Posts Tagged ‘Paul Vallas’

Mark as junk?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014


OK. So, do I mark this as junk or spam?

Paul warns us that under Bruce Rauner:

  • 13,000 teachers will lose their jobs.
  • Communities will be forced to decide between hiking their property taxes and closing their schools.
  • We will have a weakened school system.

And this is different from your slash-and-burn approach to school reform how??

Blast from CPS past: Carlos Azcoitia on the Board

Monday, November 19th, 2012

It was something of a surprise to hear that Mayor Emanuel has appointed Dr. Carlos Azcoitia to the Board of Education to replace Rodrigo Sierra, who moves to the CHA Board.

Not mentioned specifically in his official City Hall bio was Dr. Azcoitia’s stint in the mid-1990s as the head of the Office of School Reform, the department which served local school councils, back when CPS served LSCs and back when reform really meant something. Also not mentioned was the time Paul Vallas, then CPS CEO, fired Carlos and then, after getting heat from PURE and others, rehired him to run the newly-named Office of School-Community Relations.

Azcoitia regularly invited reform groups to the table to work on LSC training materials and LSC-related policy issues. He was also a long-time friend of PURE founders Joy and Bernie Noven. The picture above is from Joy and Bernie’s retirement party in 1995. Carlos is the one with the moustache and the mic standing between Joy (seated left) and Bernie (seated right).

There were bumps along the way in PURE’s relationship with Dr Azcoitia, especially as Vallas began to make some heavy-handed moves against certain LSC members, but he is the first person appointed to the mayoral-controlled board with any real school reform credentials. It will be interesting to see if that makes any difference.

Father of High-Stakes Testing, Paul Vallas, now opposes them

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Reuters reports that former Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas thinks end-of-year assessments are “not useful” and that it’s “a big mistake” to use them for high-stakes purposes.

Well, he needs to apologize to about 125,000 Chicago Public School students who have been flunked because of the high-stakes testing policy he started in 1996 as CPS CEO. And maybe his “education consulting firm” can figure out how those students who were thrown off-track by retention can recoup their educational losses and how taxpayers can recoup the more than $1 billion CPS has wasted over the years with Vallas’s failed student promotion policy. That kind of money would come in pretty handy right now, what with CTU contract negotiations underway.

In fact, Vallas is the Father of High-Stakes Testing. He was the first to flunk huge numbers of students every year based solely on their end-of-year Iowa test scores. You may have read this powerful story by one of the first students to be affected by Vallas’s “ending social promotion” fiasco; we’ve had it posted for a while under the Take Action menu on our home page. Read it again (or for the first time) as you consider Vallas’s apparent change of heart, according to the Reuters story:

Even some advocates of testing are beginning to publicly complain about the system.

Many state assessments are given in March or April, so they capture only what a student has learned in the first two-thirds of the school year. The results often don’t come back until the summer, too late for teachers to use the scores to guide their approach in the classroom.

“They’re not useful,” said Paul Vallas, a veteran superintendent who has helped turn around districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans and is now running the schools in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Vallas is hardly anti-test: He favors giving abbreviated versions of standardized tests every six weeks, all year, so teachers can monitor student progress and adjust accordingly. But a single high-stakes test? “A big mistake,” Vallas said.

“The assessment systems are not reliable,” he said. “They need to be more sophisticated, more accountable, more fair.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, CPS still uses an only slightly modified version of the old Vallas promotion policy. Our December 2010 complaint against the policy has been sitting at the U. S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, apparently just collecting dust, while CPS massages the same failed policy — a handful of changes were made at the May 2012 Board meeting, including dropping poor attendance as a factor and changing a couple of terms.

So, more CPS students will be sent to summer school in a few days and possibly flunked at the end of the summer based on assessments that are “not reliable,” in the words of the Father of High-Stakes Testing.

Catalyst retention issue highlights – and hides – PURE’s OCR complaints

Monday, May 16th, 2011

This month’s issue of Catalyst is all about the failure of Chicago Public Schools’ flunking policy.

It starts with an editorial by Editor-in-Chief Lorraine Forte titled: “Kill student retention and get real about learning.”

