"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, June 26, 2009

Chicago, Duncan, tests

this is being posted near simultaneously at Education Policy Blog, School Matters, and Edurati

I recently received an email from Wade Tillett, a teacher, parent and activist in Chicago Public Schools, about a 2-minute statement he made he made June 24th, and included an additional statement he made at a public hearing at Arne Duncan's last Board meeting in December. He informed me that
I spoke about how CPS is using test scores to fail individual students (the data I sent you and which you posted earlier), and to fail entire schools.

CPS uses standardized test to override teachers, students, parents and the community to fail entire schools. The policy the board voted on today will further “raise the bar” (4), which means they will put more schools on “probation” - as if they are criminals (5). This sets the stage for further school closings and privatization. If CPS really believes that this policy is a fair measure of a school, why doesn't it apply to charter schools (6)?

With his permission, I am posting below his complete statement as delivered, with associated footnotes. I will offer a few comments of my own at the end.

Statement by Wade Tillett, Chicago Public School Parent and Teacher.
Chicago School Board Meeting
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
125 S. Clark St., Chicago

Hello. I'm Wade Tillett. I am a Chicago Public School Parent and Teacher.

In 2000, The Cato Institute published "Edupreneurs": A Survey of For-Profit Education which talks about how 90 percent of the “$740 billion education market” is not yet used for profit. Further they stated:

“The failure of government-run schools to prepare students for the rigors of the modern economy is a pressing policy problem, but it is also an opportunity for the private sector. ”

Let's read that again.

“The failure of government-run schools to prepare students for the rigors of the modern economy is a pressing policy problem, but it is also an opportunity for the private sector. ” (1)

Wouldn't this opportunity be even greater then, if there were greater failure?

Susan Neuman seems to think so. She should know because she was there when they were drafting NCLB. She served “as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first term, .... she says... there were others in the department...who saw
NCLB as a Trojan horse for the choice agenda — a way to expose the failure of public education and "blow it up a bit.” "There were a number of people pushing hard for market forces and privatization."” (2)

(In other words, the wolves are circling.)

The point of NCLB, to some involved in its creation, was not to fix public schools, but to destroy them. Constantly rising scores inevitably force many schools to be labeled as failing.

And once these forces are set in motion, they sort of perpetuate themselves.

Selective enrollment, magnet schools and charter schools often accept only students with a certain score on the bubble tests. (“Diamonds in the rough” as Mr. Duncan just called them.) Thus, neighborhood schools are left with more students with lower scores, while other schools start out with more students with higher scores. A vicious cycle is set in motion.

This, of course, does not matter to CPS or NCLB. In fact, that's how some people wanted it to work. You know, to blow it up a bit.

Mr. Duncan and the school board here continue to pretend that blowing up schools is the way to save them. Let's remember that the real reason people wanted to blow up schools was to get at that $700 billion dollars.

And wasn't that the same amount we spent to bail out the financial industry? Is this the right time to implement the business model for education? Look around us!

When all the dust settles, we're going to be left with what others regard as the crumbs of a public education system.

If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll believe two former assistant,secretaries of education, Chester Finn and Diane Ravitch, once prominent NCLB advocates, who now write:.

“[If NCLB continues,] rich kids will study philosophy and art, music and history, while their poor peers fill in bubbles on test sheets. The lucky few will spawn the next generation of tycoons, political leaders, inventors, authors, artists and entrepreneurs. The less lucky masses will see narrower opportunities.” (3)

Stop destroying neighborhood schools.


1. "Edupreneurs": A Survey of For-Profit Education, Carrie Lips, November 20, 2000, Cato Policy Analysis No. 386. http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-386es.html

2. No Child Left Behind: Doomed to Fail?, Claudia Wallis, Jun. 08, 2008, Time. http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1812758,00.html

3. Leaving "No Child Left Behind" Behind, Richard Rothstein, December 17, 2007, The American Prospect. http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=leaving_nclb_behind

Notes from today's meeting:

4. Monique Bond, CPS spokeswoman. http://www.chitowndailynews.org/Chicago_news/New_performance_policy_would_raise_bar_for_CPS_schools,29028

5. A CPS representative explaining the proposed policy stated that approximately 40% of CPS elementary schools and 60% of high schools are now on “probation” or level 3.

6. Proposed school performance, remediation and probation policy for the 2009-2010 school year. http://bubbleover.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/schoolclose.pdf
Now for a few words of my own:

First, it is worth reminding people of the previous role played by Susan Neuman given her visibility in the new Bolder, Broader approach which is currently getting so much attention. And is critically important to remind people that at least some of those who advocated for No Child Left Behind did so because they saw it either as a means of decreasing legitimization of public schools and/or they wanted access to the public funds being spent on education in order to profit therefrom.

Second, the impact of NCLB in narrowing educational opportunities in arts, music,philophy, etc., for those schools with high poverty - when those schools are often the only access these students have to such things - is already ongoing. Similar impacts are now beginning to creep into middle class schools because of the financial crisis and the impact it has on school funding, which we should remember at the local level is heavily dependent upon real estate values that have plummeted as a result of the series of financial blows, including but not limited to the impact of subprime mortgages and securitizing of mortgage-backed assets. Tillett rightly points out how much we seem willing to bail out financial institutions that largely created the crisis - with the great assistance of those in government of both parties who abdicated responsibility for ensuring oversight and financial stability - while too many seem unwilling to cushion the blows affected on others, whether homeowners in trouble or local governments in crisis. Yes, ARRA helps some, but merely in holding part of the status quo ante, and not in addressing the damage already being done by NCLB.

It is important that voices that speak clearly - as parents and teachers - be included in the ongoing discussions about our schools and their future. And remember, the longer we delay addressing the critical issues before us, the more our future in the form of those students currently being deprived of a quality and complete education will suffer, now and in the future.


  1. Clearly, I am not an educator within the school system. I never thought about the educational system until I had children of my own. I am a product of uniformed schools and getting to college and realizing I was vast years behind. Graduating at the top of a low performing school and not knowing that others schools not only offered more arts and music but deeper academic preparation is not the answer either. An awareness of the program is only diagnosing the problem while NCLB seems to put us further in arrears, I think it magnifies an underlying problem.

    How to correct it is another topic. Money is wasted with Title I schools and a lot of funding is returned because low performing schools are busy disciplining and testing that no one is looking for programs that work or methods that are proven.

    It's going to take an extreme amount of leg work and pushing and praying and trying and failing in order to correct this mass production of downward spiraling education.

    NCLB has not fixed the problem...it is just the flood light that is needed to let others see how deep the problem already was!!!!!

  2. Anonymous1:05 PM

    I would like to know how many schools are on probation in CPS.

    Could please help me to obtain that info?