Archive for Politics

Trusting a system that hasn’t always been trustworthy

I believe in school turnaround – the principle of drastically improving schools for students who’ve been disenfranchised and historically neglected by the education system, and that turning around a school is actually possible. That said, turning around schools is not easy, and most importantly, we have to trust that those making decisions that affect all of us are making those decisions for the right reasons.

Chicago is in the midst of a(nother) school turnaround/closure battle and while I disagree with many of the opponents claims, some of their points do make me wonder if and how turnaround has been used for political or personal gain. I want to trust that politicians are making decisions with children’s futures in mind, but sometimes it’s difficult to defend the policies when confronted with opposing data, claims and facts.

A common criticism that I see, read about, and hear in Chicago (and across the country) is that “turnarounds don’t work.” First, it’s important to remember that a large percentage of turnarounds in the business sector fail. Turning around a business (like turning around a school) is extremely difficult, and it requires all involved to change the status quo, to implement changes with fidelity, an infusion of resources, and most importantly in my opinion, a strong leader.

School turnaround is possible, but it also requires all of the above components. A turnaround effort will flounder if we only partially implement reforms (which I see all the time), if the entire community doesn’t support the efforts, if real (and lasting) changes aren’t embraced, if we don’t fully fund the reforms, and if there isn’t a strong leader to guide the entire effort at the school and district levels. Combining all of these factors (and more) in one effort is difficult to accomplish, so we should not expect every school turnaround to be successful.

A recent analysis by Chicago Public Radio/Catalyst Chicago  found that “Eighteen percent of the replacement schools (those schools located in buildings where either closure or turnaround has occurred) were rated “Level 1” by CPS this year, the highest performance level. Nearly 40 percent of replacement schools are Performance Level 3, the lowest rating CPS gives.” So, while 40% of the schools are still underperforming, that means that 60% are doing better, and in some cases they are doing significantly better. The data is also based on CPS’ performance ratings, which include a variety of indicators (including absolute/current status, trend and value-added student performance measures; as well as other indicators, such as attendance, AP enrollment & success, etc).To truly analyze school performance during a turnaround effort we should focus on the improvement (i.e. trend and value-added) data points. The fact that only 20% of students meet or exceed reading proficiency targets tells us nothing about how well that school is actually teaching students now. We must look at what students are learning, not what they do or don’t know.

Another common claim, and fact, is that “Turnarounds disproportionately impact poor and minority neighborhoods.” Part of the issue here is that turning around a school isn’t just about changing what happens within the walls of the school building, but it requires changes to the surrounding community. The Chicago Public Radio/Catalyst analysis also reported that Chicago’s turnarounds are concentrated in the West and South sides of the city, and are often located near former Chicago Housing Authority developments.

This should not be surprising. Due to a myriad of reasons over many years, including discriminatory and unfair practices and policies, these parts of the city received less funding, less support, fewer well-prepared teachers and principals. It is not surprising that these schools, and their surrounding communities, continue to struggle and require extreme changes to turn around years (if not decades) of unfair treatment. The students in these schools require additional supports to catch up to their same-age peers in other parts of the district, so equal funding or treatment is not sufficient. Providing an equivalent education to these students requires unequal (i.e. more) funding and different policies and practices.

Yes, a turnaround will change the community, could be disruptive, and cause temporary tension, but I struggle to understand why parents and communities continue to fight to keep their perpetually failing schools open. If a turnaround is done well (i.e. if administrators and politicians are truly closing or turning around schools because they are not educating students, if the plan is implemented with fidelity, and the incoming operator was chosen because they are the best fit for that community), then we have to believe that what will result from the changes will be better for our children. The historical mistrust is valid (and in many cases deserved), but one fact remains — these schools are not currently meeting the needs of the children or the community.

Do I agree with every decision CPS has made regarding turnaround and school closures? Of course not. But, the bottom line is that what we’re doing now in these schools isn’t working, so we have to try something different. What that “something” is may vary, but we must try anything and everything to improve the educational opportunities for these students. They deserve better.

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It’s about time to move towards being part of the solution…

From EdWeek’s teacher beat blog: Minneapolis Union Will Help Authorize Charter Schools

A nonprofit body set up by the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers has been granted the authority to charter schools, in what’s apparently the first such arrangement of its kind in the nation.

[A] charter authorizer, let’s be clear, is not the same thing as a charter-management organization. It does not act as management or get involved in the operations of such a school. Its main goal is to approve the new schools to open, to monitor them, and to shut them down if necessary if they fail to meet academic or financial benchmarks.