Forte writes,

the policy has been watered down in the past 15 years because of outside pressure, including a major 2004 study by the Consortium on Chicago School Research that definitively showed the dramatic negative effects of retention—in particular, the far greater risk of eventually dropping out. More recently, the advocacy group Parents United for Responsible Education put the issue on the front burner when it filed a federal civil rights complaint against the district’s retention policy because of its disparate racial impact.

The issue reviews the problems with retention, how the policy has affected schools and students. and what districts have and haven’t done to address students’ needs.

I especially appreciate the quote from former CPS Chief Education Officer Blondean Davis, who implemented retention for CEO Paul Vallas but is now “skeptical” of the practice. Catalyst reports that in Matteson School District 162, which Davis serves as schools superintendent, “very few students are held back and the process is subjective, done in consultation with teachers, parents and principals. ‘I’ve had a lot of time to think about it,’ Davis says. ‘Retention has to be the last resort.’ ”

Life-long learners, right, Blondean?

Blind spot?

I’ve always wondered why Catalyst — and the Consortium’s retention studies, for that matter — go to some length to avoid acknowledging the impact of PURE’s 1999 Office for Civil Rights (OCR) complaint.

In the quote above, Catalyst’s Forte refers to “outside pressure” that led to changes in the policy over the past 15 years, but only specifies the Consortium report as an example.

Their timeline of events (p. 10) says that in 2000 “school advocates convince CPS to alter the policy.”

Similarly, the Consortium’s 2004 report, “Ending Social Promotion: The Effects of Retention,” mentions that “the policy was challenged in a civil rights complaint” (p. 10).

Credit where credit’s due…

The fact is, it was PURE’s 1999 complaint alone that forced the biggest change in the policy, that is, ending the use of Iowa test scores alone as the retention trigger.

As a result of that complaint, OCR undertook a year-long investigation of CPS’s promotion policy, leading to complaint resolution procedures which resulted in CPS revising the policy at the end of the summer of 2000.

PURE and our lawyer, Elaine Siegel, were given advance copies of the draft revised policy and found continued problems with it. We quickly prepared a formal list of concerns. OCR intervened and, after a series of conversations with the CPS Law Department, a final agreement was struck which, while not everything we wanted, at least did the following:

  • specified that students would be evaluated using multiple measures;
  • added a parents’ right to a review, including the parents’ right to bring in their own examples of the student’s work as evidence of appropriate skills and knowledge;
  • required an annual report on any disparate impact of the policy based on race or national origin.

This happened four years before the Consortium publicly criticized the policy.

Just makes me wonder about the hesitancy to give a small parent advocacy group its due. Are the rich Chicago funders really that scary? Listen, they have tried – without success – to kill PURE off so that we would no longer be able to challenge the cockamamie ideas of their favored school leaders. So, they can’t be all that powerful – certainly not more powerful than the truth, anyway.

NYC parents happy – NOLA parents sad

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

It’s a mixed news day for parents. children and schools.

New York City parents are celebrating the resignation of Schools Chancellor Cathie Black and her Deputy, John White. Black, who served less than 100 days, was a bizarre appointment by NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, like Chicago’s mayor, runs the schools. Black’s previous experience was in the publishing world (Hearst Publications, USA Today); she needed a waiver of all education requirements from the state legislature to become chancellor. (Of course, our legislature waived any and all CPS CEOs from such requirements in 1995.)

Black almost immediately alienated NYC parents when she suggested “birth control” as a remedy for overcrowded classrooms. Things went downhill from there.

White’s resume is not much more impressive than Black’s. But… New York’s gain is New Orleans’ loss. White is headed to The Big Easy to replace outgoing (and, from what I hear, already out-gone) Paul Vallas, who has set his sights on Chile next. apparently sparing Haiti, which had originally been in the path of Hurricane Paul. NOLA parents won’t miss Vallas, but aren’t pleased that his replacement was responsible for school closings and expanding charter schools in NYC. This doesn’t bode well for the two-tiered school system in New Orleans, where massive charter expansion is already destroying the neighborhood school system.

We congratulate NYC parents on their successful challenge of one bad school district leader – let’s hope that other mayors (or mayors-elect) are paying attention!

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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.