Archive | August, 2013

Those Slippery Charter Schools

30 Aug


I have several objections to charter schools.  I don’t like diverting public tax dollars from neighborhoods schools to schools full of uncertified teachers whose tack record is worse than the public schools they bill themselves as an alternative too.  As a tax payer, I frankly hate the lack of transparency in charter schools.  Public money gets poured in and we hope it gets to the students.   However, in case after case from Green Dot, to Imagine, to UNO we find malfeasance that would never be acceptable in a public school.

The city of Chicago is relying on the smoke and mirrors of charter school budgeting to confuse its critics who believe that charters got a diamond mine and neighborhood schools got the shaft.  However, a look at their own budget shows that while neighborhood schools lost millions, charters got an $80,000,000 increase in the new budget.

The newest snake to be exposed to sunlight is Aspira whose Philadelphia actions give a good picture of the people behind the charters.

Charter Operator Owed Its Schools Millions, but No One’s Checking Its Books

“Aspira Inc. of Pennsylvania owed large sums of money to four Philadelphia charter schools it runs, according to an independent audit of the organization’s finances as of June 30, 2012, that was obtained by City Paper. According to the report, which was produced for Aspira and completed in April, the nonprofit was running a deficit of $722,949 as of last June and owed the publicly financed schools $3.3 million. That’s in addition to millions of dollars in lease payments and administrative fees filtered to Aspira and entities it controls with no oversight. ”

For the Record: Art Charters and District-Run Schools Treated Equally?

“Increases aside, charter schools are getting, on average, $600 for elementary schools to $900 for high schools more per student in their total allocation than district-run schools get, the Catalyst analysis shows.”

Closures and Chartering Aren’t a Formula for School Reform

“Chicago’s record on charter performance is parallel to the poor national one. Educational policy research shows that charter schools in Chicago and nationally result in lower student test scores, higher teacher turnover, worse rates of uncertified teachers, lower teacher pay and higher administrator pay, and increased racial segregation.”

Dreaming in the Face of CPS Reality

I dream of a time when the voice of the people is heard and respected, understood not to be a mob but a thoughtful citizenry, and given some small heed when it comes to policy-making about our own children.

CPS Dumps ‘Probation’ Label for Schools Not Making the Grade

““Half the schools in the district fell into Level 3,” he said. “A school might be progressing in Level 3 and never get out of that level,” said Josserand, who was part of many focus groups. “Having five levels allows us to be more focused in our interventions [and] allows us to be even sharper in our focus to make sure we’re working with schools most intently with those supports.”

Chicago’s School Board Deals with Budgets, Closings, and Charges that it Violated Open Meetings Act

“Chicago’s Board of Education passed a $5.6 million budget Wednesday and also approved a new way to rate the district’s schools. Outside, protesters called for board members’ ouster. WBEZ education reporter Linda Lutton discusses those issues and charges that the district turned people away from the meeting in violation of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.”


Have Our Standards Lowered that Much?

28 Aug

ImageThe longer school day was called a success by some because it was indeed longer.  The first day of school was called a success because no students were shot in a safe passage zone in front of the media.  I am sure that sending our children to school in August when it’s 95 degrees in many CPS classrooms will be considered a success because school did in fact start a week earlier.

If you are a parent, and you are fed up with the way CPS is ignoring you, Mayor Rahm has the following advice, “You have a disagreement [about school closings]? The court has spoken to that…If you want to make a statement, go to the courtroom.”

Rahm has proved that like the Earth, logic can be round.  Fortunately, 50 years ago Martin Luther King, John Lewis, and a generation of leaders didn’t wait for the courts to make progress.  I’m sure Rahm would tell them with the gift of hindsight that the court has now ruled on the Voting Rights Act, so don’t waste their breath.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel: Don’t Boycott, Send You Students to School on Wednesday

“For parents to put out that fire for learning out by yanking their kids out of school would be a shame, he said, especially after, what he called “one of the best-ever” opening day attendance records in CPS history.”

Parents Fuming About CPS School without Power

“It’s because they’re still doing construction in the building,” said Jeanette Taylor, president of the Local School Council at Mollison. “They closed Overton back in June. This building should have been ready. That’s the problem.”

Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) said CPS was supposed to tell ComEd it added air conditioners so the utility could install a higher-performing transformer to handle the increased load of needed power.

“This did not happen,” Dowell said.

North Side Students, Parents to Join CPS Boycott, Protest

“North Side Action for Justice, a group founded by residents from Uptown and Rogers Park, said it has a bus picking up parents and students at James McPherson, John McCutcheon, Joseph Brennemann and Mary Courtenay elementary schools Wednesday morning for a rally outside the Board of Education and a march to City Hall”

“Judging from the entire allocation to each school, charter schools appear to have the advantage: More than 70 percent of charter schools are getting the same amount or more for each student than they did last year, a Catalyst analysis shows. Meanwhile, only about 10 percent of district-run schools are holding steady or seeing an increase, and most of those are welcoming schools that got extra resources under the district’s school closing program.”

