Liberal Home- & Private-Schoolers

There's a lament among school reformers that all that's needed to make public schools much better is to make school assignments random and to ban private schools.  Now, a couple of liberal writers are making somewhat the same points, albeit from a different point of view, arguing that it's fundamentally anti-progressive to homeschool your children or even to send them to private schools: First, left-leaning education reporter Dana Goldstein wrote a piece about liberal homechooling (Slate), which ignited an online firestorm of debate.  More recently, former TFAer and mom Rhiana Maidenberg called out liberal icon Michael Moore and other progressives in San Francisco for choosing private school over admittedly imperfect public school options choices (Babble). (For what it's worth, the same basic case has been made against liberal parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids.) What do you think about your friends and colleagues who homeschool or choose private schools but still consider themselves liberal?  What impact would it have, if any, to have more of those families in the public system, even assuming such a thing be arranged?


Leave a comment
  • I never understood this home school silliness. How does Mr. Mom or a housewife teach chemistry, trig, lit, geography, gym, US history, etc etc?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I don't know. If I have a B/B- student and can't get into an SE high school, my neighborhood school is Wells. Tell me some better options so I can stop worrying.

  • In reply to citymom21915:

    citymom, I have a disabled son, but I don't understand "B/B". Does that mean he doesn't have an IEP?

  • In reply to Donn:

    Sorry, just seeing this. By B/B- I meant a B student - just a regular, kind of smart kid. Not a lot of room at CPS high schools for those kids without a decent neighborhood school.

  • In reply to cpsparent:

    Noble Street charter, magnet or IB school. More choices north side than south.
    I have family members teaching at all three types. They will do the most work at Noble, which is important if they need to get their ACT up for college.
    If I had and african american son and lived south I would certainly try to get him into Urban Prep if he couldn't get into an SE school.
    Admittance to Urban Prep and Noble, like all charters, is by lottery. A Student's middle school record is not a consideration.

  • In reply to Donn:

    You are aware that Urban Prep loses half of their students by senior year. They also push out some SENIORS if they might upset their 100% graduation / college acceptance charade. Admittance is by lottery, however that only gets you in the door. There is still a 50/50 chance you will be put out that same door and told to go to your neighborhood high school- the same school UP likes to claim it is superior to. The only thing UP has is order. Education is not rigorous. Test prep is the order of the day. Creativity is not encouraged. It is "safe", but when a school refuses to deal with challenging students, that is possible.

    More work does not neccesarily get ACT scores up. Test prep taught outside of the content area doesn't do it either. Do you know where to find Nobel Street's ISAT, EXPLORE, and PLAN scores. My guess is that they follow the same upward trend as most schools.

    As for the volume of work, IB programs require a monumental amount of REAL work. Noble St. may be burying their kids with test prep, but if you want to prepare your child for the quality and quantity of work required by a real college IB is a good choice.

  • In reply to district299reader:


    Your are absolutely correct about the IB program.
    I know because I was a librarian in an IB school.
    We had both middle year and diploma programs.
    Those kids kept my old ass running. Thankfully
    we had embraced the electronic media and used it
    extensively for research. I do not know how many
    Charters teach a entire class on the theory of learning
    But IB does. These kids always outscored everybody
    On tests because they understand how things
    Work not just a rote regurgitation of why .
    Perhaps that is why the IB program excludes the
    Test prep schools from membership.

  • In reply to rbusch:

    "Test Prep Schools"?
    Name calling by employees of one of the worst large school systems in the country?
    I guess with only a 5.5 hour school day 39 weeks a year there's plenty of extra time to criticize others.

  • In reply to rbusch:

    Dear Don
    I am so glad you are concerned with the plight
    of modern urban education. Your prim rebuffs
    sting me to the soul and your grasp of reality
    leaves me breathless. Perhaps your knighted
    Noble faculty can lead us out of oz and back to
    Kansas .Please ,show us the way to excellence.
    Shout the message to Rahm inform Jean Claude
    but most of all tell it to Sweeney.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    What percent of entering freshmen at Dunbar graduate from Dunbar? I'm sure it's well less than 50%.

