Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Public Schools’

PURE response to proposed changes in CPS promotion policy

Monday, October 21st, 2013

CPS logoWe expect that the Chicago Board of Education will rubber-stamp a “new” promotion policy on Wednesday that will change none of the high-stakes testing and retention effects of the old policy.

PURE is presenting the following critique of the proposed policy at an LSC Advisory Board meeting this afternoon, along with what we think is a better alternative.

Response to proposed CPS 2013-14 Promotion Policy

by Julie Woestehoff for Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) October 20, 2013


In 1999, PURE filed a discrimination complaint with the U. S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the existing Chicago Public Schools Student Promotion Policy charging that the Policy had a disparate, damaging impact on African-American students. At the time, CPS used single scores on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills to make promotion decisions. After a year of federal investigation and complaint resolution, CPS changed the Policy to include consideration of grades and parental requests for reviews.

PURE filed a second complaint in 2010 based on the Policy’s continued use of single test scores as the predominant promotion barrier. This complaint is under investigation and has not yet been resolved.

Problems with proposed Policy

PURE believes that the proposed Policy continues to result in too many retentions and to misuse standardized test scores in a way that damages children and their education. The proposed changes to the current Policy are minimal and amount to little more than a swap of one high-stakes nationally-normed standardized test for another. PURE’s major criticisms of the policy are as follows.

  • Focus on failed, harmful retention strategy

More than 40 years of educational research has found that flunking students is risky, can have harmful effects, and leads to higher dropout rates. Research in Chicago confirms the policy’s failure and the damage it causes. The conclusion of the Consortium on Chicago School Research in its landmark study, Ending Social Promotion, could not be clearer:

Did retaining these low-achieving students help? The answer to this question is decidedly no. In the third grade, there is no evidence that retention led to greater achievement growth two years after the promotional gate, and in the sixth grade, we find significant evidence that retention was associated with lower achievement growth(emphasis added).

The Consortium also found that the CPS promotion policy has made the dropout rate worse.

  • Misuse of nationally-normed standardized test

Since the Policy was first implemented in 1996, it has been based on high-stakes use of test scores on a series of standardized tests: the Iowa test, IGAP, ISAT, and SAT 10. The new proposal substitutes the NWEA and CPS indicates that the NWEA will ultimately be replaced by PARCC tests.

But professional opinion about the way CPS uses these tests has not changed. Assessment professionals are clear that single test scores are not reliable or adequate measures of student progress and should not be used for high-stakes decisions. The tests were not designed for that purpose and should not be used that way.

For example, the publisher of the SAT10, used in the current Policy, says that for student promotion decisions, test scores “should be just one of the many factors considered and probably should receive less weight than factors such as teacher observation, day-to-day classroom performance, maturity level, and attitude.

  • Multiple barriers, not multiple measures

Despite CPS’s claims that the Policy uses multiple measures, each measure acts instead as a single deciding factor which by itself can be used to retain the student. In other words, CPS students must meet test cut scores and grade standards in order to be promoted without attending summer school. Many students who do not meet the cut score in June must retake the test and receive an acceptable score in August in order to be promoted – a kind of educational “double jeopardy.”

  • Inadequate summer school and follow-up support

The “new and improved” summer school program CPS proposes sounds a lot like hours and hours of computer test prep: “weekly acceleration/intervention sessions as part of the full school day; access to instructional tool that provides focused lessons based on individual needs,” which CPS calls “personalization” (slide 14 of CPS PowerPoint Presentation)

But personalization is not achieved by plopping a student in front of a computer program that “senses” his/her level, like a video game. Struggling students need extra adult attention, not less, and they need the professional approach that only a trained, experienced teacher can provide. An “instructional tool” cannot replace a teacher.

  • Inadequate notice to parents and the community

Despite PURE’s outstanding OCR complaint against the Policy, and our longstanding documented interest in the Policy, we were never notified about nor invited to any of the focus groups.

Attendees at the focus groups were not given advance copies of the proposal to review nor paper copies to view at the meetings or take home to share. In any case, notice came too late for meaningful review prior to Oct. 24th Board action.

It’s easy to infer that CPS has no intention of incorporating stakeholder concerns or suggestions into the amended Policy.

What’s best for children

CPS claims that it “bases every decision on what is best for children” (slide 5). However, this statement is contradicted in the first three slides, which clearly indicate that the changes in the Policy are driven by 1) changes in test availability and 2) an administrative rule that changes in the Policy must be voted on before November report card pick up day.

There are many better ways of evaluating students and assuring that they are progressing. CPS’s Policy is data-driven, not child-driven. It begins and ends with one high-stakes standardized test. Please see PURE’s alternative proposal for a more comprehensive student-centered approach.