The Trouble with Microsoft

27 Aug

ImageIf you haven’t noticed, Microsoft is showing signs of real trouble.  They’re no longer innovative and workers and outside observers alike blame it on their management system called “stack ranking”.  In stack ranking, employees are rated from best to worst and the lowest performing employees are fired.  This has created a corporate atmosphere that could best be described as toxic.

“The behavior this engenders, people do everything they can to stay out of the bottom bucket,” one Microsoft engineer said. “People responsible for features will openly sabotage other people’s efforts. One of the most valuable things I learned was to give the appearance of being courteous while withholding just enough information from colleagues to ensure they didn’t get ahead of me on the rankings.”

There was a great article in Slate, which referenced a previous article in Vanity Fair.  My question is, knowing that doing things this way is a failure in business, why are we letting Gates and company inflict this kind of management on education. 

Rahm Skips Planned After-School Walk With Students after Protesters Show Up

“Mayor Rahm Emanuel skipped out on a planned walk with students through a West Side neighborhood Monday, prompting a small group of activists outside Willa Cather Elementary to chant, “Run, Rahm, Run.”

No Experience Necessary

“Silly reader—experience is for status quo lovers! In case you’ve haven’t heard, no experience is the new black, especially when it comes to leading school districts that happen to be almost entirely Black. You see, in the olden days experience was mistakenly believed to be an attribute, or worse, a necessity. Today, nine out of ten reform advocates agree: a lack of experience is the handmaiden of disruption and the first cousin of innovation. In other words, what was your question again?”

School’s Out Forever

“While students return to class today, Tribune photojournalist Brian Casella visits the buildings the sit empty after being closed by Chicago Public Schools.”

CPS Begins New School Year

This is a must see video segment, but unfortunately at posting time, WTTW didn’t have it up yet.  I assume it will be posted very soon at this link.

Activists Call for One-Day Boycott of CPS Schools

“The group is asking students to skip school Wednesday and parents and supporters to forgo a Chicago Board of Education meeting to attend a rally in front of the board’s downtown office, followed by a march to City Hall.”

Tomorrow is Openning Day

26 Aug

ImageTomorrow is the opening day for CPS and I find myself having a very difficult time meeting it with the energy it deserves.  I feel like we’ve not only had important supports cut off from us, I feel that even more damage to our school community is on the way.  My school is down 100+ students from the CPS projection.  

We have a very large Mexican population and it’s not unusual for some students to make their way back from Mexico in time for the start of the school year, but this year the school year starts earlier and the deadline for enrollment to count is the 10th day instead of the 20th.  This means if everything stands the way it is, we’ll be losing another 8 teacher positions.   Little niceties like computer paper have been excised from our budget and we’re constantly being told to do more with less.

In addition, the school faces a mind numbing problem of epic proportions.  We are scoring great on one set of standardized tests and poorly on another.  Therefore, it is clear that the way we are teaching must somehow be deficient because there is no other possible explanation why 2 seemingly infallible tests could be giving the opposite results.

I am sure that when I meet my students and get to know them, I’ll remember why I got into this profession in the first place, but I’m tired of being a cog in a system where my boss (Rahm) not only doesn’t help me to succeed, but actively works to hinder my progress.

Rahm Put Indicted Ohio Money Laundry Man on City’s Pension Boards

“Some independent alderman like Fioretti and Waguespack have wanted a more open, transparent investigation of what Ahmad did here. They want the city’s inspector general Joe Ferguson to be allowed to do his job. That’s not what Rahm wants. And you have to wonder why not?”

Rahm Running Scared Orders Entire City on Alert

“In what is becoming an international spectacle Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel or, Murder Mayor as he is called in some circles, is deploying all city departments until further notice to be deployed on all Safe Passage routes in the first few weeks when school starts for the Chicago Public Schools.”

Heat Wave Forecast for Chicago for Back to School

“The outlook for this week projects multiple days with high temperatures into the lower 90s. However, when factoring in sunshine, humidity and light winds, RealFeel® temperatures are likely to surge into the upper 90s to near 100 degrees for a couple of hours each afternoon.”

Chicago Parents Say: Follow the Money

“CPS says they have no alternatives but to make these school-based cuts,” says parent Jeff Karova of Darwin Elementary. “Clearly CPS has chosen to increase spending in certain areas very far away from the classroom while cutting essential programs critical to the development and learning of our children.”

Matt Farmer: Arne Duncan’s Favorite Phrase

“The Secretary of Education then confused even himself, calling a “new generation of assessments aligned with the states’ Common Core standards” a “second game-changer,” even though it was actually the third “game-changer” Arne had offered the assembled UNESCO masses during that difficult-to-diagram, five-minute rhetorical stretch.

I’m Back

20 Aug

ImageI really tried to keep the blog going over the Summer, but by the end of July, I really needed to take a break from things CPS.  I missed the destruction of La Casita and more CPS budgeting impropriety, but I gained from taking a step back and a deep breath.  Politics, even a cause you feel intensely passionate about, are no substitute for a life.

I will use this week to gear up and this blog will return with a vengeance before school opens next week.