    The IB's aren't as rigorous as Noble and Urban Prep. This can be seen in growth numbers. The somewhat underachieving middle schooler with a supportive family should do just fine at Noble or Urban Prep.

    ACT scores at The IB schools just aren't good enough considering that entering freshman are somewhat better prepared than the typical CPS ninth graders.

    "Creative Thinkers" with an ACT score of 16 are not going to get into select universities. Perhaps when they're applying to stock shelves at Walmart they can impress the interviewer with their superior mental powers.

    The IB schools are fine for the organized middle schoolers whose ACT scores are projected to be above 20.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Even most of the SEHSs have low avgACT scores - and they don't flush a lot of their students out before graduation date.

  • In reply to Donn:

    Donn, it is painfully evident that you do not understand IB at all.

    The IB Program is MUCH more rigorous than Urban Prep. Check out the IB website. Compare their curriculum with the test prep that your charters offer.

    Your claim about "ACT scores at IB schools" holds no water. There is no all IB High School in Chicago. IB Programs consist of perhaps 10-15% of the student body at the neighborhood high schools where they are located. IB students at my school consistently dominate the top ACT scores. Not only do they test well, they can also think creatively. I know you hate that thought- creativity... bah. Anyway, uncreative thinkers with ACT scores below 16 (Urban Prep) or even a 20 (Noble Ave.) are going to have a hard time in college where test prep is not a concern and critical thinking is everything.

    If you think organization is the key to IB you are truly clueless. With even a cursory understanding of the program you would understand that writing, cross-curricular thought, and then more writing is the cornerstone of the program.

    Finally, what are you talking about with your "growth numbers"? Urban Prep has LOW test scores even after they kick out half of the freshman class.

  • While I did not home school my own kids ( I needed to work), I have friends who did and did a wonderful job. They were college graduates themselves, some even with teacher certificates. Their kids went on to good high schools , colleges and great jobs. It's not for everybody , but capable parents can do a good job with it.

  • Homeschooling can be an option for students with disabilities when CPS sped is not working.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I would recommend that most parents do not attempt to homeschool their children with disabilities. There are exceptional parents with exceptional skills who can however effectively pull it off. From my experience the most problematic disabling conditions for a parent or parents to address via homeschooling are those involving behavioral interventions.

    For example I have seen parents of students on the autism spectrum who had significant behavioral issues burn out even with very good clinical support from psychologists and behavior therapists. It is simply too much to ask of a family unit to be on task 24/7. I am sure there are families that can pull this off, but it has to be rare over the long run.

    A far better option for families that have the skill sets and fiscal ability to keep one parent at least present for 5-6 hours a day of direct instruction inside the city of Chicago is simply to move out of Chicago or seek private placement for their disabled child.

    For moderately disabled students who have very bright parents who are willing to spend a great deal of time becoming effectively special education teachers homeschooling can be pulled off. But I would again question the economics of that approach for a family unit. Effectively to homeschool especially children in the primary grades who have disabilities, it is near impossible for two parents to be working full time or a single parent to be employed at all unless extended members of the family are involved. The economics of that choice can effectively cut off the ability of a family to create any savings at all for post secondary education for their children.

    Families that have significant economic resources will likely place their children in high cost private special education programs, for example for learning disabled students the Hyde Park Day School. These families also have the fiscal resources to litigate against CPS to seek high cost private placements at the expense of the district. Readers of this blog would be shocked to learn that there have been very major public figures who are residents of Chicago who began litigation against CPS and have gotten private placements for their disabled children via settlement agreements. In every one of these cases I know off CPS has required as part of the settlement agreement a confidentiality provision that bars the family from disclosing the terms of any such settlement publicly and in the situations where I was involved I too am legally bound by those terms of the deal.

    Homeschooling for most families who have children with disabilities is not a realistic or long term solution to the crisis of CPS special education.

