Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

April forums in full bloom

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Tulips 05It’s April. inBloom may be kaput but testing and related education forums are in full bloom! Fortunately they are all indoors so we won’t freeze!

Wednesday, April 23, 7 – 8 pm: Good Morning Mission Hill film screening at Francis Parker School, 330 W Webster, followed by a panel discussion on democratic education.

Thursday April 24, 6 – 9 pm: DePaul School of Education Spring Forum, DePaul Student Center, Room 120, 2250 N Sheffield. Imagine a public school with a portfolio-based constructivist approach to teaching and learn, staff based decision-making and governance, modeled on democratic and progressive education principles, fostering active and engaged learning, with a broad and rich curriculum.

Saturday, April 26, 10 am to noon, Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division St.:
A Quality Education for Every Child, a Talk with Pasi Sahlberg
Raise Your Hand is sponsoring a talk by Pasi Sahlberg, the author of Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland

Tuesday, April 29 at 6 pm at Union Park, 1500 W Randolph. Of course, the More Than a Score testing forum, Changing the Stakes on Testing. More here!

PSAT for 4-22-14: Speak out on testing!

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

psat_logoThe date and time have been finalized for the subject matter hearing on testing sponsored by the Illinois Senate Education Committee, and you are invited!

The hearing will take place this Friday, April 25, at 2:30 pm at the Bilandic Building, 160 N LaSalle Street in Chicago, Room 600.

This is our chance to share our concerns about testing with our state legislators. If you want to speak, fill out a witness slip here (be sure to check that you are FOR or a proponent of both bills).

The specific bills under consideration at this hearing are sponsored by Sen. Bill Cunningham, who represents communities in the far southwest side of Chicago and southwest suburbs:

  • SB 2156 (Chicago only) allows no more than four tests per year – two state standardized tests, and two tests to “comply with the Evaluation of Teachers” statute.
  • SB 3460 would prohibit the administration of tests to children enrolled in kindergarten through the second grade “for any reason other than diagnostic purposes.”

Our friend Jim Broadway, of State School News Service, says that these bills “faltered, missed their deadlines and have been sent back to the Committee on Assignments, which is the graveyard for Senate bills that never advance out of the Senate.” However, bills are never really dead in Springfield, and you can bring up any other testing issues as well. Let’s not let this opportunity pass by without a strong showing from Chicago parents!

inBloom closes down

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Flower - no PetalsAfter months of parent pushback on the threat to student data privacy, a campaign spearheaded by PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson of NYC’s Class Size Matters, inBloom today announced that they are closing their offices. We congratulate Leonie and all of the parents, teachers, students and others around the country who stood up and spoke out against the potential commercialization of our children’s school information.

Here’s Leonie’s statement:

Today’s announcement that inBloom is closing its doors  will hopefully make government officials, corporations and foundations more aware that parental concerns cannot be ignored, and that they must stop foisting their “solutions” on our schools and classrooms with no attention given to the legitimate concerns of parents and their right to protect their children from harm.
Yet the statement issued by inBloom’s CEO reeks of arrogance and condescension, and makes it clear that those in charge still have not learned any lessons from this debacle.  The fervent opposition to inBloom among parents throughout the country did not result from “misunderstandings”,  but inBloom‘s utter inability to provide a convincing rationale that would supercede the huge risks to student security and privacy involved.
Contrary to the claims of Iwan Streichenberger and others,  InBloom was  not designed to protect student privacy but the opposite: to facilitate the sharing of children’s personal and very sensitive information with data-mining vendors,  with no attention paid to the need for parental notification or consent, and this is something that parents will not stand for.  In New York, the last state to pull out of inBloom and the only one in which legislation was needed to do so, parents were joined by superintendents and teachers in pointing out that the risks to children’s privacy and safety far outweighed any educational benefits.
At the same time, we realize that the fight for student privacy is just beginning. There are more and more data-mining vendors who, with the help of government officials, foundations, and think-tanks, are eager to make money off of student information in the name of “big data” and “personalized” learning, and in the process see parents, if they recognize our existence at all, as ignorant obstacles to their Orwellian plans.  This is despite the fact that the educational value of putting kids on computers and subjecting them to canned software programs is not supported by evidence, and is yet another way in which children’s education is being mechanized, depersonalized, and outsourced to corporate hands.
As a consequence to inBloom’s overreach, parents throughout the country have also become painfully aware of the way in which the federal government has actively encouraged data-sharing and data-mining of personal student information by eviscerating FERPA.  We will continue to work with parents and advocates to see that the federal government returns to its original role as protecting  student privacy, and recognizing the parental right to notification and consent,  rather than furthering the ability of for-profit vendors and other third parties to commercialize this data without regard to its potential harm.

PSAT for 4-15-14: Mark your calendars – MTAS forum April 29

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

MTASflyerlogo4-14It’s spring break for many, and I imagine a lot of you are worn out from slogging through the latest round of ice and snow to get to the post office to file your taxes, so I’ll go easy on you today.

Take out your calendars (I still do this with my actual personal hand and an actual pencil), find Tuesday, April 29, and mark in the More Than a Score forum at 6 pm at Union Park in Chicago.

Here’s what we’ll be talking about:

  • Why the NWEA is a bad high-stakes test.
  • How some children can safely opt out of NWEA.
  • Opting out legal issues.
  • What we can do in Springfield and at home to change state testing laws.
  • The connection between tests and school closings/turnarounds.
  • The next wave of tests: Common Core and PARCC.
  • Our alternative – what’s wrong with report cards???

We’ll provide user-friendly information, handouts, flyers, and how-tos.

Child care and translation will be provided.

Questions? Email us at info@morethanascorechicago.org.

No more discipline fees! Why now, Noble? I think I know.