Schooled by experts

Monday, November 19th, 2012

This morning I attended an excellent symposium on a variety of education issues presented by CReATE (Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education), the nearly two-year-old group of 100 Chicago-area academic experts who have already created some excellent resources to help parents, community groups, students and others to better understand the truth about corporate school reform.

CReATE’s first effort was a paper called  “Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions”, which clarified some of the education issues discussed during the 2011 mayoral election.

Despite the outcome of that election — or maybe because of it — CReATE continued its work with a position paper opposing tying Chicago teacher evaluation to student test scores. I spoke at CReATE’s press conference announcing the letter the professors sent to Mayor Emanuel on the subject.

Today, CReATE gave a small but avid audience of educators, parents and community organizers an overview of several new research-based fact sheets on topics such as charter schools, school funding, TIFs, mayoral control v democratic governance of schools, etc. We then brainstormed ideas for collective action to challenge some of these damaging policies and promote a quality education for every child. You can find some of these papers here.

Thanks to these volunteer educators, Chicago takes another big step ahead at the cutting edge of real school reform. All in all, it was a good day for public education.


Thanks to Coalition, 6500 candidates will run for LSC this week

Monday, April 16th, 2012

A local school council at work

“Largest municipal election yields largest number of public officials of color in the US.”

Thanks to Don Moore of Designs for Change for preparing this press release:

[Organizational Members Listed Below]


6,500 Candidates Set To Run for Chicago’s Local School Councils This Week, After 28 Organizations Won a Two-Week Candidate Recruitment Extension
Chicago School System’s Central Administration Repeatedly Obstructs Recruitment Efforts



Don Moore  312-236-7252, ext 236

CHICAGO, IL (APRIL 15, 2012).  About 6,500 candidates signed up to run in Chicago’s Local School Councils election this week, primarily as a result of an extended candidate recruitment deadline demanded by the 28 organizational members of the Coalition to Strengthen Local School Councils.

Local School Council elections will be held at nearly 540 schools with an LSC, from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18 in elementary schools, and from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 19 in high schools. Parents whose child attends a school or community members who live in a school’s attendance area are eligible to vote for parent and community LSC representatives.

This is the largest municipal election in the United States, and chooses the nation’s largest number of elected officials of color.

The number of candidates increased dramatically during spring 2012 from about 2,000 to 6,500, after the Coalition to Strengthen Local School Councils demanded that CEO Jean-Claude Brizzard extend the candidate recruitment period for two weeks, which he did.

Media are urged to cover LSC races, announce election dates, and advocate voter participation.

About Chicago’s Local School Councils

In 540 schools with Local School Councils, the LSC typically has the right to choose the school’s principal for a four-year contract and help develop, approve, and monitor a school improvement plan and school-based budget—as required by a 1988 state law that applies only to Chicago.  (LSC rights to approve their improvement plan and budget are diminished if a school is on probation.)

Local School Councils consist of six parents, two community residents, two teachers, one non-teaching staff member, the principal, and (in high schools) a student.

Research indicates that active cohesive LSCs have helped schools significantly improve student achievement and increase parent and community involvement.

Central Administration Obstructs LSC Election Process

Independent groups seeking to recruit LSC candidates encountered multiple forms of resistance from the school system’s central administration in the run-up to the eleventh LSC election, including problems that they had not experienced in the ten previous LSC elections.  For example:

•  The school system’s Office of LSC Relations did not coordinate meetings and communications with interested independent groups to plan a coherent recruitment and election strategy.
•  While in past elections, the Office of LSC Relations had released a daily computerized tally of the number of candidates for each position by school in the last month of the recruitment period (which allows groups to target their recruitment), the Office of LSC Relations stated that they would release these data only in response to a Freedom of Information Request, to which the school system typically takes at least ten days to respond.  This delay makes the resulting information (which changes day-to-day) useless.

Two days before the original recruitment deadline of March 8, independent groups obtained tallies indicating that only about 2,000 candidates had registered to run for their LSCs.

In response, the Coalition to Strengthen Local School Councils (a broad spectrum of 28 Local School Council, community, parent, school reform, teacher, and principal groups) demanded that Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizzard extend the recruitment period for two weeks, take visible leadership in endorsing Local School Councils and their importance in improving schools, and halt obstruction of the recruitment process, particularly by the school system’s Office of Local School Councils. CEO Brizard subsequently extended the deadline for candidate registration from March 8 to March 23 and interested groups began to receive daily school-by-school candidate tallies.

A few of the 28 organizations supporting the Coalition’s demand for an extension include, for example, Black Star Project, Blocks Together, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, Chicago Teachers Union, Designs for Change, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, North River Commission, Parents United for Responsible Education, PUSH Excel, the West Side and South Side Branches of the NAACP, and Teachers for Social Justice. (A list of all 28 organizations demanding the extension is below.)

