Killing CPS To Save It?

Killing CPS To Save It?
There’s not much new news, but the question of the day seems to be whether CTU’s opposition to the proposed closings has gone too far — over the cliff, so to speak — or remains in the category of speaking truth to power (in which case pretty much anything goes, right?)
My question for those who are so vehemently opposed to the idea of closings and everything CPS and City Hall are doing is  to wonder what you think you’re realistically going to win from muddying CPS and the Mayor besides scoring short-term political points and hoping to save teachers’ jobs?
The school closings haven’t been stopped. An independent elected school board and removal of Emanuel seem highly unlikely. The problems of neighborhood schools go back well before the current era — and CTU participated in creating them just as much as CPS.  The problems of middle-class parents (too much testing, too few “good enough” schools) will be addressed separately.

It’s possible that CTU and its most vehement allies are, unintentionally I’m sure, going to make things worse by pursuing a “by any means necessary” approach.  Another year of heated rhetoric (but limited impact) yields even fewer Chicago parents enrolling their kids in CPS schools, and fewer talented college graduates wanting to work in the system.  A prolonged but ultimately ineffective fight to get an elected Board or unseat Rahm.


High hopes and a high bar for Chicago’s teachers Tribune (opinion): Teachers are justifiably anxious about evaluation and frustrated by the tone of the dialogue around accountability, which too often sounds like the goal is about firing a few bad teachers instead of helping the vast majority get better. The needs of students and teachers need to be at the center of this work. The school district must make sure resources are available to help teachers improve.

Chicago school closings hurt African-American students Tribune (Karen Lewis): The idea that the Tribune uses its biggest stage — the Sunday edition after the announcement of the largest mass school closing in U.S. history — to trumpet a loaded poll that blames teachers for problems in schools is unfortunate.


Chicago school closings and the charge of racism Zorn:  Assuming for the sake of argument that the criteria for choosing which schools to close and combine were neutral and objective (I’ve seen no evidence that suggests otherwise) is “racist” the right word to use to describe the results?

Editorial: CTU, don’t burn down the house Sun Times: Hidden in CTU’s rhetoric are important truths about what CPS risks with these closures — student safety, neighborhood stability and slim odds that students who transfer will be substantially better off academically (University of Chicago research says students benefitted academically in past closings only when they were transferred to top-performing schools). Let’s talk about these important issues, along with ways to get the closure list just right.

Sun-Times editorial calls the union, ‘bomb throwers’ Klonsky: But the really funny thing was that the editorial is essentially in agreement with the teachers union in its critique of the announced 54 school closings over the next few months. So why have they resorted to such offensive metaphors?

Numbers game? Cops, union officials offer wrong crowd estimates for school-closing protest Sun Times: Chicago Police said between 700 and 900 marchers turned up in the Loop Wednesday to protest looming school closings. But a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of a photo taken of Daley Plaza — where protesters first gathered — pegged the number at 2,750 people. The teachers union vastly overestimated the crowd, saying 6,500 protesters showed up.

Chicago Teachers Union President Mocks ‘Wet Hen’ Rahm Emanuel for … Town Hall: The Chicago Teachers Union president appeared before the New York Collective of Radical Educators March 16 to give the keynote address at the group’s annual conference. In an encore to her controversial address to teachers on the west coast in 2011 …

Karen Lewis’ and Jesse Jackson’s Sophistry on Chicago School Closings Dropout Nation: There was Chicago AFT president Karen Lewis, indulging in class warfare rhetoric and playing upon her image as a faux progressive, proclaiming that it was time for the city to “rise up” against Second City Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who she called “an unjust …

Valley View School Board Slams Proposal For Suburban Online Charter School Progress IL:  Virtual Learning Solutions and K12, which operates in at least 29 states outside of Illinois with two schools in Chicago, want to form the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley for Valley View and 17 other school districts, including Plainfield and Oswego. Last night was the last of 18 hearings on the charter proposal.


