Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

CTU Election 5/21

May 19, 2010

We’re down to the final two days before the Chicago teachers get to choose between business as usual union politics where we throw money at politicians and hope they save us and movement style union politics where we save ourselves.   If you have been following my sporadic postings since October you know that I took Howard Zinn’s advice and joined up with a social movement.   As a teacher, the thing that was most important to me was education and naturally that’s where I went.  I can’t tell you how CORE has impressed me in this time.   While the other caucuses seem exactly one person deep–maybe two—CORE has 20 or 30.

I talk about CORE a bit differently than most.   You see, since I didn’t join until October I was able to pick a caucus that felt like they would take the union where it needed to go.   Since, I joined I’ve seen CORE’s partnerships with Teachers for Social Justice, Chicago Youth Initiating Change, and a host of community organizations.   We have something developing here and I’d ordinarily be quite content if we lost the election to sit back and continue to let the movement germinate, but who knows what will be left of the union or the city’s schools if another caucus wins—especially UPC.

The CORE Slate

Karen Lewis – She’s a firebrand.   She reminds me a bit of my sister.   Most of the time she’s pretty laid back and easygoing, but let her talk about education and she lights up.   She makes such an eloquent spokesperson for the teachers and students of the Chicago Public Schools.   It’s about time we had a CTU President that we can watch on Chicago Tonight without cringing.

Jesse Sharkey – He’s the perfect counterpoint to Karen.  I see him at CORE meetings with his young son and I see not only a great feather, but also a guy who really knows how to organize his time.   He’s a very effective speaker as well who was quite effective during the city council hearing on school turnarounds.

Kristine Mayle – I blogged about Kristine on the last day before going into work this year.   I was shocked to find out the next day that she would be working with me.  She reminds me of a turn of the 20th century labor leader.  She is so polished and well-spoken.  She also seems to be a font of endless stamina.  She made it to every school closing hearing 2 years ago and most of them this year.

Michael Brunson – Michael is fun.  He’s a former boxer and a second career teacher who is extremely gentle and charming, but like you might expect there’s a fighter there.   He’ll be smiling and you never see the jab coming.

I could go on and on.   This is an organization that is passionate about public education.   Check us out at http://www.coreteachers.com.   If you are a Chicago Public Schools teacher I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I am going to tell you educate yourself and make up your own mind.   I’m looking forward to Friday when the votes are cast, but I’m also nervous as all get out.

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The House That Ron Huberman Bought

May 11, 2010

The budget belt is tightening in Chicago and the schools are getting squeezed.   Schools will be shoe horn  35 students into a room and many teachers will be losing their jobs, but cheer up because the education business isn’t bleak for everybody.  CPS head Ron Huberman just bought a new $900,000 house.   According to several real estate sites, “LUXURY & ALMOST NEW CONSTRUCTION “GEM” IN THE HEART OF LINCOLN SQUARE! 5 BED/3.1BATH ON XTRA WIDE LOT. CHEF’S KIT W/ VIKING SS APPLIANCES, HUGE ISLAND, CHERRY CABS & EAT-IN KITCHEN+FAM ROOM! HOME FEATURES BRAZILIAN CHERRY HWFS, 3 FIREPLACES, 2 WET BARS, 8 FT SOLID CHERRY DOORS, CRWN MOLDING, 2 W/ D HOOKUP UP & DWN, SECUR/SOUND READY. HUGE DECK OVER GARAGE!WALK 2 PARKS, TRANS & STARBUCKS.”

Now, as schools are being asked to cram 35 students in the room, a little controversy has erupted because the fire code requires 20 square feet per student.   Isn’t it great to know that if Ron wanted to have a teacher hold class in his living room, you could legally seat 20 students in the spacious 18×23 room.  In fact, you could fit another 15 students in the master bathroom.   The house has 3 fireplaces and a whirpool.   The house, which is located at 2031 W. Wilson is in addition to the $400,000  condominium that Huberman has not yet put on the market.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Rob Huberman’s spacious new home where the man at the top of CPS can stretch out and let the stresses of the day float away.  For lifestyles of the rich and clueless, here’s wishing you cafeteria pizza wishes and dry erase dreams.

