12/3/11 Weekend Open Discussion

Happy weekend -- happy December.  I don't know about you, but I'm wiped out.  Weekends back from holidays are always like that, but this one also had reports and announcements galore in Chicago -- I still don't get the Casals thing, by the way -- plus I was doing some reporting on a crazy labor proposal in LA (more on that later).  But who cares about me? You're the ones slaving away in classrooms and schoolbuildings and nonprofits and foundation offices.  What was the big story of the week for you, whether it was in the papers or happening behind the scenes. What do you think about the complaint in Chicago Schools Wonks that the city's "10+ full-time edujournalists" should have discovered and published the campus-level charter school data long ago on the CPS website (via @sethlavin) before the state put it out (and that it's based on ISAT data everyone agrees is lame)?  Which do you think is a bigger deal, the closings or the turnarounds -- and why?  What's your concern or strategy for making it these three weeks until the Winter Break begins?

Filed under: Media Watch, Uncategorized


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  • I know I posted links to this data on charter schools on a campus by campus basis at least twice over the last year. I do not think it was not that reporters like Ms. Rossi and others did not know the data could be gotten, rather it was not considered before ISBE released the data to be news. The question over what reporters believe to be news vs. investigative journalism is a question for which I have no answers.

    Rod Estvan

  • Why is Marquette on the turn around list? It is not the lowest scorer in the area. Marquette was the pet project of the former Area 11 CAO-she has wreaked havoc at Marquette but she is not around to answer for her actions.

    How many teachers have put in for retirement before the contract ends in 2012?

    Will the vacancies be filled with displaced teachers from the closed/turn around schools or is this a ruse by CO to get rid of veteran teachers?

    Why are there three security guards at Elizabeth Street, four rude do
    nothings behind the counter and two I-POD wearing employees to take a picture for an ID?

    Why does a teacher who thought it was perfectly acceptable to use a George Foremen during her prep period given a principal's job?

    When will CO realize that a school must have a competent principal in order for it to be successful and since the residency requirement has narrowed the pool we now have three year wonders in administration?

    We have principals who can not speak in coherent sentences, principals who refuse to come out of their offices and principal actions which are ethically questionable.

    I do believe CPS is at its lowest point since I started in the 1970s.

  • " I still don't get the Casals thing, by the way -- " Think you have a lot of company on that one, Alex.

    BTW, on the CPS email, a teacher from Casals posted that regardless of what Brizard's letter says, their school was not once visited by Brizard or his team prior to the Nov. 28 announcement. I'm assuming this is something easily verified. You have to wonder what procedures they are following if even this basic one was not in fact done.

  • 2nd day reaction story from CNC has some interesting quotes and info re how much due diligence was done before picking schools


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    Another question-- are we happy about the law that means all this had to come out by Dec. 1? Will people benefit form this process being moved up?

    Rod-- you hit the nail on the head about the data release.

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    I don't see how communities having more time to respond could be a bad thing.

    The process will still conclude at the same point. It just gives communities more time to put together their defense of their beloved school.

  • There is another way to look at the Casals turn around effort. Because the school's test scores are reasonable, from the perspective of the CPS leadership whose salaries are tied to test score improvement the potential for rapid test score increases are highest at a school like Casals.

    If this is part of an underlying calculation then there is a danger in this logic. That danger is a school like Casals could go into a tail spin and scores could actually crash under AUSL the first year at least. Given our Mayor's perspective if things go wrong in terms of test score improvement or things are flat which is very possible we could see removal of the current team before the end of Mayor Emanuel's first term in office.

    I think the CPS leadership time realizes the situation they are in and will be taking risks to make the statistical markers in their contracts. When I worked in the commodities industry and had variable compensation based on performance markers i know I took certain risks to hit those markers. For the most part I was lucky and the risks paid off for me. But sometimes like for MF Global risks go bad and keep getting worse leading to collapse. On has to wonder if we should be taking such risks with the education of poor children?

    Rod Estvan

  • trib says 400+ at the teach in at king HS yesterday -- were you one of them?


  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    FANTASTIC rally yesterday at King Prep ! The Union was well-organized, with great speakers and the right information to get all of us organized for this fight. Karen Lewis was very visible and available for parents and staff that wanted to speak with her. First time I've met her and I was impressed.
    Personally, it made me realize that I need to support these schools whether my own is on a list or not. Teachers who take a breath of relief because their own school is not on the list this year better realize that if a school like PABLO CASALS can be put on the list when it outscores over 100 other elementary schools, so can THEIRS . None of our schools is safe so long as CPS continues this toxic method of improving schools, which improves NOTHING !

