Archive | May, 2013

So Many Stories So Little Time

31 May

ImageThere’s a lot going on in Chicago, Springfield, and Mackinac Island today.   I’m going to try and be concise, but a lot of this will really impact students, parents,and teachers alike.  I really recommend this Reuters article on the huge invasion of privacy that Illinois is only one of three states going along with.

School Database Loses Backers as Parents Balk Over Privacy

“Parents and civil liberties groups concerned about potential privacy breaches quickly began to sound the alarm and rallied opposition in social media.”

Illinois Senate Defeats House-Backed Pension Reform Bill

“The proposal pushed by House Speaker Michael Madigan failed Thursday evening, with 16 voting “yes” and 42 voting “no.” The vote left lawmakers without a solution to the pension issue with only one day left before the Legislature’s scheduled adjournment.”

Warning to Chicago Parents About Student Privacy

“Yet she also revealed that Illinois plans to expand inBloom data sharing and data mining to 35 districts serving half a million students starting in 2015.”

Mayor Rahm’s Great Plan for Education: Bankrupt the Schools!

“Of course, an idea being dumb won’t stop Illinois state reps and senators from approving it, as they move heaven and earth to avoid receiving a profanity-laced late-night phone call from our tempestuous mayor.”

The Lunacy of DePaul’s New Basketball Arena

“Municipalities across the nation are suffering from the quixotic whimsy of their elected officials when it comes to publicly financed sports venues. When you mix in this particular city’s budget, this particular team’s fortunes and the way these numbers don’t seem to make any realistic sense at all, it’s understandable why people in Chicago are upset.”

Trumbull Parents Not Happy About Uptown Welcoming School

“My wife is saying ‘absolutely no’ [to McCutcheon] she doesn’t want our kids to go there at all,” Weisgard said. He added: “It’s in a bad neighborhood. We live in Uptown and we purposely take our kids out of Uptown to go to school.”

Enrollment Drive After Closing Shows Mixed Results

“But a breakdown of enrollment numbers by school shows wide variation among parents declaring where they will send their children in the fall. At King on the West Side and Parkman and Bontemps on the South Side, fewer than 10 percent of parents enrolled their children in new schools. At Stockton on the North Side, where the building is not closing but Courtenay’s staff is taking over Stockton’s building, nearly everyone enrolled, according to CPS data.  “

South Side CPS Parents Demand Enrollment at Wicker Park Magnet School

“Meanwhile, parents from three schools slated for closure are demanding their children be allowed to attend a Wicker Park magnet school.”

Eulogy for 50 Schools

“and i wondered if my old school was sad. if the classroom where Ms. Johnson read us books and showed us letters, was sad.
i wondered if my school didn’t understand. didn’t understand where everyone went.
i wondered if Lester was still there, with his mop and that big bucket when the bell rang.
i liked Lester. he always said hello to me. every single day.”

The Biggest Irony in Chicago’s Mass Closing of Schools

“As it turns out, according to WBEZ,  the three schools that Duncan first closed and revamped are all being “shaken up” as part of the newly announced closure of 50 public Chicago schools, the largest mass school closing in U.S. history.”

Day 2 on Mackinac Island

“If I had any doubts about the education reform movement, Michelle Rhee deftly erased them all.  She repeated her often used statistic that this would be the first generation in this country that was less educated than their parents.  As the number of  U.S. college graduates hit a record high in 2012, it’s clear that Ms. Rhee sees a very precipitous decline to get the numbers down from 30 percent to the 22 percent level of 1990. “




Is Our Children Learning Part II

30 May

ImageUNO Can’t Whitewash this Scandal

“This week wasn’t the first time that UNO has created waves. There have long been whispers — at some points, escalating to shouts and finger-pointing — around UNO’s work in clout-building through electioneering, endorsements and cronyism. The fact that these activities are allegedly taking place in an institution whose stated mission is education is particularly egregious, even in a place like Chicago, where citizens are hardened by regular reports of political sleaze and fraud.”