Bedroom Information

  • # of Bedrooms (Above Grade): 5

Bedroom #3

  • Size: 22X12
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Living Room

  • Size: 18X23
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Additional Rooms

  • Family Room
  • Gallery/Foyer
  • Recreation
  • Utility/Laundry Room (1st Floor)
  • Utility/Laundry Room (2nd Floor)
  • Has Basement
  • Full Basement
  • Finished Basement

Additional Room #3

  • Laundry Room
  • Size: 8X14
  • On Lower Level
  • Ceramic Tile Flooring

Equipment

  • Oven/Range
  • Microwave
  • Dishwasher
  • Refrigerator
  • Disposal
  • Humidifier
  • Security System
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors
  • Ceiling Fan
  • Whole House Fan
  • Sump Pump

Utility Information

  • Water: Lake Michigan
  • Water: Public
  • Sewer (Public)

Property Features

  • Deck
  • Porch
  • Bar (Wet)

Property Information

  • # of Rooms: 11
  • Ownership: Fee Simple
  • Listing Agent Must Accompany
  • Foreclosure
  • Parcel Identification Number: 14181280020000

Listing Information

  • Possession: Closing
  • Holds Earnest Money: No
  • Foreclosed
  • Seller Concessions: No

Master Bedroom

  • Has Master Bath
  • Size: 22X14
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Bedroom #4

  • Size: 12X12
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Dining Room

  • Combined with Living Room
  • Size: COMBO
  • On Main Level

Additional Room #1

  • Bedroom #5
  • Size: 14X12
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Additional Room #4

  • Pantry
  • Size: 6X5
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Fireplace Information

  • # of Fireplaces: 3
  • In Family Room
  • In Living Room
  • In Basement
  • Wood Burning
  • Attached Fireplace Doors/Screen
  • Gas Logs
  • Gas Starter

Parking Information

  • # of Cars: 2
  • Garage
  • Side Apron
  • Detached Garage
  • 1.5 Car Garage
  • 2 Car Garage
  • Automatic Garage Door Opener(s)
  • On-Site Garage
  • Side Driveway
  • Heated Driveway
  • Other Driveway

Lot Information

  • Less Than .25 Acre
  • Dimensions: 37 X 110

Financial Information

  • Tax: $7,297.11
  • Tax Year: 2008
  • Finance Code: Conventional

Bedroom #2

  • Size: 10X11
  • On 2nd Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Bathroom Information

  • Master Bath (Full)
  • Whirlpool
  • Separate Shower
  • Bathroom(s) in Basement

Kitchen

  • Eating Area (Table Space)
  • Island
  • Pantry (Butler)
  • Size: 22X23
  • On Main Level
  • Hardwood Flooring

Additional Room #2

  • Recreation Room
  • Size: 18X24
  • On Lower Level
  • Carpet Flooring

Additional Room #5

  • Foyer
  • Size: 4X9
  • On Main Level
  • Other Flooring

Heating & Cooling

  • Gas Heating
  • Central Air Conditioning

Building Information

  • Age: 1-5 Years
  • Aluminum/Vinyl/Steel Siding
  • Concrete Foundation
  • Wood Shake/Shingle Roof

J.P. Morgan Chase Anounces Plans to Launder Tax Payer Money

May 5, 2010

The Chicago Public Schools are facing a financial crisis.  Now, all the evidence points to this being a largely manufactured crisis to pry concessions from their employees and dollars from the state.  One thing is certain and that is that $250 million dollars that should be going to the Chicago Public Schools have been siphoned off this year from property taxes for Mayor Daley’s TIF fund.  This fund is basically his personal nest egg to spend where he sees fit.

One of the beneficiaries of this program is J.P. Morgan Chase.  Now, the use of the TIF fund is generally kept hush hush, but in December of last year, the developer of the $100 million Cabrini-Green redevelopment found himself unable to pay back a construction loan from J.P. Morgan Chase and the city came to the rescue so that he would not have to default on the loan.   The amount that J.P. Morgan Chase made on this deal was in excess of $8,000,000.