    Rod Estvan

  • My 2e son (Aspergers and gifted, for short) suffered in CPS for four years. He could not handle the social interactions. He could not handle lining up, noise, lack of meaningful one-on-one time with other kids, and the boredom. When he was bored (yes, I know you must never use that word with a teacher, but he was six, with a social language deficit) teachers did not believe that he was bored. He is now homeschooled by me. As an example of one small success: my son found math games to play online, and CHOOSES to do long division, instead of throwing something at the teacher when asked to make a transition to work on math. Another advantage: he was able to move up on a waiting list for insurance-paid occupational therapy because he can go any time during the week (therapy that was not deemed necessary by CPS because his handwriting was neat). My son is writing again beacuse we turn writing exercises into games. I have joined a gifted homeschoolers' group, though which we met a Russian teacher who is a native speaker. All the money I gave and volunteering I did for my son's elementary school now goes directly to my son's education and his needs (which were NOT met by the school). No more suspensions, no more specials teachers putting my son in impossible-for-him situations; no more forgetting to send an aide, as documented in the IEP, and suspending my son for behavioral problems when the aide wasn't there - I could go on andon. We have some very hard days at home, too. But my son learning, and he doesn't say anymore, "I have the feeling I'm always doing something bad and I don't know what it is". I will NOT send my son back to CPS until things change. And change A LOT!!! I know this is not the way to solve problems for educating children with special needs in Chicago. But I need to help my son recover and learn, and that is where I can best spend my time and energy. And I would recommend homeschooling to others in a similar situation. Especially if you don't have the money, time, and/or stomach to fight the system.

  • In reply to Anonymous Lee:

    Sorry for typos, I fired this off in a defensive state of mind.

  • In reply to Anonymous Lee:

    My son does well at the Easter Seals Autism School. He's low functioning, so has different needs from your son. Special Ed seems highly variable from school to school, and can change dramatically from year to year as good teachers change school.
    For south siders Lindblom may be a good place for gifted autistic children.

  • In reply to Anonymous Lee:

    I am a SPED teacher at CPS. I agree with you that CPS does not and probably will not meet the needs of your child and the others like him. I work with several students who have varying degrees of autism and asperbergers. Please know that most SPED teachers know we are not meeting the needs of our students, but our hands are tied because of the policies of CPS. I can argue and provide the necessary documentation that a child needs an aide, and the request will still be denied. I can argue and document that a child will have issues in a regular education classroom because of his special needs, and again, I will be told that it is what will be done because we are all about "inclusion" now. I have dissented on so many placement and general IEP decisions because, in good conscience, I know the child is not getting what he/she needs to be successful that I am often called "difficult" to work with by OSS. Sorry to say, it does not make any difference in the end. If your child has mild to moderate autism or asperbergers, CPS will not provide the type of supports that they need to be successful. I try to do what I can for my students, but at the end of the day, I know they are getting less than what they deserve. OSS has been gutted, no more autism department, no real support for SPED kids. The sole purpose now seems to be getting rid of paraprofessional support, writing the perfect IEP, and other paper related garbage. No one seems to be focusing on the children - as usual with CPS, it's all about looking good on paper!

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Yes, you are so right....sped teachers are quickly becoming paper producers....teaching is minimized....children are being dumped into full inclusion/co-teaching to eliminate positions and no one cares about the children...we have schools who have made AYP and no one cares...if they have made AYP it is because you are "over servicing" so reduce those minutes....sped in CPS is a travesty...counselors were told at a large meeting that an aide can place a disabled child in a chair from her wheel chair and then the aide can leave her to go assist other children in another building....and when the fire alarm goes off....not only is this illegal it is just plain cruel...

  • In reply to Anonymous Lee:

    Payton high school has been great for my 2E kid. The other students are supportive,as are the teachers. A friend with a kid at Jones says the same. You may want to give the selective schools a try for high school.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    If your white--all right. If your brown-turn around. Black? go back! Right, give Payton CP 'a try'--he is rolling in his grave.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    You do realize that race is not a factor in SEHS admissions right? It is based on test scores, grades and tiers. Any uber high achieving kid is going to get a spot at Payton (meaning 895/900 points) no matter what their race is. Competition is fierce to get into those schools. Most kids of any race will not get in. Gotta cast a wide net to get a safe education in CPS.

