Archive | January, 2013

I’ve Seen Better Organized Riots

31 Jan


I apologize for not updating the blog yesterday, but I went to one of the many school closing hearings being held throughout the city.  It was extremely troubling.  To begin with, they didn’t make the sheet to sign up to speak accessible or explain what it was.  Most people who signed up thought they were signing in, not signing up to speak.  As a result, maybe 1 out of ever 3 or 4 people who were called spoke.

To make matters wore, the first speaker right out of the box asked a question about enrollment.  She said their school was listed as underutilized and she wanted to know how they could be efficient.  The person representing CPS had no idea what the term efficient meant.   An audible gasp went over the crowd.    It was very packed, but just so disorganized.

As a result of my absence, I’m behind on news stories.  There was a real tragedy outside King High School yesterday and a lot of people struggling to make this insane monolith of a school system serve the children of Chicago.  I’m going to try and limit links today to the most timely.  It’s been a big couple of days.

CPS School Closing Hearing: Tensions Boil Over in Heated Meeting Later Called a Disater

The breakout sessions that followed—which were closed to media—were run by independent facilitators who don’t work for the district. According to public schools coalition Raise Your Hand, which live-tweeted the closed-to-media event, the facilitators were from a marketing company called Loran.

Live tweets from the event indicated Loran would not disclose who they were paid by, but said CPS wanted “an independent party” to facilitate. 2011 CPS documents reveal it hired the company to perform “qualitative research on performance evaluation with CPS teachers” at a cost “not to exceed $125,000.”

School Chief Calling in Marine to Help with School Closings

“Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is so concerned about the transfer of students in the upcoming school closing process she’s leaning on a retired Marine colonel who once quietly sorted out a prisoner exchange in the wake of war in Kosovo to figure it out.”

Testing Kills the Joy of Learning

“Some Chicago parents have complained that their children in the primary grades are taking up to 24 high stakes tests in one year. This testing takes time and resources away from real teaching and learning. It’s used to sort out students, and in some cases, test scores are posted at school, shaming students who fail to make arbitrary benchmarks.”

Students, Parents Call for More State Money for Charters

“A few hundred charter school supporters, many of them students in uniform, rallied inside Union Station on Tuesday night for higher funding for their schools.”

[Note the Tribune calls the number “thousands”, Catalyst calls the number 300, and the Sun-Times says a few hundred.]



29 Jan


I really don’t like posting links from CTU.  It’s kind of weird because I have no problems posting commentary on CTU postings from other sources.  However, the CTU comments on the CPS budget are really important.  Just like the last time CPS had a billion dollar “deficit, the annual financial report tells a different story.  When you add that to the attempt to keep reporters from covering the public hearing tonight and you sure see a pattern of deception and obfuscation emerging.    Can’t say I’m surprised, but I’m still open minded enough to be a little disapointed.

Extra, Extra! The Curious Case of the CPS’ “Press Release Budget”

“The audit of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) financial results, the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the year ending June 30, 2012 was quietly released at midnight on Wednesday of last week. With more than $500 million surplus heading into the new fiscal year, this stealth document effectively blows a hole into CPS’ unchecked claim of a growing “billion dollar deficit.”

Catalyst Tweet of How CPS is Barring Reporters from Public Hearings

“1. Opening Presentations made to attendees by CPS officials:

– Open to media for sound, b-roll and observation – approximately 45 minutes to one hour.
– There is no media Q and A.”

Chicago Activists Speak Out Against School Closings at D.C. Hearings

“Chicago isn’t the only city looking to close a large number of its public schools—and it’s not the only place people are upset.

A group of activists from Chicago boarded a bus to Washington, D.C. Sunday. Theygathered at the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, which helped organize the trip.”

Area schools ahead of curve in opportunities for disabled athletes

“Given that the ruling was just issued, CPS will be reviewing it and determining how it impacts Chicago Public Schools and its students.”

Alternatives to Standardized Tests

“As opposition to overuse of standardized tests grows here and across the county, a public forum Thursday on Alternatives to Standardized Tests is being sponsored by a new local coalition.