J.P. Morgan Chase, which is no stranger to corporate welfare has partnered with the city on a large number of projects using TIF funds and has benefited enormously.  Whether we’re talking about the $50 million Wilson Yard Project or sweetheart deals with individual alderman.   The big question though is what is J.P. Morgan Chase doing with that money that should have been directed to public school students in Chicago?  I’m glad you asked.

Today, J.P. Morgan Chase announced that they would be setting up a $325 million dollar program to fund charter schools.  In the ultimate indignity, public school students are now subsidizing charter schools with J.P. Morgan Chase basically serving as middle man.   With up to 300,000 public school teachers expected to lose their jobs next year and many others making big salary concessions it may be very tempting to live off the credit card a little.   If you are a teacher and you do have to do that, I just hope it’s not a Chase credit card.

Judgment at Central Falls Part 3

February 20, 2010

Central Falls Police Sgt. Wayne Solan carries a shotgun at the main entrance of Central Falls High School

[Continued from Part 2]

It was a wet Rhode Island Monday April 28, 2008 when Maida Lopez entered Central Falls High School.   There were already over 40 parents in a chaotic jumble in the main office trying to find their children so they could bring them home from school for the day.   The city of Central Falls has big city problems.  In the 1980s, it was called the cocaine capital of New England, but it was still a postage stamp size town of just over a square mile.   Over the weekend, two teenage boys had been shot and killed including 16-year-old Central Falls student Edelmiro Roman who was found unarmed at the corner of Dexter and Darling Streets, possibly in retaliation for the killing of a 19-year-old boy the night before.  This is life in Central Falls.

I won’t paint the town as overly bleak.  Like anywhere in America, the vast majority of the people here are hardworking and trying to get by.  The town’s median income is only $22,000 and many of the residents are immigrants from all over the world.   Central Falls Guidance Counselor George McLaughlin says, “There is an odd sort of respect in that school for teachers.”  He points out that while kids will sometimes spout an obscenity at a teacher, they will put a “sir” at the end of it.

Central Falls High School has the most transient student population in the state, the highest percentage of students who don’t speak English and a high percentage of special-needs students. More than 90 percent of students live in poverty.  This isn’t to say the students aren’t capable, but when you grow up in this environment, you usually have more important things on your mind than who to ask to the prom.   Teachers are constantly adjusting and readjusting to classes that don’t end the year with many of the students who began the year.   Transient students are also far more likely to drop out and as a result Central Falls has had their graduation rate suffer.

Despite difficult circumstances these teachers are making a difference.   It simply isn’t in the political interests of the district to acknowledge it.   Disraeli is credited with the famous quote,  “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

When Superintendent Gallo points to standardized test scores that supposedly show Central Falls failing she doesn’t point out, on the 2009 NECAP reading scores (teaching year), Central Falls is right in the middle of the state’s large urban high schools. At 56% proficiency they are behind the lower-poverty ones (Tolman, 64%; Shea, 62%; Woonsocket, 60%), tied with The MET and Providence Academy for International Studies, and ahead of Central (51%), Hope Leadership (49%), Hope IT (47%), and Alvarez (44%) in Providence.

The Hope schools are of particular note since they went through a “fire the teachers” restructuring process a few years ago. There is no particular reason to expect the results of Central Falls restructuring to be any different.  Now, I don’t believe that standardized tests show you much outside of household income, but Central Falls ranking among similar schools is never mentioned nor is the fact that these same students at Central Falls only had 22% proficiency on the 7th grade tests, 5 years earlier.

Students at Central Falls do the same things that dedicated teachers in all urban districts do.   They help take over some of the responsibilities that would be taken care of by parents in more affluent communities–including providing clothing, food, and support when parents are unable too.  They make the best of a bad situation and they try and produce scholars.   Sometimes, the burdens are too much and they succeed only in producing solid citizens.   Sometimes, the best you can do is provide a safe place for 7 hours a day where a student can be warm and fed.   The teachers who can do these things day in and day out deserve respect and admiration.   Instead they usually get vitriol.   In the final part of this series, I will explain why Central Falls is so important to the future of education in this country.

