Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Questionable Legacy

If CPS families, teachers, and staff need further hints that Chicago's media and corporate elite are ready to make them a relic of the past, look no further than the Tribune's Thursday editorial subheading: "Let charter schools breathe life into empty CPS buildings." The editorialists seemingly believe these buildings are self-organized entities who chose to empty themselves. It's not as though CPS willfully underfunded schools and then, ahem, closed them or anything.

Today's Tribune shameless charter plug is for Legacy Charter in the North Lawndale neighborhood. The hot investment property (cha-ching!) Legacy would like to acquire is the former Pope Elementary School, located at 1852 W. Albany Ave. We're informed Legacy's possible probable expansion is, "a terrific idea for students, parents, and teachers...and the North Lawndale community." Nothing like a neighborhood being told by a bunch of non-residents what is or isn't good for them.

The Tribune describes the vacant Pope as "hollow," waiting for 500 learning children to populate it. We are to infer that no learning occurred when Pope was a public school, and the sanctimonious pearl clutchers who write today's column further this notion by quoting a central office pencil-pusher who talks about, "finding a good use for these closed schools." WCT wonders if said bureaucrat is aware the school was previously in good use as...a school. This fact is not lost on residents who WBEZ captured in an August report lamenting Pope's fate. Long a community hub, a former North Lawndale resident narrated her many family members who went there and the sense of loss she felt as Pope marched towards its inevitable shuttering.

Still, readers are exhorted to think of the "opportunity and positive change" schools like Legacy might bring to a community. As an afterthought readers are told, "any strong school" could generate this energy, too. 

Unmentioned in this unabashed endorsement of privatization is that by CPS's own measure Legacy is considered weak in the following areas: student growth, student attainment, culture & climate, and safety. WCT supposes that Legacy's hedge-fundy, corporate-y board members from Wealth Strategist Partners, Dentons, and Willis Stein & Partners make the school's meh performance acceptable because nobody knows education like the business world.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No Big Surprise

In the increasingly acrimonious public education landscape, it should come as no big surprise that Karen Lewis hints that teachers will not want to add the optional year to their contract: "In a recent interview with Catalyst Chicago, CTU president Karen Lewis laughed when asked whether the union plans to terminate the contract in June 2015 rather than renewing it for another year. She indicated she is pretty sure that teachers would not want to extend the contract." 

Jesse Sharkey, the CTU VP, furthers the argument stating teachers' displeasure over the new evaluations, lack of adequate substitute coverage, and the longer school day that's never been properly funded. Sharkey calls the language renewing the agreement "meaningless." 

CPS: always true to its meaningless form.

Looks like we might want to ready our strike gear for August 2015.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thanks Karen, Again.

Last week, in typical CPS fashion, B3 issued a statement angering many parents and teachers. B3 kinda, maybe said parents could choose to opt their kids out of tests. That is only if parents talked to the principal and realized that by opting out they'd damage their child's future and the school's ranking. And probably make those testing companies less profitable with a bunch of unused tests sitting around. 

Some would call B3's statement an exercise in false choice, we'd agree

Less than a week later, Karen Lewis and the CTU have responded to Bennett's threatening, huffy email with good sense and logic for parents choosing to opt their kids out of tests:

  • "The ‘low stakes’ test is administered over the course of eight days in all elementary schools. Formerly used to help qualify 7th grade students for selective enrollment high schools. The district recently issued a memorandum to teachers stressing the value of “rigorous, high-quality assessments,” in measuring student progress. The ISAT, however, is not aligned to any CPS curriculum, and in Chicago, it is no longer used to measure student progress, school performance, promotion, or for any other purpose."
CPS demands students use over a week and a half of school days to take a test that isn't aligned to any CPS curriculum nor will be used for measurement of any sort? Shocking. Good thing CTU provides the money trail for us:

  • "Illinois paid over $18 million this year to Pearson Corporation for the ISAT. The portion attributed to CPS is roughly $3.4 million, impacting over 171,000 students. The total cost of administering the tests are the untold hours of preparation for the exam, and the loss of valuable instructional hours that could be spent on real learning."
$18 million dollars would certainly provide real learning opportunities in the form of smaller class sizes, adequate staffing so teachers can provide meaningful help to students, and quality materials with which to teach.

Thanks again Karen for standing up for the families of CPS.