Friday, April 24, 2015

War metaphors

Forrest Claypool, "wartime consigliere".
Some friends are critical of my use of war and military metaphors to describe the post-election atmosphere hanging over public employee unions, over city schools and over City Hall. But I'm sticking to my guns slingshot. It's war out here, folks. OK, it's one-sided class war to be sure, being waged by Gen. Arne Duncan, Gov. Private Equity and Mayor 1%, but war nevertheless.

Need more evidence? Look no further than Rahm's newly-appointed Chief of Staff Forrest Claypool, brought over from the CTA (like former schools CEO Ron Huberman --remember him?) to manage pension theft, negotiate a teachers contract, find a replacement for Byrd-Bennett (she's gone AWOL) and to cool out the feds investigation of the $20 million, no-bid SUPES deal.

S-T's Fran Spielman writes:
To do all of that without losing momentum on the mayor’s second-term agenda will require a wartime consigliere, to borrow a term made famous in the movie classic, “The Godfather.” Claypool fits the bill.

POWs I couldn't help comparing the long prison sentences handed down to black educators involved in the Atlanta cheating scandal (convicted of "racketeering") with...No jail time for former CIA Director Gen. David "Betray Us" Petraeus who leaked military secrets to his bed-mate Paula Broadwell. Petraeus currently is with private equity giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Jon Stewart compared the “eerie” similarities between the Atlanta teacher cheating scandal with fraud on Wall Street, and discovered that the only difference between the two seems to be who was actually punished.

Want more? How about all the fuss over Spike Lee's naming of planned new film, "Chiraq"? Why not? Chicago streets have been turned into a war zone as a result of current policies of neglect, youth joblessness, school closings, easy access to guns, poor community policing strategies, etc...

It's war.

Deb Meier

Special thanks to my friend Deb Meier for spending time with our group of local educators Wednesday and my doc students last night. Discussion topics ranged from Habits of Mind, to misuse of testing, to early childhood play, to the small schools movement. Deb is in town for AERA and for the upcoming NPE Conference where she is participating in three panel discussions on Saturday. You can keep up with Deb at

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Will Duncan Send Troops to Crush the Opt-Out Revolt?

EWA meeting in Chicago
Duncan said he expected states to make sure districts get enough students take the tests. “We think most states will do that,” Duncan said during a discussion at the Education Writers Association conference in Chicago. “If states don’t do that, then we have an obligation to step in.” -- Interview with EWA writers
What a week! Edu-conferees are flowing in and out of O'Hare at a record pace. First their was AERA. Then EWA. And next comes NPE. Chicago is definitely the epicenter of corporate-style education reform and the revolt against it. The only one of these meetings where Arne Duncan would dare show his face was at the Education Writers Association (EWA) National Seminar. It was there that he threatened to take action against the growing opt-out movement.

Yes, Duncan is threatening federal intervention  if states fail to put an end to the massive testing boycotts. No one is sure what form that intervention may take. Some fear economic reprisals. But I worry about an Iraq-style invasion.

Arne's army is equipped with these military assault rifles. 
A lot of people may not know this, but the DOE Inspector General's Office has its own well-equipped military wing and Duncan has shown that he's not afraid to call out his troops against community residents. In 2011, his troops made an armed assault on at least one wrongfully-suspected student loan deadbeat.

Duncan has had to apologize for using his own particular racial theories to describe parents who are critical of over-testing as “white suburban moms” who were upset because their kids were doing poorly on new, more rigorous exams linked to Common Core.
“All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought … and that’s pretty scary,” Duncan said.
Duncan claims that annual standardized exams beginning with 3rd-graders are essential for tracking student progress and monitoring the so-called "achievement gap". He pooh-poohs the idea that so many high-stakes tests are "too stressful" for young children or that current testing policies take too much time and resources away from teaching. He blames parents for exaggerating the traumatic effect that testing is having on their own children.
He says the tests are “just not a traumatic event” for his children, who attend public school in Virginia. “It’s just part of most kids’ education growing up,” he said. “Sometimes the adults make a big deal and that creates some trauma for the kids.”
Yes, I'll bet there's hardly any stressful testing at Arne's kids' progressive suburban school. It's the same at the Obama kids' private school in D.C.