It takes place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 24, at Hartzell Methodist Church, 3330 S. King Drive.”

Mayor Rahm and Jones High School have got a thing going on

“Alderman Fioretti—I urge you to look on the bright side. Thanks to the community protests, at least the mayor didn’t demolish the old building and sell it to developers or turn it over to one of his beloved charter schools.”

National School Choice Week Begins

26 Jan


It seems like all of today’s news is about charter schools.  I have no problem with charter school teachers or students, but I do personally have some major issues with certain charter school operators.  I can even see the advantages of a charter school that could be innovative away from the stifling CPS bureaucracy, but the only innovation I’m really seeing from the charter sector is in marketing or in lobbying. 

James Cappleman says ‘No’ to Charter School Takeovers

“I’ve been very vocal about this: I don’t want a school to close down that would have a charter school replace it,” Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said.

“Of course whole states get to join in the party this week.  Take North Carolina for example where parents can choose what race they want their children educated with.  Anybody who saw the movie Remember the Titans saw just how tough integration was in the South, but just imagine how much better that movie would have been as two movie—one about a plucky white football team and another about a scrappy black football team. “

Rape by Charter School Coach is Only Part of the Problem

“Students at Epic Charter High School have been telling me and others that they feel the school doesn’t know how to run properly. “They’re experimenting,” the students say (while remaining anonymous for now).

At nearby Bowen High School, I am told, again by off-the-record sources, that in the middle of the year last school year, students from Epic would show up. They had been kicked out of Epic.”

Chicago Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools: End the Overuse and Misuse of High Stakes Standardized Testing (Petition)

“We call on the Chicago Board of Education and the leadership of Chicago Public Schools to:
● Eliminate standardized testing for children from preschool to 2nd grade and greatly reduce it for 3rd grade and above.
● End the use of standardized testing data to evaluate students and educators and to close schools.
● Fully disclose the cost, schedule, nature, and purpose of all standardized tests.”


Racy Email Sent to Parents

25 Jan

ImageI heard about this link yesterday and got a kick out of it.   Sometimes, you need to take a moment from all the stress and have a laugh.  I have a nasty flu bug and after calling in, I was in bed until 4PM this afternoon.  I’m up for a few hours before making it an early night so please excuse a slightly smaller posting.

I would dearly love more discussion here.  I believe you can post anonymously if you don’t mind waiting for approval.   I will not censor and I will post dissenting views, but I need to moderate or else, this blog will be full of spam.  I’ve seen it before.

Chicago Public Schools Chief Accidentally Sends Racy Website in Email to Parents

“An anonymous tipster sent us an email parents received from Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett that contained an embarrassing URL mistake sending parents to a somewhat racy website.”

Emanuel Indicates Commission’s Report Not Last Word on School Closings

“According to published reports, the Commission on School Utilization might recommend closing as few as 15 underutilized school buildings, fearing that a large number of school closings might cause too much upheaval.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the mayor said any actions on school closings must balance educational needs with the district’s economic reality.

“One of the reasons we have to deal with this is because we have schools that are not fully occupied, let alone are less than 40 percent or 50 percent occupied. We cannot give our kids a high-quality education, given how spread thin we are,” Emanuel said Wednesday.”

Akeshia Craven-Howell

Everything wrong with urban public education today in one handy 2 minute video.

UNO’s Finances Draw More Scrutiny

24 Jan

ImageYou have to give it to UNO.  From political, marketing, or financial points of view, they are very impressive.  When it comes to education—not so much.  Greg Hinz’s article on just how much tax payer money you can collect with political clout, soccer, and some woefully underperforming schools is really worth a read.  Ben Jovarsky also does a great job showing the history of failure that turnarounds have had in Chicago.

Springfield Magic: Money for Schools – Some Schools

“But, in checking around, I hear that the guy who really pushed the proposed $35 million grant was House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose district has turned overwhelmingly Latino in recent years and who probably could use one of those new UNO schools in his district. Mr. Madigan — his spokesman failed to return calls — was so hot for the grant that he actually tried to add it to some other bills, multiple reliable Springfield sources say.”