  • I read in coverage of the longer day forum at Morgan Park HS last week that Dick Smith said he'll be leaving his job as head of OSS in three months. Is that true? Who will take over. I quake that it all could get worse, or that the best OSS folks might be pushed out.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    ...."the best OSS (OSES) folks might be pushed out".....there is no "best"...please, for the children's sake, get some competent people in OSES....we have had two totally stupid SSAs at my high achieving school....repeating illegal unwritten mandates does not make it legal....very sad to see the quality of those we are supposed to rely on...toilet bowl theory at work and shame on the Corey H. monitor for not addressing the rampant abuses in special education...

  • In reply to district299reader:

    get over it--there will never be competent people-CPS does not want this. Is there anyone left in a postion of 'power' that has any competence now--? it sure was not a number of CEOs

  • "Readers of this blog would be shocked to learn that there have been very major public figures who are residents of Chicago who began litigation against CPS and have gotten private placements for their disabled children via settlement agreements."

    I wonder if David Alexrod is one. Or if he used his wealth to place his disabled daughter. I wonder, when I see so many poor and middle-class families with children with disabilities denied access to needed educational and support services.

  • OSS is just "one" of all departments at central that lack knowledge and leadership which is weak overall. Some leaders are worse than Dick Smith. I won't even speak about Loudon who is a joke, but Cheatham Craven and Cawley all are learning on the job. They have no expertise and more importantly no experience in the areas they oversee, and they don't respect the experts except maybe Karpouzian. You can't learn these things in 1 year. that's why you will see micro management bold moves and changes but no improvement. The business model doesn't fit everything, and you have to understand the repercussions for adjustments if you're working for student progress. You will likely see more experts leave if they can retire or secure positions elsewhere. This administration will eventually implode unless some of the fake unqualified leaders are removed.

  • Inclusion
    I know several SPED teachers.I also know how many hours they spend
    working on the electronic IEP's.Which are usually
    ignored by the board and every one is correct the board
    just wants to push everyone into inclusion classes.I personally
    know of instructional classes with 17 students.
    Be that as it may where is the alternate school network?
    I don't see any of the Chartres or turnaround's clamoring
    to help these kids.

  • They might spoil the "secret sauce"

  • You mean the "inclusion/co-teaching Kool-aid"....this is the new strategy, one that was tried by certain suburban districts and failed about twenty years ago...CPS is always on a bandwagon without wheels....dump all students irregardless of needs into a gen ed room...throw in two teachers...tell parents that their children will not need to be pulled out..."not good for them to be away from peers and the teaching in classroom" .....if they need help, the sped teacher can pull them to the back of the room...wake up folks it does not work especially for intermediate and upper level students....SPED in CPS is all about reducing services-save obey and by the way who is monitoring the dispersal of those funds?

  • We were visited by the Corey H. monitors....two retired CPS administrators who are paid by?.....the questions were asked such as Do you write the IEPs for the needs of the students or the needs of the school? Those of us who were asked said "we write for the needs of the student.....that is the law" we have been ordered to reduce minutes on our students IEPs based upon this the answer to the question changes BUT no one is coming back to ask it....the monitors are a sham.....the SPED department and the law department need to be fired as this is not at all about he children and I believe Mr Brizard claimed when he was hired, that he would help the children with this the type of "help" he means? Time for me to look elsewhere...very frustrating

  • In reply to district299reader:

    As always if teachers are being directly asked by the CPS administration to reduce individual services to students outside of IEP meetings where the law requires that such determinations to be made Access Living or Equip for Equality would be willing to file an administrative complaint against CPS. As I have stated on this blog many, many times it requires teachers (more than one at a school) to file a formal statement under their names to do so.