You see, it's parents, not the testing, stressing out the children. So Duncan is preparing to take action" on his own. Maybe it's time to take to the hills and hide the children. Oh, I forgot. We have no hills in ChiTown.

Despite federal investigation, the battle rages on in post-election Chicago

KOCO Executive Director Jawanza Malone responds to latest attacks.  (Jeffrey Bishku-Ayku)
“Peace: A period of cheating between two periods of fighting.” -- Ambrose Bierce. 
Please excuse all the military metaphors, but it's war out here on the third coast folks.

Those of you who were hoping the post-election Little Emperor would turn back into sweater-wearing Mr. Rogers -- think again. Even while a full-scale federal investigation of pay-to-play at CPS is going on and with Barbara Byrd-Bennett on the lam, the spoils of war are being spread around to Rahm's loyalists with impunity, while the guillotine is being greased up for the progressive opposition.

First on Rahm's agenda is consolidating power in the City Council by handing out key committee positions to toadies like Will Burns. But that won't be so easy given the victories by all seven members of the Progressive Caucus who ran for re-election and the stunning upset victories by progressives over Rahm-back incumbents out in the wards.

Victorious Sue Garza & Chuy
We're all celebrating yesterday's announced victories of Sue Sadlowski Garza over Petcoke Pope in the 10th and Milly Santiago over Rahm's deputy mayor and yes-man Ray Suarez in the 31st.

S-T's Mark Brown calls Garza, "tough as steel rivets". He's right.

Pope will also have to be replaced on Rahm's Infrastructure Trust. I doubt that he will appoint Garza. Don't you? But the Progressive Caucus will be all the stronger for her presence.

Now comes word that the day after the election, the CPS Office of Innovation and Incubation received at least 50 charter school proposals. This despite BBB's promises not to allow any charter schools to open in school buildings shuttered in 2013.

KOCO leader Jitu Brown leading the fight for Dyett
As for the guillotine, they're hoping to use it on the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO)  the group leading much of the resistance to south-side school closings and taking it right to Ald. Burns in the battle to save and transform Dyett High School. The attack on KOCO is being led by Rep. Christian Mitchell, who despite being bankrolled by the machine and pro-privatization groups like Stand For Children and backed by powerhouse County Board Pres. Toni Preckwinkle, barely squeaked by KOCO leader and community activist Jay Travis. But taking on KOCO won't be so easy. Community support for the organization is strong and building.

Did I mention that Travis and newly-elected Ald. Carlos Rosa will be on our panel at Saturday's NPE Conference? And KOCO leader Jitu Brown is among the keynote speakers. Should be exciting.

Some good news on the charter front. The House just passed a bill by a 60-40 vote, that would strip away power from the State Charter School Commission. That's especially good news for those inner-ring, mostly-black and Latino suburban districts who have become the target of charter school expansionism. Charter profiteers are banking on the Commission to overrule local districts who vote against them.

Of course the bill must first get through the Senate and then be signed by Rauner. Not likely. So enough votes must be garnered to override his veto. But it's something.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our Panel Saturday at NPE

I hope to see you at this weekend's NPE 2015 Conference at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Featured speakers, include Yong Zhao, Diane Ravitch, Lily Eskelson Garcia, Randi Weingarten and Chicago’s own Karen Lewis and Jitu Brown.

Don't miss our panel, Saturday afternoon from 2:45-4:00: Educating Our Kids While We Fight Back.

Carlos Rosa, Jay Travis, Larry Miller and Fred Klonsky
I will be moderating a great group of education activists which includes: Ed Blogger and union activist Fred Klonsky; newly-elected, progressive Chicago Alderman, Carlos Rosa; community activist, Jay Travis, and Milwaukee School Board member and Rethinking Schools editor, Larry Miller.

