Chicago Schools Wonks' Seth Lavin tells us that Oliver Sicat's Board presentation from last week (see above) is a very big deal: "Over the next 5-10 years portfolio could redraw the district, drastically shifting what Chicago schools exist where and who runs them. That’s huge. Easily as impactful as Ren2010."
I'm not sure I buy the notion that Ren10 was all that big a deal or that this new program will transformative but it's worth thinking about.
Here's Lavin's full entry on the topic (from Friday):
KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE OFFICE OF PORTFOLIO
Oliver Sicat, CPS’ new portfolio chief, gave his first Board meeting presentation. Everyone covered it but I’m not sure anyone gave it the emphasis it deserves.
Basically Sicat said:
- CPS is going to get more stringent in evaluating school performance
- A lot of CPS schools perform really poorly
- CPS will close schools that are incorrigibly bad
- CPS will initiate turnarounds, help charters expand and open new school so students who currently have “seats” in bad schools will instead have “seats” in good ones (they love talking about seats).
I’m a broken record here but we all need to watch this office. This stuff has never been centralized in this way before. Over the next 5-10 years portfolio could redraw the district, drastically shifting what Chicago schools exist where and who runs them. That’s huge. Easily as impactful as Ren2010. More controversial, too.
Some of that comes out in Sarah Karp’s Catalyst coverage, which emphasizes the near-term impact of the first school closings. Karp quotes Sicat: “Students will be moved to schools that are dramatically better than the ones they were attending and they will continue to progress.” She adds “Sicat said each student will be given a transition plan, specifying which school they will be assigned to and what their other options are.” Initial set of closings to be announced in December. Look out.
Here's also some new coverage from Catalyst and the Tribune.
CPS announces draft criteria for school closings Catalyst: This year’s round of school actions will be the first to take place under the stringent requirements of the new facilities law. CPS is also required to draft a 10-year facilities plan and a 5-year capital improvements plan, with community input.
CPS releases school-closing guidelines Tribune: CPS said the weight given to academic performance is the biggest change in criteria for determining this year's list of closings.
Rest of Chicago Schools Wonks from Friday:
UNDERUTILIZATION AND UNDERPERFORMANCE
Sicat gave this presentation to explain the broader goals of his office. Look at slide 7. Two maps, side-by-side, one is “Quality of K-8 Schools” and one is “Utilization of K-8” schools.
~125K students have seats in underperforming schools. Those map almost exactly with underutilized schools. That means we’ve got dozens of bad, half-empty schools. The strong implication? Close them.
Provocative. Even more provocative is the given explanation: “Parents are moving their kids to where the good schools are located.” Huh? After reading about Sicat’s presentation a smart friend e-mails:
“I find it staggering that this was presented as "parents voting with their feet" and no reference of any kind to the history of the state st corridor/ projects coming down. These schools aren't empty because parents voted with their feet (at least not exclusively). They are empty because the projects in which those children lived were demolished. They were probably shitty before, but that didn't help. Um... so... Do you think he just doesn't know that??”
Other questions: what if the reason successful schools are successful is that the higher-need student population is sitting in other schools? How do we know moving a student to a school whose test scores are higher makes that student more successful? How can we be sure “high-performing” means “producing academic growth” and isn’t just a reflection of less poor areas having higher student performance than more poor areas? How are we equipping higher-performing schools to succeed with the influx of students whose performance far lags their new classmates’?
Doesn’t mean this plan is wrong. Just means we need a little more discussion and a lot more public thoughtfulness, please.
OTHER CHICAGO SCHOOLS NEWS
Joravsky and Dumke list 25 local financial heavy-hitters they see having intriguing access to the new mayor. Lots of big-time Chicago school reform donors on there.
42 of the city’s ~100 charters don’t have what CPS considers an extended day. Rahm and the Board announced a new incentive program for them to lengthen their days, too. Opting in earns schools $75K plus $800 for each teacher. Some Chicago charter teachers have unions but most don’t. Will teachers vote? Or will principals just choose?
Math check. Vevea reports the Board set aside $4.4M for the program but has CPS saying it’ll cost $6M. Sarah Karp has CPS sayingit’ll cost $5M. Either way: $75K * 42 schools = ~$3.2M. 42 schools * 15 teachers per school * $800 = ~$500K. So that’s ~$3.7M. Where’s the rest go?
Looking more and more like there really is a plan to bring universal recess next year. Good on CPS. Theresa Gutierrez covers for ABC7. (h/t Catalyst “In the News”)
Advance Illinois wants the state to amp up its annual school report cards, adding more rigorous metrics like college readiness and graduates’ college persistence. WBEZ has a good write-up (no byline, maybe b/c they need a statehouse reporter). More detailed legislative play-by-play by Jim Broadway in Catalyst. Compare proposed new report card to the old one, which @tribapps uses to make this awesomeness.