Minnesota’s charter school law was updated and strengthened in 2009. The revisions give the state more flexibility to cut ties with an authorizer if it’s not meeting its obligations.

Now, to answer the question I’m sure you have: No, the organization won’t be able to give preferential treatment to schools whose staff want to organize. But authorizing schools with good teacher-management relations appears to be a priority of the body, which is named the Minnesota Guild of Public Charter Schools.

“The guild believes that strong partnerships between labor and management foster a high-performing school culture; the guild is committed to authorizing schools that give teachers a meaningful voice,” a statement from the guild reads.

(And, one presumes, any school staff that want to authorize will certainly know where to look.)

The idea is the brainchild of MFT President Lynn Nordgren, and her affiliate received a grant from AFT’s Innovation Fund to set up the new nonprofit. She’ll sit on the guild’s board, along with a variety of other folks from business, the city department of education, and labor organizations.

We’ll be waiting impatiently to see what kinds of schools the guild authorizes, and whether their teachers choose to organize.

Coming up with new ways of managing and using teacher expertise, after all, isn’t an easy job: A separate report from the Center for Reinventing Public Education, also out today, finds that despite more flexibility in some areas, like work hours, unionized charter schools often contain the same kinds of step-and-lane pay scales, due process, and grievance procedures (though expedited) as those in public schools.

By Stephen Sawchuk on December 5, 2011 5:24 PM

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Reflections on my own public education

My mother recently asked for my opinion of the education I received in Vermont public schools. My elementary and middle school (K-8 in one building) focused on creative thinking, independent projects, student-directed learning, interdisciplinary lessons, and academic-level based classes for math and reading. My high school featured small learning communities for freshman, block scheduling, daily advisories, numerous AP and honors courses, and a required community-based senior project. All strategies that I now advocate for in my professional life.

While I think I received a great education, I now recognize that all of my classmates did not receive the same quality education. As a high school student, I didn’t realize how much tracking was used  until I took a non-tracked creative writing class my senior year. A few of us rarely attended class, as we did our homework (at home); the rest of the class used the class periods to do their homework. I wonder how many of those students had potential that should have been cultivated earlier on? What was the process for selecting students for tracking?

My K-8 school provided me with a number of useful life-long skills, including the ability to debate, the ability to lead, the desire to learn and to think outside of the box. But, the school was so focused on instilling a team structure (4 classrooms with one teacher from each content area) and self-directed learning that I never learned how to take a test. While I performed well on the state standardized tests, I dreaded the SATs, ACTs and the GREs.

I agree that the lifelong skills listed above are more important than learning how to fill in a bubble test, but until all states have aligned learning standards, colleges and universities will continue to use standardized tests (and rightly so) and students need to know how to take those tests. In the long-run, I am glad that I can determine and defend an opinion, but the memories of taking any standardized test still haunt me. Is it possible to find a better balance between both types of learning? And, for a student who received a slightly alternative public education – did standardize tests really predict my performance in college, graduate school, and beyond?

I should also note that despite the strong overall education I received (and some truly fabulous teachers), there were more than a handful of teachers who needed a great deal of help or who should not have been teaching. Even good strong school systems have weak teachers who need stronger professional development, coaching, content knowledge, and in some cases they should be removed from the classroom.

After this conversation with my mother, I wanted to know which Vermont schools receive School Improvement Grand funds. While some of the schools/districts were as I expected, I was shocked to learn that my K-8 is a Tier III SIG school. After further investigation, I discovered that while overall student performance is strong (75-80% proficiency), the performance of students with low Socio-Economic Status drops to 40-50% in both reading and math. The district “owns” the data and realizes that changes are necessary. But, their plan for the SIG funds lacks any real systemic or process changes. The district proposes additional training and coaches, yet does not address creating a better triage or early warning system for students (especially those with low-SES).

Even strong education systems have room to improve. This case also demonstrates why subgroup analysis is so important. On the surface, my old school may be doing well, but when you break down the subgroups, the school is not meeting the needs of a large percentage of the students. Student needs were not met at the elementary and middle school levels, so it’s not surprising that students entered high school with varying academic levels and were then tracked for the rest of their public school careers.


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A tale of two schools

John Zorn of the Chicago Tribune recently looked into the details behind a recent speech given by CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. Brizard discussed two schools in South Chicago, 1 mile away from each other, with students of similar demographics, and yet the schools have stark differences in performance.