You can register for the NPE Conference here.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Mercer Hall & Gina Sipley
No self-respecting educator can condone dishonesty under any circumstances, but the proliferation of cheating practices is happening concurrently with the augmented emphasis on high stakes testing. Public education is in crisis, and now is the time for parents, educators and concerned citizens to urge the repeal of legislative mandates that have created a desperate system in which deviance has become the new normal. -- AlJazeera

Judge Baxter
Scott Lemieux

During a sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter announced that the crime under consideration was "the sickest thing that's ever happened in this town." Given that Atlanta, the town in question, has seen crimes including racist and anti-semitic lynchings, the serial murder of children, and a terrorist bombing at the Olympics, the bar is rather high. -- America's broken justice system
Wendy Katten
“We brought this to the current board’s attention over and over at multiple meetings over the past two years,” said Wendy Katten, who heads the parent group Raise Your Hand. “We don’t want to wait for the feds to have to get involved for CPS to do the right thing, to act ethically.” -- Sun-Times
Vitale & Ruiz complicit in SUPES scandal
New schools CEO Jesse Ruiz
 “Many of us . . . engage with organizations which we no longer have a relationship with, which may still provide quality services to Chicago Public Schools." Ruiz added after the press conference, that he voted for SUPES because “I thought it would be a prudent action to make.” -- Sun-Times

Friday, April 17, 2015

Is Rahm just 'lucky' or what?

Could BBB have made the $20.5M no-bid deal with SUPES without nod from Rahm & Vitale?
Answer: Or what...

S-T's Fran Spielman says:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is lucky the FBI investigation targeting his hand-picked schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett came to light one week after the election instead of one week before it.
C'mon Fran. You know better than that. Luck is when your meter ran out a half-hour ago and you return to the car and find no ticket on the window. We all know what "getting lucky" means and it has nothing to do with the feds holding off their announcement of an investigation until after an election.

I also believe that Spielman is wrong in thinking that current contract negotiations revolve around the "girlfriend" relationship between Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Karen Lewis. BBB came into the 2012 negotiations the same way she is leaving them in 2015 -- in hiding. She played Rahm Emanuel's pawn then and she's taking the fall for him now. Does anyone really believe that BBB could have handed out $20.5M no-bid contracts to Paul Vallas' partners, on her own? With no nod from Rahm or David Vitale?

No, the reason she will take her (paid) leave before her contract expires in June (spend more time with her family?) is to avoid lengthy criminal-trial blood spilling where the public sees how the sausage is really made at CPS as well as on the 5th floor of City Hall. It's in open court where the name of the buyers as well as the sellers of a deal-gone-bad usually comes to light.

In the mean time, it's getting pretty crowded with former top, black, CPS administrators down here, under the bus. Right, J.C.?  Right, Eason-Watkins? Lesson for potential successor.

These contract negotiations, like the last ones, won't be settled over breakfast at Meli's.

'A startling act of mass civil disobedience' -- Tens of thousands opt out

He'd rather be learning: Derek Rudley, 10, a student in Ossining Union Free School District, stayed home and read Tuesday. Mom had him opt out of New York state standardized tests. (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News)
999 is the magic number. No, I'm not referring to crazy Republican pizza guy, Herman Cain's campaign slogan in 2012. I mean 999 the computer code signifying a student who has opted out of N.Y. state testing. If Tuesday's protests are any indication, the 9-key on district computers will soon be worn out.

According to Juan Gonzalez in the Daily News:
The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.
Still, officials in both the state and city departments of education claim they don’t know yet how many of the 1.1 million pupils scheduled for testing in grades 3 to 8 joined the boycott. Protest organizers said Thursday that at least 155,000 pupils did — with only half of school districts tallied so far. At some Long Island and upstate school districts, abstention levels reached 80%.

Gonzalez called it, "a startling act of mass civil disobedience, given that each parent had to write a letter to the local school demanding an opt out for their child".

Among the many reasons behind parent and teacher anger are the inappropriate use of test scores in teacher evaluation and the time taken away from teaching/learning to administer the latest tests. Then there's the lack of validity and reliability in the whole testing process. For example, back in 2009, the old state tests showed 77% of students statewide were proficient in English. The next year, the pass level was raised and the proficiency percentage dropped to 57%. A few years later, Albany introduced Common Core and the level plummeted even more — to 31% statewide.

Same teachers, same students, same schools. But the reformers' conclusion -- the kids are getting dumber and teachers have gotten worse. No wonder parents are pissed.