There’s a lot to learn from the names of schools Chicago Tribune: The namesake of a school on the list of 54 Chicago public schools set to be closed. 3. Who was Arna Wendell Bontemps? a. An American poet, librarian and luminary in the Harlem Renaissance. b. Author of “Story of the Negro,” a children’s book that won a …

When Dream U. says no Tribune: Admissions experts: College rejections nothing personal, and Plan B school may end up being best choice after all  Last year at this time, Kendall Livingston felt like a failure. The Fenwick High School senior applied to seven colleges and, despite her stellar academic record and test scores, didn’t get accepted at any of them.



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  • Why has the issue been reframed by CPS/Mayor as "closing bad schools" from the original "closing underutilized schools" (with, of course, the calculation of "underutilized" being, uh, hinky)?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Because it suits his purpose! Rahm and the CPS leadership is full of shit. Liar, liar, pants of fire.

  • From catalyst-chicago: In a statement, schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that "this is not easy for our communities. But as CEO of this district, I need to make decisions that put our children first. For too long, children at underutilized schools have been cheated of the resources they need to succeed."

    --- Who does she credit with making the executive decisions to "cheat" those students of "resources?" Could someone ask her?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner are put first. Not the students in CPS.

  • HUH? What's this about? From catalyst-chicago:

    "...My current favorite (the past 24 hours) is the reorganization of the department that handles special education services. You'd think they wouldn't mess with that, Corey H and all. But... Noooooo..."

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The department needs to be is dysfunctional. I went to a retired special education teachers' forum in December of 2012 where the new head of OSS, Markey Winston (sp) actually asked us for our feedback on how to improve special education in CPS. How novel to actually ask the teachers.....let's see what she does with OSS-she seems knowledgeable, competent and best of all, sincere.


  • In reply to district299reader:

    What are the coming changes to the OSS? Anyone know? Going in the right direction?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I saw this letter about closures from BBB posted on the OSS website:

    Letter from CEO Byrd-Bennett to Parents of Students with Special Needs

    March 19, 2013

    Dear Parents and Guardians,

    As Chief Executive Officer of every public school in this city, I am firmly committed to ensuring that every child in every neighborhood in Chicago gets the high quality education that will prepare them to succeed in life. Right now, that is not happening. For too long, too many children have not had access to the supports they need to excel in the classroom because they are studying in underutilized, under-resourced schools.

    As a life-long educator, former teacher and principal, I know that consolidating underutilized schools will allow us to focus our resources so that every child can be in a safe, better performing school close to their home. Each of these “welcoming schools” will have the resources and amenities that many parents like you, as well as teachers, have been demanding, such as libraries, air conditioning, computer and science labs and social workers. These are the kinds of schools Chicago’s children need and deserve.

    And as a mother and a grandmother, I know that many of you are anxious to learn more about the level of supports your child will receive should their school need to be consolidated as part of our efforts to give every student access to a quality education. I also know that transitioning to a new school may be challenging for some students, especially for those with disabilities.

    I want to assure you that my team and I have developed a specialized plan for transitioning students with disabilities who may be impacted in the event that their school may be closed. This plan considers what transitioning students with disabilities will need, including ensuring that:

    Students are assigned to a welcoming school that can implement his/her IEP;
    Student-based and classroom equipment and supplies are transitioned and ready for use on the first day of school;
    Transition supports for students, such as social stories and “meet and greets” with special education teachers and parents to review IEPs, are in place;
    All accessibility issues are addressed by the start of the school year, and
    Welcoming schools receive training to address the unique needs of all incoming students.

    Additionally, we are taking into account all of the feedback we’ve received from more than 20,000 parents, school staff, students and others at recent CPS community meetings around our work to address the utilization crisis facing the District. The Office of Special Education and Supports had representation at every community meeting to capture feedback around special education issues to ensure we consider them as part of our planning. We are also launching a special education sub-committee to advise us around the recommendations I will make to the Chicago Board of Education. This sub-committee includes advocates, parents, and other key stakeholders. They will meet regularly and provide guidance around any concerns that arise. These meetings are launching this week.

