Tag Archives: Charter Schools

CPS Continues their “Fuzzy” Math

29 Sep


I received an email this week from a CPS teacher including an email that was sent out by their principal.   The principal wrote, “Effective immediately we will transition to a no zero policy.  Additionally on Friday we will have a brief meeting 4th & 5th periods.  In exchange I will give one of your prep periods back next week.  By Monday, September 30th please change all past zeros to the lowest possible grade designated for each grade level as identified in the staff handbook.”

In effect, the principal has banned grades lower than 50% at his high school.  The Principal admitted to this teacher that he had been under pressure from the Southwest Area Office to make this change.   Now, I personally give students no lower than a 50% on assignments with the exception of missing assignments.   I do this for mathematical reasons to allow students a chance to recover from a bad test.  However, if a student wants credit for a project or homework assignment, I don’t think it is unfair to require the student to actually do the assignment.  However, I believe teachers should have the right to set standards for their own classrooms.  These policies should originate in the classroom and not in the principal’s office and certainly not at the area office.

This isn’t the only area of fuzzy math in Chicago this week, however.   CPS enrollment is dropping fast and it’s probably no wonder.  When you sabotage the neighborhood schools where most families send their children to school, you shouldn’t be surprised when they respond by looking elsewhere.  However, charter schools in Chicago have been claiming a waiting list of 19,000 students.  Lost in all the hand wringing over CPS’s decline in enrollment this week was the fact that the city’s charter schools have 1,000 students less than projected in the CPS FY14 budget.   It seems to me that if they’re on a waiting list, they should be enrolled when an opening occurs.  Then again, if I had students on a waiting list I probably wouldn’t be spending big money in marketing my charter school like so many of them do.

Of course none of this is any wonder with Mathematician in Chief Rahm Emanuel in charge–he of the $1 Billion CPS deficit that neither grows nor shrinks depending on what savings or expenses are found.  The TIF plan continues to work as intended, siphoning off money from school children to give basketball arenas to private universities and liquor stores to felons.   Of course, Rahm’s new safe passage program seems to make the news every day or two.  


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 Longest Day Revisited

2 Jul

ImageWe’ve survived one school year with the longer day and school year that Rahm Emanuel decided to impose on the Chicago Public Schools and more time in school is quickly becoming a national trend.  In New Jersey, Governor Christie has called for a longer day in his usual charming manner.

When people from outside Chicago look at the school day, they ask themselves if it’s longer, they count the hours, and consider it a success.  Unfortunately, when you take a deeper look, you notice some of the problems.

1. Absenteeism: I can only offer anecdotal evidence here, but for the first time in anybody’s memory, our attendance dropped below 95%.  Students are rundown and anytime there’s an orthodontist or pediatrician appointment, students wind up having to miss a half day.

2. Burn Out: Homework completion was down a ridiculous amount in just about every class in our school.  This despite trying to decrease homework because of the longer hours.

3. Funding: All funding for the longer day has ended.   There are still hours that need to be filled, but resources must be taken from the regular day instead.

There are other smaller issues like recess that becomes sitting in the hallway or auditorium once the weather gets bad and a lack of time for things like tutoring in the morning before school.   I have seen few teachers or students who don’t dislike this longest school day and longer year, but I also realize the chances of ending it are only slightly less than the chances of properly funding it.

UNO Had Money for Grand Opening, But Not to Pay Contractors for State-Funded Charter School

“In lien documents filed with the Cook County recorder of deeds office, Rodrigo d’Escoto says the money his company is seeking is for work it was asked to do on the Galewood school that went beyond the scope of its original contract. Scott R. Fradin, an attorney for Reflection Window, says the company and its suppliers did the extra work “with the understanding that they would be fully and fairly compensated.”

Chicago Public Schools Sound More Like Private Schools

“It seems the antithesis of public education. Students who parents are lawyers or accountants will be able to buy their children the college-admissions pleasing class—the richer transcript, but the students whose parents have lower paying or no jobs won’t? Kenner has also proposed canceling or curtailing the school’s ACT prep courses—parents with disposable income will compensate by buying their children private test prep—as well as cutting the writing center, cutting some foreign language electives, including Latin, cutting some programs in art, music and business.”

Progressive Charter School Doesn’t Have Students

“Thanks to our groundbreaking methods, we’ve established a structured yet free-thinking environment where the student is taken out of the equation entirely, and in fact is not allowed on school property. And the results, we think, speak for themselves.” According to its budgetary records, Forest Gates has so far received approximately $80 million in public funding from the state of Georgia.

Rahm Emanuel’s Reform of the Chicago Public Schools

“If for profit charter schools are not performing better than public schools why would politicians be in favor of them?  The best answer I have to that question is to repeat the statement made by the infamous “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame.  “Follow the Money”!

Newark Union Head Barely Wins Reelection

“Tuesday’s NTU election follows April’s leadership election in the AFT’s largest local, New York’s United Federation of Teachers. In both cases, incumbents survived challenges from caucuses demanding more aggressive opposition to the mainstream “education reform” agenda backed by billionaires like Zuckerberg. Both Newark’s NEW Caucus and New York’s MORE Caucus have taken inspiration from the Congress of Rank and File Educators, a caucus that seized control of the Chicago Teachers Union in a 2010 election and then mounted last summer’s week-long strike.”