In the process of their distributing the resulting school-by-school lists during the recruitment extension period, it became apparent that CPS did not have an accurate list of schools with Local School Councils, because the first lists that were released contained many charter schools and other schools without LSCs, which were listed as schools that needed LSC candidates recruited for them. It took several days of pressure on the Office of LSC Relations for them to generate an accurate list of schools with LSCs. This raises a question as to whether and how effectively the Office of LSC Relations and other CPS staff had been recruiting candidates to that point, when the Office of Local School Councils did not even have an accurate list of schools with LSCs several days after the deadline extension.

Further, three community newspapers (Center Square Journal, Austin Talks, and Welles Park Bulldog) also had trouble obtaining the names and addresses of candidates who had registered to run at specific schools, so that the newspapers could interview them. The Office of LSC Relations told these newspapers that they would have to Freedom of Information requests for this information, which is unprecedented. LSC candidates are candidates for elected public office, and information about them that they file when they register to run (except for their phone number) must be publicly available on request. The public has a right to learn about these candidates through the press.   Candidates are subject to challenge before and after the election takes place.   (Information relevant to public challenges is required as part of the candidate application materials and is supposed to be available for public inspection.)

Ultimately, Center Square Journal filed and pursued a freedom of information request and obtained the attached citywide list of candidates by school and position sought.

See also this article from Center Square Journal about the obstruction of the LSC candidate recruitment process by CPS that Center Square Journal encountered.


Austin Community Action Council

Black Star Project

Black United Fund of Illinois

Blocks Together


Chicago Coalition for the Homeless

Chicago Principals and Administrators Association

Chicago Teachers Union

Designs for Change

Education Village Keepers

Family Resource Center on Disabilities

Introspect Youth Services

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization

Kids Off the Block

Latino Organization of the Southwest

Lawndale Alliance

Men and Women in Prison Ministry

Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund

North River Commission

Parents 4 Teachers

Parents United for Responsible Education

PUSH Excel

Raise Your Hand

Small Schools Workshop

South Side Branch NAACP

Teachers for Social Justice

West Side Branch NAACP

Youth Guidance

Nothing ever changes in CPS-LSC/parent/community relations

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Chicago Tribune, March 16, 2012

Back when it was real, it was called the “Office for Reform” and it was held accountable by a group of Board of Education members who met every month as the Reform Implementation Committee. They not only took public comment but also engaged in constructive discussion with stakeholders.

Then the mayor got control of the schools and appointed Paul Vallas, who tinkered with the department, which was eventually called LSC Relations or School-Community Relation. The mayoral-appointed Board refused to create committees or meet more than once a month, which is all the time you really need to apply a rubber stamp. Accountability and real connection to the community went out the window.

The department was recently renamed FACE – Family and Community Engagement. Insert joke here. The head of the new department, Jamiko Rose, a former community organizer, just quit. But no matter what they call the department or who they appoint to lead it, the real joke that is Chicago Public Schools’ “relations” with local school councils, parents and the community will continue unchanged as long as the district’s marching orders come from City Hall.


LSC Rally still on – school closings lawsuit to be refiled

Monday, March 12th, 2012

News came out Friday afternoon that the Local School Council member lawsuit against Chicago Public Schools’ school closings actions was dismissed by Cook County Judge Michael Hyman, According to this story in the Tribune, the judge sounded generally pretty sympathetic to the case, which was headed by KOCO’s Jitu Brown:

In the opening lines of his order, Hyman noted the irony that the title of the case, Brown v. Board of Education, mirrored the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case before the U.S. Supreme Court that led to the desegregation of public school systems nationwide.

But while the case filed by local school councils was based on sweeping allegations of racial bias, Hyman noted his ruling was on more mundane legal questions of whether the councils have a right to sue to block the closings.

The school councils had no standing to file the suit, because they were not the subject of discrimination themselves and they did not provide evidence in their suit that the school closings disproportionately harmed minorities, he ruled.

“The problems (Chicago) schools in this case face arise from a multitude of causes and social conditions. The problems are complicated because the conditions that bred them are complicated,” Hyman wrote. “Yet, before the court today is a narrow question involving the legal sufficiency of the amended complaint. As such, the answer is dry, cold, removed from the greater flow of life.”

The plaintiffs plan to refile. Here’s an update from the CTU:


Opponents of the City’s plans for drastic changes at 17 schools will announce today they have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene, based on civil rights violations. The news conference will take place at 4:00 pm today at Chicago Public Schools headquarters, 124 S. Clark St.

Save Our Schools advocates also plan a rally under the slogan “We say NO to the status quo.” Jitu Brown of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization expects to see parents, teachers, students and organizations from across the city.

“Closings, turnarounds, phase-outs – however you label them – lead to increased violence and destabilization affecting both our children and their overall communities,” says Brown. “We are firm in our commitment to use whatever peaceful means at our disposal to stop these destructive educational policies. We will make our voices heard by those in power – if not here, then wherever else we have to go.”