  • Turning around Wendell Smith is wrong. It makes no sense for those students to lose their teachers considering that they have made progress on ISAT and have increased enrollment. If 70% of the students are meeting or exceeding in math, something is being done right. CPS should provide Smith with the resources they need instead of punishing students by firing the teachers they know and love.

  • There are probably a lot of schools that have never been visited by a CEO in the recent past. I am in my 9th year at my school and we have never seen a CEO darken our doorway. We are not so different from Casals, either, which has many of us worried. If they have so blatantly thrown the rulebook out the window, who is to say next year's list won't be equally illogical?

  • In reply to scooby:

    In the case of Pablo Casals , I'm quite OK with Brizard never visiting there, EXCEPT that he states in his letter that he (or his team) had multiple walk thrus and meetings at the school. We cannot allow him to say these lies without getting called on them. IF Casals had seen Brizard or a special team at the school, we might have had an inkling that something was up !

  • Schools are supposed to begin the longer school day planning now, following these guidelines:

    7 hr 30 min day for students

    7 hr 40 min day for teachers: 10 min before school, 5h 30min instructional time, 60 min prep (1 of the 5 principal led), 45 min duty free lunch, 15 min passing time.

    No mention was given regarding providing the additional teachers needed to give the increased number of preps/time.

  • I am hoping that the rationale for turning around Casals is that it does not compare favorably to other schools having similar demographics and economics in the district. If there are 3 or 4 other schools who have the same profile as Casals, and they are achieving at a faster rate, or are achieving at a better rate per dollar spent per student, then it might be reasonable to use this as a criterion for turning around schools. This would mean that schools are grouped by social and economic attributes (value-added), and that school improvement would be focused on the lowest performing school in each of these value-added-based buckets.

    I might be OK with this if indeed this was the selection process, and it was transparent, and schools had a chance to develop a plan, etc. But the new scorecards don't seem to relate to this at all, so all that I've said above can't be happening, so as Rosanna Rosanna Danna used to say, "Never mind".

  • In reply to LTwain:

    Enjoyed your post ... I talk to myself like this every day ! You can compare Casals on the 2011 Report Cards ( available all over the internet) with its neighboring schools : Cameron, Nobel, Funston, LaFayette, West Park, and others and see that they are ALL in the low 60s in % of kids at level. Not only that , but Casals outscores 6 of the 11 AUSL schools ( check Bethune, Deneen, Sherman, Dulles), BUT the best comparison is the neighborhood one because Brizard specifically said it was the lowest performing school in its area. Obviously, the man doesn't know how to read the 2011 Report Cards!

  • In reply to 30-Yr. Vet:

    Agreed! There is no 'rationale' for turning Casals! None! Casals doesn't meet the 'eligibility' criteria - end!

    And it is so obviously out of the ballpark that more likely it's just a red herring…CPS picks a school that nearly everyone can agree does not meet the requirements for turn around….the public complains…CPS hears their cries, agrees to keep the school open, and then responds….you know, 'we respect the concerns of stakeholders and honor their requests' crap….Press Release - CPS responds to public concerns and agrees to keep the school open - positive press...

    Meanwhile, other schools on the list, such as Woodson South, clearly performing better than Doolittle, go unnoticed. Also, CPS begins to gradually depletes resources at Casals. Next year, Casals takes an ISAT dip…CPS gets to say, 'told you so'.

    As for value-added metrics - the public should demand that the metric be applied to CPS turn-around policy - they might then see the true value-negative, as even the 'standard' metrics for growth fail to show positive gains for previous turn-arounds.

  • Casals will go the way that Andersen did. A new magnet school will be put there for gentrification reasons. The poor kids will be moved to other schools.

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    For now, they are appeasing the community by saying the kids can stay. We know that down the road, that will not be true. First, they'll get rid of all the out of area kids we have . Then they'll find a way to import out the Special Ed. and bilingual kids. And eventually they will make Casals a selective enrollment of some type and the community will lose the school all together !

  • In reply to 30-Yr. Vet:

    I do not know much about ELL students at Casals, but I do know that the school is only slightly above the city-wide average for special education at 14.7%. Based on statistics for students given the IAA as opposed to the ISAT the school appears to have very few severe and profoundly disabled students. Only 13.3% of 57 students with IEPs at Casals in testing grades were able to read at state standards last year.

    Overall, Casals students with IEPs are testing about at about half the CPS district wide average in reading, which is a disaster because it leads to under 6% of students with disabilities being able to read at state standards by their junior year in high school. If we compare Casals gap in reading between its disabled and non-disabled students we see really nothing outstanding. If CPS applied a value added metric to Casals special education population as Anonymous above recommends I think the picture would not be pretty.