Jeb Bush talks Education at Mackinac, Pushes Michigan’s Questionable Charter School Sector

“That study, released in January by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes, found that while students in Michigan’s charter schools are raising their test scores more quickly than their peers in public schools, they are still performing at much lower levels. Charter school students in the state gain about two months of reading and math knowledge over their peers each year — but 80 percent of charter schools perform below the 50th percentile of achievement in reading, and 84 percent perform below that threshold in math..”

Our Report from the Mackinac Island Conference

“Hello and a sunny welcome from beautiful Mackinac Island, Michigan where the beautiful people of the education reform set have all penciled in this beautiful island made famous by Esther Williams in the movie Grand Hotel, for their Spring getaways.  It’s Mackinac Island Conference Week and if there’s one thing on the menu besides Chianti Chef Keith Shockling’s Semolina Dusted Lake Huron Whitefish, it’s education reform.

When Black Kids Want to Learn and the World Tells Them No

“There are black children who don’t value education. Not because they are black, but because they are children and that’s what children do. The more tragic and infuriating thing is that they grow up in a society that doesn’t value educating black children and is hellbent on doing everything it can to stop them from learning.”

George W. Bush asked the famous question, “Is our children learning?” when he was President.   It seems that his brother Jeb also believes that public schools are misunderestimating our children’s capacity to learn.  Today, we have a little national news in with the usual CPS closing stories.

BBB Tells Everyone to Move On, For Parents It’s Not that Easy

“Meanwhile parents are confused about the enrollment process, have been told they have until the end of this week to figure it out, and some welcoming schools are not even informed about their role in this process.”

UNO and Green Dot, Meet Ethics

29 May

ImageThe Tribune recently had an editorial entitled UNO Meet Green Dot.   While the editorial showed up on Google as being written today, the byline listed the date as May 13th.  Evidently, the big threat to UNO isn’t its own web of nepotism and corrupt management, but the possibility of a unionized teaching force.

The danger is that UNO will not be able to keep its innovation if it has to grant due process to employees.   Just think how crippled UNO would have been if it could not have immediately dismissed David Corrall after he reported sexual assault taking place at one of UNO’s schools.  Not only that, but I’m sure union contracts would severely eat into Juan Rangel’s $260,000 contract.

The Tribune solution is that UNO needs to learn from Green Dot.  I must say, at first glance Green Dot seems to have quite a lot in common with UNO — namely ethics charges.  UNO, however, has completed an internal investigation and decided   As, you read today’s UNO story, it’s clear their innovations aren’t taking place in the classroom, but in the fields of spin and damage control.

Embattled UNO Charter School Leader Steps Aside, Stops Short of Resigning

“But saying he still has much to contribute, Rangel will remain CEO of UNO, which includes the day-to-day management of the schools. He insisted that an overhauled board with new, independent members will keep him accountable. UNO named Martin Cabrera, Jr., founder and CEO of Cabrera Capital Markets, as the new chairman of the community organization’s board.”

Chicago to Shutter 50 Public Schools: Is Historic Mass Closure an Experiment in Privatization

“ALEX LYONS: I am very, very disappointed and upset in the rubber-stamp vote that was taken by the CPS Board of Elections to take our kids from the classroom and put them on the front row of killings, murders, war zones, seeing things that a kid should not see to go to school.”

Chicago to Close 50 Public Schools While Spending $100 Million on a Basketball Arena

“Of course, the city is justifying such a large public investment by claiming that constructing the arena and it’s accompanying event center will bring “huge opportunity” to the city of Chicago by attracting business and tourism.

How much opportunity will this deal provide the city of Chicago if, in 20 years, its streets are riddled with uneducated college-age adults?”

The Problem with Chicago’s School Closings

“At the end of this year my city, Chicago is closing a total of 49 Elementary Schools which is the largest in the city’s history. The largest source of revenue for the district, 40% comes from local sources (mostly local property taxes). The state provides 31% of funding via the general state aid (GSA), based on a complicated formula set by the state legislature and finally the Federal government provides 24% of the funding through the Title 1 program and paying for the free & reduced lunch program. Illinois ranks second lowest in the nation for the level of funding that the state provides for education. As a teacher, it is abominable how low education is on the list of funding priorities.”

