Huberman: The Robot's Last Day


What to make of Huberman’s last day (Huberman Officially Quits, Last Day For Huberman At CPS)?  He didn’t get much done (did he?).  He hid behind a smokescreen of statistics and performance talk that it seems clear he didn’t really understand.  He chased out a lot of good people and demoralized the central office. He said he wasn’t leaving before the end of the year even as he was actively looking for work, and repayed the Mayor and CPS with a disloyal mid-year departure.  It’s a pretty miserable way for him to go out, and suggests that those who questioned what he was doing from the start might not just have been griping about having to do things differently or make hard decisions.  What bothers me the most about his tenure is how passionless he always seemed, how robotic and detached he presented himself — and how he never admitted to fault or doubt or reflected in any perceivable way.  The only silver lining I can think of is that maybe there will be a nice going away party for folks to go to, and perhaps some comments from central office folks reflecting on their interactions with Huberman and assessments of his strengths and weaknesses.


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  • The Huberman appointment is just one glaring example of why it was time for the mayor to go. Huberman did seem robotic and passionless. He also never had a respect for education. He saw this as just another department to head. I have never seen such a clueless CEO. His concnetration on data was a good idea but he did not understand what to do with the data, nor did his appointees. He was just a disaster.
    What was the most sad however was his lack of interest in learning about eduation. Both Vallas and Duncan learned about teaching and learning. They talked to and relied upon educators. Huberman was dismissive of educators.
    It will take a long time to rebuild CPS from the damage him and his appointeed have done. I just hope Terry understands that he needs to dramatically clean house, even if he is only an interim. He has to change the culture

  • chicago public radio wants huberman to join them as a blogger, for some reason

  • huberman was pushed out, yes, but only because he was obviously going to leave before the year was over anyway -- actively looking for a place to move before may -- so the mayor hurried him along -- in my book that's still huberman leaving early, though you could argue that daley should have waited and seen how it played out... good comment, otherwise, injection -- thanks for writing in with an alternative view

  • huberman met with the folks from "raise your hand" the day before he announced his imminent departure, and told them he was going to be around for months, according to this blog post

  • You can't be serious.

  • This was an extremely interesting discussion of Mr. Huberman's legacy. Mr. Huberman I think did realize the current situation of special education in Chicago is not good, in fact at one point he sat in a conference room here at Access Living and heard complaint after complaint from current CPS special education students and past ones about problems with the current system. At this meeting parents of the youth with disabilities were not speaking nor was I, Mr. Huberman's dialog was with the student's themselves. Mr. Duncan never, ever, was in a meeting like that.

    Dr. Smith who was picked to run CPS special education is a caring administrator, but unfortunately Mr. Huberman cut the central and regional special education staff to such a degree he may be a general without an army.

    I think that Mr. Huberman's vision was to manage CPS using data and far fewer staff. I know in the area of special education this has not worked well, because local schools need expertise and resources to educate many students with disabilities. The implementation of the Response to Intervention (RtI) identification system mandated without money by ISBE has not been very effective in most schools. I gave loud and clear warning to CPS about the problems they would face attempting to implement RtI in such a massive school system as CPS but the district was completely not proactive in preparing for this change under both Mr. Duncan and Huberman.

    "Injection of Balance" makes I think very appropriate comments. But I would add this in particular, Mr. Huberman inherited a labor contract and a pension situation that Mayor Daley agreed to. When one looks at the math it was clearly impossible for CPS to meet its contractual obligations unless it got consistent increases in state funding and raised property taxes as much as legally possbile each year, neither of which has happened.

    The Mayor ordered CPS not to increase property taxes to the cap after cutting the deal with the unions and that helped put CPS into fiscal crisis. Now CPS is attempting to refinance debt in order to generate cash. It was not without reason that both the Fitch and S&P debt rating for CPS has been down graded.

    Mr. Mazany is faced with far more complex problems than firing the PM department which has a total budget of only $3.9 million (CPS FY11 budget at page 50).

    Rod Estvan

  • Regarding the CPS budget number for PM, if it is in reality far higher than $3.9 million then I think Mr Mazany has an even bigger problem on his hands. Let us all hope there is not a massive disconnect between the budget and reality at CPS. I have never seen a claim by Substance that CPS is spending far more on PM in total than what is in the budget.

    I think one problem is that many people have not actually looked at the PM budget line and assume it is far more than $3.9 million, so that low of a number may seem shocking. If someone over at CPS central has information that the PM budget has exploded beyond what the Board approved in August I would love to get the details and so would Mr. Mazany I suspect.

    Rod Estvan

  • The number I gave was money coming from the General Fund not NCLB Federal dollars. The cuts that were discussed on the blog up to my post were for central office PM staff like Ms.Kremsner. I did not see any posts calling on Mr. Mazany to reallocate all of the NCLB dollars being used for test score improvement in another way. For example buying teachers. I did not read of anyone calling for the normal research and evaluation functions that pre-existed PM to be cut.

    The 43 FTEs are all in the central office, so cutting even every position would net $6 million. A big part of spending is for the various PM processes, like paying teachers to attend PM team meetings, in fact $10 million is going to CTU teachers for overtime for the hours they spend after class reviewing data and student work and collaborating on strategies for test score improvement. Other money is being spent on things like contractors and for the CAOs which may not be money well spent.

    This overtime pay is in fact costing CPS $4 million more than it is spending on the PM central office and that is what it says on page 357 of the budget book. If one wants to look at the NCLB dollars related to PM on page 357 of the budget book we discover that of the $17.5 million NCLB dollars about 57% is supposed to be going to pay teachers for overtime.

