Tag Archives: Barbara Byrd Bennett

The Time to Make a Stand on Testing is Now

28 Feb

ImageI have been in semi-retirement from the blog lately, but I received an angry email in my mailbox today from none other than Barbara Byrd-Bennett.  It seems like once every couple of weeks, she feels the need to write to me to let me know just how much she thinks of the teachers of the city of Chicago.  The email was nice enough to include some “Facts” and “Repercussions” for me to ponder.


  • The time spent on the ISAT is less than 1% of the entire school year. 

The test at my school, is taking 4 days.  During those 4 days, the students will be having two test sessions.  Special education and ELL students will be testing practically the entire time.  During this time there will be no gym, library, music, computers, or art.  During this time upper grade students will not be having their departmental classes.   This is 4 days completely disrupted.  Plus makeup tests.  If 4 days of missed education are no big deal, why are we making up the snow days?


  • The test DOES NOT take up the entire 2-week window as some would claim.  It takes about 3 hours each for reading and math, and 2 hours for science in only grades 4 and 7.  (See here and here—page 6, and here—“ISAT Summary” for more details).  The 2-week window allows for maximum flexibility in scheduling at the school level, and for make-up testing of students who were absent.  Make-ups do not interrupt the instructional time of other students as they are conducted in a separate room.  
  • ISAT is not a drain on the CPS budget because CPS pays nothing for it.

Even if that is true, the state is paying big bucks for this and that’s money that isn’t going to CPS.  Also, you’re paying teachers and support staff to watch kids fill in bubbles rather than teach.  That’s a waste of resources.

  • Although ISAT will not be used for accountability, selective enrollment or student promotion, it is not meaningless.  It will be completely aligned to the Common Core standards in both the range of skills assessed and the depth of student-response expectations in writing.  This will provide educators an important first look at how well their students are doing on these more rigorous expectations.  Other current assessments do not offer this depth of information.

So next year, at some point, teachers will be able to see how students that they no longer have in class did on a test without any information on what kind of problems they got right and what ones they got wrong.  The writing is 1 day out of four.  Furthermore, the writing is scored by people in a mini-mall making $10 an hour.  Their evaluations don’t fill me with confidence.


  • Federal and State law require all students to be assessed in grades 3 – 8.

OK, so what are the Benchmark Tests, the multiple NWEA tests, and the REACH assessments for?

  • Schools with low testing participation are in jeopardy of losing federal funding as this test is a required component of NCLB.  
  • ISBE may review the accreditation of schools with low testing percentages.
  • Low percentage participation will also affect AYP status.

Isn’t this the year in NCLB where students don’t make AYP unless 100% of their students meet or exceed?  Good luck with that.

  • If an individual teacher refuses to administer the test, you should direct that teacher to swipe out and leave the work place.  You should direct another employee to administer the test.

Because all schools have plenty of teachers with nothing better to do.  I’m sure that if, say 20 teachers refused, a school could do great.  It almost makes me just want to use my 3 personal days this week,

  • Notify your staff that:

The State Certification Board may take action to revoke the certification of any employee who encourages a student to boycott the ISAT.

That, of course, would be up to the state.  Would they revoke the certification?  They can try, I suppose.  I don’t see it.

The Chicago Board of Education will discipline any employee who encourages a student not to take the ISAT or who advocates against the ISAT on work time for insubordination and for any disruption of the educational process. 

If parents or students make unsolicited inquiries regarding testing or opting out, staff shall explain that the ISAT is required by state and federal law and Board policy, and shall refer the questioner to school administrators to address any further inquiry or request.

I believe that they can require that I do not encourage my students to opt out on work time, but they certainly can’t make me tell parents or staff that their child is required to take the test, when that simply is untrue.

It is critical that all parents, students and staff understand these potential repercussions.  While employees may voice their opinions on matters of public concern, they have an obligation as government employees not to undermine or interfere with state and federal law and with Illinois/CPS Testing policies by encouraging students to opt out.

Breaking the law?  Just a little over-dramatic.  However, every time BBB sends something like this out and it makes the news, the parents learn the truth anyway.   And that is the scariest thing for CPS.

Please direct any additional questions about testing policy to Didi Swartz (773-553-1161 or cmswartz@cps.edu).  Please direct questions on potential repercussions to Tom Krieger (773-553-1193 or tkrieger@cps.edu) or David Ruhland (773-553-2321 or druhland@cps.edu).


