coast. Proposals for these sessions are being solicited by the NPE, and can be submitted here until the Jan. 20 deadline.

The organizers worked to make the conference as affordable as possible. Please be aware that the room reservations and food costs offset the use of the hotel space. This conference is priced as cheaply as possible so that the maximum number of people can attend. We are hoping to raise money to provide a limited amount of scholarships. Here is the link for the scholarship application:

If you would like to make a donation to allow others to attend who otherwise could not afford participating, please go here, and indicate that this is for the “NPE Conference Scholarship Fund”

This is a wonderful interview in which EduShyster asks great questions of Karen Lewis. Karen responds candidly and knocks every one of them out of the park, as is her way. She speaks about race, politics, and her health.


EduShyster begins by asking Karen about the wave of protests that followed the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Karen responded:


We don’t really like to talk about race and class, but they underpin both of these issues. I’m 61 years old, which means I went through the original Civil Rights Movement—it’s not just history to me. But I also know from history that the extra-judicial killing of Black men is nothing new in our society. The difference is that we have social media, we have recordings, and so you have a movement of people demanding accountability. What’s been really interesting to me is that you see the same concepts emerging whether we’re talking about policing or education: compliance, obedience and a loss of dignity. I’m going to tell you what to do and if you don’t do it, I’ll just take your life. The same with schools: if you don’t do what I tell you to do, I’ll just take your school. To me, this is a very interesting co-mingling of what justice really looks like and it’s very different for different people.


EduShyster says that today’s “reform” movement starts from the assumption that nothing can be done about poverty. She asks Karen for her view, and Karen answers:


You have to reframe the question to ask *why not?* Some of these people act as though poverty and wealth inequality just occur naturally, and that we just need to sit back and wait for the invisible hand to work its magic. Well, you look around Chicago and you see that hand isn’t invisible, in fact it’s perfectly visible, and it’s slapping people left and right. This, by the way, is why I think the fight for $15 an hour for low-wage workers is so important, and why I believe that teachers have to get involved in organizations that work for social and economic justice. Even Mayor Emanuel has capitulated on the wage issue. Funny how a re-election campaign can do that.


EduShyster notes that many media types refer to Lewis as “confrontational,” but in fact she emphasizes coalition-building. She asks Karen to talk about her style of leadership:


I was elected because I started talking about things that no one ever talks about. Typically during teacher union campaign season, what you hear is *I can get you a better raise than the last person.* I’ve been in the system for 25 years—26 now actually—and that’s the way it’s always been. What I kept saying was that *we need to build alliances with our natural allies, who are the parents.* Once we start building alliances with parents, then we stop blaming each other. Right now the system has us blaming them for not doing their jobs and not preparing their kids for school, and has them blaming us for being lazy or not doing what we need to do. Building alliances makes a difference because you’re stronger, because people can’t just pick you off. I’ve always talked about trying to recreate the strength of the union by sharing it with other folks who lack power. Now there are people who still don’t believe in that vision. They’re convinced that if we just enforced the contract, all of our woes would end. Well, that’s crazy. It’s not just enforcing the contract, it’s about building a political force. That’s how we change the laws that govern what happens in our classrooms.



There is much, much more. Read the interview and enjoy the conversation with a wonderful, brilliant woman who caused a political earthquake in Chicago and far beyond.


Troy LaRaviere, head of the Chicago Principals’ Association, writes that school officials adjusted the scores of Chicago charter schools to make it appear that they made bigger gains than originally reported.

The original data showed that students in public schools were. Performing better than their peers in charter school.

(Read Peter Greene here on this shenanigan.)

This is a small part of Laraviere’s findings:

“Our findings were published in a Chicago Sun-Times Op-Ed. In addition, the Sun-Times published its own independent analysis, which affirmed our findings. Our analysis was based on a file containing the school level results of the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. This file was released by the CPS Office of Accountability in early August. That original file is no longer available on the Office of Accountability website. At some point between the publication of our findings and the release of school ratings, CPS removed the original file containing school growth data and replaced it with a different version. There are no indications or acknowledgements on the site that the data in the file has been changed.

“Fortunately, we saved the original version.

“An analysis of both versions indicates massive changes were made to the student growth data for charter schools at some point during the last few months as CPS delayed the release of school quality ratings.