    I am all for cutting the Scantron Assessment Initiative, but that will only yeild $4.8 million. I am not sure cutting all the money for teacher overtime to be used for meeting is a good idea because collaboration is generally a good thing in schools, but all the discussion does not need to be about test scores.

    Now if you all are saying the money supposed to be going to CTU teachers for extended day related to PM is going somewhere else, then we have another much bigger issue. Everyone seems to think Mr. Huberman set up PM to get some high paid people money, if that is the case then possibly some of those people are teachers who pulled down some money too. Unless these teachers were never paid for the time spent in the PM process.

    I think PM has not worked, but its costs are really only a very small part of what is needed to right the CPS ship for FY 2012. As far as I can tell the NCLB dollars listed in the budget for PM include the stimulus dollars, so there is not any off the books money related to the stimulus money. All of that stimulus money is gone for FY 2012 at any rate.

    Rod Estvan

  • here's the letter huberman reportedly sent around on the day of his departure -- what do you think?:

    Dear Colleagues:

    As I wrap up my final days as chief executive officer, I want to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving weekend and holiday season. It has been a pleasure to work with--and get to know--so many of you over the last two years. As you know, Terry Mazany will be leading Chicago Public Schools as the interim CEO beginning next week, and I look forward to advising him to ensure a smooth transition.

    In talking with Terry, I'm going to share with him what I've heard from all of you. In visiting hundreds of schools and talking with countless teachers, students, principals, assistant principals and others, I learned that most of you share a common vision for Chicago Public Schools. When we talk about district strategy, we're talking about the things you've told me we need to do:

    We have to ensure our students are safe and ready to learn. We can't eliminate violence in our communities--and against our students--all by ourselves, but we can be part of the solution. Our violence reduction programs (including Safe Passage, Culture of Calm and our mentoring programs) are making a measurable difference, and both your feedback and our data bear that out.

    We have to provide our students more time in the classroom. It's simply unfathomable that a student who starts kindergarten in Houston and graduates from high school there finishes with four more years of education than a CPS student does. This has to change. The best way to do that is to extend the time our students spend with teachers. In the absence of a collective bargaining agreement that allows that, we're piloting programs that offer our students more time on task, often through new technology. You've enthusiastically embraced the idea, and I know many of you hope to see this program in your schools in the future.

    We must fundamentally rethink our approach to human capital. From recruiting to hiring to onboarding to retention, we've made significant progress toward ensuring that we have the best and most talented people working in our schools. But we've yet to address the elephant in the room: we have to radically change the way we evaluate and compensate our teachers and principals. This is certainly the most controversial issue in education today--and it's not going to go away. Our system of evaluation and compensation is broken--you know it, I know it, our parents know it. Over the next year, you will have the opportunity to engage in wide-ranging discussions and dialogue on how to change this system to make it more meaningful for everyone. It's my hope that all of you participate in this dialogue. Don't let the cynics tell you your voice won't count, or that the district won't listen. It will--and it does.

    We should continue to cultivate a culture of performance. This isn't just about data. It's about getting you information when and where you need it, and helping you act on the results. While a test like the ISAT or PSAE is a useful benchmark and measure of progress, we're doing more. Thousands of our teachers are using the nationally normed Scantron test--an adaptive exam that adjusts based on how students answer each question--to better understand how students are doing and to supplement regular quizzes and student work. Despite what you may hear from those who claim that we "test too much," the vast majority of you tell us you're thrilled to have such detailed information during the school year instead of at the end, because you can actually do something about it.

    In the coming months, you'll hear a lot of ideas about where our schools need to go next. Some of these ideas will be great, while others won't--like a return to the "good old days" when decisions focused on the harmony of the adults and not the needs of our students. Making the right choices for our students means making the kinds of difficult changes that can be uncomfortable for adults.

    I hope you'll embrace those who look forward, and not those who look back. I'm decidedly optimistic about the future of our schools--especially because I know that so many talented, dedicated professionals like you are working in them.

    It has been an honor to work alongside you. Thank you for the opportunity.


  • Clearly Mr. Huberman believed completely in the course he had set. I do not disagree that the issue of the quality of teachers is critical, I do disagree with the concept that highly skilled teachers equate to "human capital." Moreover, the idea that supposed perforance based compensation of teachers will drive quality improvement and compentency clearly did not work in the financial services sector as the collapse of Lehman Brothers and AIG demonstrate.

    Incentive money does not drive ethical behavior, it does not drive the compassion necessary to be a great urban teacher. When we apply a full blown bussiness logic model to urban education, teachers come to the logical conclusion that they should not be teachers at all, because they will never, ever become rich educating poor children. The paradigm Mr. Huberman was trapped in is inherantly in contradiction to the world of public education where there is no real profit involved.

    The only way to make the business paradigm work for public education is to turn public education into for profit education and this is what Milton Freedman argued for in in the Washington Post on February 19, 1995. Freedman wrote "I believe that the only way to make a major improvement in our educational system is through privatization to the point at which a substantial fraction of all educational services is rendered to individuals by private enterprises. Nothing else will destroy or even greatly weaken the power of the current educational establishment--a necessary pre-condition for radical improvement in our educational system. And nothing else will provide the public schools with the competition that will force them to improve in order to hold their clientele."

    Basically this is what Mr. Huberman and Mayor Daley argued. I disagree completely and I think a lot of parents and teachers disagree completely too.

    Rod Estvan

  • This is a republic

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