    We are committed to ensuring that students with disabilities are supported through any transitions that arise as part of this work, and welcome any feedback you may have. We know that each student has different needs, and we will take every step necessary to address these for each individual student.

    Thank you for your patience and understanding.


    Barbara Byrd-Bennett
    CEO, Chicago Public Schools

  • In reply to district299reader:

    B3 is a hired gun to close schools in Chicago like she did in Detroit, Cleveland and New York. Not more, no less.

  • You're right. B3 sells it well but is as phony as a $3 bill. The "skin that she wears" helps her sell it and matches Karen. Rahm picked that up during the strike. Those who are out of touch will begin to believe the reasoning. Detroit is in shambles and Cleveland isn't the top system either. I give her one full year because she's well over 60 years old. Within one year little caesar will use his dictator powers and send her packing back east for good instead of commuting as she does now.

  • More HUH?

    "...They are so crazy that they are into another crazed Orwellian lexicography exercise and seeding what's left of the department [OSS] with as many out-of-town Broad (and elsewhere) mercenaries as they can hire faster than they can announce, for the thousandith time, how broke they are..."

  • Not a fan of how CPS went about this. They gave CTU and their allies a lot of fodder with changing stories, the shameful hearings and unrealistically low utilization numbers (Did they really have to calculate them on ~ 30 students per class!).

    Unfortunately, the census numbers show that this is needed in the Black Community (a lot of my friends were those who moved to the suburbs) where we lost a lot of residents.

    Thank you District 299 for your common sense comments about the scorched earth approach against the closures.

    Everyone agrees that they want better schools for all Chicago children, both sides just have to let go of their agendas (Now, looking at you CPS, Re:Charter Schools).

  • I don't know how it is in the district299reader world, but out here, the combination of the "angry face of Karen Lewis" combined with "we can't do this because we have abandoned large parts of the city to gang territory" sure indicates that something else has to be done or the system will fall apart in any event, as the headline implies.

  • Got a chuckle out of Beachwood Reporter's page:

    Observation: Rahm Emanuel and Barbara Byrd-Bennett act like they've just gotten to Chicago and they're the first ones to discover CPS is a mess when the mayor's pals have been running the show for 20 years while parents and teachers have been begging for textbooks and air conditioning. To scornfully wonder where those opposed to their school closings plan have been this whole time is to express an ignorance - or political cynicism - that is astonishing and amazingly counterproductive.

    It reminds me of this Facebook exchange I had with CPS communications chief Becky Carroll in 2011, edited only for space and relevance:

    CARROLL: I wake up everyday knowing that I am doing something to help make our public education system better for our students. Can [you] say that?

    RHODES: Is your commitment to CPS students or to your political patrons? Personally, I don't think CPS students will benefit from your boss' policies. So yes, I think I'm working on their behalf every day.

    CARROLL: [B]ottom-line is that our students are in a desperate situation - I think that u are woefully uninformed about how bad our students have it. 7.9% of our 11th graders tested college ready. so what should we do steve? sit on our ass and let the status quo continue because it's worked so well over the last 20 years?

    RHODES: I think you are woefully uniformed about what I have been writing about our schools for many years, which is that the PR put forth by the Daley administration was total bullshit. Where have you and Rahm been on that? Weren't we told all these years that improved schools were [one] of Daley's greatest legacies? Hell, Arne Duncan is Barack Obama's education secretary! Now it turns out he did a crappy job! So I've been there from the start. You?

    CARROLL: I'm not aware of how much you've been writing about cps and how f-Ed up it's been. im happy to hear that u have because believe me not enough folks have done so. I don't think u r going to find us saying that things have been done well during the Daley years, believe me. it's not 100 percent bad news, but it's very clear that strategies in the past, no matter how well intended, have not boosted student achievement. grad rates, college readiness, achievement gap, etc. especially with African American kids. it's unforgivable how bad it is and I never realized how bad it was till I got here.


    Until she got here? She's a graduate of CPS!

    And she worked for Daley, including in his press office!

    Which, curiously, you don't see here.

