Moderate Rahm, Closing "Savings"?

Moderate Rahm, Closing "Savings"?

Rahm’s a policy moderate — according to Chicago Magazine. CTU slams CPS use of school closing “savings.” Hispanics declaring themselves white on census forms. Students protest appointed Newark superintendent. “Common Core” textbooks that aren’t really Common Core.

Rahm Is an Ass-Kicker—But Don’t Confuse His Personality With His Politics Chicago Magazine: The mayor is famous for his aggressive style, but when it comes to policy, he’s surprisingly moderate.

Teachers union: School closings brought broken promises for students WBEZ Chicago: Chicago Public Schools has spent more than $80 million in operational dollars related to school closings. The union has a report out today that says just a tenth of that has made it to kids’ classrooms. Ninety percent went to things like security along school routes, fees to moving companies, and staff layoff costs.

Future of Ames, Kelvyn Schools Focus of Logan Square Association Congress DNAinfo: If CPS chief executive officer Barbara Byrd Bennett “is committed to the students then she should be here,” Valasquez said. “We’re scared and skeptical — August is right around the corner and no one has a plan.”

The question of choice Chicago Tribune (editorial): Tim King, founder and CEO of Urban Prep Academies, which runs three all-boys open-admission highschools in Chicago, acknowledged that his schools have expelled more students than the average for the Chicago Public School system.

The journalism of empathy: Alex Kotlowitz receives Peabody Award for his story …
Wednesday Journal: Kotlowitz joined the project and while looking for a way to tell the story, he heard a piece by WBEZ’sLinda Lutton. “She’s one of the best education reporters out there,” Kotlowitz began.

Michelle Obama promotes arts education CBS News: Making a forceful plea about the role of arts in education, first lady MichelleObama on Tuesday argued arts education isn’t something to be introduced in schools after student test scores go up, but is a critical part of better test …

With Muti, Pritzker and Mariano, Chicago commencements dodge controversy Crain’s Chicago Business: Chicago-area schools skirted scrutiny this year with less controversial commencement speakers, unlike in the past. Northwestern University’s School of Law drew criticism in 2008 when it invited talk show host and former Cincinnati mayor Jerry Springer.

For the Record: Turnarounds and no-bid contracts Catalyst: AUSL is awarded turnarounds through a “School Management Consulting Agreement.” Such an agreement is unique and CPS officials say they are not legally compelled to put out a Request for Proposals (nor does anything prevent them from seeking multiple proposals).

Defending the Common Core school standards Tribune (editorial): In 2010, a who’s who of American educators and politicians joined forces to spearhead a national initiative with wide appeal and few if any critics. It was called the Common Core.


Math books claim to cover Common Core but don’t, says prof Seattle Times: Greetings from Nashville, where I’ve been attending the 67th annual conference of the Education Writers Association.

More Hispanics Declaring Themselves White NYT: An estimated net 1.2 million Americans of the 35 million Americans identified in 2000 as of “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin,” as the census form puts it, changed their race from “some other race” to “white” between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, according to research presented at an annual meeting of the Population Association of America and reported by Pew Research.

Using dancers’ discipline as leaping off point for academics PBS NewsHour: It’s the culmination of a year’s work at the National Dance Institute of New Mexico, a program that aims to engage and motivate children to strive for excellence using the arts; 74 percent of the dancers come from low-income families; 85 percent are either Hispanic or Native American.

Need Scholarship? Join Scrum NYT: A growing number of high school students have discovered an alternative route to college through fringe sports like rugby.


Newark Students Camp Out Overnight at School to Protest Superintendent WSJ: Tuesday’s protest heated up when about a dozen students sat down on the floor in the front of  an evening session of the elected school advisory board. They shouted “hey ho, hey ho, Cami Anderson has got to go” and used the hashtag #OccupyNPS on Twitter to spread news of their sit-in at the district’s headquarters.

No Child Left Behind faceoff is high drama – but of little consequence Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: A battle over the Common Core State Standards has spawned the latest skirmish between the GOP-controlled Indiana State Board of Education and state Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a Democrat.