Happy Memorial Day

28 May

extralargeThe evolution of Memorial Day to Veterans Day with barbecue bothers me.   While I never was a member of the military, I’ve had many family members who did.  On the other hand, none of my direct relatives ever died in their service to our nation, though one was seriously injured for most of his life as a result of a wound suffered preparing to go to Italy in World War II.  This isn’t their holiday.  Veterans have their day.   Today, is a day to remember those who fought and gave the ultimate sacrifice.  I think this should be the day that all of us who didn’t serve, remember just how steep the price of war is, before we support military action as anything, but an absolute last resort.

Paper Mache Schools ‘Protest’ Hits Millennium Park

“It’s a non-protest protest, just very chill,” said event organizer Ellen Gradman, a visual artist and teacher of 30 years.

Gradman’s influence as an artist could be seen in the laid-back event — paper mache flowers and art supplies were part of an program that also featured communal discussions focused on how kids felt about their schools closing.

“It’s a time for us to breathe. A time to just be with our kids,” Gradman said.”

Are We Becoming Like the City of Chicago

“As hard as educational leaders and teachers are working in the city’s public school, the future for Chicago Public School and many of its students does not look bright. In 2013, Chicago public schools are more de facto segregated by race and social-economic status than ever before with approximately 80 percent of the city’s white middle and upper class students in private schools. Most Chicago children live in poor neighborhoods and attend schools in these poor neighborhoods and are likely to have few friends from classes and races different from their own.”

Parents Paid to Circulate Propaganda for ‘Won’t Back Down!’

Alfonso’s telling everybody’s ‘you’re going to have luxurious houses, drive fancy cars and live the kind of life you’ve always wanted,'” Morales said. “Around late October, they came back and said the movie didn’t make that much and backed out of the deal.”

NBC Nightly News Online Report on CPS Closings

“Raise Your Hand helped to coordinate interviews for a piece on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams last week. Unfortunately, the story was bumped twice and ended up online only.”

Walking the Tightrope

27 May

ImageOne problem with writing a blog on CPS is that so much of the news that I consider necessary is undeniably negative.   We’ve all been very focused on the school closings and I don’t for a second intend to ignore the schools as they try to fight for survival even while their students have to register elsewhere.  However, I’m also going to try to find some more positive stories and stories about things other than the closings.  However, let’s face it, it’s what everybody’s talking about and with good reason. 

CPS 9 Year Old 1, Rahm 0

“Consider Derrick Blakley’s gullible “report” in which he repeats CPS assertions without vetting, including:

* “With CPS planning to close and consolidate many half-empty schools to help eliminate a projected $1 billion deficit, one of the two nearby schools had to go, and CPS brass targeted Garvey.”

Jersey Jazzman Shows the Love for the Indomitable Karen Lewis

“She is a larger than life figure who is not only unbossed and unbought, but unbeaten. (I am paraphrasing Shirley Chisholm here, the first black woman to run for President).

Karen explains the importance of collaborating with parents and local communities.”

The Day They Closed My School

“I live in Chicago, and one of the 50 neighborhood schools slated to close is an excellent school named Miriam Canter Middle School. I like to think I came into the process with an open mind– I’m not averse to school closing, if necessary–but I was so disgusted with the town hall meeting that I made a very short video concerning the process.”

All In: Emanuel Closes 50 Public Schools

“Chicago Public Schools announced Wednesday the largest school closing in the history of the country, because Rahm Emanuel claims the city is too broke to keep them open. Chris Hayes and an Up Panel discuss what this means – both for education in Chicago, and the students that count on it.”

Smiley and West – Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union

“Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis critiques the largest school closing plan in U.S. history, approved this week by the Chicago school board. “

A Time of Heroes

24 May

Photo credit: Sarah Jane Rhee/

The Tribune editorial called on us to be heroes like Newton and Moore where heroes stood up to death for the students.  We could be heroes by stepping down and leaving our students to poverty, both literal and intellectual.   We could be heroes by isolating the parts of our city most in need.   We could be heroes by shutting our mouths and collecting our paychecks.   We could be heroes by rolling over in the face of powerful forces destroying the most vulnerable in our society, but that’s no hero I’ve ever seen and I have seen heroes:

I saw a 9 year old boy standing on a metal folding call down thunder with his voice, open up the skies and show us a future worth believing in at a time when if felt like the future was being ripped out of this city.