CPS to Restrict Access to LSC Election Records

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

I have forwarded this story to Cook County Clerk David Orr:

Chicago Public Schools indicated Monday they will demand Freedom of Information Act requests from the public for the public to access nomination papers to the Local School Council.

The change in CPS policy restricts the public right to access the information and represents a significant change in policy for the district. Previously the public had a right to inspect the records without a FOIA.

The change, detailed in an exclusive Bulldog story, has grabbed the attention of the Chicago Kent School of Law Center for Open Government, the Society of Professional Journalists and public officials.

“I completely support you in this effort to gain access and get transparency on LSC elections,” GOP 32nd Ward Boss John Curry wrote in an email this afternoon.

In a study by The Bulldog, six local schools were visited to determine compliance with CPS policies regarding LSC elections. Those CPS policies spell out a number of requirements for the schools to meet:

  • An approved poster shall be placed at the main entrance to the school announcing the LSC elections
  • A map of the school district must be posted on a bulletin board
  • The bulletin board should contain optional statement of candidacy from the candidates
  • A form listing each candidate posted on the bulletin board
  • A policy stating the method for inspection of nominating papers and the right of parents to inspect these papers
  • In the main office of the school, and separate from the LSC minutes, there should be a binder containing copies of the nomination papers presented to the school.
The results:
  • Waters
    • Poster present
    • No map posted
    • Form 4-10 (list of candidates) posted
    • No Forms 2-12 on bulletin board (This was corrected while we were in the building)
    • No procedure posted regarding examination of nominating records
    • Access granted to nomination records
  • Budlong
    • No poster seen
    • No map posted
    • No candidates filed
    • No procedure posted regarding examination of nominating records
  • Chappell
    • Poster present
    • No map posted
    • No candidates filed
    • No procedure posted regarding examination of nominating records
  • Trumbull
    • Poster present
    • No map posted
    • Form 4-10 (list of candidates) posted
    • Forms 2-12 prominently displayed
    • Access granted to records
    • No procedure posted regarding examination of nominating records
  • Amundsen High
    • Poster present
    • No map posted
    • No candidates filed
    • No procedure posted regarding examination of nominating records
  • McPherson
    • Poster present
    • No map posted
    • Form 4-10 (list of candidates) posted
    • Form 2-12 posted
    • No procedure posted regarding examination of nominating records
    • No access to records without an appointment
 The study provoked CPS to restrict access to the nominating records. The schools cite privacy concerns for the change in policy.


PSAT for 2-21-12: Do something!

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Anger and action are cranked up to 11 on the volume control in preparation for tomorrow’s Chicago Board of Education vote on school closures and turnarounds.

Overnight camp outs.

School occupation.

Marches. Press conferences. Releasing new reports. Noble critiques. Call-ins.

You name it, folks in Chicago have done it – and mostly in the last week!

Enough already?


Let’s crank it up a little more. So, for Public Schools Action Tuesday today, please DO SOMETHING!

-> Set your alarm for tomorrow’s Board meeting.

Come to CPS, 125 South Clark at 4 am–we need 40 people there—URGENT

6 am–Picket line begins.  Teachers, plan to come before school.  Other folks, come before work. Spread the word. Urge your colleagues and coworkers
Parents 4 Teachers wants you to call CEO Brizard one more time.
Keep the pressure on today! Call CPS at 1-773-553-1500 and ask the board to halt the closings and turnarounds.

And please get TWO more friends, co-workers, family members to call today. Say which school your children attend when you call so we can show there is city-wide opposition to these school “actions.”

Please forward this to everyone you know who’s committed to working for quality schools for ALL Chicago children.


Call or e-mail the members of the Illinois House Education Committee regarding HB 3239, the moratorium on CPS closures and turnarounds bill that will come before the committee on Friday. Details here.


Spread the news on your networks about today’s Designs for Change report showing that LSC-led schools elementary outperform turnarounds: 33 LSC-led elementary schools serving 95% or more low-income students scored above the city wide average on state tests, while NO turnaround schools achieved that level. More here.


From the SOS March:
Thank you to all who joined us for a very successful #SOSchat on Twitter last Tuesday! We’re committed to weekly #SOSchat’s and hope that you will join us today at 6 pm PDST  – 9 pm EST to discuss the upcoming National Save Our Schools Convention and the national dialogue!

Please share on Facebook and Twitter!  Invite your friends in all other listserves, etc.  Follow me @GetUpStandUp2 and @SOSFlashMob on Twitter! Also follow @SOSMarch on Twitter!  Find each other and tweet using #SOSchat hashtag ALL WEEK long to be able to easily connect on edreform topics and RT easily!


Finally, because the fish rots from the top, please sign the “Dump Duncan” petition if you have not already done so!


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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.