Fairfax County’s Stuart High struggles on teacher survey Washington Post: More than 75 percent of teachers in Fairfax County high schools find their school’s leadership to be effective and more than 85 percent find their school to be a good place to work and learn, according to a recent 2014 working conditions survey.

Ousted opponent of LA schools iPad fights to regain seat on oversight committee KPCC LA: But Magruder said voters clearly meant for the $19 billion loans to be used to maintain and build schools, not to buy “the modern equivalent of pencils and paper.” He said his ouster was political retribution.

City’s low-income students among highest achievers BatSun: Most education research suggests that students at Hamilton Elementary and Thomas Johnson Middle would be handicapped by their low-income backgrounds.

Settlement reached for 3 killed in school shooting AP: The families of the three teenagers killed in a 2012 school shooting rampage have agreed to settle a lawsuit filed against relatives of the killer, with each of the estates receiving about $890,000….


Leave a comment
  • Until very recently, I've been enthusiastic about Common Core standards, largely because they provide a framework within which to articulate complex and rigorous language arts tasks. Here was a chance to be free from the mind-numbing minuteness and arbitrary sequencing of the ACT-related "College Readiness Standards" which we used to use in my Chicago high school. In comparison, the Common Core standards specify large, more or less real-world tasks and the sequencing of skills is far less bizarre. I wish I had time to give examples in this short note.

    Lately, however, I have come to see that there is a very big difference between Common Core as a framework for planning and Common Core as a framework for assessment. As I plan my curriculum for next year, it seems quite clear that the PARCC assessment--not the Common Core standards per se--will effectively make it impossible for some of the most important social-emotional learning to take place in the urban classroom. This is the inevitable result of the huge leap in academic skills that these tests will require of students, and of the dry bias against self-expression built into the framework of the Common Core.

    Many teachers who praise the Common Core, as I have, do so without thinking about the way that the Core's implementation will be warped by its transformation into a system of assessment. Once PARCC is in place, the virtues of the Common Core Standards will almost certainly come to seem like plagues, as teachers find themselves unable to find time or even justification for student-centered learning.

    The Common Core Standards in English/Language Arts have an implicit but overwhelming bias in favor of impersonal, academic discourse. The text now replaces the student as the center of the educational process. While there are token standards for creative work, the solidification of the link between formal reading and formal assessment really leaves little doubt that students are to mimic academic standards in order to show they are learning.

    The time required for both planning and in-class material coverage by the PARCC-driven Common Core standards further marginalizes the essential activities in which students are able to process the challenges and experiences that they bring to class each day. Looking over CPS recommended 10th grade curriculum, it is clear that even if I do nothing but text to essay work all year, my students will be far, far behind the target skill levels. And I am not even talking here about practical challenges related to the impossibility of sending texts home with many students and so forth.

    What seems pretty clear is that in the PARCC we are creating a system that is bound to fail. Not because it aims too high, but because it ignores the ground. In a society where schools must impart essential socialization skills that many students lack from home, implementing the Common Core as a framework for standardized testing not only goes against any sound understanding of developmental psychology (see for example Nobel prize-winner James Heckman's new book, The Myth of Achievement Tests), but will not likely do much more than create some uncouth mixture of panic and rebellion in schools across the country.

  • fb_avatar

    Wow. Well said, Chicago. You have completely nailed the problems with Common Core assessment. I particularly like your line that
    "Once PARCC is in place, the virtues of the Common Core Standards will almost certainly come to seem like plagues, as teachers find themselves unable to find time or even justification for student-centered learning."

    I also agree that students will probably be able to do little more than mimic the "academic" standards.

    You should consider joining Badass Teachers on Facebook.

  • Neither the PARCC assessment nor the Common Core standards which supposedly are “raising the bar” for students and making our nation more competitive on a global level will work unless the work force produced by these standards is either less expensive or radically more productive than the current US work force. While it is true that Chinese wages are increasing faster than US wages so in theory there could be a convergence that will not happen in my opinion. The reason is that international companies, even Chinese companies, will seek out even cheaper labor in places like Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, etc.