Happy Tuesday

12 Jun


Not much to report today.  One interesting thing I heard is that the boycotts over the school closings may be spreading.   I’m really impressed at the way parents and students have been stepping up to make their voices heard. 

Parents, Students Charge Charter Schools With Targeted Expulsions

“Jessica Schneider, of the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, which handles many expulsion cases pro bono, said she had recently taken the case of a Noble Network of Charter Schools student who had been expelled for posting a “Let’s go smoke” message on Facebook. She confirmed that charters tend to display “overly harsh discipline and what appears to be the targeting of students to push out.””

Despite Closing, Trumbull Parents Raise at least $5k for Summer Program

“But the LSC at Trumbull is also sitting on almost $120,000 raised for students. Last week, they voted to provide students transitioning to welcoming schools with “success packs” consisting of a bookbag, school supplies and an iPad or e-Reader.”

Freedom Lover Films

“Freedom Lover Films now embarks on a new project to document the largest public school closing in American history. This observational documentary seeks to capture the experiences of teachers and families as the educational landscape of Chicago changes. On May, 22nd the Chicago School Board officially voted to close 49 elementary schools. In less than 20 days many communities will be changed forever. How will they change is the question?”

Chicago Needs a Student Bill of Rights

“Although there would be many advantages to enacting a student bill of rights in Chicago, three in particular stand out: a student bill of rights would prevent chilling of protected activity; would provide useful guidance to school officials, many of whom might legitimately not be aware of the law; and would help reframe the Code of Conduct in a more positive light.”

The Madness Behind Mayor Emanuel’s Methods

“Alas, over the course of months of scrutiny by activists, parents, teachers, and reporters—most notably Linda Lutton and Becky Vevea of WBEZ—many of the mayor’s chief assertions have proven to be either questionable or false. At best, any savings will be a long way off, since initially it will cost more money to prepare schools for consolidation.”

The Bad Business of Education Reform

“But what’s worse is this.  Even if we say that students are products and that teaching can be broken down into an assembly line of measurable tasks, old-fashioned Fordism isn’t even how good business operations are done anymore.  That ugly, dehumanizing, and elitist way of thinking about factory work went out of fashion with the poodle skirt.  In contrast, the Toyota Production System, which business school students are taught is the best in the world, relies on a philosophy rooted in respect for people, teamwork and employee empowerment.”

The [Tuesday] Papers

“[B]oard member Mahalia Hines said just having a plan down on paper gets everyone on the same page.

“I think that my favorite part is that we actually have a plan that I can get my hands around,” Hines said.

Hines has been on the board for two years.”


Hypocrisy, Thy Name is CPS

8 Apr


So this Friday, like many other CPS teachers, I had to take the wellness survey.  I know why we got stuck with this program.  It was off the table in negotiations and then CPS offered such a better deal on insurance if we accepted it, that a teacher who opted out of the program and payed the $50 a month fee, would still be money ahead.

However, I found it both amusing and sad that after completing the survey, it came to the conclusion that the number one thing that was hurting my health was working for CPS.  I certainly am not surprised and I guess this is proof that the wellness survey provides some accurate information, but it’s still depressing that even your employer’s program tells you that it’s not a very good employer.

Then we have Barbara Byrd Bennett.   While dozens of teachers every year lose their jobs because they don’t live in the city, Dave Vitale has a waiver and Barbara Byrd Bennett lives in Ohio.  I’m reminded of the words of Nelly Furtado, who sang, “‘I’m like a bird, I’ll only fly away. I don’t know where my soul is, I don’t know where my home is”

Finally, we have the new round of school closing hearings after Rahm Emanuel and CPS already declared the matter closed.  CPS goes through so much effort to give the appearance of openness and community input while totally ignoring the community.   I was happy to see parents boycott at least one hearing.

School Closing Sham Hearings Begin

“What the city wants is a civil dialogue and peace in the streets to show the country there is no problem.

In order to save these schools and public education in Chicago – something much more radical must happen.”

Activists Call for Boycott of CPS Meetings

“Why should we go to a CPS community meeting in which the mayor said it doesn’t make any difference,” Dwayne Truss, part of the Raise Your Hand group.”

Chicago Schools: Separate and Unequal

“In the 1960s, Chicago Public Schools were segregated and starved of resources. The problem got so bad that Dr. Martin Luther King pressed Mayor Daley to fix the problems. Daley would not budge.”

Tony Smith…What He Did in Oakland.  What He’ll Do in Chicago

“A thread runs through Tony Smith’s career: to attempt to counterpose, in practice, what he asserts to be the interests of students and community to those of teachers and staff. This aligns him with the corporate agenda. And, in fact, he is one of their rising superstars: witness the “philanthropic” funding to OUSD, cited in Smith’s resignation letter and in the school board’s accompanying statement.”

Are School Closings Racist?