Barbara Byrd-Bennett

Despite promises to the contrary, testing continues to expand.  They are taking a considerable amount of teaching time away so that a perhaps the one day they do the writing tests, there may possibly be data generated that next year will possibly be useful to someone.  I’m sorry, you don’t lose weight by weighing yourself and you don’t cure a patient by taking their temperature.  Testing is big business and that is the true force behind this ridiculous and abusive over-testing.



Dance As If You’re Being Evaluated

14 Jun

ImageFor once, I have academic craziness that isn’t from Chicago.   The Common Core is in some real trouble as conservative groups and parent groups are fighting against it in a big way.   When they first introduced the Common Core to CPS, I remember being at at PD where they bragged about how many states were on board.  That number has been dropping like a rock.

So, what’s my problem with the Common Core?  Simply put, it seems like another attempt by non-teachers to suck the joy out of learning.  David Coleman’s own speeches about the standards he developed, show the limitations of the Common Core.  I have never found “reforms” that attempt to quantify how many angels can fit on the head of a pin terribly helpful.  These Kindergarten Dance Standards from Colorado are a case in point.

Play is so valuable to children.  They learn so much through the cooperative process, whether it’s a game where rules must be agreed on or just general pretending, where everybody agrees on what they’re pretending.   Children learn more about interpersonal relationships, negotiation, teamwork, and imagination through play than we can ever teach them through drill and kill.  I can’t help, but look at these Colorado standards and think, well there’s something else that used to be fun for kids.

I used a picture of Rahm Emanuel at ballet in this post.  I generally don’t like attempts to slam the Mayor for his dance background.  I dislike him because of his policies, and prefer to focus on that.  On the other hand, we are talking about dance standards here.

Rahm Emanuel Tied to Corporate Takeover of Chicago Schools

“What part of “Rahm <3s Big Corporate Takeover of Chicago Public Schools” is difficult for anyone to understand after reading this? There still seems to be an element of denial when it comes to Rahm, despite his middle finger to the UAW while he was sitting at the Chief of Staff’s desk in the White House.”

[Hmm, I think somebody isn’t telling the truth here]

New CPS Budget Plan Shocks Some Schools: Layoffs, Larger Class Sizes Possible

“Budget cuts described by local school officials as “shocking” were leading to predictions of teacher layoffs, larger classroom sizes and eliminated programs.”

Bucktown CPS Principal: We Knew There’d Be Cuts, Didn’t Think This Deep

“Burr Elementary School, a top-rated neighborhood school at 1621 W. Wabansia Ave. in Bucktown, will see an almost 22 percent overall budget cut resulting in layoffs and larger class sizes, it was announced at a Local School Council meeting Wednesday.”

Lincoln Park HS Budget Slashed by $1.06 Million

:”Where is the outrage in our community about this?” said Kathy Berghoff, the parent chair of the local school council.

“I had no idea these kind of numbers would come out.” said Erica Wax, a member of the council.”

CPS Budget Cuts Hit Schools Hard: Amundsen Loses $780k, Roosevelt Down $1M

“We’re shocked,” said Timothy Meegan, who teaches geography and world studies at Roosevelt and also serves as a union delegate. “It’s absolutely demoralizing; it’s heartbreaking. It’s distracting to teaching and learning.”

Teachers Union Says New Budget System Means Deep Cuts — CPS Says Not True

“CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement that “the CTU’s allegations are disappointing and not accurate,” but did not point out errors in the union’s figures. She also hoped the union “will work with us and can contribute to real solutions to the financial crisis facing our schools.”


CPS Closes 17% of Pillars

13 Jun


We know that CPS has been slashing the budgets of neighborhood schools, but this is ridiculous.  In a speech in December, Barbara Byrd Bennett spoke of the 6 Pillars of Education:

The appointment of these leaders will help CEO Byrd-Bennett build the infrastructure needed to support her vision for the District and the underlying pillars that will guide that work. These six pillars include: high standards and rigorous curriculum; effective leadership and committed workforce; quality schools; engaged and empowered community; and sound fiscal management and accountability systems. The sixth pillar, student needs, is the foundation of the District’s collective work and is what all of the pillars are designed to focus on delivering.