[Continued in Part 4]


The Myth of Freedom Writers

February 15, 2010

From time to time, I’ll look at the links that Word Press puts at the bottom of my articles.   I do this because I hope to see what other bloggers are saying on similar topics.   A post I did on Guggenheim Elementary took me to this little nugget today, “In order to achieve quality education, we must educate and hire quality teachers. In this day and age however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get new teachers into the field. A majority of the educators you find in the inner city are young. This is an effective combination because the enthusiastic young teachers are driven to make a positive impression on their students.”

Now, I don’t want to pick on the writer of this blog.  The blog belongs to a student at the University of Oregon.   However, I am increasingly seeing the myth of the young teacher as educational savior and I see it championed by people who should know better.  Teach for America is built on this myth.

The Myth of Freedom Writers: A young, attractive teacher comes into a rough inner-city school where the old, physically ugly, burned out teachers have given up on teaching and the administration encourages that type of burned out behavior.   The teacher who knows nothing of the urban teaching environment has a rough few days, but then wins her students respect, which only makes the rest of the school that much more against her.  She makes huge sacrifices in her personal life and eventually her students learn. There is a terrible incident that shakes her class, but she helps them to rise above it.

Now before I continue, allow me to say that there is nothing wrong with young, energetic, attractive teachers.   However, what usually happens to a caring first year teacher is better illustrated by the character of Mister Prezbo in The Wire.  He’s been a cop in the worst part of Baltimore, but he’s not able to get control of a class of 30 8th graders until the experienced teacher from across the hall comes in and takes control of the situation.  The first half of the first year for most new teachers will be chaos.   The good ones will eventually learn what they’re doing and become excellent teachers.   The others will burn themselves out very quickly and be out of the classroom (usually in educational policy telling teachers what to do) in 2 or 3 years.

Innovation is not Dictated by Age: My mother was a more innovative teacher at 70 than I will ever be.  She had me teach her how to use a computer and she redesigned her school’s whole math curriculum when research showed multiplication and division were more effectively taught together.   At my current school, our two biggest innovators are women in the 60s who have a passion to keep up on what’s going on.

Youth and Experience Have Different Strengths: Young teachers do have more energy, but that doesn’t make them better teachers.  Unfocused energy doesn’t accomplish much of anything.  A good school should have a variety of ages in the faculty because that promising first year teacher isn’t going to alway know what to do and that’s when an experienced colleague can really make a difference.  The best new teachers I have known, have had a mentor that worked very closely with them.

At my second teaching assignment, our school was terribly overcrowded.   A brand new school was opened up and our boundaries were redrawn.  17 teachers lost their jobs and 600 students went to the new school.  Our principal called to try and get those 17 teachers jobs, but the new school would have none of it.  They were in partnership with a college and they wanted their entire faculty to come from their teacher program.   Despite having resources that my school couldn’t even dream of, the student behavior was terrible and when they got their standardized test scores back, they went into panic mode.   They called my principal to ask how we did so well and she told him, “You’ve got all new teachers.  What did you think would happen?”

We All Need Help: The easiest way to find out which new teachers will make it is to find out who is open to help and to new ideas.   Teach for America brainwashes their students into believing that all older teachers are part of the problem.   Some TFA teachers break through their programming others persist that they know everything no matter how badly they are floundering.  As a second career teacher, I have a lot of respect for people who decided later in life that they would make teaching their career.  I really don’t have much respect for 22 year olds who decided that with the job market tight, they’d teach for a couple of years. Then, after they saved the world they’d do something else and make the big money.

Older Teachers are at Risk: Opponents of tenure say that it protects bad teachers.   However, it also protects older teachers who may be a little bit more expensive.  Why pay a 50 year old $60,000 a year when you can pay a 22 year old $35,000?  Some programs like Teach for America are ushering in scores of poorly trained young teachers into the classrooms and have the contracts to guarantee spots.  I love To Sir With Love as pure entertainment and I do believe there is room for Mark Thackeray in the classroom, it is just that I also believe there is room for Charles Chipping and Glenn Holland.