Zorn concluded that leadership, class size and time were three factors that likely impacted the success of the High(er) Performing High Poverty school. While class size and increased learning time definitely make a difference in any school, and especially in schools that educate high minority and high low-income populations, in my mind, there is no question that the primary cause of the school’s turnaround is leadership.

In a turnaround transformation having a principal that walks the walk, monitors everything (and everyone) in her building, holds everyone (from parents to teachers to students) accountable, and is relentless in the pursuit of high standards makes a world of difference.

First, change the school climate and culture – and this must come from the top down.

Second, the principal and her leadership team focus on basic instruction, teacher PD, and increasing instructional rigor.

Lastly, the principal should distribute the leadership amongst a team of staff members to ensure changes are embedded into the culture and structure of the school – so much so that improvements remain and continue if the school leadership changes.

The principal sets the tone of the building and she must be the one to determine that the old status quo is no longer acceptable and that change is coming, it’s coming now, and reforms are not going away. While we frequently talk about the shortage of high quality teachers (a legitimate concern) creating a larger supply of turnaround principals and school leadership teams must become a higher priority in federal, state and district policy.

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”

— Niccolo Machiavelli
The Prince (1532)

Excerpts from the original article:

“I was at a school a few days ago, late last week, on the far, far South Side of the city,” said Brizard, speaking at a recent joint appearance with Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis at the University of Illinois at Chicago, “100 percent minority, 100 percent poverty. Yet at the 95th percentile in proficiency.”

Brizard went on to ask how the school could be doing so well when there is another school “only about half a mile down the road, same kind of school, same kids, same neighborhood, (but) at the bottom of the pile in achievement. That’s the question I think we also have to wrestle with: How some schools are doing it and others seem to struggle with the exact same situation.”

Intrigued, I followed up. It turns out Brizard was referring to Burnham/Anthony Math & Science Academy (right) and Robert H. Lawrence Math & Science School, kindergarten through eighth-grade facilities located in the same square mile of the Jeffery Manor neighborhood south of 95th Street and west of the Chicago Skyway.

Both public schools are roughly 99 percent black and 1 percent Hispanic, and more or less 95 percent of students at each school qualify as low-income.

Neither school is a magnet or selective-enrollment academy. Each has about 10 percent of its students classified as disabled and has daily attendance rates in the mid-90s.

Yet 88 percent of Burnham/Anthony students met or exceeded state standards on the composite 2011 Illinois Standards Achievement Test of reading, math and writing, compared to 47 percent of students at Lawrence (the city average is 73 percent).

Ten years ago, Lawrence’s meets/exceeds score on the ISAT’s was 41 percent, compared to just 38.5 percent for Burnham/Anthony.

How did Burnham/Anthony do it?

“The new principal came in and changed the culture,” said long-time Burnham/Anthony Local School Council President Felicia O’Neal, who has had children at the school since 1999. “She put the focus on academics and she let the teachers and parents know she was going to hold everyone accountable.”That principal, Linda Moore, a former teacher and assistant principal in the system, took over just prior to the 2004-2005 school year. She began using grant money to operate a one-hour after-school academic program four days a week from October through March.“I meet with each new family and share my expectations for them and their children,” Moore told me. “I tell them the child must take ownership, the parents must take ownership, and the teachers and staff must take ownership of the success of that child.”The result is a 94 percent “parent contact” score on Burnham/Anthony’s state report card, compared with 70 percent at Lawrence.Why is Lawrence struggling and still targeted for improvement under No Child Left Behind?

Put it all together and the answer to Brizard’s crucial question — Why do some schools thrive while seemingly identical schools falter? — seems to involve at least three things in Jeffery Manor: leadership, class size and time.

Burnham/Anthony took off after the arrival of a dynamic new principal who inspired and enabled both teachers and parents and who added four hours a week of after-school academics — though teachers there last week voted down the controversial contract waiver that would have added 90 minutes to the regular school day.

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Turning around charter schools in Chicago

I’ve blogged about this issue before, but it’s important to remember charter schools are (well, charter schools should be) accountable for their results. If a charter school is not educating students, it should close. The management of five Chicago charter schools recently shifted, and one school is currently undergoing a major overhaul (AKA a turnaround-like effort).

Charter schools are often cited as a better option for some students (particularly in high poverty high minority communities), but that does not mean every charter school is strong. Charters may have freedom from traditional union rules and district bureaucracies (and supplemental private funding), but they are also constrained by limited per pupil district/state/federal funding, limited funds for facility/capital improvements, the realities of the surrounding communities, sometimes poorly run CMO’s (Charter Management Organizations), and a low-performing leader in any school will negatively impact the performance of both students and teachers.