    So what is the prospect of a supposedly more skilled high school graduate being inherently more productive than a somewhat lower skilled high school graduate? The prospects are very bad especially if we look at the work of Enrico Moretti a Fulbright Fellow economist who specializes in labor productivity issues. I am going to have to greatly simplify Moretti’s views, but simply put if the production function of a factory or office is relatively low tech, having a more educated work force has zero effect on productivity. If we are talking about extremely high tech production, then it does have an effect, but the problem is the company must pay up for more skilled workers. The skill sets needed are far more specialized than even a so called STEM high schools can provide. To be honest the STEM Education Coalition which argues these STEM schools are the solution to our nation’s competitive economic problems is in my opinion just marketing.

    Mortetti’s research based on 5 million American workers in 240 metropolitan areas over 20 years shows that increases in college-educated workers in an area result in better jobs and significantly higher wages, especially for workers with a high school education or less. The cheapest way to do this is not necessarily to pump more and more US students into colleges, but rather substantially increasing the number of skilled immigrants – scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs. Their spillover effect in a metropolitan area appears to increase the wages even for non-college graduates in a City. (see his article )

    The world is not a simple place and the magic promised of higher standards is not consistent with the real world of economics. Children and young adults need to be educated first and foremost to be good citizens who can make good decisions about our nation. I am not sure how either the PARCC assessment or the Common Core will promote that.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    For lack of a more thorough description, when I read the Wiki page on Common Core it seems to me that the goals as described there are directly relevant to ensuring a citizenry which can make good decisions for our nation. Critical thinking applied to oneself or the issues of the broader community is fundamental to a well functioning democracy isn't it?

  • Common Core says your argument is a false dilemma...sorry couldn't help it.

  • One example of how the common core pushes STEM is the fact that reading is being driven to explicit non-fiction text. Non-fiction is not excluded, but it is deemphasized. It is driving the entirety of our educational system away from humanities and towards STEM. This is not just at the K-12 level, but at the college level too. We can see this in the contraction of many college departments. Supposedly this is driven by choice of students, but in my opinion it is driven by forces far greater than that.

    To have a functional democracy humanities education is critical, and this applies whether the thrust of that humanities education is in fact very conservative or left wing. Teaching a Catholic perspective on the moral questions relating to abortion is in my opinion as a supporter of a women's right to choice is critical part of of our democracy. Without divergent perspectives we can't make rational decisions as an nation. Teaching humanities takes time and instructional time is being eaten up by the STEM driven emphasis of the common core.

    The emphasis on common core and STEM even has had an impact on Catholic schools which must remain relevant to the perceived requirements of the job market. What is called the narrowing of the curriculum is driven by a profound misunderstanding of the relationship between employment and educational standards.

    There are far bigger issues at play in the employment discussion than just the skill sets of high school graduates entering the work force as I have discussed in my earlier post that relate to wages.

    Rod Estvan

  • Schools and teachers are responsible for how standards are implemented. This responsibility cannot be passed off because of a fear of the accountability. If students are not provided a well rounded education because you looked atthe test and you are worried about the test, the thinking is adult centered, not students. Schools and teachers across the country are providing students with excellent, well rounded instruction. Why any professional would do anything else is beyond me.

  • I've been reading James Heckman's newly published book, "The Myth of Achievement Tests" and I think it delivers a decisive blow to any notion that a PARCC driven curriculum is appropriate preparation for the workplace. In particular, What Heckman and his co-authors argue, on the basis of an exhaustive review of evidence, is that a vast preponderance of valid research on education and development argues for the primacy of what they call character education. Cognitive development is not a significant predictor of success in the workplace (keeping a job, meeting expectations, etc...)--let alone happiness or moral conduct.

    The "marshmallow test" is an illustration of this--people who choose at age 7-9 to delay gratification in order to receive two marshmallows (rather than immediately receiving a single marshmallow) 20 years later turn out to be overwhelmingly more successful at basic functionality in work and other social contexts. Moreover, Heckman cites considerable evidence that these character skills can be taught, at least at an early age.

    In other words, basic success of this sort can be traced to the very character education that is being pushed out by the PARCC's inevitable intensification of normative achievement-based education.

