Archive | June, 2013

I’m Back and I’m Talking Civility

27 Jun

Sorry, for taking a few days off.   After this school year, I just needed a bit of a break.  I will be continuing to log all Summer, but I’m going to do so a little more sporadically.  My goal is to update 3 times a week during Summer.  I want to continue to update regularly, but I don’t want to spend my Summer tied to the computer.

As a teacher, I spend my days trying to instill the importance of civility and cooperation in my charges.  However, I think civility at times is actually counter productive.  If you’re walking down the street and a madman approaches you wanting to chop off both your arms with a hatchet, agreeing to let him chop off your left arm isn’t really a good idea.

When a policy maker wants to impose a “reform” on your school that is 180 degrees away from what will make your students successful, compromise isn’t the answer.   When two people have similar goals and disagree about how to get there, they can compromise.  However, if you don’t want to go in the same direction, it’s pretty much impossible to compromise with another person.

There are some people pushing misguided reforms who do so for pure motives.  Unfortunately, if there ultimate goal is a privatized test factory, they’re not someone I’ll ever be able to agree with.  Agreement for the sake of agreement doesn’t work.  It only leaves us with bad policy and ineffective schools.

Why These Students Disaffiliated from SFER National

“As a university founded on Vincentian Principles, we as DePaul students aim to be sensitive to and care for the needs of each other and of those served, with a special concern for the poor or less fortunate members of society. The children of this nation, and even more personally the city of Chicago, are being deprived of a quality and meaningful education.”

Chicago Teachers, Parents, Students Protest Budget Cuts to Schools

“Teachers, students, parents and activists from two dozen Chicago schools descended on the Board of Education Wednesday  to protest what they say are “deep, painful” budget cuts at local schools.”

CPS Budget Cuts: Demonstrators Demand More Money for Schools

“They don’t need to cut from our schools,” Mayle said. “Rahm [Emanuel} keeps talking about hard choices. The real hard choice for him is to go back to his rich friends and ask them to pay their taxes. That’s what will solve this.”

Board Members Mumble their Way through Scripted Lines

“High points came for me when Barbara Byrd Bennett, with a straight face, told the Board that her “Chief Innovation and Incubation Officer” would handle one thing. Oh, and while the new “Chief Accountability Officer” (which she actually said was a new idea) would handle something else.”

Statement: Progressive Reform Caucus on Chicago Public School Budget Cuts

““As elected representatives of the communities of Chicago, we are alarmed by the stripping of basic necessities which define a school. The neighborhood schools have been reduced to beggars, lacking such essentials as sanitation supplies, library book funds, field trip money, playground supervision. The principals have been given the new budgets and told to ‘do more with less.”

How Chicago’s Five-Year School Plan was Dead on Arrival

“Ah yes, Mayor Emanuel and the teachers. Let’s see, in his first two years he took away the raise their last board promised them; unilaterally ordered them to work a longer day; mocked them as spoiled brats when they noted that the longer day came with few resources to help them do something meaningful with the time; then continued to fire hundreds of them in school closings, turnaround plans, and other ruses that circumvent tenure.”


Good People Doing Evil

25 Jun

I was listening to a Gary Rubenstein broadcast on the computer tonight.  It was basically a podcast on Teach for America.   Gary was once a member of that organization and even worked for TFA in 1996.  Gary is a math teacher who is simply brilliant.  He skewers education rheeform and particularly TFA on his blog,  It’s definitely worth checking it out.

TFA chooses students who look good on paper.  Oftentimes, they’re people who believe that they can change the world.   They give these college graduates 5 weeks of training, usually with about 16 hours of student teaching with a class size of 10.  Then they put them into some of the most difficult class sizes in the country.  The original idea was that they would serve in urban districts where there was a shortage of teachers.  Is there really a shortage of teachers in Chicago or Philadelphia?  These well-meaning students have basically become scabs.

For the TFA corps members, it’s also a disservice.  Many teachers go into teaching as a second career.  However, by foisting these kids who didn’t pursue education majors into an impossible situation with limited training, they ruin any chance that they might eventually become real teachers.  Instead, we get two years learning to each on other people’s kids followed by Wall Street or law school usually.  Of course the most damage done by TFA members is in administration.

Is Teach for America a Good Thing for Chicago Public Schools

“Chicago schools have seen reductions at almost every level over the past couple years. Cuts to teacher salaries, jobs, and benefits, student arts and athletics programs, and even entire school budgets have created a new austerity within CPS. Amidst all the downsizing, however, one educational element has been growing in stark contrast. Teach For America recruits are teeming into Chicago schools like never before.”