    I would suggest that a knowledgeable teacher who had a child with a learning disability would not send that child to Casals based on the school’s academic performance for its subgroup of students with disabilities. We can see that middle class elementary school like Lincoln on the north side can get 61% of students with IEPs to read at standards in 2011, Bateman which has higher numbers of ELL and is all most totally low income gets 32% of its students with IEPs to read at standards, Disney I is at 38%, Jahn which has higher number of students with IEPs than Casals, more ELL students, and comparable poverty numbers gets 42.6% of its students with IEPs to read at standards.

    In writing this I am in no way advocating for Casals to go into the turnaround process, because I have seen very little evidence that the CPS turnaround process will lead to improved outcomes for students with disabilities. But before teachers go on the attack over claims of removal of special education students via the turn around process, which has happened at Sherman for example, we need to take stock of the fact that most of the schools that have gone into that process have done a very poor job in educating students with mild to moderate disabilities.

    Based of the data for Casals my guess is, the school was proposed to be put under AUSL control because its test data has a lot of upside potential as I stated in the post above yesterday. I suspect based on the elementary school test score data for students with IEPs I have just posted, tripling the percentage of students with IEPs who are reading at state standards at Casals is clearly possible with five years. But this is not likely to happen in my opinion with the AUSL turn around model based on what I have seen so far. The reason it is not likely to happen is that neither CPS nor AUSL has in place effective programs to teach mild to moderately disabled students to become effective readers. These programs cost money and require training along with targeted instructional time for these students. In terms of cost effectiveness it is far cheaper to target weak readers who are not disabled and who are more easily moved into the category of reading at state standards.

    In the mean time I will continue to advise families of students with disabilities to litigate if necessary to get their children out of schools with achievement scores like Casals. These children get only one chance at getting a k-8 education and it would be completely unethical of me not to advise these families not to fight for something better for their children.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:


    I know this is a little off-topic, but you did raise the subject. What is the difference between schools that do well with their special education population and schools that don't? It seems that there is a wide variability in performance from school to school, even schools with similar socio-economic statuses.

    Do schools with large percentages of special ed students do better (economies of scale) or do schools with lower percentages (more able to concentrate on the few than the many)? You have stated that inclusion usually works better than pull-out models. Does a specific type of co-teaching model work better? Is it possible to do inclusion without negatively impacting at all the education of the non-special ed students? Does that require a special model of co-teaching?

    Access Living must have collected a mountain of data on this topic by now. They must know what works and what doesn't and what works better, though perhaps they may not know what works best.

  • In reply to cermakRd:

    I am at school listed as making AYP this year. We have an inclusion program with services given in and out of the gen ed program. We also have self-contained programs for those students who need additional support in a structured small, group setting. These students are mainstreamed according to their abilities. This continuum works very well BUT CO is sending in clinicians who have been fed the inclusion Kool-aid...just dump everyone into full inclusion/no pull-out...screws the kids but saves monies....someone needs to look at the SPED set up in the probation schools...no pullout and everyone passes....


  • sun times editorial page calls on CPS to make better use of community action councils

    Editorial: Note to CPS: Sometimes screamers have a point - Chicago Sun-Times http://ow.ly/7O77H

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    The sun-times editorial staff, Donald Hayner et al, are being socially irresponsible for promoting a policy that since 1995 has a proven 94% failure rate. Donald Hayner, Tom McNamee, Andrew Herrmann should be called to task for marginalizing community concerns and promoting damaging social policy.

  • single year charter stats from 2011 miss big growth rates for charters, says charter advocate in this esther cepeda sun times article


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    In reply to Alexander Russo:

    This reminds me of the kid who says that he should get to skip an assignment and then complains when he bombs the next one.

    We didn't tie the charters' hands and make them fail to report year after year. They chose to hide how they spent and what they did from the public because they are bad actors. Now we are supposed to take their word on some magical gains?

    The most ironic section is this: "Much more research is necessary before anybody can honestly conclude that 'charter schools don’t work.'"
    Beyond the fake quotes, this is a paragraph after Broy acknowledges that less than less than a quarter of schools have reported sufficient data.

    Unsurprisingly, many of those quarter are the ones that want to report their positive data.

    I would put Ms. Cepeda's point more bluntly and from a different angle. "Tell the truth and tell the truth fully when it comes to students' futures and our public education dollars. Otherwise get out and open a private school."

    Finally, if people are interested in the actual reason was "trying hard" has not been successful at Dyett, they should read the actual story rather than take public neighborhood student and school haters' one-liners for granted.


  • You are right! Charters cover their scores and the public has to take their word for their outrageous claims and Chicago education reporters spread the magic myths…no evidence, just claims! When the evidence is finally made public, Cepeda covers for them with 'Much more research is necessary…"

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