    The rationale behind the Common Core standards is very clearly not based on any sort of holistic understanding of what students need to be successful, but rather on a very sociologically thin and narrowly targeted view of what makes for success in an undefined notion of college.

    If we delve into the Common Core rationale in ELA, we find (ELA Appendix A, p. 2) that the literacy framework is almost entirely grounded on research showing that college-ready scores on the ACT reading assessment appear to be correlated "not... [to students'] relative ability in making inferences while reading or answering questions related to particular cognitive processes, such as determining main ideas or determining the meaning of words and phrases in context. Instead, the clearest differentiator was students’ ability to answer questions associated with complex texts."

    In other words, the actual question of what literacy skills students need for success is never really examined. Instead, the authors of the Core substitute the ACT's questionably self-serving argument about success in college and leave it at that. There is no analysis whatsoever of the skills that actually differentiate successful members of society from unsuccessful ones.

    Having understood this, it is all the more strange to hear that the PARCC, which takes its justification from the ACT, will now be replacing the ACT. It is very easy to disparage teachers who question the wisdom of the PARCC, but such criticisms are generally politically motivated and are never, to my knowledge rooted in any sort of rational presentation of evidence. (Witness today's Chicago Tribune editorial).

    What we see with the PARCC is the total elimination of professional and familial discretion about what a given student or group of students "needs". Given that the Core appears to be based on assumptions about skills for success that are at best poorly substantiated and at worst flatly wrong, this removal of local discretion is not something to be celebrated by people who care about young people or about American education as a whole.

  • In reply to chicago:

    As someone who has managed CPS high-need grads, I find it hard to believe that CC will make these students less ready for the workplace.
    A real rise in just about any demonstrable skill in this group probably predicts more achievement in college and work.

  • In reply to Donn:
  • I must say, if PARCC will be run the way nwea was will be a cheat-fest, or known as normal procedure..
    Everything we saw on the video as to what was allowable and acceptable, the rules were broken. Calculators, Asst Prin's openly helping, charts w/formula' name it, it was done.

    Some students had 150% growth...but CPS and the network looks the other way. It's all about the State $$$.

  • Thus, we get to the real issue. No matter the standards or the exam, it is the interpretation and implementation at the school and classroom level that determines whether accountability is student centered or adult centered. It's clear that there is little faith that instruction makes a difference, so the adults choose themselves and engage in policy arguments rather than reflecting on the quality of schools and classes.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    All education policy is adult centered as is the Common Core itself, and as where all standards adopted in our nation since the 1890s.. Education is not about making students individually better performers, it is about creating a future workforce and shared values. So whether we are measuring teachers or students it is about the adult world not the child's world.

    The reasons for public education are very adult, civic education and indoctrination in what can be called patriotic values, and the development of a workforce at multiple levels inclusive of every thing from scientists to street cleaners. Accountability for instruction is not solely enforceable by educational administrators and members of the Boards of education around a state, it is also enforced by communities.

    A higher income community where a majority of parents are college graduates will demand higher instructional quality than will a poorer community and the higher income community have greater ability to enforce those perspectives on those who run schools. Lower income families unfortunately are easily duped by teachers, administrators, and schools that are responsive to some of them individually but not effectively educating most students.

    We have seen this for years in CPS and we are now seeing this happen in charter schools too. A small percentage of students achieve at a moderately high level relative to the mass of lower performing students and these are the children of the most aggressive parents. The poorer the community the more the "good" parents are praised by school staff. Getting a student through Chicago State, Northeastern Illinois, one of the weaker historically Black Colleges, or a community college is considered a massive victory for those poor but more effective families. A higher income family would consider such an outcome for their children pretty much a failure. There is a lot more to educational outcomes than standards or the quality of instruction.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to district299reader:

    If I understand this comment correctly, the person is defending specific educational policies with the amazing argument that educational policy makes no difference in education. We could save a lot of money, by this logic, if we could simply eliminate all educational policies--or perhaps the idea is that we should impose policies arbitrarily then step back and have a good watching the teachers and students get all tangled up in them. Such comments on a forum like this introduce a dark cynicism that seems calculated to silence reasoned discussion of education. We see it over and over here and it is, frankly, sickening.

Leave a comment