Weekend Open Discussion

Let's use Seth Lavin's weekly education roundup as a starting point for the weekend open discussion, which is meant as a place to bring up topics that haven't gotten covered (enough) or whatever's on your mind. Lavin's really excited about the spreadsheet of school data that's just come out, wonders why the papers turn to Radner and Westehoff so frequently, thinks it's dumb to use the word "ghetto." Good stuff, though he doesn't give me enough credit for fanning the flames of the Lewis "lisp" fiasco (like the Sun Times did).  But who cares about that -- what's on YOUR mind?  That's what I really want to know.


Those who really know me know the anguish I suffered after emailing hundreds of people “Happy vetaran’s day” instead of “Happy veterans day.” I apologize. My shame is ineffable.

Fortunately there’s lots of good stuff this week to help us move forward. Here we go…


This spreadsheet is a revolution. It’s all the data behind the new CPS school report cards—plus much more—centralized in a single, open, machine-readable database.

It’s hard to express to people who aren’t edudata dorks (or just data dorks) how important this is. ISAT scores, grade level performance rates, college enrollment rates, student misconduct numbers, teacher attendance %s. Data for every CPS school. Comparable. Mappable. Analyzable. Visualizable. All public. All in one place.

The data’s mostly not new and not even all newly public, but it’s newly public together and in this format. I challenge you to find a city that’s made public more information about its schools. There’s also a school-by-school map the city’s proud of (though it’s gotten some hate). The beauty of open data, though, is everyone can make stuff with it. Get going!

Brett, how hard would it be to add a few columns for school-level demographic data?


CPS must disclose its plans for school closings, consolidations and turnaround designations by December 1. Lots of action as that date creeps closer.

  • Catalyst put up a database of 140 schools (!) that meet the district’s newly announced criteria for closing. No one else has done that analysis (and if CPS has they haven’t shared it). Here’s Sarah Karp’s story. To download the database click here.
  • Noreeh Ahmed-Ullah looks at counter-preparations going on now in community groups. They’re organizing members to resist neighborhood closings. Story here.
  • Linda Lutton went to a community meeting and came back with audio of the discussion. Fielding questions for CPS was new Community Engagement Chief Jamiko Rose. It’s the first mention I’ve heard of her facing parents out in the field. You hear a lot more from fellow cabinet members Noemi Donoso and Oliver Sicat.
  • Such as.. Rebecca Harris’ report from a livelier showdown… er, community meeting.. between a rowdy teacher/parent crowd and Sicat. Teaser: “audience members heckled Sicat and shouted questions at him. The meeting ended with loud chants of "Save Our Schools," drowning out any last minute remarks from Sicat.” Full story.


So this week video came out in which CTU-head Karen Lewis makes fun of Arne Duncan’s lisp. She apologizedHe accepted. Then she paradoxically extended the cycle by loudly refusing to step down, though basically no one had asked her to.

Eric Zorn did say she needs to go, though only partially because of this gaffe. He also pointed to her fumbles during the SB7 debate and CTU’s public perception defeat in the longer school day battle. This is significant because Zorn is a rare-quasi defender of CTU within the mainstream Chicago press.

His column has a link to the full 35-minute video of Lewis’ speech. If you just want the juicy parts--- like when Lewis talks about smoking pot in college, makes fun of Duncan’s going to Harvard (she went to Dartmouth) and the magical moment when she full-on voice impersonates his speech impediment before saying “if he had gone to a public school he would have had that lisp fixed”—click through to the edited version in Joel Hood’s story.

I’m with the Sun-Times ed board who says the obvious: this is a credibility hit and distraction at the worst time for CTU. “Say it, Karen Lewis, don’t spray it.”

I also think Russo has it right in this piece, which argues that Lewis even bungled her apology by keeping this thing going way longer than it needed to.

I probably don’t need to tell you the Trib/Sun-Times gave this 5:1 attention vs. all other schools stories this week. Related: I could buy you each a diet pepsi if I had a nickel every time one of those two pubs turns to Barbara Radner for a pro-reform quote and Julie Woesthoff for a pro-union one.