Only 7 short months later, we’re supposed to get by with only 5 pillars.  I wouldn’t be shocked, if we’re down to 4 or even 3 pillars by 2014.   I mean closing schools and laying off teachers is one thing, but how can an urban school district survive with 17% less pillars.  (This was discovered by the great Matt Farmer and I blatantly swiped it, but felt obliged to give him credit because he is a lawyer type person.)

No Simple Answers for Chicago’s Overcrowded Schools

““Each time CPS turns over and gets a new CEO and a new staff is hired and people who understood what was going on are let go or repositioned, our children age and in that process, your kids are never going to see an addition,” Conklin Danao said. “My kids in first and second grade are unlikely to see an addition and if they do it would be middle school, at best. Our kids age in this system and it just keeps happening on the backs of them.”

Who Cares for Chicago’s Children

“We take for granted that certain people “care” and that if they are simply shown the error of their ways they’ll fix them – but the people who make the decisions about Chicago’s schools have heard the message, loud and clear. They’ve chosen to ignore it.”

DePaul Arena a ‘Monstrosity,’ TIF Panelists Say

“More than 1,000 people have attended the TIF Illumination Project’s meetings so far, Tresser explained. He believes he is seeing what could be the start of aldermanic campaigns at some of the TIF meetings, because people are becoming more educated and engaged on the issue.”

Emanuel in Full Spin Mode

3 Jun


Time and the Chicago Tribune have both unsurprisingly jumped to the defense of Rahm Emanuel.  It’s not surprising, but it sounds like the dying gasps of old journalism.   Time Magazine still has a sold circulation at dentist’s offices, but it’s mission seems to be unclear.  When you are a weekly news magazine, what do you have to add to the conversation in our modern world with much shorter news cycles. 

In three days, Time will begin reporting on the horrible storms that hit Oklahoma.  When you’re that far behind the rest of the parade, you had better provide depth because if all you’re going to say is, “big storms cause damage” and show some pictures, you can’t possibly compete with the internet and cable news.  If your take on the school closings is Rahm against “special interests”, I just don’t know how you ignore the parents and students or for that matter the UNO scandal with Juan Rangel on the committee approving new building and an alderman’s sister working on the closings. 

It turns out that the broom Michelle Rhee was holding on the cover of Newsweek was to sweep them out of business.  If they keep presenting this Cliff’s Notes version of corporate news, it won’t be long until Time will be joining them.

Rahm Emanuel, There’s a Good Reason People Are Mad at You

“The photo of this week’s Time magazine cover guy is accompanied by a question that I can only assume is rhetorical. Because the answer to the question about Chicago’s mayor–why are people mad at him?–should be readily apparent to anyone following recent headlines about the 50 Chicago schools slated to be closed.”

Time Magazine Stands with Rahm

“In Time‘s worldview, the “status quo” seem to be unions, parents, teachers and students who want to save their public schools. And on the other side? Reformers and big corporations, standing up to those “special interests.” It’s a curious way to see the world, but that’s where Time is coming from. And there’s no doubt whose side Time is on.”

One Day Before Deadline, Only Half of Students in Closing Schools Enroll at New Schools

“They know… and if you hang around closing schools, talk to parents, it’s obvious many of them are sending their own message right back to the school district. I met parent Antoine Dobine walking across the playground at West Pullman Elementary this week. He admits some parents are complacent, but he says there’s a fundamental reason many haven’t registered for new schools.”

Common Core’s Claims are False

“Existing evidence strongly suggests that improving the economy improves children’s educational outcomes, not vice-versa, supporting Martin Luther King’s position: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished”(Martin Luther King, 1967, Final Words of Advice).”

A Close Look at a Speech from Michelle Rhee

“Those huge sums of money that Rhee wheedled out of politicians and billionaires didn’t go to students. They went to adults like Rhee!

The Rebirth of the Chicago Teachers Union and the Possibilities for a Counter-Hegemonic Education Movement

“The significance of the Chicago teachers’ strike also has to be understood in relation to the broad attack on the public sector. Insisting that there is no alternative to address the “fiscal crisis,” local governments are pressing for austerity budgets that cut deep into what remains of the social-safety net and decent public-sector jobs. City governments are cutting police and firefighters, slashing public employees’ wages and benefits, closing libraries and schools, foregoing infrastructure repairs and maintenance, and selling off public infrastructure to consortia of transnational investors.”

If I Were a Teacher in the Chicago Public Schools…I Would Research the New CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett

“If I were a teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, I would insist on a transparent background on Barbara Byrd-Bennett, an actual timeline/resume indicating dates of attained degrees, licensure, and certification.”