The Chicago Manual of School Closings

“Over the last few years, Chicago Public Schools officials have announced a dizzying series of openings and closings there. At this point, after a close look at what’s happened, the only conclusion I can draw is that if the district has a long-term plan, it’s not something they want to admit or even talk about.”

Teacher Exposes Board’s Ridiculous Testing Policy

“I am also a mandated reporter and today I want to report the child abuse that is occurring in our schools. It is called excessive, high-stakes standardized testing.”

CPS Approves New Schools, but Charters Face Tough Questions

“But the charter schools that were approved might face an uncertain future. Both Foundations College Prep, which will open in Roseland, and Orange Charter, which has not picked a neighborhood yet, were pulled from the December meeting agenda, had their openings delayed by a year, and were given additional conditions they must meet before they are given final approval to open.”

Angry Parents Fight School Closings

23 Jan


Man, it’s cold out there.  One thing I hate about the longer day is that at least last year when I went out into temperatures like this, the sun was up.  Driving to school at 6:30 in the morning, I don’t think I stopped wanting to be back in my warm bed until I parked the car.  It was a rather slow news day on the education front from Chicago to Brooklyn, but Raise Your Hand was out there crusading against bad CPS math.

Ali Burke at City Hall

“So many schools across the city could tell the same story at this point. It’s like there’s a district-sponsored conspiracy against truth and accuracy. I love how the network chief kiboshed the walk-thru of Trumbull. God forbid community members have a look around the building.”

Angry Parents Knock on Mayor’s Door in Push to Save Schools

“I can’t see it at all how our school is underutilized at any point. Fifty-eight percent utilized capacity?” said Torrence Shorter in prepared remarks. “We use the whole entire school building. We have a health clinic inside our school building that we use not only for our children inside our school building, but our whole community uses that health center,” said the parent with two children at Ryerson Elementary School in Humboldt Park.

Jones Prep to Double Number of Seats

“Ignoring the wishes of many South Loop parents and their alderman, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that the old Jones College Prep High School building will not be repurposed for a neighborhood school but instead will double the number of students allowed to test in.”

Happy Martin Luther King Day

22 Jan

ImageSometimes I feel that Martin Luther King’s legacy gets lost as he becomes the patron saint of park benches in need of painting.   When he died, he was fighting for the rights of Memphis sanitation workers to unionize.  He knew that an injustice to one was an injustice to all, but too often it feels that we look at his legacy as being back in the day when there used to be injustice.   Look around you.  It’s still out there and if you really want to do something for Doctor King’s legacy, fight that injustice.  After that, we can pick up trash and paint.

Martin Luther King 2.0, Now with More Excellence

“No one could lead a civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr. But let’s face it: the movement he led was old school. The civil rights issue of our time is the achievement gap, and closing it often requires doing the opposite of what Dr. King stood for. Which raises some important questions: if Dr. King returned today would he be an achievement gaptivist? Which billionaires would fund his important work? And with poverty and racism now officially regarded as excuses, what would he talk about? Meet Martin Luther King 2.0, now with more excellence.”

CTU and Allies Fan Out at Seven Locations to Fight School Closings

“While a few people did not open their doors, others welcomed the canvassers inside their homes and spoke of their children and grandchildren attending Lewis. They emphatically said they did not want to see the school closed.”

Testing in Kindergarten:  Whatever Happened to Story Time?

“This year CPS has added a new test to the array already faced by grammar school students: the REACH. It comes on top of the TRC, the MAP, the EXPLORE, the ISAT, and DIBELS. Two of these are teacher accountability tests. Two are diagnostic. And the others are a combination of both. One way or another, they all cover the same ground. It’s good to be a standardized-test salesman.”

CPS May Still Close High Schools; No List til February of Schools Facing Action

“Byrd-Bennett also said the list of schools that could be shut down won’t be announced before the first set of community hearings on the closings. Last week, she had said the list would be published before the hearings started.”