I saw 17 year old high school student holding a bullhorn with tears dripping down his face, who showed us all how to be a man, when some of Chicago’s wealthiest citizens were too cowardly to make their votes public.

I saw one mom silenced and hauled off for daring to speak the named of the condemned lest we begin to remember the children inside the schools being destroyed.

I saw 20,000 parents speak with such eloquence and passion to a blank wall of empty stares while CPS officials checked their email on their smart phones.

I saw 25 brave men and women have to be scolded by a white haired police officer for showing too many solidarity with their chants in the back of the paddy wagon.

I saw a union leadership that ended their election victory celebration to put on their walking shoes and take to the streets to stop this maddening change.  

150 people tonight signed up to register voters and give voice to the voiceless.  They are heroes too.

I can remember
Standing, by the wall
And the guns shot above our heads
And we kissed,
as though nothing could fall

And the shame, was on the other side

Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever

Then we could be heroes just for one day

                                                    —David Bowie

Marching to Save Chicago Public Schools

“After months of public protest, including a three day community march across the city, the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education voted to close 50 schools on May 22, 2013… the largest school closing in US history. The fight is not over. This is a movement. Use your voice to protect our public schools and the future of our children. Our City. Our Schools. Our Voice.”

Our Children in Cleveland our Underperforming

“During an interview on Good Day Chicago, Bennett declared that the Chicago Public Schools’ decision to close 50 schools was “not made haphazardly. It was made with children in mind and not adults, and it was made so that we could level this platform for the children and move forward. I mean, our children in Cleveland are underperforming on every measure.”

We Began Talking of Moving; It’s Heartbreaking
 “We are the typical Andersonville family. For the first time last week, we began talking about moving. It’s a heartbreaking decision. We just moved back to Chicago a couple years ago, and love living in the city. We love our neighborhood and have invested in our schools and our community. Andersonville has become a part of our family. We thought we would raise our children here. If Trumbull closes we face the uncertainty of our son getting into Peirce, and therefore we don’t know that we can stay. We are one of numerous other families in this community who are also being forced to rethink their future in Chicago because of this proposal. Our lives are being turned upside-down.”
“In the 10-minute video, entitled “In Pursuit of Happiness,” fourth grade teacher Ellie Rubenstein addresses the transfers and “false accusations” that have been leveled against some teachers in the school. She also laments the test-driven state of the education profession.”
“I have nothing against basketball and nothing against DePaul. But Rahm Emanuel and his upside-down priorities disgust me. In a deeply segregated city like Chicago, the gun violence that’s been all over the national news is the result of systematically tearing apart communities. Gentrification is not the answer for this city. The answer is decent jobs, social services, quality affordable housing, access to health care and fully funded schools, not another round of corporate welfare.”
“Some of us are working for an elected school board and others are thinking about a Financial Transaction Tax pegged to +3% of the sales tax. Some of us are focused on our aldermen and thinking about what they will have to support to not draw a challenger who will beat them because next time around it will take more than 20% of the city send Mayor Emanuel back to the 5th Floor. Some of us are registering voters. Some of us are pulling together conversations about freedom schools and student strikes and creative actions that can only come from communities with nothing to lose but their fear, apathy and chains. Yesterday we raged against the machine but today we are organizing to dismantle this evil one nut and bolt at a time.”
“Unlike the teachers in Moore, Chicago teachers’ schools are not gone because of some capricious act of nature.  They are gone because of decades of very deliberate decisions by public officials, corporate interests and ordinary citizens that have eviscerated the neighborhoods of Chicago, displacing people with the demolition of public housing, gutting communities with foreclosures and the elimination of jobs.  The schools are gone because they have been replaced by charter schools, the darlings of politically well-connected school reformers making a profit on tax money while public officials eliminate the inconvenience of teachers unions. “

Today I Mourn, Tomorrow the Fight Goes On

23 May