““School closings will absolutely make things worse with the foreclosure crisis,” said Redmond.  “All the plans they’re coming up with are strangling the community, and it needs to be called what it is — some call it ethnic cleansing — but part of the corporate strategy for the city is to weed out these neighborhoods.”

Karen Lewis at Occupy Dept. of Education, Part 1

Heated Hearings Sparked Between Communities and CPS

““We have the highest enrollment of the 54 schools on the closing list,” said Ericson math teacher Michale Colwell. “We have a significantly higher enrollment than our future school, Sumner. A significantly higher utilization rate than Sumner. Get Leif Ericson off the list.”


In Defense of Class Size Limits for Special Education Students: An Open Letter to Illinois State Superintendent of Education Dr. Christopher Koch

2 Apr


I received a copy of this open letter that was sent to the State Superintendent pleading not to eliminate the special education class size cap.

Dear Dr. Koch:

The undersigned Social Workers, Nurses, Occupational Therapists,  and Speech Language Pathologist employed with Chicago Public Schools are writing to protest your proposal to remove the Illinois State Board of Education rules that limit the number of children with disabilities that can be assigned to a single class room based on certain criteria.

As clinicians who serve students with disabilities we feel your proposal does not accord with our ethical obligation to do no harm and therefore we must voice our dissent.   Unsurprisingly, your proposal is consistent with CPS’ agenda to close authentic public schools and warehouse children in the ones remaining as cheaply as possible.  CPS could potentially close 61 public schools.  This is a recipe for impractical transitions, exploding class sizes and chaotic learning conditions for our students with special needs.  Your proposal will effectively permit school districts to reduce expenditures by rolling back the rights of its most vulnerable student population.

To be sure, we fully support the maximum possible integration of children receiving special education into the general education environment as illustrated through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Cory H. decision in Illinois.  IDEA provides for a continuum of services with variable arrangements across several settings based on student need.   We have observed that CPS rarely provides adequate supports for full integration of children with disabilities even with legal mandates in place.  Weakening protective legislation is plain wrong-headed.   When compliance violations occur typical working class parents—a single mother with a child who has autism for instance— are hard pressed to find the resources to appeal for justice.   As we understand it, there are no provisions in your proposal to address this deeply problematic reality.

We are proud that CPS does not turn any student away.  Students who use wheelchairs that have space requirements to navigate around desks and class mates, students with behavioral sequelae of post-traumatic stress disorder who may pose a safety risk to themselves or  others, students with cognitive impairments who need daily assistance to do basic self-care activities like use the bathroom or eat a meal, students who have chronic and complex medical conditions such as seizure disorder and students with significant learning disabilities who need constant adult support to attend to task and learn new information all belong to the CPS family.  In fact, we recommend that class size limits be honored for the good teaching they allow and extended beyond the scope of special education.

Trading off our student’s welfare to cut costs is educational injustice. All children have the right to a free, a public and a quality education that provides them with the tools to become independent, happy, successful adults.  Dr. Koch, we CPS clinicians stand with our parents and community members in demanding that you withdraw your proposal to lift necessary limits on class sizes for children with special needs.


Anita Barraza

Carol Hayse

Saria Lofton

Marilena Marchetti

Carrie L. Nutter

Jennifer O’Connell

Helen Ramirez-Odell

Lourdes Rodriguez

Lamees Talhami

Sheryl Thomas

CTU to Host Student Closing Bus Tour

“In response, the Chicago Teachers Union has organized a bus tour for elected officials and members of the press of school communities destabilized by school closings. The tour starts at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 4 and will depart from SEIU Healthcare Illinois, 940 W. Adams St.”

Union Head Calls CPS Ads funded by Walton Foundation “Corporate Propaganda”

“”We don’t appreciate the outside influence that these anti-union organizations have,” CTU President Karen Lewis told DNAinfo.com Tuesday. She pointed out that representatives from the Walton Family Foundation were on site at a series of community meetings organized by the district to gather public input as the closure list was whittled down.”

The UNO Papers

“Kevin Gillian said his company, TFC Canopy, was the subcontractor that had supplied the shiny aluminum panels for the exterior of UNO ‘s sparkling new soccer-themed elementary school at 51st and Homan. It was in that capacity that he had been solicited for a campaign donation – and gladly complied, he said.”
“”Mr. Emanuel, I would love to meet you on 67th and Ashland, where I’m from, and give you a tour,” Carroll said as she and other protesters criticized the mayor for not personally visiting some of the schools CPS has elected to close.”
:”On nice days, Dever students get to go outside and play on the asphalt playground. The school used to have a lawn, but the city put a library on it. The city put a library on it because former mayor Richard Daley promised Dunning residents he’d give them a neighborhood library, but apparently there wasn’t enough money to buy the land for it. Since the mayor oversees both the schools and the libraries, Daley was able to cut a deal with himself.”
“Perhaps the most startling finding is that a significant chunk–about 3,000–are high school dropouts applying for alternative schools. What’s more, saying that 19,000 students are on waiting lists to get into charter schools ignores another figure: there are between 3,000 and 5,000 available seats in charter schools right now, according to charter advocates.”