Finally Friday

Today's local education news isn't much, as you can see. Folks must be tired after a full week of work.  (Parents must be happy that their kids were actually in class all week.)  Getting ready for Thanksgiving?  Wondering what happens next with the Lewis situation?  Me, too.

CPS Hopes to Improve Sex Education Fox:  Chicago is No. 1 in a horrifying statistic: Our young people have the highest rate of Gonorrhea in the country.

Steps needed to correct deftness deficit at the CTU Tribune:  Karen Lewis should step down as president of the Chicago Teachers Union. Her latest gaffe — delivering several ill-chosen remarks during a speech in Seattle last month, then responding this week to the controversy over those remarks with grudging...

Waiting for Emanuel on Pension Overhaul CNC:  Illinois House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-Oswego) said he was encouraged by Emanuel’s comments this week indicating that he would take a more active role in promoting the legislation in Springfield.

Meet teen crooner Jawan Harris Defender:  Chicagoland native and teen singing sensation Jawan Harris has the girls screaming and wishing their name was “Keisha” when he belts out the popular hit “Keisha.

Rahm Emanuel’s Next Test Is Negotiating With Labor CNC:  The Chicago City Council approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s budget, but the mayor may find that achieving success there was easy compared with negotiating labor pacts with employees like the police and firefighters.

Austin residents attend education conference Austin Talks:  "The more you know, the better,” said Sarah Karp, deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago, who regularly participates in the Better Government Association's education watchdog training sessions. Karp showed participants, using Martin A. Ryerson Elementary ...

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  • 'Parents must be happy that their kids were actually in class all week'?

    November 18, Regular Track: No Classes, Staff Only Day
    November 18, Track E: No Classes, Staff Only Day

    Please share wonderful CPS Professional Development. Are teachers analyzing data? Pacing guides? Common Core? Filling out lists and boxes? Practicing 'modeling' or 'teach like a champion' strategies? Are teachers being warned to watch their backs? Are principals using data for 'name and shame' games? What is really happening that the press fails to capture?

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    And of course, Thursday was Parent Conferences/Report card pickup for regular track high schools. For us, November has three consecutive 3 day weeks (Mon-Wed) of student attendance.

  • In reply to Danaidh:

    you're right -- i totally forgot for some reason this morning -- it's always quieter here when kids aren't in class than when they are

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Great professional development meeting!
    Require teachers to instruct skills A-G, test kids on skills H-N, require teachers to write reflection on why test scores plummeted. Above explanation not acceptable.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    It was a typically pointless PD day at our high school. We sat in meeting after meeting all day listening to people talk and present powerpoints. Any one of the individual topics was reasonably worthwhile, but there was no time provided for teachers to actually practice and implement any of the ideas - only time to listen to one presenter and then move on to the next. By next Monday, it will all have washed away. Who learns how to do anything important and challenging in 45 minutes without any opportunity to practice and get feedback?

    What kills me is that these days actually *could* be valuable if teachers were allowed to focus on anything for more than 45 minutes at a time instead of jumping through whatever succession of hoops is on the mind of the administrators/network/central office that week. Teachers *do* need time to learn new skills, practice them, and consider how to improve their classes. But this isn't what that learning looks like.

  • catalyst writes up a new report from advance illinois about what teaching could be like

    http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/2011/11/18/19630/teachers-outline-new-career-vision

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Quit the facade Advance Illinois. SLICK PR BS! Advance Illinois knows that their earlier bs was getting no traction so they "borrow" ideas from successful world class public school districts that value teachers. Chicago teachers have been asking for the same respect and support for the longest time. Advance Illinois is putting on sheeps clothing because they have a fetish about CTU. Advance Illinois is trying to respond to very real criticisms of their organization as being a astro-turf group and a "swift-boat" organization by covering up their real intentions. Remember that quality school districts have capable leaders, something that CPS does not have. These successful PUBLIC school districts like Finland, understand the need for a healthy collaborative culture. Advance Illinois, who's organization never engages real teachers in a meaningful way, are only about pushing non-research based education policies to the pave the way for privatization. Not buying it!