U.S. Student Protests Thus Far in 2013

“As some of you may remember, last year I published a “List of 2012 Student Protests Regarding Education in the U.S.” list. Since this post was such a huge hit and received a lot of continuous support last year, I knew I had to make sure I did it again.”

Rahm’s Pick for School Board is Sure to Make Some People Mad

“It described the decades-long investment banker for firms such as Merrill Lynch as a “small-business woman,” referring, I guess, to her current gig as “founder [in 2009] and managing partner of GSV Advisors—part of GSV Capital Corp., “a publicly traded investment fund that seeks to invest in high-growth, venture-backed private companies. GSV Advisors is “a firm that provides advisory services to companies in the education and business services sectors.” In plainer language, GSV Advisors invests in firms that that bring high-tech to solving problems in education. An example is GVS-backed DreamBox Learning, online individualized math instruction that, the company claims, “improves early educational outcomes for every child—regardless of zip code.”

Kids Count?

“So, you are 2.5x more likely to be a rich adult if you were born rich and never bothered to go to college than if you were born poor and, against all odds, went to college and graduated. The disparity in the outcomes of rich and poor kids persists, not only when you control for college attainment, but even when you compare non-degreed rich kids to degreed poor kids!”

Critics Say Chicago Shouldn’t Aid DePaul Arena with School Closings

“This project could not be worse for human priorities,” said Bob Fioretti, the alderman of the ward that would house the arena. “We can’t afford neighborhood schools, but we can bankroll an unnecessary basketball arena for a private university?”

Alternatives to School Cuts

“One example:  CTU backed legislation in the spring session that would close three corporate tax loopholes that bring no economic benefit and cost the state $445 million a year.  It died in committee.”

Public Education Suffering from Parasitic Profiteers

“Parasites are inherently destructive to their hosts. They sap energy needed for growth and vitality, and divert it towards the counterproductive growth of the parasite itself. Hosts can adapt to coexist with a parasite, or they can take steps to rid themselves of the parasite altogether. By far the best course of action is to identify the elements the parasites have introduced into our educational system for their selfish purposes, and drive them out, starting with the standardized testing machine, and the false claim that this is any sort of accurate measurement of educational excellence.”

Same Old Same Old at CPS

24 Jun

ImageThe Chicago Board of Education is a rubber stamp.  Whatever Rahm Emanuel wants, he gets.  That’s one of the reasons that this city needs an elected school board.  I don’t think it really mattered who was appointed to fill Penny Pritzker’s vacancy on the board.  It’s not like a rubber stamp can get rubberier.

I can’t really say I was disappointed by the mayor’s appointment of Deborah Quazzo.  It really won’t change anything.  Like Pritzker, Quazzo has no education background, no ties to CPS other than profiting off of them, and a career in investment banking. 

The only thing I was surprised about is that city hall felt it necessary to announce her appointment in a Friday afternoon news dump to guarantee the least amount of press possible.   It appears that even Rahm realized this was a ridiculous appointment.  I guess that’s progress.

Teacher’s Union Blasts Emanuel’s School Board Choice

“Quazzo, 52, has served on the boards of New Schools for Chicago, an organization that raises money for charter schools, and KIPP Chicago, a charter school operator. She has also donated money to Republican Bruce Rauner’s gubernatorial campaign. Rauner is an advocate of charter schools.”

Protest over CPS Funding Cuts

“The group, “Raise Your Hand,” organized the event after it compiled a list of more than 100 CPS school budgets for next year. It says CPS will slash more than $77 million. The group marched from the Thompson Center to DePaul University as a show of disapproval over plans for a $55 million stadium at McCormick Place for DePaul University’s basketball teams. The group says this money should be used to prevent cuts in CPS spending.”

Breaking: :Local School Councils Voting to Reject CPS Budget Cuts

“Local School Council Votes to Reject CPS BudgetAt its monthly meeting on Thursday, June 20, the LSC of Theodore Roosevelt High School voted to send a letter to the President of the CPS Board of Education expressing its rejection of the proposed budget for the school that slashes $1,150,00.00 from this years current expenditures. The reduction threatens to eliminate nine teaching positions.In its letter the LSC asks that Mayor Emmanuel restore the budget cuts by declaring a TIF surplus, as Mayor Daley did three years ago.The LSC will meet again on Monday, June 24 at 6:30 pm at Theodore Roosevelt High School to continue the discussion of finances.”