Kudos to CMOs (in this case Chicago International Charter Schools) that actively evaluate their portfolio of schools and make changes to schools which aren’t meeting expected goals. Any student attending a public school should receive a basic high quality education, and charter schools are public schools. Charter or no charter, a good school should be replicated and an underperforming school should be changed or closed.

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One teacher’s view on testing shifts from disdain to support

I could blog about my thoughts on the testing for accountability vs. teaching to the test debate, but this teacher does a much better job of it than I ever could. Please read it to better understand the debate, why some teachers embrace testing (of course testing in moderation) and why others fear it.

EdWeek Commentary, Ami Nyamekye
August 29, 2011

In college, I pumped my fist at a rally against standardized testing. I’d never seen the exam I was protesting, but stood in solidarity with educators and labor organizers who felt the testing movement was an attack on teachers, particularly those working in poor public schools. My opposition grew when I became a teacher in the South Bronx, one of America’s poorest communities. I wanted to uplift my students and resented the weight of a looming high-stakes test.

Besides, I thought good teachers should be left to their own devices. And, I was certain that I was a good teacher. For the most part, my students were punctual, respectful, and engaged. It wasn’t until my second year in the classroom that I began questioning this assumption.

In a routine evaluation, my principal praised my organization, management, and facilitation, but posed the following question: “How do you know the kids are really getting it?” She urged me to develop more-rigorous assessments of student learning. Ego and uncertainty inspired me to measure the impact of my instruction. I thought I was effective, but I wanted proof.

In my third year of teaching, I put myself to the test. To formally link my instruction to quantifiable student outcomes, I decided my sophomores would take the state Comprehensive English Regents Examination a year early. As I deconstructed the test—which was a blend of reading-based questions and essays—I appreciated its ability to efficiently achieve what I could not.

Writing rigorous and comprehensive test questions is a meticulous and laborious science. The New York regents’ exam was based on the science of assessment and aligned with state curriculum standards, core curriculum, and federal mandates. The state education department oversaw testing, ensuring questions were written and vetted to be “statistically and psychometrically sound,” and published an online archive of exams, rubrics, and sample student essays. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I decided to learn from these tools. What I learned was surprising and empowering.

I discovered holes in my curriculum. I once dismissed standardized testing for its narrow focus on a discrete set of skills, but I learned that my self-made assignments were more problematic. It turned out they were skewed in my favor. I was better at teaching literary analysis than grammar and punctuation. When I started giving ongoing standardized assessments, I noticed that my students showed steady growth in literary analysis, but less growth in grammar and punctuation. I was teaching to my strengths instead of strengthening my weaknesses.

The test also compensated for the inherently subjective act of grading. I was designing the quizzes and projects used to evaluate my students and, by extension, my instruction. My intimate knowledge of students and the bonds we forged in the classroom influenced my perception of their performance. I knew Michael was a talented, but lazy, writer. I admired the dogged work ethic of Lian, a Chinese-born student, who struggled to master English. Naturally, I was emotionally invested in the success of my students—their grades were my grades.

The test provided me with fresh perspectives on my work. I was not allowed to assess my students’ writing. Colleagues from my English department used detailed rubrics to grade each essay. These peers had emotional distance from the work and could scrutinize essays for evidence of achievement.

Most of the teachers I’ve worked with over the years don’t share my newfound enthusiasm. The 2010 Scholastic-Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation surveyRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader of 40,000 educators nationwide found that only 27 percent felt state standardized tests were essential or very important in measuring student performance. I’m now convinced that these sentiments are the product of a testing movement that has become more about fear and politics than pedagogy. Teachers, I believe, are pumping their fists for the wrong reasons.

Fear is at the heart of this backlash. My colleagues fear the proliferation of drill-and-kill instruction. This outrage, though understandable, should be directed at the policies and school leaders that use standardized testing as a replacement—rather than a measurement—for inspired instruction. These drill-and-kill practices demoralize teachers and warp the aim of assessment.

The most powerful opposition comes from the teachers’ unions. At a recent convention, the National Education Association insisted that it “will always be opposed to high-stakes, test-driven evaluations.” This rhetoric is a distraction from the underlying problem. Standardized testing reflects the curricular priorities of a state’s education agenda. Blaming the test for the shortcomings of that agenda is like blaming the barometer for the weather.