    (Her tenure working for Rod Blagojevich, where she served as "deputy Chief of Staff for budget policy and as the chief spokesperson for the budget in the Governor's Budget office," is also missing.)

    So yes, I think we all know who the Johnny-come-latelies are.

    And their arrogance is, well, I've already used the word astonishing, but it's the kind of half-informed confidence and zeal of yuppies with wrecking balls who leave lasting damage in their wake, felt long after they move on to greener political pastures.


    Just the latest fact-based argument: CBS2 Chicago: Study: School Closings Won't Help CPS Students.


    And if you don't like that study, here's another one, as the New York Times reports:

    "In the 100 schools that have closed in Chicago since 2001, 88 percent of the students affected were black. Over all, black students make up 42 percent of the city schools enrollment.

    "It is not clear that students displaced from shuttered schools end up attending better ones. In one study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago of 38 schools closed between 2001 and 2006, the researchers found that only 6 percent of the students who were originally enrolled in schools that closed were sent to academically strong schools."

    But CPS is going to invest in all sorts of neat things at the receiving schools!

    That's what they always say.

    "[Researcher Stephanie] Farmer said the school under-use rationale for closing schools is right out of the playbook of pro-charter school organizations like the Broad Foundation, of which Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is a disciple," CBS2 reports.

    CPS students will not suddenly be riding unicorns to their new pleasure palaces.

    "When Michelle Rhee told D.C. school residents that she, as chancellor of public schools in the nation's capital, was closing 23 under-enrolled schools, she promised that a lot of money would be saved that could be plowed back into academic programs in remaining schools," Valerie Strauss writes in the Washington Post. "It didn't happen; an audit years later found that the closings actually cost the city $40 million."

    The district won't save money and won't improve academic performance. It will devastate neighborhoods and provide a political talking point for our "tough" mayor.

    At least that's what the facts overwhelmingly suggest.


    I guess that's a column after all.

    The [Thursday] Papers
    "If 61 percent of the city's youth are graduating from high school, but among African-American adolescent males, it's 44 percent, but you do nothing, what does that say?" Emanuel said. "Is that enlightened? Is that progressive?"

    Is Rahm for real? So many questions.

    Who is advocating doing nothing?

    Teachers and parents have cried for even just a share of the resources that the University of Chicago Lab schools use to educate Rahm's kids.

    Is Rahm suggesting that Richard M. Daley did nothing all these years?

    Rahm has been a close political ally of Daley for years. Did he ever say anything?

    Did Paul Vallas, Ron Huberman, Terry Mazany and Jean Claude-Brizard do nothing all these years?

    And what of Arne Duncan, who did such a great job he was promoted by Barack Obama to U.S. Secretary of Education. Rahm, you were the president's chief of staff at the time, did you ever ask Duncan why he never did anything?

    Is it possible that the schools aren't to blame for the impovershed conditions so many African-Americans males grow up in?

    Perhaps the city has disinvested in the poorest neighborhoods and closing schools there will only make it worse. Wouldn't it make more sense to build neighborhoods instead of destroying them?

    The Great Financial Scandal wiped out the economy and left much of the South and West Sides in foreclosure. Do your Wall Street pals share any of the blame and responsibility for deteriorating conditions in our city?

    Perhaps, then, it would be fair to shore up the budget through a relatively miniscule financial transactions tax.

    Is closing 54 schools enlightened and progressive? Only on Planet Orwell.

    Decidedly not. See The Rahmney Plan For Schools.


    "Emanuel acknowledged the closing of scores of neighborhood schools will be 'tough' on parents and students. But he said kids will ultimately end up attending better schools, even if they have to travel farther to get to them."

    Yeah, the research doesn't really back that up: "81% Of Displaced Students Moved To Schools Just As Bad, Worse."

    But then, this administration creates its own reality.


    See also the item Rahm's Wrong Again. Hint: Facts aren't his friend.


    The Real Problem With Rahm's School Reforms. Hint: Claims counter to the facts.


    Two Visions For Chicago's Schools. Hint: Teachers' vs. Rahm's.