Is this Rahm’s Rival for Mayor

“A group of aldermen [last year] tried to get an [education-related referendum] on our ballot … and the mayor’s office basically told me, “We will never allow you to have a referendum; we will fight it and we will stop any attempt that you make to try to get an elected school board.” I was pretty offended. I said it’s not up to you what my voters want on their ballot. It’s up to me and it’s up to the other nine aldermen who also wanted it on there, and they used a technical maneuver to basically keep us off.”

CPS Inspector General Probes School-Lunch Deal

“CPS insiders say Ms. Fowler was supposed to have walled herself off from participating in the bidding process, to which Aramark, Chartwells, Sodexo Group and Preferred Meal Systems responded. The bidding process was supposed to have been run by CPS’ procurement unit, not by Ms. Fowler’s school-lunch division, with Ms. Fowler having no vote.”

If Your Mother Tells You She Loves You, Check It Out

21 Jun

ImageI am not a reporter, I’m a teacher and I make no claims to being a journalist.   This is pretty ironic in itself as dozens of reporters act as if they have some kind of education credentials.  I bring this up because there is a cardinal rule of journalism and that rule is that you always need to look at the source.  Sometimes, there are two sides to an issue.  A lot of the time, there’s only one.  

I don’t think the debate between evolution and creationism is compelling.  That debate should be part of history, not part of policy.  The same could be said of Becky Carroll claiming that the CPS budget cuts wouldn’t impact the classroom, when principals are reporting budget cuts from a few hundred thousand to several million dollars.

When Student First ranked states by how much they went after teacher pensions and hired hugely expensive consultants, papers printed their rankings as if they came from a panel of impartial experts.   This week, the same thing happened with NCTQ.  The National Center for Teacher Quality published an error filled report attempting to rate education programs at universities by course outlines that the bribed students to send them.  NCTQ has more conflicts of interest than I can list,  Fortunately, Mercedes Schneider already did.

I make no bones about the bias about this blog.  I don’t plaster this blog with every educational link I see.  Sometimes, I miss something, but more often, I didn’t think it was terribly newsworthy.

A Child’s View of CPS’s Historic Closings: ‘I Just Don’t Get It.  I Don’t Get It at All’

“Do you have any idea what your doing to us … our school … even to me? We all have tried and tried everything to keep our school open. How can people like you have no mercy on us?”

Philadelphia: Blame Teachers First Is a Bad Strategy

“The School District is demanding $133 million in labor concessions to plug its $304 million budget gap. That’s more than twice as much as it requested from the city, and $13 million more than what it’s seeking from the state — which cut nearly $1 billion from school funding statewide (that’s you, Gov. Tom Corbett) despite its constitutional obligation to fund public education and, critically, its direct control of city schools for the past decade.”

Union-Hating Republican Rauner is a Democratic Pal. Further adventures in Bizarro World

“The Democratic Party line-up of Madigan, Daley and Quinn aren’t exactly union allies. Why would anti-union voters mark the ballot for a rank amateur when they already have professional union bashers among the Democrats.”

CPS Budget Cuts: More than $900K slashed from Portage Park Elementary

“”I don’t think parents know how bad these cuts are,” said Principal Maureen Ready, adding she was not certain it is possible to operate on the amount of money the Chicago Public Schools plans to give the far Northwest Side neighborhood school at 5330 W. Berteau Ave.”

Whitney Young Proposes Charging Students $500 for 7th Period

“Under the proposal, all students at the high-powered magnet school at 211 S. Laflin would attend six periods, but students wanting to take a seventh would have to pony up $500, according to a letter sent Wednesday to faculty and parents by Whitney Young Principal Joyce Kenner.”

CPS Parents, You Have Now Entered the Twilight Zone

“That’s right, happy citizens. What you’re seeing is an increase in spending, an increase in per pupil funding, and the only school district in the United States to increase its spending at such rates.”

Chicago Schools May be Forced to Choose Between Teachers and Toilet Paper Due to Budget Cuts

“In many schools, including mine, there are no funds left for janitorial supplies –- and this includes toilet paper,” Chicago teacher Michelle Gunderson told the Daily Kos before the toilet paper drive. “What might seem juvenile to some is in fact a perfect metaphor for the disregard of human dignity — the Chicago Public Schools care so little about children that their basic needs are being neglected.”

