Archive | April, 2013

You Can’t Beat Fun at the Old Ballpark

30 Apr

Mayor Rahm Emanuel at baseball game at Brooks

The big news over the weekend was the forfeiting of a game at Brooks after several parents of students on the Payton baseball team refused to take their kids to Brooks because of safety fears.   I didn’t think it really warranted all the press it received, but I did find it rather ironic, that Payton is named after Walter Payton who grew up in poverty in segregated Mississippi and rose above it to become a hero to millions regardless of color.

I do have trouble with the whole idea that the city can get so worked up about the safety of a dozen kids crossing neighborhood boundaries, when we are subjecting so many thousands of students to far worse through these school closings.

A Look at How charters May Fare if CPS School Actions Are Approved

“It’s a very deliberate union-busting strategy,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative. “It’s not actually about the needs of the children and the education of the children, but it is about a steady erosion of bargaining rights of teachers in those neighborhoods.”

Winds of Change in the Windy City

“Ms. Robinson wasn’t the only person to recognize the systemic nature of the problem. Around 250 self-organized students boycotted their State Mandated tests in order to spend the day at the school board meeting. The students, organized under the name Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools (CSOSOS), were working towards two important objectives. First, they wanted to voice their dissent of the school closing and reorganization. Although this cycle of closings will not directly affect high schools, these students got a firsthand lesson in solidarity this summer, when their teachers went on a courageous strike for schools worthy of their students brilliance and effort.”

Chicago Alderman Cardenas: Shady Charters School Rezoning Deal

“Not until got home to my computer over the weekend, did I confirm my suspicions with satellite photos that this is a scam to steal tax payer dollars.  No people live in this area except in a condo development next door that is almost bankrupt. The site of the new charter site is next to the McKinley Park lofts condo development. Then there is to the 8-lane Western Avenue to cross to the east. The 1-mile square McKinley and lagoon the north. Industrial WW2 ammunition factories to west and the old site of the CPS headquarters. The famous Union Stockyards Train yards to the south of the site. The only people that live near this site are from the condo development.”

Are Chechen Terrorists Making CPS Central Offices a Target?

“But all the time, behind the scenes, CPS was in the real world tightening security. By the time of the April 24 Board of Education meeting, the President of the Board, David Vitale, and the CEO of CPS, Barbara Byrd Bennett, were ordering security to gag speakers who demanded answers to questions that had been asked for months across the city.”


Good Thing We’re Closing Schools – Nobody Wants to Teach

28 Apr

ImageThere are some great stories today locally as well as nationally, but my favorite article comes form the student newspaper at Illinois State.  I mean, nepotism has been going on in Chicago forever, but who could have predicted that as we continue to heap abuse on the state’s teachers, students would decide that they’d rather go into some other career.

This is a problem that goes beyond teaching.  Our best and our brightest have discovered that the easiest way to an extravagant lifestyle and retirement by 40 is to go work for the big banks and hedge funds.   Our brightest minds aren’t looking for the cure for cancer, renewable clean energy, or a program for NBC that people will actually watch.  What they’re working on is to find the next big derivative that hopefully doesn’t crash our economy this time around.

The materialistic attractions to teaching — job security, pension, shorter days, and Summers off, have all but disappeared.  That means the only people who will be drawn to this profession are those who approach it with a selfless missionary zeal and those who are too dim to do anything else. “Those who can’t, teach” will become a self fulfilling prophecy, especially when the intrinsic motivation is cut into by endless test prep and bureaucracy.

Education Majors Decline Enrollment Statewide

“When all those factors add up, there is little surprise as to why students are not interested. Furthermore, teaching is a tough job. Requirements to get into the program are still strong and passing takes effort and focus.”

Key Chicago Public Schools Job for Alderman’s Sister

“The sister of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Council floor leader has been hired by the Chicago Public Schools to help smooth the tumultuous transition caused by 54 school closings — the largest public school consolidation in the nation’s history.”

The Coming Revolution in Public Education

“A great irony of the corporate reform agenda is that the mission to bring business-like accountability and efficiency to public education has been hampered in part by the colossal incompetence of some of the companies involved. A good example is Pearson, which calls itself “the world’s leading education company,” a slogan which, if true, should give all of us great pause. This big testing company, like its testing-industry competitors, has been screwing up over and over again for more than a decade now, with news of its most recent colossal mistake coming just this past week.”

Trumbull Closing Hearing Draws Huge Crowd

“Ellen Shepard, Executive Director, Andersonville Chamber of Commerce stated that the businesses are against the closing of Trumbull. Also, the building is very significant because it is old and because it houses Trumbull School. The business community has a good relationship with the school because it is “the anchor of our community.” Closing a public school will have an impact on the neighborhood.”

Organizers Say Stewart Closure Another Word for Land Grab

“Organizers were quick to note that Stewart Elementary sits in a prime locale in Uptown — within eyesight of a Red Line station and several bus routes, a quick walk to a shopping strip and bordered by a nearby Target store and new apartments.”