    As always any contact made with Access Living will be kept confidential, but in order to address such violations teachers have to go on record. My email address is

    I know this will anger some special education teachers, but if you follow orders and violate the individuality of students IEPs you too are part of the problem. In stating this I am fully aware that teachers are not thrilled with the idea of losing a $48,000 to $70,000 a year job as a consequence of such formal actions.

    By the way the pressure on IEP teams to reduce the cost and scope of services to children is taking place in many school districts in Illinois and Indiana so I am not sure exactly where teachers think they can escape to.

    Lastly on the above post relating to monitoring of CPS funds. ISBE is currently conducting its first ever fiscal audit of the CPS block grant. ISBE does not do this often because they have no staff to conduct such fiscal audits and up to this summer CPS's books were not being kept in a way that made this easy. I expect the result of the audit will not cause CPS to provide additional funding to students with IEPs, rather it might lead to reductions in funding from the state to CPS. I have attended several meetings in Springfield and in Chicago related to this process.

    On the issue of pull out and self contained instruction raised above. I have asked repeatedly that any CPS special education teacher who is advocating for placing more students with disabilities in separate setting to provide any data showing that in the past when CPS had far more children placed in separate settings they were academically more successful. I have never gotten any such data from any teacher and the historical data I have going back to the 1970s does not indicate that there was any advantage for these children on mass in educating many of them in separate settings. Things were bad back then and they are bad now.

    Rod Estvan

  • Dear teachers,
    As you know, the Full School Day provides schools with an opportunity to redesign their daily and/or weekly schedules to meet the unique needs of their student population. Specifically, the longer day provides teachers and students with time to:
    • Fully learn and master the more rigorous Common Core State Standards
    • Embed more opportunities for hands-on learning and project-based learning into core classes
    • Engage in a wide variety of courses, including arts, PE, technology, library sciences, etc.
    • Receive daily intervention and/or acceleration opportunities
    • Receive enough time for lunch and recess (for elementary students)
    As the Full School Day will include an increase in the length of the school day as well as new academic opportunities, schools will need to ensure that they review and revise Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for all students with disabilities. These IEPs must be revised before the start of the next school year.
    We recognize that reviewing and revising IEPs requires significant time and effort from our case managers, teachers, and clinicians. To provide schools with as much support as possible, we have:
    • Provided training to principals via a webinar (a recording of this webinar is available to all principals via a principal Sharepoint website)
    • Provided training to all case managers and clinicians (a recording of this training is available at
    • Upgraded the electronic IEP system to allow schools to hold double IEP grids in the system, allowing the system to reflect the current bell-to-bell as well as next year’s full school day. This update occurred on February 27, 2012.
    • Provided case managers with a Parent cover letter. As you know, parents are an integral part of the team. Although parents can agree in writing to waive the IEP meeting, we are bound by law to meet if parents choose not to waive participation. To that end, we have included a parent letter for case managers to disseminate as the team begins their reviews.
    In addition, we are also providing schools with funding for IEP revisions. Funding is based on a formula that takes into account a number of factors, including the number of students with disabilities at various LRE categories, students’ amount of required services, etc. The formula was informed by several case managers from the field. This funding will be provided to schools on March 9, 2012.
    As you continue to work with your schools to help plan for the implementation of the Full School Day next year, please reach out with any questions and concerns. If you have specific questions regarding the IEP process, please reach out to your case manager and/or Sean Ryan from OSES ( If you have any questions about the Full School Day, please reach out to Erin Donoghue at (
    Thank you for your flexibility and dedication as we move towards a full school day in the 2012/2013 school year. Noemi Donoso

    SO TEACHERS ARE IN LOWER CASE- undated letter and the case managers and clinicians have been inserviced, even the principals have received a Powerpoint-SPED teachers have received no direction or training and non of the teachers at my school are even aware of "money" to rewrite the way the teacher not the case managers or clinicians write the IEP yet we, again are at the bottom of the hierarchy....OSES is a joke

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Why do the case managers and clinicians receive stipends of $300.00 a month on top of travel allowances? The special education teachers who complete 95% of the IEP receive no stipends. Check it out in the CTU contract book. Teachers are truly on the bottom rung in CPS.

Leave a comment