Rahm and Brizard went to Perez Elementary (which Joel Hood calls a West Side school and Linda Lutton locates in Pilsen) to talk about the new school report cards and announce that map I mentioned. Hood/Lutton have now caught up to Catalyst who last week reported on the significance of these new report cards—shifting focus from ISAT to more rigorous measures of grade level performance. Says Lutton: “At Perez Elementary, 75 percent of students met standards on state ISAT tests last year. But just 14 percent of 8th graders are considered to be on course for college.”

Rosalind Rossi thinks the actual outcome of the new school report cards will be confused parents.

Rahm/Brizard announced an advisory board and official RFP for the $10M principal prep institute they’ve said will train 100 principals a year. April Goble, guys. Not Gobel. (Veterans!)

Chicago has the nation’s highest teen gonorrhea rate and the 2nd highest rate of teen chlamydia. Fox’s Robin Robinson says CPS has only 2 staffers coordinating sex ed for the whole district. Could that possibly be true? Full story. (h/t @alexanderrusso)

Russo found video from the UNO-driven pro-Charter rally back in October. 5,000 attendees! Catchy song. Nicely produced.

CPS will pay $400K to the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice to create a single CPS high school application (down from 5) and, in the future, a streamlined elementary school application. Seems good.Rosalind Rossi's story.

Kate from Big City Belly interviews Brizard on his and his wife’s search for a CPS school for their own children

CPS will double the number of City College seats open to co-enrolled high school students from 50 to 100 per campus per semester. That’s 2,100 total per year.

Sarah Karp goes super wonky on teacher evaluation. Chicago must have a new system in place by 2013. U of C just finished piloting the “Danielson framework,” which people say Brizard favors. Key stat: currently more than 90% of CPS teachers score excellent or higher. 1% score unsatisfactory. The Danielson pilot rates ~33% of CPS teachers unsatisfactory and only ~25% excellent. Look out. Full story here.

I really should read The White Rhino more often. It’s a blog by Ray Salazar, the insightful Chicago teacher who yesterday posted: “Karen Lewis and Other Reasons People Hate CPS Teachers.”

Today Advance Illinois put out “Transforming Teacher Work,” which recommends a teaching profession revamp. Two of many punch lines:

  1. teachers should be collaborating much more with each other and with administrators
  2. teachers should be learning continuously through a constant observation/feedback  loop—not the one-off PD days we’re all used to now.

Doing these both in a real way would mean teachers spend less time in front of students and more time talking to each other. I’m in full support and it’s the students who’d benefit. Rebecca Harris’ write-up. Thereport itself. Thanks, Jim.

Marilyn Rhames, Namaste Teacher/EdWeek blogger, does an overlooked 3-part interview with Brizard.Part one and part two are up so far. Interesting note: Brizard blames his no-confidence vote from the Rochester teachers union on the personal hatred of the union’s leader: Adam Urbanski.

To stir up trouble I sent the link to Rochesterian super-reporter Rachel Barnhart, who ran laps around the Chicago press the month after Brizard’s appointment went public. She immediately tweeted:

@RachBarnhart: Brizard rails against unions then backtracks bit.ly/vNa0lo Incorrectly blames no confidence vote on Urbanksi who's forced by members.

@RachBarnhart: Urbanski never wanted a no confidence vote. Urged against it. But members demanded one & overwhelmingly voted "no confidence" “



Edward “Ted” McClelland. Your story, “How Ghetto is Your School?” which defines “ghetto”-ness as a low safety rating from CPS, is only a third as idiotic as your tortured authenticity defense in “Let’s Not Ghettoize the Word “Ghetto.”” If I’m reading that mishigas correctly your point is that because a potential employer once dismissed a Chicago teen (and her school) with the label “ghetto” you’re doing good journalism by calling dozens of schools “ghetto.” That’s foolish.

A school’s safety is an indicator of the performance of its adult staff—not the isolation of its surrounding neighborhood. It is also not a measure of a school’s illicitness, poverty or blackness, which based on the 13 times you use the word “ghetto” in your book is what I think you think the term means.

