Well-respected educator appointed CPS CEdO

Charles Payne, PhD.

Charles Payne, PhD.

Interim CPS CEO Terry Mazany has appointed University of Chicago professor Charles Payne as CPS Chief Education Officer, a position which has been vacant since June 2010 when Barbara Eason-Watkins stepped down.

Payne is a highly-respected sociologist with a long-standing interest in school reform. He has been critical of Chicago’s school closing policies and other initiatives; perhaps his best-known work is “So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools.” (Detailed book review here.)

My favorite of his published works, however, is “Still Crazy after All These Years: Race in the Chicago School System.” This frank, thoughtful piece looks at a variety of issues of race in schools including the fact that no one wants to talk about it, and the way race interacts with school reform.

Notable quotes from this essay include this about “reformers” such as the Gates Foundation folks:

Gates was arrogant in the way it operated, coming into cities with a whole lot of money and a half of an idea…when you push that idea with no knowledge of what’s happening in the local system, no knowledge of its capacity for implementation… things can get ugly.

He also writes that Chicago is perhaps better situated for real reform due to its long history of community organizing:

I suspect that a reform culture in which community groups and educational professionals and constituency groups are all present is more likely to generate an honest and open discussion about some of the issues that I’m talking about than the kind of culture I see elsewhere.

Some say that Dr. Payne is weak in his support for LSCs, which are an obvious vehicle for the kind of “open and honest discussion” he suggests we need. Well, now maybe we’ll all get a chance to find out how well Payne’s actions match his rhetoric.

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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.