“We found these changes led to certain schools appearing to have greater academic growth by lowering the average pretest scores while leaving the posttest scores as they were. For other schools, the changes raised the pretest scores and once again left the posttest scores as they were, giving the impression of less student growth.

“The changes were made to the data for nearly every charter school while affecting less than 20 public schools. Charter school scores were changed by more than 50 percentile points in some cases while most of the public school changes were 2 points or less.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the story. LaRaviere said to the Sun-Times:

““In a system based on ‘choice,’ parents and other stakeholders must be provided with accurate indicators of school quality. [CPS’ ratings system] cannot serve this purpose if there are clouds of suspicion about tampering with the data used to determine these ratings,” LaRaviere said in an email.”

In this post, EduShyster asks a question that more and more people are beginning to ask: Why don’t poor minority students get to have public schools?


There was much celebration and anticipation when the state announced it was building a new high-tech STEM school in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury called The Dearborn STEM Academy.


She writes:


Now if by chance you’ve yet to watch any of this season of As the School Turns: $70 Million Dollar Listing, here’s what you’ve missed so far. Things got off to a rousing start with the news that, after seven long seasons, the Dearborn STEM Academy was FINALLY going to get a brand new building. That sound you hear is the studio audience applauding wildly. You see, this was to be the first new public school building in Boston in more than a decade and would feature all sorts of cool STEM stuff, like state-of-the-art science, technology and engineering labs. This wasn’t just a feel good story, viewer, it was a feel great story as the $70 million project symbolized a major investment in Roxbury and in the future scientists, engineers and STEM-sters who live and go to school there.


But then the authorities decided it would not be a neighborhood public school but a citywide charter school. When there was strong negative reaction from the public, the city determined that the school would not be a charter but would be run by a private operator. EduShyster was suddenly reminded of what happened in Chicago:


If by chance you happen to be viewing this show from, say, Chicago, you’re probably feeling like this is a repeat. You see, on Chicago’s South Side a very similar battle has been playing out over the future of Dyett High School, the last open-enrollment high school in Bronzeville. After the Chicago Public Schools announced plans to close the school, students, parents and community leaders fought back, putting forward their own story line: for a community-based plan to make Dyett a neighborhood STEM school. And just like in Boston, officials in Chicago blinked. Dyett can stay open, but there’s a catch: a private operator will be brought in to run the school. Community organizer Jitu Brown—take it away. *Why can’t we have public schools? Why do low-income minority students need to have their schools run by private contractors?* As Brown sees it, handing the school to a private operator isn’t much better than closing it. *We want this school to anchor the community for the next 75 years. We’re not interested in a short-term contract that can be broken.*


That was not the conversation in Boston. The city is going to pick one of two finalists to run the $70 million school, both private contractors. Did anyone mention the word “privatization”?

Read the rest of this entry »

Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals Association, told a hearing of the City Council Education Committee that she was “terrified” of what would happen when the snows began, given the general disorder and incompetence associated with privatization of custodial services in the public schools. The city administration awarded a $340 million contract to Aramark, which proceeded to lay off numerous custodians.


“Let’s talk about staffing. That is horrific. A school with 900 kids with one custodian in the daytime? We have to collect breakfast. I’ve got assistant principals who are emptying garbage. I ‘ve got all kinds of situations. You cannot run a school with 900, 1,000 or 1,300 kids with one custodian in the morning and one at night. Just last week, we were told some of custodial issues will be taken care of. However, going from one custodian to two or from one to 1.5 is not gonna fix the problem.”


Berry then zeroed in on a four-letter word that sends chills down the spines of Chicago politicians: S-N-O-W.


“I am terrified. We have not had our first major snow in Chicago. What do we do when we’ve got one custodian servicing 900 kids, 12 inches of snow outside, salt that needs to be thrown out, hallways that need to be mopped so people don’t slip, garbage to be taken out, lunch rooms to be cleaned, toilets to be washed out with one, 1 1/2 or two custodians?” Berry said.


“You need bodies in a school…That [equipment] is wonderful if you’ve got a one-story school. But how do you get many hundred-pound equipment up to the third-floor? Most of our schools don’t have elevators…There are no mops, no buckets in the schools anymore. And we keep hearing, `You don’t need those mops and buckets.’ You need `em if you can’t get the equipment to the third floor. You need to have more people in a building.”

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.


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