To say a school's unsafe-ness is "ghetto" is as problematic to me as saying its poor test scores are "ghetto." I think you are making a comment about people, not schools, and it’s not a comment I like.

NBC, please remove this buffoon from a platform you expect me to take seriously. It cannot accommodate both his nonsense and my respect.

ADDITIONAL UNPEOPLE OF THE WEEK: anyone who clicks the Karen Lewis weed/lisp video without also clicking the database. Take your medicine, people.


Kate. Just Kate. Happy birthday!

Thanks everyone.

Gobble gobble gobble,


*****ABOUT THIS******

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 [sethlavin@gmail.com].


Leave a comment
  • fascinating article about labor movements vs. social movements that mentions CTU and OWS in a favorable light via In These Times http://ow.ly/7z3Wk

  • the mayor's wife, anshe emet, after school matters, etc. via lynn sweet http://www.suntimes.com/news/sweet/8398278-418/chicagos-mystery-first-lady.html

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Interesting job history Emanuel's wife has. Fascinating, really. Didn't the Emanuel-Rule household donate much more than a stint of volunteer work on a school cookbook to the kids' school in Chicago? Much more, I seem to recall.

  • fb_avatar

    I was surprised to see that you haven't mentioned Ben Joravsky's article about Mark Kirk and charter high schools.


  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Stephanie Hoerner:

    Missed that one, though I'm usually attentive to what Ben's writing. Will include it next week. It's a disagreement we've seen a lot of since Rahm used the 9 of 10 stat in the campaign and the Del Valle kids made their counter-video. At first glance I'd say both sides are half right..

  • In reply to Stephanie Hoerner:

    thanks, stephanie -- good catch. you might be interested to note that cpsobsessed takes joravsky on for being nearly as misleading as kirk in his charter story:

    "When I pull a list by ACT scores, I have to admit, the charters don’t make a bad showing...To ME it looks like the charters occupy a prime spot above the neighborhood schools – on par with a few Magnet high schools."


  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Glad CPSObsessed is getting into this. Her point is sort of what I was suggesting with my "half right" comment above.

    Another thing to consider is the % of CPS high school students in selective enrollment schools. It's close to 20%, right? That means when comparing charters to neighborhood schools you're actually comparing charters to neighborhood schools with the top 20% of performers removed.

    Not writing that to indict charters and not exactly sure of the 20% figure. Just saying it's actually a pretty complicated comparison.

  • In reply to Seth Lavin:

    And wouldn't the comparison also have to account for the difference in the sped population of neighborhood schools and charter schools? Even more complicated.

  • Thanks for the shout out, Alexander. I gotta get on Twitter. In the meantime, The White Rhino is on Facebook. I appreciate it.

  • In reply to Ray Salazar:

    no problem, ray -- i saw you were on catalyst's roundup, too -- moving on up!

  • About that database Seth is going all orgasmic over: It's arranged alphabetically by FIRST name of the individual for whom a school is named. Thus, to find my school, I have to wade through the 29 schools whose eponym begins with "William."

    Not exactly the most useful way of listing the schools. (Particularly if you don't know, for example, that Steinmetz's first name was "Charles.")

  • In reply to Danaidh:

    You do not have to wade through schools to manually find the school you are looking for. Just use the search box ("Find in this dataset") to search for the name ("Steinmetz") in your example. You will get one result.


  • Maybe you can explain one data set for me, Seth.

    If s.e. schools make up about 20% of h.s. students, then how is it that only 8% of CPS h.s. students are considered college ready?

    (That's the CPS number the Trib reported recently.)

  • I'm not sure what the Tribune bases its figure on. Information on CPS's Office of Performance website shows that 24.5% of CPS juniors and seniors taking the ACT in 2011 scored a 20 or better. 20 or better is the CPS goal for college readiness. It probably ought to be a 21, but a 20 is good enough to be admitted to a somewhat selective college.

  • Principal Chris Munns cited in the Lake Forest principal scandal - as a resident of that village, no less. Even if it was some kind of grandfathering, why doesn't that go away after a contract is renewed?

Leave a comment