  • In reply to viniciusdm:

    It should be noted that the Advance Illinois report references Finland. I posted comments relating to this report at the Catalyst site yesterday and see many contradictions in Advance Illinois support for SB7 and the new performance standards for teachers. But, most importantly relating to these references to Finland we need to examine the issue of educational finance, because a more collaborative model is in my opinion both a more expensive model and a more educationally effective model at the same time.

    Finland’s costs for education have interestingly enough declined as a percentage of GDP and not increased. To learn more about this there is an interesting paper available at http://192.192.169.112/filedownload/芬蘭教育/A%20short%20history%20of%20educational%20reform%20in%20Finland%20FINAL.pdf

    As this paper notes “Education policies are necessarily interdependent on other social policies and on the overall political culture of a nation. The key success factor in Finland’s development of a well-performing knowledge economy with good governance and a respected education system has been its ability to reach broad consensus on most major issues concerning future directions of Finland.” Another way to say this is that Finland’s educational system operates within the context of an extreme social welfare state. Finns with large incomes are taxed much higher than international averages. Finland taxes those in the middle income range slightly higher than average. Finns with the lowest income came out better than people in most countries. Costs for education can be lower because the extreme costs of educating very poor children for the most part do not exist and an effectively more expensive collaborative model of education can be absorbed without increasing the education to GDP ratio.

    In order to maintain this welfare state Finland is now creating havoc within the euro countries by forcing Greece into cash collateral, rather than using islands or other holdings, as collateral for the loans which Finland is guaranteeing. Yes Greece is putting up actual islands as collateral for loans. Apparently Finland does not think they are worth all that much and want cash in the bank.

    So if we are looking at Finland as a model for education reform it cannot be looked at in isolation from its welfare state. I think this is the issue the Occupy Wall Street movement is raising in the context of the USA. Up to now the majority of the population in our nation has not supported the radical wealth redistribution policies of a nation such as Finland, maybe if our economy collapses we here will look again at this model. On the other hand if the euro zone collapses will Finland be able to maintain its extreme social welfare state based on a highly taxed market based economy?

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    And isn't Finland, like, REALLY homogenous? Not so, good ol' U.S. of A.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Clearly Finland is far more homogenous than we are. This created broad based agreement for the extensive education reforms. But cradle to grave social supports create the conditions to implement progressive education reforms.

    But no nation can cut its self off from the larger world and Finland is going through that right now. Having a highly educated and skilled workforce will mean nothing if the products and services Finland produces have no market in the euro countries. Economically speaking much of the discussion on the interrelationship between education and economic advancement in the USA is totally backwards.

    The discussion assumes if you have a highly educated workforce the USA will be on the take off path to the good times. Actually that is not the case, there is a demand factor for various levels of of educated workers in the market economy on a world scale. If China and India can produce more educated workers and pay them far less than we do they will generate GDP at our expense. So in order to compete we need not just to produce a more educated workforce, but we also need to pay this workforce less than half what the average US college graduate now makes. I think it is called the race to the bottom.

    Rod Estvan

  • Sorry, but there are no 5-day weeks for Track E in November.

    The PD day today wasn't too bad ... nice principal that gave us some time in our rooms, group meetings fairly meaningful, small groups not so much, but brief. Not the worst day !

  • Haw haw! Hilarious from Matt Farmer. A must-read. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/matt-farmer/need-quality-seats-call-c_b_1099911.html

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    This isn't in response to anyone in particular. But after discussing the impossibilities presented to our school staff with the longer day next year, I feel that if a strike is also impossible, we should strike in other ways. For example: teachers should stop all of the following.

    Grading papers or lesson planning outside the school day
    Teaching any before or after school programs or tutoring
    Purchasing ANY supplies for classrooms
    Coming to any functions not specifically spelled out in the contract
    Writing any letters of recommendation for high school, college or other programs
    Coaching any sports or clubs
    Answering emails or calls outside school day

    We should follow the contract to the letter and not an inch more

  • In reply to teacherparent:

    If more teachers were just paying attention, it would not only be possible to strike, it would be impossible to stop one!