School’s Out for Summer, School’s Out Forever

20 Jun

ImageI’m sorry to say, but there have been some people who have “moved on” from the school closings just like BBB wants.  Even I’ve focused more on the assault on our budgets recently with the toilet paper drive and such.   The people who have not forgotten are the parents, teachers, and students at the closings schools.  28 of the closing schools were on Track E, which is a very large number considering this schedule isn’t used by that much of CPS.  For those schools, today was their last day in existence….or so Rahm thought.

This afternoon at Lafayette Elementary School, there was a sit in after school let out by parents and students who wanted to get their voices heard.  They deserve a better fate.  Lafayette was an amazing school with a large special needs population and an phenomenal string ensemble.  I believe this video is Mr. Emanuel’s opus:

CPS School Closings: Protesting Family Leaves LaFayette Elementary

“We argued for months,” Karlin said. “We gave all the very valid reasons why this shouldn’t happen, and they’re doing it anyway. There’s nothing left to do but pack up and go.”:

Sullivan High Hit with $748K Budget Cut, Gale Academy Budget Slashed $448K

“A retired Chicago Public Schools administrator serving as interim principal at Sullivan High School said the millions cut from school budgets next year “will make school closings look like a walk in the park.”

Chicago Parents Hold Toilet Paper Drive for 2013 School Year

“So we got socked,” says CPS parent Jennie Biggs. “Losing money and now we also, my principal also has to pick up supplies, so there’s a real chance he’s going to have to pick between teachers and toilet paper.”

The [Wednesday] Papers

“He grabbed me by the arm and wouldn’t let go while his bodyguards approached me,” Hastings said. “And clearly trying to intimidate me with a threat of physical violence.”

The TIF Wash–Et Tu Bright One?

“In effect, a TIF is a tax hike where the mayor raises property taxes in the name of something you presumably want—like schools or parks—so he can spend it on something you don’t need. Like a basketball arena for DePaul University, to cite one recent example.”

Breaking the Cardinal Rule of Blogging

19 Jun

ImageThe cardinal rule of thumb is that when you have a blog and you want to build readership, you have to update frequently.  People visit blogs for new information and if they come to your blog and there’s nothing new, they’ll stop checking back.  It’s especially true after you’ve had a popular blog post.  Well, between getting grades done today, watching students who know grades are done, and trying to keep #CPSwipes in the news, I’m just too tired to think clearly enough to blog.  Tomorrow I’ll be back and I’ve got a few things I want to talk about like the report from the NCTQ about teacher education that is roughly the equivalent of the NRA’s evaluation of Congress, but treated as if it’s some impartial judgment, but a wise panel of experts.

Toilet Paper for CPS

18 Jun

Tomorrow night at 6 PM, Barbara Byrd Bennett will be inside taking softball questions from the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board’s Bruce Dold at Chase Auditorium (10 S. Dearborn).   Outside the auditorium, there will be a toilet paper drive for Chicago’s Public Schools whose budgets are squeezed so tight, they literally half to make a decision between teachers and toilet paper.  It’s a great opportunity to make your voice heard about the unconscionable budgets that CPS has foisted on our schools.

Mayor Rahm Offers Schools a Grand Bargain: Teachers or Toilet Paper

“This is when we get back to the toilet paper issue.  In many schools, including mine, there are no funds left for janitorial supplies – and this includes toilet paper.
This Tuesday, Chicago activists will gather toilet paper donations outside of an event where Barbara Byrd-Bennett, our schools chief, is proclaiming the benefits of her five year plan.  What might seem juvenile to some is in fact a perfect metaphor for the disregard of human dignity – the Chicago Public Schools care so little about children that their basic needs are being neglected.”

How Rahm Emanuel Locked the Parking Meter Deal in Place

“Two months after Billik’s ruling, Winston & Strawn held a fund-raising reception for Emanuel at which attorneys from the firm donated $22,500 to his campaign fund, according to state records. That’s on top of the $67,000 Winston & Strawn firm contributed to his mayoral bid two years earlier.”

Local School Council Members Call on AG Lisa Madigan to Investigate CPS Finances

“The LSC members, who help principals make financial decisions for schools, signed a letter outside CPS headquarters asking Madigan to audit the district’s budget, then shredded copies of proposed budgets for several CPS schools.”

CPS’ Per Pupil Budgeting Will Exacerbate Inequality, Education Experts Say

“What we’re going to see is a degradation of education in neighborhood public schools, which is likely to result in even a widening of the inequalities that we already have in CPS,” said Pauline Lipman, professor of educational policy studies and director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.”