    Meanwhile, Barbara Byrd-Bennett repeated to Chicago Tonight last night that her actions couldn't possibly be racist because, well, look at her! She's black!

    Is that why the school closings were announced when Rahm was in Utah? To put a black woman out front to blunt just such charges? So the video the national news networks had didn't show Rahm making the announcement?


    Of course no one thinks you got up in the morning, as you imagined to marginalize your critics, and thought to target people of color. But if you don't know better than to think that's what you're being accused of, you aren't qualified to hold your job.

    Racism is an effect of institutional policies that does not require bigotry as a motive.


    "Performance has nothing to do with our utilization plan."

    - Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Nov. 27, 2012


  • In reply to district299reader:

    This is a perfect characterization:

    "half-informed confidence and zeal of yuppies with wrecking balls who leave lasting damage in their wake, felt long after they move on to greener political pastures."

    but how can we turn this into an easily understood 3 syllable (or less) term?

  • The link:

  • Dave Stieber's huffingtonpost article titled "1 of 150 Arrested for Protesting School Closures" was really interesting. In a way it relates to Alexander's question as to whether the CTU has gone over the cliff. I don't see the issue in the same way, but the dangers for the union and public education are very real none the less.

    The CTU has been sending around links to Dave Stieber's article. Dave seems like he must be a really wonderful and caring teacher for his students at Team Englewood Community Academy. He seems deeply convinced that passive resistance via an approach similar to that of Gandhi will be victorious in the end in relation to school related issues like the closings and budget cuts to come.

    Gandhi's intention was not to defeat the opponent, but to bring her/him to his side since the opponent is seen as a part of your own self, through persuasion and suffering. In this context its all about defeating Mayor Emanuel because he is totally beyond hope and is totally part of a process to destroy public education. While that may or may not be totally true, it's clearly not Gandhi's perspective in relation to power figures. Just for the record I don't consider my self in any way a supporter of Gandhi's strategy.

    I know Dave teachers social studies so he may be familiar with what I am about to say, but I feel compelled to do so any way. Gandhi's non-violent resistance to British imperialism needs to be situated within the context of the Indian subcontinent which was on the edge of armed rebellion against British rule.

    Gandhi’s views about violent struggle
    were sharpened in response to Indian
    activists who had defended a terrorist
    attack on a British official. The incident
    occurred in London in 1909, shortly before
    Gandhi arrived there to lobby the
    British Parliament on behalf of South
    African Indian immigrants. An Indian
    student in London, Madan Lal Dhingra,
    had attacked an official in Britain’s India
    office, Sir William H. Curzon-Wylie, in
    protest against Britain’s colonial control
    over India. At a formal function, Dhingra
    pulled out a gun and, at close range,
    fired five shots in his face. The British
    official died on the spot. Dhingra was
    immediately apprehended by the police;
    when people in the crowd called him a
    murderer, he said that he was only fighting
    for India’s freedom.

    Several weeks after Gandhi arrived in
    London, he was asked to debate this issue
    of violence with several of London’s
    expatriate Indian nationalists. His chief
    opponent was Vinayak Savarkar, a militant
    Hindu who would later found the
    political movement known as the Hindu
    Mahasabha, a precursor to the present day
    Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya
    Janata Party. At the time of the 1909
    assassination Savarkar was reputed to
    have supplied the weapons and ammunition for the act, and to have instructed the ardent Hindu assassin in what to say in his final statement as he was led to the gallows. The young killer said that he was “prepared to die, glorying in martyrdom.”

    Our situation in Chicago really is radically different than the situation of Gandhi vs. the British imperialists. There is dissatisfaction amongst many Chicagoans to Mayor Emanuel, but really not rebellion. All social classes within the city are not adversely impacted by the Mayor's policies like broad sectors of Indian society were impacted by British imperialism. Gandhi's moral power was also based on the reality of the underlying fear of massive violence if his non-violent resistance strategy did not work. We are in a very different situation I think.

    Rod Estvan

  • A reminder for us all:

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