  • In reply to teacherparent:

    You are an inspiring professional.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Basically teacherparent is tactically discussing what is called "work to the rule." The rule is stated to be what is covered by working hours in school and materials paid for by CPS. That is not the case, next year many CPS schools will be covered by the new teacher evaluation system.

    Part of that system will include the Danielson observation process which will take into account many of the activities that teacher parent believed are non-required activities. So if a teacher effectively carried out the tactic teacherparent is suggesting under the new evaluation system they could have their rating so downgraded that they could be in danger of being fired.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Oh, like an at-will job?

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Actually when I was an officer of a firm in the finanical sector we cared very little about evaluation systems for employees, we cared about making money. So if one of my staff was not making money or at least preventing the loss of money on a consistent basis they were indeed fired. I honestly do not recall how many employees I fired or order fired, I do know it was a lot.

    As in anything in life there were protected staff who had improtant relationships for which the bottom line did not completely apply. These staff worried me the most and were a real threat to my corporate survival at times. I got out before I was fired once I realized my returns and risk management savings were less than expected, but I did survive for 14 years. Being an at will employee is really not all that much fun.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Your evaluation was based on performance, and since it was a financial firm, it would be heavily weighted on financial results.

    If you were a salesman, your evaluation would be based on sales results.

    If you worked in a factory, your evaluation would be based on productivity, yield, dollars out the door.

    If you were a teacher, your evaluation should be based on how well your students learned what they were supposed to learn.

    If you were a minister, your evaluation would be based on the number of souls you saved.

  • In reply to RoryM:

    "If you were a minister, your evaluation would be based on the number of souls you saved."

    Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. Sets it all into better perspective, doesn't it?

  • In reply to RoryM:

    To Rory(Ross Perot)M,

    That's a cute analogy….however, kids should probably never be thought of as a financial result, something to sell, a cog in a wheel in a factory, and as far as ministers go…well, I'm not sure if you can accurately measure or bean count any quantity or quality of saved souls with a Pearson R correlation…unless you believe in magic, witchcraft, palm reading….

    But actually, you make a strong case for eliminating the entire testing system…no person can measure a soul, and no person can measure the value of a child…and as far as measuring teachers, you can really only measure what has been retained and retrieved in the learners short-term memory….if regurgitated facts are what we are seeking, swallow a bottle of Ipecac Syrup…if vomit is what you want, vomit you will have…

  • In reply to RoryM:

    Do you really think God is going to send ministers to Hell based on a soul-save quota? What God do you pray to?

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    In reply to RoryM:

    "If you were a teacher, your evaluation should be based on how well your students learned what they were supposed to learn."

    This type of thinking is why education is not getting fixed in urban schools and the non-educational examples presented have no correlation with how the educational process truly works. Assessments measure what a student learns in BOTH the classroom and outside the classroom. Did you know that students spend no more than 10% of their entire K-12 life in the classroom, with the other 90% outside the classroom? Without the 10% of what a student is supposed to learn being reinforced during the other 90% of time outside the school environment, the student is most certainly going to find themselves at the bottom of the achievement ladder. Those who reinforce their 10% education with hours of studying outside of school are the ones who are at the top of the achievement ladder.

    Why does an achievement gap already exist at age 4 and 5 between low-income and high-income children before the child ever steps inside a classroom in front of a teacher? This gap would not exist if the educational culture outside the school system wasn't THE significant factor in a child's education. And for the teachers who end up with these low-achieving students, it is not mathematically possible for students to make up the achievement gap during regular schools hours without the student putting in more study time than than their peers who are on top of the achievement gap. Let me repeat myself, it is NOT mathematically possible for a student to make up hundreds or even thousands of hours of education they are behind within the regular school hours alone. You can close schools, create more charters, fire teachers and principals, change the curriculum or standards, etc. etc. Until students start studying for hours after school like their peers at the top of the achievement gap, the achievement gap will remain.