That’s not to say there is no room for improvement. On the whole, testing must become more innovative, technologically advanced, and better at identifying skills essential for college and career readiness. But the same is true of our public school systems. We certainly wouldn’t do away with America’s noble, but deeply flawed, experiment with public education.

Sadly, the actual merits and shortcomings of standardized testing often get lost in this stalemated debate that positions the test as either a scourge on teachers or a panacea for reform. In truth, the test is nothing more than a tool. It will not singlehandedly turn around swaths of failing classrooms or be the death of public education.

Only policies, leaders, and, most importantly, teachers wield that kind of power over school performance. Like any assessment tool—including the ones teachers regularly generate and assign—standardized testing has strengths and limitations.

When I “depoliticized” the test, I found a useful and flawed ally. The exam excelled where I struggled, offering comprehensive and standards-based assessments. I thrived where the test fell short, designing creative, performance-based projects. Together, we were strategic partners. I designed and graded innovative projects—my students participated in court trials for Shakespearean characters—and the test provided a rubric that guided my evaluation of student learning.

All of my students who took the exam passed. Most earned high scores. I also found a correlation between improved test performance and growth in reading and writing ability. Grammar and punctuation were still my students’ weakest areas, but there was evidence of growth.

The test didn’t make my students smarter. It made the teacher smarter. I learned that my job wasn’t simply to encourage students to relentlessly pursue knowledge. I needed to constantly test what I thought I knew about teaching.

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Schools chief gets raise, but why not the teachers?

Simple: Chicago Public Schools new chief Jean-Claude Brizard’s 3-year contract clearly specifies numerous student performance goals. If those goals aren’t met, he’s not eligible for significant bonuses and could be fired.

If teachers are ready to be paid based on student performance and work under a fully accountable system, then they might get raises and bonuses too. But every time, a district comes close to offering pay for performance and true accountability (i.e. DC under Rhee) the union fights it, and usually defeats it.

In effect, Brizard has his work cut out for him – he can’t change his performance in the classroom to better meet student needs, but instead he must hire (and fire) the right people, set a positive culture of change throughout CPS, fix the growing debt problem, implement (and cut) the right programs, and make sure that everyone else is doing their jobs.

Brizard is responsible for improvements that he doesn’t have direct control over. That is truly accountability from the top. I wish him the best of luck and I hope the district can make and surpass the performance goals defined in Brizard’s contract – not only to show that this can work, but because the student’s deserve it.

Read more: CPS chief Brizard gets a contract – unlike predecessors- and a raise, Chicago Tribune, June 22, 2011

(Note: I recognize that the debate is still out on if performance pay does/doesn’t improve student performance.)

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Inspiration from New Jersey (via Massachusetts)

Some days it’s difficult to remember why I do what I do, why I fight a battle that never seems to end. It’s these days that I need inspiration – either from students who are stuck in today’s education system, or from other reformers who remind us that we’re not alone.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recently spoke at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and his words remind us reformers that we’re not alone, that our beliefs in equitable educational opportunities are shared. Excerpts from his speech are below:

“We have a situation in our country now where we have an educational system which is set up for the ease, comfort, and security of those who operate it. Not for the challenge and effectiveness and efficiency of those who are supposed to be benefitting from it. We have a system where we are unwilling to speak the truth about what we know because we are afraid to offend special interests in this country who have heretofore been untouchable.

“I think that the union degrades their members by saying because we are going to make differentiation based on performance and how people are paid, that will make them somehow bitter angry people who will not enjoy their job and not work with each other to try to advance children’s learning. What an awfully cynical, ugly characterization of teachers. Because I will tell you this. I don’t think any teacher goes into teaching to get rich. They go into teaching mostly I believe because of the psychic value of being able to share your knowledge with children and watching those children learn and respond to you. To say that those teachers would stop collaborating and stop working with each other merely because there is an opportunity for the better ones to be paid more is just to me ridiculous.”