Bait & Switch

“Enter Eugene Sanders. When the new CEO arrived from Toledo last July, he inherited more than Byrd-Bennett’s hidden audits and fake attendance numbers. He was now stuck with a massive construction project riddled with failure.”

Last Stand for Children First CEO Myron Minor Survives Mackinac Island Conference Tragedy

“Tragedy struck the Mackinac Policy Conference when in their zealous to improve the efficiency of Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, inadvertently made the hotel staff walk off the job.   Mackinac, which is the Indian word for “Slaughter Island” soon found the peaceful conference guests facing off in tribes.   While there was apparently only one fatality, only the timely arrival of some yachting enthusiasts prevented a much greater tragedy. “

A Time of Heroes

24 May

Photo credit: Sarah Jane Rhee/loveandstrugglephotos.com.

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. “

Dirty Tricks in CTU Campaign

14 May

ImageI just got off the phone with a friend of mine who was not happy about what happened at his school today.  He said that he got a call from CORE on Sunday that they wanted to bring somebody out to the school to speak.   Sunday night he set it up with the principal, he put up posters, and informed teachers.   He arrived early at his school to meet the CORE representative.

He was surprised to see Tanya Saunders-Wolff and Mark Ochoa walk in the front door looking for the union meeting.   They told the clerks in the office that they set it up in advance, which was a lie.  The delegate was unable to come to the meeting because she had another conflict in the morning.  However, she approached the representatives of the Salvation Caucus and told them that there was a CORE meeting today, but that she’d be happy to schedule them for later in the week.

They weren’t happy, but then the CORE representative told them that they could attend the CORE meeting.  The delegate said that would be wonderful, but that she didn’t want a debate.  The CORE representative would speak first and then the Salvation candidate.  Supposedly, things went smoothly at first, but soon developed into a shouting match after some serious false accusations by the Salvation Caucus that my friend had direct knowledge was untrue.

I don’t know what Saunders-Wolff and Ochoa believed they would accomplish with that behavior, but it definitely strengthens my confidence in voting against them.

Barbara Byrd Bennett Scandals Continue

“The Cleveland investigation “triggered extensive firings, $4,000,000 worth of cost savings, the repayment of $729,000 in ill-gotten state transportation funding, a criminal indictment, an outside performance audit, an Ohio Department of Education investigation, and the hiring of a private firm to reform the management of the transportation department. During the course of this investigation, Cleveland voters overwhelmingly defeated two school levies. CEO Byrd Bennett ultimately announced her resignation.”

Chicago Teachers Union to Ramp Up Protests Against School Closings

“The bigger picture here is the safety of the children,” Fortè said. “There are over 11,000 homeless students that are in these schools. When you close these schools that are safe havens for our children, how do they get to school?”

Mayor Emanuel’s FOIA Policy: Don’t Ask Because We Won’t Tell

“Krell figured CPS had done research on the longer school day because, like every parent in the system, he’d received a letter from Jean-Claude Brizard, then the CEO, claiming that “our elementary school students are receiving 22 percent less instruction time than their peers across the country.” So he sent CPS a FOIA request asking for “the reports, statistics, comprehensive city-by-city analysis and other documents that back up the statement by Mr. Brizard.”

Why I Boycotted the Prairie State Test

“Under so much pressure to raise its Prairie State test scores, the administration tried to take advantage of the promotion policy and demote a third of the junior class, just to keep us from taking the test and bringing down the school’s scores. I was having challenges at school but the last thing I would have expected is that my school system would demote me instead of supporting me.”

It’s About the Kids

Rangel: Hello. And thank you for taking the time to speak with me today about the kids.
Levy: While I am very busy, I can always make time to talk about the kids because, as I like to say, it’s all about the kids.
Rangel: Would you like to hear about the various ways that UNO is *crushing* the achievement gap and putting kids on a path to 21st century skills and prosperity?
Levy: Boy, would I! I am investing in the future of minority kids in Chicago because I dream of a day when the financial services sector will not be dominated by the children of prosperous white people.”

Could Cash for DePaul Arena be Coming Out of Public School Funding?

“Word leaking out of City Hall indicates that a big chunk of the financing for a new DePaul arena would come from the pot of cash that robs millions from public schools.  This would be very controversial because Emanuel is on the point of closing 54 schools.”

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.”