    When someone teaches and then test their students, why is it that some students perform very well and others don't? Is it because the teacher didn't teach the whole class well or is it because some students went home and studied to reinforce and remember what was taught while those who performed badly didn't study? Most students on the high end of the achievement gap study and read for hours after school reinforcing what they learned in school in an home environment that understands the value of education. Most students on the low end of the achievement gap do anything but read or study after school, regardless of how much homework a teacher gives them. Can you introduce someone to me who mastered Algebra, Geometry, Chemistry, Calculus, Statistics, and Physics without ever studying outside of school? Can you name someone who made it through pre-Med and medical school without studying outside regular school hours?

    A fair evaluation system should only evaluate a teacher on what they can control and teachers cannot control a student's home environment which is THE significant factor in a child's education. You can be assured of one thing if an unfair evaluation takes root in an urban school system: top teachers will avoid low-performing schools and areas, thus contributing to widening the achievement gap even more.

  • I am at home waiting for a student's psychiatrist to call me back. This is a parental request and I feel for the parent but I am wondering if I do too much for a system that treats its employees like dung.

  • Under the new evaluation system, nearly all teachers will eventually be downgraded and will be in danger of being fired. Danielson is one thing, the value-added will net every teacher in the system.

  • Drmarkthompson makes an interesting point that is true to a degree. That point is remediation even with the best possible interventions for low income children require the active engagement of low income children’s families. Basically, the argument is that schools cannot make up the academic gap between rich and poor on average alone. The reason I say, on average, is because there is largely a normal distribution of skills among poor students. A certain percentage of low-income students who are simply brilliant and for whom even an only school based remediation can be effective does exist. Unless one accepts eugenics the percentage of such innately brilliant students among the poor is likely to approximate on average higher income students.

    The exception to this basic idea is of course students with disabilities because there are greater numbers of these students in poorer communities because of the social realities of our competitive society trap some individuals with both cognitive processing disabilities and learning disorders at the bottom. Some of these disabling conditions are inheritable to a degree, for example 20-30% of ADHD students have one or more parents with the condition. But even among this subgroup there are brilliant students and with strong supports many poor disabled students who are not brilliant can achieve. Clearly these supports do not exist in Chicago and the fact that only 5.5% of all 11th graders with IEPs are reading at state standards is testimony to that fact.

    Nevertheless, many urban schools are not effectively carrying out remedial education for even the very bright amongst the very poor that have weak family structures. To presume that students who are poor and who have weak family structures cannot catch up is clearly dangerous because it clearly ignores the innately brilliant amongst poor students.

    I agree with drmarkthompson that it is mathematically not possible for the bulk of poor students who are academically behind and have weak family structures to catch up with school based interventions alone. These students generally require wrap around supports that our society only provides on experimental basis to very few students in the nation as a whole. This is why so many charter schools make it so clear to parents through parent contracts their obligations to academically work with their children after school and support the school itself.

    What we are doing is regrouping those among the poor that can be more easily supported into charter schools, magnet programs, gifted programs, etc. We are driving the rest into what is left of traditional schools and massively declaring these schools failures. But even though that is the case I do not think teachers should not believe there are no exceptions to the rule that without support from at home children cannot succeed.

    Rod Estvan

  • It does seem that with most teachers if 80% of the class is behind academically, the temptation seems to be to review material which should have already been mastered which penalizes the 20% who have mastered the information. Those 20% do not get to advance and stay at grade level. I see this as a massive fail of the so-called differentiated instruction.

    I think this is where the charters and magnets and stuff shine is that they, essentially, create a homogeneous classroom where all the students are about on the same level and then the class advances as a whole. The teachers don't teach down just because some students don't get it. Those students who don't get it are expected to be tutored on their time, not their fellow students' time.

  • It may be more than temptation by the teacher - it may be an order from the principal or the Area Boss!

    I once had the opportunity to teach a high ability group of 8th graders. At that time, the school grouped, tracked, whatever, the grades into low, middle and high ability groups. I had the high ability set. However, the school was on academic probation. So in walks the CAO (now Chief of Schools) with her prescription for the entire building: ESL (English Second Language) textbooks for every single kid.

    So here I have 100% upper quartile 8th graders, and I'm mandated to teach from a SIXTH GRADE ESL basal reader!

    Cause, um, you know, CPS uses 'data' to 'inform' instruction.

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