Tisch is blaming it all on the unions. From editorial in the Journal News:
Already, defenders of "reform" have produced an excuse for the test-refusal movement: teachers unions are behind it. Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the state Board of Regents and chief architect of New York's foundering education program, said on MSNBC Tuesday evening that more kids would be taking the tests if the tests did not affect teacher evaluations. "Our kids got caught in a labor dispute," she said.
There's obviously something wrong with Tisch's hearing. She needs to go and so does Common Core, PARCC and Pearson along with her.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Feds back in Chicago. Rahm, Vitale suddenly gag up

Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.[A casino worker gives Renault a wad of money.]Casino Worker: Your winnings, sir. -- Casablanca
Catalyst deserves award for breaking Supes/BBB story back in July, 2013. We bloggers have been writing about this for two years. But feds didn't announce their move until a week after the election. Why not? And where have you been all this time, Sun-Times, Trib, Crain's, Chicago Tonight...? 

Back in August of that year, I asked: "Why is media burying the $20 million, no-bid Supes contract story?"
Why the blackout by the Sun-Times on the Supes contract? The Tribune barely mentioned it. It's buried at the end of a school budget story this morning.  Sarah Karp at Catalyst has given reporters everything they need to begin asking the right questions and should win an award for her reporting. -- Klonsky Blog
Rahm, Vitale and the gang deserve acting awards for gagging up and feigning surprise after news of the federal investigation broke. 
“As part of that investigation by the federal authorities, they asked us not to give a lot of information out, even though we don’t have a lot of information, and we’re going to honor that.” -- Rahm Emanuel
"Yesterday the Board of Education was made aware that federal authorities are investigating a matter at CPS and have requested interviews with several employees. We take any allegation of misconduct seriously, and we are fully cooperating with investigators who requested that we not discuss any specifics regarding the ongoing investigation.” -- School Board Pres. David Vitale
Vitale and Rahm?
Yesterday, made aware? Who are you crappin', Captain Renault? CPS signed its initial contract with SUPES for leadership training not long after Byrd-Bennett took office. You both knew that she had worked for the company before joining CPS as a consultant in April 2012.

And we know that you know that we know, you've been meeting about how to stonewall this for weeks, even discussing the possibility of appointing an interim CEO before the story broke. You've sent BBB into hiding even though you are in the middle of contract negotiations with the CTU.

Your own inspector general's office began an investigation into the contract with SUPES Academy and Byrd-Bennett's relationship to the company in 2013. The U.S. attorney's office started its own probe, and a grand jury has been reviewing evidence for at least a year.

Even your usually silent and compliant principals raised holy hell last year, about the deadly $20M SUPES workshops, after they were forced to take time away from their own schools. At one point, they even revolted, ran out Gary Solomon's facilitator, and took over the trainings themselves.

There can be only one explanation. This is only the tip of the iceberg. It goes way beyond BBB who will likely be dumped unceremoniously and soon, like her predecessors Brizard and Huberman, with only her golden parachute to land her softly. If she's indicted, you can bet it won't be on RICO racketeering charges like the teachers down in Atlanta or carry a 20-year-sentence. She may even decide to pull an Amer Ahmad and flee the country. More likely, a deal is already in the works.

But this thing goes even higher up the ladder and the A.G. knows it. After all, this is a system of mayoral control of the schools and a no-bid contract to one of Paul Vallas' Synesi consulting partners would never have been handed out without a nod from Rahm and Vitale.

Also, this goes way beyond Chicago. Solomon, Vallas and Synesi have been running this scam since Vallas left Chicago on his way to Philly, New Orleans, Haiti and points north and south. It should make us take a fresh look at how and why Vallas was made Pat Quinn's running mate for the second highest office in the state?

More, much more, to come on this.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rhee sentenced to 20 years for erasing grades -- Just a dream.

They're whistling Dixie in Atlanta this morning. 
I had a strange dream last night. Michelle Rhee was standing in front of a crazed, media-hungry judge who sentenced her to 20 years in the penitentiary under RICO statutes for "racketeering" stemming from her leadership role in the D.C. cheating scandal. He also confiscated her Mercedes. Alas, it was just a dream. When I woke up, Arne Duncan (who had promised to visit her in prison) hadn't even taken back the Blue Ribbon he awarded Rhee and the district for the amazing, but temporary bump in test scores.

This was not a dream -- Today's Daily News reports:
The entire structure of high-stakes testing in New York crumbled Tuesday, as tens of thousands of fed-up public school parents rebelled against Albany’s fixation with standardized tests and refused to allow their children to take the annual English Language Arts state exam.
Pay attention, Hillary Clinton.