A Tale of Two Cities

January 21, 2010

AES Proposed Phase-Out: Shop Classes put to music by Mark Noakes from Save AES CTE HS on Vimeo.

It started in Chicago, but New York really seems to have the hang of this whole resistance to privatization movement and has hit the ground running as they attempt to stand up to Mayor Bloomberg’s attempts to experiment on the children of the city he bought.    The above link (in orange) is to an amazing music video that was created by students at Alfred E. Smith High School to draw attention to their situation. At the January 26th board hearings, which like Chicago will most undoubtedly be a rubber stamp sham, a huge protest of thousands is expected.

The protesters have also won a court case giving them the right to picket the mayor’s house on January 21st. The protests have been massive with over 500 people at the Jamaica High School Hearing alone. It is great to see the students, parents, teachers, and community members of New York so actively engaged in this struggle. Mayor Bloomberg like Mayor Daley in Chicago is going after schools in predominately working class minority neighborhoods for gentrification purposes.

In Chicago, this process has been going on since Mayor Daley got total control of the city’s public schools in 1995 or at least since he and Arne Duncan rolled out the Renaissance 2010 in 2004. Hey, that reminds me–we’re in a Renaissance!! Resistance has been slowly, but surely picking up steam. Last year, protesters even camped out in front of the Board of Education.

It remains to be seen if Chicago can stay united and fight these closings.   In 2009, groups like GEM and CORE saved 6 schools.   They’ve tasted the blood in the water and they will be trying to fight it again.  New York provides a lot of inspiration.   Speaking of inspiration, the video at the top of this article is from Sam Cooke.  He was a graduate of Wendel Phillips High School in Chicago–one of the schools that is on the block.

There've been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
Now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long
A long time coming but I know a change gon' come
Oh Yes it will

Michelle Rhee and the Washington Education Miracle Part 1

November 26, 2009

Reprinted from http://www.thatsrightnate.com – October 21, 2009

Previously, I have posted about the wonderful work done by basketball player turned educator Arne Duncan in Chicago.   Tonight, we  look at the dynamic young go getter who is  saving the Washington DC public schools.  Her accolades are many with education luminaries like Oprah and George W. Bush singling her out for praise.

Michelle Rhee began her teaching career where it ended at Harlem Park Community School in Baltimore from 1992-1995.  According to her official biography, Rhee was praised in the Wall Street Journal and on Good Morning America for her success as a classroom teacher.   Unfortunately, when the Daily Howler did a search they could find no record of any Good Morning America appearance or writeup in the Wall Street Jorunal.   This is a shame as I am sure they were amazing.  Her claims of huge gains among her students also couldn’t be substantiated, but I’m sure they were likewise amazing.  We were able to find one newspaper article that praised the cleaner hallways at the school, but I am not sure if she actually had anything to do with the cleaning detail.

Michelle Rhee’s recent comments on her teaching career are even more inspiring.   Rather than being the educational wunderkind of her official biography, Rhee struggled in the classroom at least  initially.   In the recent article on her in Time Magazine, it states, ”Rhee suffered during that first year [of teaching], and so did her students. She could not control the class. Her father remembers her returning home to visit and telling him she didn’t want to go back.  She had hives on her face from the stress.”

That really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that somewhere in her second two years of teaching, Michelle found the secret to being an outstanding teacher and immediately left the classroom.   It’s a very good thing she did  because had she stuck around in the classroom, her teaching experience would have disqualified her from most positions in education reform leadership.  After leaving the classroom, Rhee went into teacher recruitment before being hired in 2007 to be Superintendent of DC Public Schools.

Rhee represents the new thinking in education reform that believes that the biggest impediment to education is teachers who have different concepts of how a classroom actually works than business people and politicians do.   These people believe that the main reason companies outsource production overseas is not because they can pay employees 17 cents an hour, but because our schools are not as good as Haiti’s or Sri Lanka’s.

In the second part, I’m going to look at the way Michelle Rhee has found to get rid of older teachers and replace them with more energetic new teachers who as a bonus also cost the district less money.

[Click here to read part 2]