Russo introduces us to an NCTQ report comparing effectiveness of different states’ school reform law. SB7 may be too water-downable and weak on weak teachers.
Rebecca Harris covers the report, too, adding a check-in on IL’s progress updating teacher and principal evaluations. Read to find out how you may end up being rated.
Vevea has a good read on the labyrinthine world of CPS selective-school admissions (and the cottage industry of admissions consultants blooming on the complexity like mold on stale bread). Cute picture of 3-year old with a school fair-branded tote bag.
IG questions residency waiver Board gave Tim Cawley, suburbanite, now CPS’ CAO. Cawley wants stability for his adopted daughterat her suburban school. Probably 10 CPS teachers fired last year for residency violations wanted stability, too.
IL’s still working on an erasure analysis designed to surface state test cheating. Meanwhile it’s released 6 years of school-reported cheating incidents. 9 in Chicago. I like Linda Lutton’s coverage, especially her data table, which names the suspected classrooms at the listed schools (subject/grade, not teacher name).
I also like Joel Hood’s story on a track meet almost cancelled because CPS laid off the race director the day-of without sorting out a replacement. Good peephole into the havoc caused by frequent staff shifts and directional changes. Ask CPS contractors (or principals) what it’s like working with the district and they’ll tell similar stories of turnover, inconsistency and confusion. Doesn’t mean stability’s worth foregoing change. Just a reminder that reform means reforming things.
UN-PERSON OF THE WEEK
Rahm. It was bound to happen at one point or another. Everyone wrote up his nasty comment in response to CTU’s regulatory challenge to the longer day plan. Said Rahm of CTU: “Start cheating a kid out of an education, how cheap is that?”
I’m no one’s protector here. The teachers union has problems. It’s politically clumsy, for one thing. Also self-interested, hyper-protective and territorial in the face of change—sometimes to the detriment of the system. But the teachers union is made up of teachers. Teachers spend their lives with children, in schools. Kids are their universes. That’s how they want it to be. They choose that every day.
Kids were never Rahm’s universe. Schools were never Rahm’s universe. Some people jumped on him right away for sending his kids to private school and for hitting CPS like a warrior-prophet after a life of relative indifference to public education (don’t tell me White House work or Congress count). I didn’t jump on him. I don’t think his background’s that relevant, frankly. If he hires good people, makes good moves and does it all thoughtfully then he’s cool with me....
Unless he get’s self-righteous. Unless he starts out-and-out attacking teachers. Unless he really tries to look down his nose at teachers like he’s on the side of kids and they’re in it only for themselves. Because that’s bullshit. That’s the kind of thing that enrages me and everyone I know who’s spent more than an hour teaching children in a school. Come into our classrooms and tell us you can help us help students, if you can. But don’t you dare come into our classrooms to preach to us what it means to care about our kids.
I don’t like being angry. Or using foul language. Good writers can express themselves more forcefully without it, right? Ugh. I guess I messed that up. Sorry. Let’s move on.
PEOPLE OF THE WEEK
Kate. You are the best. And you paper mache-ed the most amazing Moses-sized turtle costume I’ve ever seen. No attachments here but follow @sethlavin and I’ll tweet a picture at some point this weekend.
Noreen. Again! For reading people of the week, at least.
Celeste. Also again. For inspiring the Notebook’s VICTORY in the Open Philly data race. Also for turning 21. Enjoy your..first…drink…. Have a lot of fun and do what you need to do. Just make sure at least one person’s reasonably sober all the way through the night. 21 can be a doozy of a birthday.
Austin. Also again! For passing your test! (Carter you get one, too, for your role in my 21st birthday)
Natasha. For just (please, it’s all I ask!) wanting to see your 1st graders now that they’re 2nd graders. I can’t think of anything more heart-warming.
Mika, for continuing the revolution.
Sonia. Love the work RYH’s been doing on extended day. I owe you an email.
Mr. IBM. Didn’t know you read this thing. Pretty cool. Glad to help.
John. Ending small-scale pot arrests would help Chicago’s students unbelievably. I bet 75% of the people arrested for carrying pot are either supposed to be in school or have kids in school.
Tia. For slowing it. It’s hard. I know it’s hard. Well done.
Thanks everyone. Happy Halloween.
This is an experiment. My hope is to build a weekly tip sheet that keeps track of developments in the Chicago schools world. I'm not claiming to be especially qualified to do this; it's just that I've wanted it to exist for a long time and it keeps not existing. Guiding beliefs are 1) Chicago children deserve the world's best education and 2) currently they're not getting it. Other than that there's no orthodoxy. You're getting this because I thought you might want it. If you don't, write me and I'll unsubscribe. If you're reading this because someone sent it to you and you want it, write me your name and email address. If I'm getting something wrong (or right) or you want me to think about something, email me.