No Rich Child Left Behind

“One way to see this is to look at the scores of rich and poor students on standardized math and reading tests over the last 50 years. When I did this using information from a dozen large national studies conducted between 1960 and 2010, I found that the rich-poor gap in test scores is about 40 percent larger now than it was 30 years ago.”

If We Can’t Elect a School Board, Can We Draft One?

26 Apr

ImageI hate missing a day because in Chicago, if you miss a day you miss a lot of education news.  I know I’m going to miss something or another I read earlier in the day and wanted to share.  Anyway, because I envision a lot of links today, I’m going to cut my own commentary short:

Parents at Chicago School Slated for Closure Chase Away Inventory Team

“CPS is paying a logistics firm $14.2 million to inventory everything from student records to textbooks in all schools set to be closed, turned around, or “co-located” with other schools. Johnson, who opposes the turnaround, said Dewey students have been told for two days they aren’t allowed to take home textbooks for homework because they’re being inventoried.”

State Cuts Off Money to UNO Charter Schools Over Insider Trading

“Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration has cut off funding to the state’s largest charter-school operator, the politically influential United Neighborhood Organization, over insider deals it says violated terms of a $98 million state grant, according to a letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.”

Secret Clout List for Chicago Public Schools

“This week, Crain’s is reporting that likely GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner got his daughter clouted in to elite Walter Payton High School, where one in three students come from private grammar schools. One of the entries on this log may be his.”

40 Terrible Decisions on School Actions

“Today we delivered a report to the Board of Education listing our concerns for 40 proposed school actions. As we stated to the Board, the omission of certain schools on this list does not mean we support their closure but as a grassroots group these were the schools we were able to visit, attend hearings for, meet with parents at, or research. We did walkthroughs at 22 schools on the closing list and attended numerous community hearings over the past few months. “

SPECIAL REPORT: School’s Closing, Gang Feud Fuel New Fear in Old Town

“A Jenner student with alleged GD gang ties posted a “hit list” that marked nine kids as targets if they come to the Wild Side.

Later, the boy who posted the hit list made a Facebook pledge that he would show Manierre kids something that goes “bang-bang.” In a separate post, the boy wrote, “F— ALL SED IAM KILLIN BABYS AND ALL.”

After a school-closing hearing, a Manierre eighth-grader pulled out her cellphone to show the hit list to Chicago School Board member Henry Bienen.

“These are very serious issues,” Bienen said. “Obviously, these are not easy decisions to make.”


Contractor Says CPS Plan is “Insane”

24 Apr

Today I had the pleasure of discussing the school closings with one of the people bidding for improvements to the receiving schools in this closing fiasco.  He’s very much a neutral party in city politics, but he thinks Rahm is crazy.   You see, they’ve divided up the receiving schools into 17 biddable jobs by bundling schools together.  Some of the bundles may have 2 schools and some may have 6.  Each bundle has a budget of $12,000,000.  No plans have been drawn up and no estimates have been figured, but CPS is setting a budget of $12,000,000 for each of the bundles and will not go over.  The contractors will then have 12 weeks to spend the $12,000,000 completing the upgrades.   He basically called it insanity and said that he’s worried he’s going to be on the news if one of the accounts his company is bidding on isn’t finished in time for the start of the school year.  Nice to know that teachers aren’t the only ones who think CPS is insane.

Legislators Begin the Heavy Lifting

“Generally, the bill would require the school board of all school districts which are in the lowest 5% of school districts in student performance, and have been in academic watch status for at least three years, to apply for and achieve full accreditation by a (yet unnamed) national organization, or be removed from office by the ISBE. Upon removal from office, the ISBE would appoint an “Independent Authority” to take over all functions of the school board.”

Labor Beat Video on Manierre Elementary School

“They came to declare that they were not about to give up, and, in the words of Cynthia Tate,”on September of 2013 our kids will go to Manierre. We don’t care about what you say. These are our children. We would not put their lives or others in danger. On the first day of school, our children will attend Manierre School.” Sharise McDaniel backed her up: “Our children will attend George Manierre School. We’re not leaving, and that’s what we say.”

Henry Bienen on the Ups and Downs of Serving on the CPS Board

“Absolutely. I didn’t know him when he was a student at Northwestern; I was still at Princeton. But yes, I visited him when he was in the White house during the Clinton years. Of course I went to see him; it’s good to have a friend in the White House. I saw him when he was a congressman and when he was chief of staff in Obama White House…. After I retired, Mayor Emanuel put me on his transition team [on the Economic Development and Planning Committee]. And, yes he is a social friend.”

Product Placement on Standardized Tests: A New Low?

“For the root beer, they show you a waitress cleaning a table and the root beer fell on the floor and she forgets to clean it up. Underneath, they gave you the definition that it is a soda and then the trademark,” said Marco Salas, an eighth-grader at the Forest Hills middle school.”