Monday, April 14th, 2014

RaunerlogoMore than two years after PURE first challenged the Noble Network of Charter Schools’ discipline fees, the franchise has decided to stop charging students for not buttoning a shirt button, sitting up straight, or tracking the teacher with their eyes.

It would be nice to think that Noble was making this change because they’ve finally realized that the policy was dehumanizing and financially harmful to families, and a big reason why a whole lot of students leave their schools.

But the most likely impetus behind this decision is to protect Bruce Rauner’s campaign for governor.

Rauner is already taking some heat over his education policies, which center on privatizing public education; Rauner brags about Noble, which named one of its high schools after him after he provided the school’s start-up funding. The Tribune ran a very unflattering front-page story about Noble’s discipline fees just a week ago. At their first face-to-face meeting three days ago, before the Illinois Education Association, Quinn said he wouldn’t “charterize” public education, a reference to Rauner’s version of school reform.

Of course, the discipline fees are not the only skeletons in Noble’s closet. There’s the equally oppressive staff incentive system, reports of Noble students attempting suicide, and the memo below from the Rauner Charter school itself that essentially bribes a student with his/her own year’s worth of credits to transfer out of Rauner.

People are also not likely to forget charges that Rauner clouted his own child into middle class, progressive Payton College Prep, which is about as far as you can get in CPS from the reform school model he touts for the children of the 99%.

Raunercreditletter

 

PSAT for 4-8-14: Let Springfield know the truth about charter schools

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

psat_logoToday, charter school advocates will be taking out their checkbooks to fund Springfield trips for folks to lobby for less oversight of and more money for charter schools.

Mayor Emanuel says that the truth about charter schools’ mediocre performance compared with regular schools is “yesterday’s debate.”

Not really. The truth always matters, and the truth about charter schools is only beginning to get front page coverage.

So, while Bill Gates’ and the Walton’s minions are trudging down to Springfield to echo the Mayor’s efforts to brush off the truth about charters, please call, fax, or e-mail your state representative and senator with the truth.

Here’s what I faxed to every member of the Illinois House:

Look at charter school evidence, not expensive PR

Yesterday, Chicago’s two major newspapers made it very clear that charter schools can be very problematic and DO NOT provide better academic results.

But today you will be approached by busloads of well-financed charter school advocates trying to spin the facts while they ask you to ignore the truth and pave the way for more money and  “freedom” for charters.

Here’s the truth about charter schools:

The Chicago Tribune reported on the drastic, regressive discipline policy of one of the largest of these charter franchises, the Noble Network of Charter Schools. Even as the Chicago Public Schools is working toward more effective, positive discipline policies that keep students in school and learning, Noble is suspending and expelling students at a vastly greater rate than the district, and making their families pay significant dollars in the process.

The Sun-Times reported that Chicago’s charter school achievement rates are no better than that of the district overall, and far worse than the more comparable district magnet schools which have similar non-selective lottery enrollment systems. This confirms years of research which has been largely ignored as corporate reformers demand an ever-expanding “marketplace” for privately-run charter schools.

PURE ASKS YOU TO :

  • Pay attention to the research, not the rhetoric about charter schools.
  • Support HB3937, (HCA1) which extends the moratorium on virtual charter schools.
  • Support HB4591, which would require charter schools to return pro-rated funds for the kids they “counsel out.
  • Support HB5328, LSCs and other accountability for charter schools.
  • Support HB5887, which puts reasonable financial accountability on virtual charter schools.
  • Support HB6005, a major charter school accountability act.

Thank you!

Charter school truths hit the front page

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Charterfrontpage4-7-14

Today was not a good day for charter school public relations folks.

The Chicago Tribune’s front page carried the above headline (left) on a story that described the discipline policy of the Noble Network of Charter Schools as “extreme,” “stricter than zero tolerance,” and “out of proportion,” and shared an example of a Noble student who was given a demerit for saying “Bless you” when a fellow student sneezed.

PURE first brought Noble’s harsh discipline practices to light after a parent at the school told us about how its discipline code had affected her son, and our Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Noble raked in nearly $200,000 in student fines that year. Noblesuspensionsexpuls

Just over a month ago, the Tribune reported that the student expulsion rate for CPS charter schools was more than 30 times that of the rest of CPS.

Also today, the Chicago Sun-Times detailed a study it carried out with the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University which concluded that traditional CPS schools outperform privately-run charter and turnaround schools. From the Sun-Times/Medill story:

Rather than look at the percentage of students exceeding or meeting standards, some experts prefer to calculate average scores on the state tests. By that measure, too, elementary students at charter schools and neighborhood schools in Chicago were in a virtual tie on the reading and math exams last year, the Sun-Times/Medill Data Project analysis found. And the average test scores for charter high schools were only slightly higher than those at the city’s neighborhood high schools.

The analysis included results from 48 traditional CPS schools — almost all of them neighborhood schools — that the city closed after the last school year, citing poor academic performance, declining enrollment and the costs of maintaining aging buildings.

Neither charters nor neighborhood schools require admissions tests. Unlike charter schools, which can draw students from a broad geographic area, neighborhood schools must adhere to CPS’ attendance boundaries.

Some education experts say charters are most comparable to magnet schools — which dramatically outperform charters in Chicago — in that both use random lotteries when there are more applicants than available seats.

charterscoresidentical

 Last week in Springfield, it was clear that Illinois legislators are up to speed on many of the problems with charters. The Illinois Senate Education Committee voted to send several bills to the full Senate that will rein charters in and hold them accountable for their discipline policies, spending, and other problems.

It’s time to spread the intelligence to their Congressional counterparts, who recently held a hearing on a new proposal, HR 10, the “Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act” with testimony from charter supporters only.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.
@pureparents