“So I’m for choice not as the solution to the problem in public schools but as a building block. I think we should forget about how a school starts and worry about how it performs. So whether it starts as a private school or as a parochial school, whether it starts as a charter school or a regular public school, let’s reward excellence. Let’s encourage excellence. Let’s fund excellence rather than just worrying about maintaining a system that looks almost exactly like it would when this country started. When you look at all the institutions of our country there’s probably only two who look almost exactly the same now as they did at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Churches and K-to-12 education. Kids in the classroom behind desks with the teacher standing at the front. Everything else in our society has changed and evolved multiple times over. For this we say we can’t change. We can’t change. By the way all these things that I talked about, evaluation of teachers, differentiation, and all the rest, have to also apply to principals. The two indispensable elements to a great school are excellent teachers in the classroom and strong principal leadership in the principal’s office. You cannot have a successful school without both. All these things, the way we evaluate them, the way we pay them must apply to principals as well. They must be held to the same standards of excellence. Challenged in the same way and rewarded in the same way. So we can have great principals who want to look forward to stay in the leadership of our public schools.”

“Success will be defined in large measure by how generations after us succeed or fail. I can’t sit around and wait any longer. I’ve been called impatient too. I am impatient about this topic. We’ve waited on this much too long. And so it’s going to mean having uncomfortable conversations. It’s going to mean getting rid of underperforming teachers. It’s going to mean creating a system where people are accountable for the work they do. It’s going to mean finally putting children ahead of economic interests. Children ahead of the feelings of adults.”

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Delaware leaders holding district accountable

Delaware’s largest school district, Christina, has backtracked on its commitment to implement drastic reforms in two persistently low-performing schools (i.e. proficiency rates under 50%). As a result, the Delaware Department of Education is holding the district accountable for its actions and is withholding more than $11 million dollars of he Race to the Top fund. Kudos to state education leaders for prioritizing students.

The Christina School Board, and union representatives, previously agreed to the staffing changes in these two schools, via an MOU, as part of their inclusion in The Partnership Zone (essentially a state carve-out zone for turnaround). The self-created improvement plans for both schools, based on the federal transformation model, require all teachers to re-interview for positions at the school. The district agreed that the teachers who are not rehired would be placed at another school within the district, and that they would retain employment, benefits, and seniority… A guarantee not common is most professions.

Teachers claim that the interview and hiring process was confusing, which may be a partially valid point. It is the district’s responsibility to ensure a fair, just, and overly transparent process. Without extra precautions, the interview and rehiring process can become a public and human relations nightmare. District leadership must work diligently to keep the focus on the students, and that includes not giving the public, the union, or anyone the opportunity to attack the school improvement model or the implementation process. Any attacks or barriers limit the ability and timeliness of the model’s implementation.

It is also important that the union, if they are supportive of the reform process (which they had been), help their members understand the process, the consequences of not interviewing, or of not being rehired, etc. The union is doing a disservice to all teachers who would benefit from the Race to the Top funds by not actively participating in process and helping clarify concerns of the members. The union commented on and approved the transition plan, but where were they during the actual process? Instead of hurting the kids (and other teachers in the district), the affected teachers should be frustrated with the organization that was supposed to represent their best interests.

It is likely that most of the teachers not rehired need to leave the two schools in question for a variety of reasons.  They may lack the skills required for positions available, the are not quality teachers, or because they are not committed to the reforms and the changes that will be implemented. The fact that the district committed to not firing any of these teachers is a generous concession.

It is unclear if the School Improvement Grant funds, which I assume are being used to fund the Partnership Zone improvements, have also been stopped. If the school/district is unable to implement the federally designed model with fidelity, those funds should be held as well. A public outcry must force the adults in the system (in this case the School Board) to fight for the students and to ensure that they receive the funds, supports, and changes that are needed to drastically improve these schools.

An interesting aside to this story is that the current Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery was the Superintendent of this district before her move to the DDOE. Could there be other politics, between the School Board and the DDOE/Secretary Lowery, in play here?

Read more: EdWeek’s District Dossier Blog, Delaware’s News Journal, DDOE press release.

Disclosures: I ran a youth mentoring program at Christina’s Brader Elementary School in 2005 and helped design the Partnership Zone model while in Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group from 2007-2010.

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New CPS leadership team announced

Today, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel announced the new leadership team at CPS. The team will be led by Jean-Claude Brizard, currently the Superintendent for the Rochester City School District in New York. The team includes several current CPS employees, as well as new leaders. Some of the notable hires, who are most likely to strongly influence the school improvement process, include:

Noemi Donoso as the Chief Education Officer. Noemi is currently the Director of Denver’s Office of School Reform and Innovation. Her work and experience in Denver will be of great help as the team figures out how to alter improvement strategies for the large number of low-performing schools in the city.

Tim Cawley as the Chief Operating Officer. Tim is currently the Managing Director of Finance and Administrator at AUSL. His experiences expanding AUSL and in the business world is desperately needed to help get the CPS administration back on track.

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