I’m Alarmed that They’re Alarmed about Koch Brothers

23 Apr


The IEA is very alarmed that the Tribune could be bought by the Koch Brothers.  The IEA on their blog says, “Fairness is all we can ask from the Trib. But if the Koch brothers come to town, do you think we’ll see fairness?”

I can’t express how shocking it is to see that a teachers union believes that the Tribune has been fair to educators or to labor. Now the IEA is the suburban and downstate teachers union, but sometimes I can’t help but be thrilled, I am represented by the current CTU leadership.  I am still dumbstruck by that blog.

The Industrial Classroom

“There’s a special resemblance between the struggles against scientific management, or Taylorism, and today’s teacher resistance to corporate reform schemes. Just as factory workers fought top-down dictates, deskilling, and the installation of anemic work processes, so too are teachers trying to prevent the undemocratic implementation of high-stakes testing and merit pay, assaults on professionalism, and the dumbing down and narrowing of curricula.”

Billionaire Dan Loeb Turtles, Flees Investor Conference After Political Affiliations Exposed

:”In the age of Citizens United, it’s going to become more and more important for ordinary people everywhere to find out if their tax dollars or their retirement money is being used to fund political lobbying against their own interests. There are, after all, lots of people on Wall Street with obnoxious political interests who want to get their hands on your union or state retirement money, your federal social security benefits (just think of how screwed we’d all be now if they’d privatized Social Security before 2008), and, through bailouts, your tax dollars.”

Insider Got Bigger Payout from Clout-Heavy Hispanic Group UNO

“Weeks after Federico “Fred” d’Escoto stepped down from the board of the United Neighborhood Organization, his company, d’Escoto Inc., got its first check from the influential charter-school operator toward what now totals more than $1.8 million in state-funded payments.”
:”As many as nine elementary schools would exceed 100 percent capacity if every closure and consolidation is approved by the Board of Education next month, an analysis by Chicago shows. CPS classifies schools with 30 students per homeroom as being at 100 percent capacity.”
“Uptown — Residents plan to protest the 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee meeting Monday night in opposition of a $230 million proposal to build luxury housing in a tax increment finance district by the lakefront.”
“We really believe that collectively, we can more effectively advocate for our kids and our families and our communities,” said eighth grade teacher Jessica Hanzlik.”

Two Quick Ones

22 Apr

My goal is always to post Monday through Thursday and then get one other blog post in on the weekend.   I tried to do a daily blog before and it became too much of a chore.  However, I still do want to provide information to teachers and parents on a regular basis so this seems to be a compromise that works for me. 

This weekend, I came across two really powerful stories and they’re going to provide the only two links in this late Sunday night update.   I hope, you’ll click on both links.  The history lesson for Barbara Byrd-Bennett is just great blog writing, while the other link shows our students are starting to stand up for their rights.

Chicago Youth Organize to Fight Back

“Yesterday, some of our students went public with stories of being demoted from junior to sophomore status in March, a month before the PSAE state exam which is administered next week and only given to juniors, and which Mayor Emanuel has made major efforts to link to school closings and principal and teacher evaluations. Two VOYCE student leaders were on a list of 67 juniors in total who were demoted in March at a southwest side high school, or a third of that school’s junior class.”

Here’s Where We’ve Been, Barbara Byrd-Bennett

“Race and class warfare aren’t just cards we play; they are our life story.  The very people in politics, corporate boardrooms and media conglomerates are the self-same folks who have been repeating this cycle for two centuries.  Our lives have been spun for so many purposes that we have fallen down, dizzy and delirious, into the sinkholes and potholes and vacant lots full of weeds that are our share of the wealth your friends have made off of our labor.”


Karen Lewis Continues to Impress Me

19 Apr


One of the links I have posted is to a great interview with Karen Lewis, but what’s really impressive to me as a bit of a science fiction nerd is this quote from Karen, “That’s where I throw in the Star Trek thing, the Kobayashi Maru. You’ve got to change the rules if you want to win.”

How many labor leaders drop a Kobayashi Maru reference like that.   The other day, I saw her correctly name the planet that the Death Star blew up in Star Wars (Alderan).  By the way, you know who else was a big Star Trek nerd?  Martin Luther King.  I think the idea of a positive future appeals to those who work for change.

Belabored Podcast, Episode 1: We Will Shut Down Your City

“Part of the problem is we don’t have counseling programs for children early enough. We have almost gotten rid of play in preschool and kindergarten because we’re so busy trying to get them to pass tests that we don’t focus on the things that actually build their social-emotional learning along with the academic piece. So some of the conflict resolution that you learn through play has disappeared…”

Report: Recent School Gains are Overblown

“A new report claims academic gains over the last decade in the New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. public schools were largely exaggerated by proponents of the current wave of school reforms.”

Protests Against Creating Disney II High School

“Approximately 100 community members turned out for a public hearing held Monday night at Schurz High School, the majority of them expressing opposition to the Disney II-Marshall co-location. Lachlan Tidmarsh, CPS chief information officer, and Peter Rogers, CPS chief financial officer, moderated the forum.”