Eric Zorn does it again. Talking with the #FightForDyett hunger strikers is negotiating with “hostage takers.”


Jeanette Taylor, a hunger striker seeking to press Chicago Public Schools to establish an academy at the closed Dyett High School, is taken away by paramedics after falling ill on Aug. 26, 2015, after speaking at a Chicago Board of Education meeting. (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Tribune has the most amazing stable of screwed-up journalists around.

This is not a newspaper.

This is group therapy that we all can listen in on.

Two weeks ago it was Kristen McQueary and her dreams of a major disaster like Hurricane Katrina hitting Chicago so we could get a New Orleans style school reform.

Her op-ed piece included what some thought were some very Freudian images of water gushing through manhole covers.

So, Kristen. How did that make you feel?

Columnist Eric Zorn was obviously feeling jealous. Up until the Trib hired McQueary, Zorn was the weirdest Trib writer in their stable of head cases.

Hunger striking is a form of hostage taking, albeit one in which the captors and the hostages are the same people.

Should we negotiate with hostage takers? Only when it’s literally a matter of life and death.

The captors and the hostages are the same people!

Should we negotiate with hostage takers, Zorn ponders.

But they are the captives! Or the hostages? Or the captives?

Negotiate about what, Eric?

The hunger strikers are asking for a neighborhood high school in an African American neighborhood where there is none.

Eric thinks we should wait until someone dies first?

His column is titled, “When to pay attention to hunger strikers.”

Not yet, Eric. Nobody has died.

Keeping retirement weird. Call your state rep.

Our family time on Block Island is winding down. Tomorrow we take the ferry back to Point Judith and after stopping to see an old friend in the Catskills, we will dead-head it back to Chicago getting home by Wednesday.

We will celebrate the end of our glorious week tonight by going to the Block Island Maritime Institute’s oyster festival down by Payne’s dock.

Fifteen buck for all the raw oysters you can eat. I can eat plenty, but will refrain from entering the oyster eating contest fearing that I might win and end up paying an awful price for that victory.

Much more than the fifteen bucks it costs to get into the festival.

We will only have been gone for a couple of weeks but it seems we have missed plenty back home.

Mayor Rahm still refuses to even meet with the #FightForDyett hunger strikers and so they continue their protest with gathering support.

This week, AFT President Randi Weingarten flew out to demonstrate the AFT’s backing, joining local progressive political leaders.

A statement from the NEA or IEA?


And also joining are ordinary folks who see the injustice of having to starve in America to get a neighborhood open admissions high school in an African American community where there is currently none.

The #FightForDyett hunger strike is also identifying politicians who have chosen the Mayor over their constituents.

There will be payback for that betrayal.

I will get back to Chicago in time to be on next Saturday’s Live at the Heartland with my friends Katy Hogan, Mike James and Tom Clark.

It will be Labor Day Weekend, so naturally we will be discussing the state of the labor movement.

Mike knows my passion for the pension issue but we will take a break from that, talking about other issues confronting my pre-retired union brothers and sisters.

By Saturday we may know the outcome of the Illinois House override vote of Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1229 (House Amendment #2). The bill was supported by AFSCME and passed by the General Assembly in May.

It was vetoed by Governor Rauner.

On Wednesday, the Illinois House can follow the Senate’s lead and override the governor’s veto.

SB 1229 will stop the governor from enforcing his will on one of the state’s largest public employee unions by lock-out.

No bigger issue faces Illinois labor this week than this vote.

Call your House member.

Mine, 39th District House Representative Will Guzzardi, has already told me his position. His is a vote to override the Governor’s veto.

Use the AFSCME Hotline at 888-912-5959 to call your state rep right now to urge a YES vote on overriding the governor’s veto.


Buyer’s remorse. NEA and edTPA.

In our continuing discussion of the expansion of edTPA as a licensure process for teachers entering the profession, I reprinted the original supporting position of the National Education Association.

The American Federation of Teachers position of opposition was also posted on this site.

I then was blasted by a series of twittering academics for every imaginable sin. Since I don’t have a PhD after my name and thousands read this blog, my views on this topic are suspect.

For some in the academic world it is always better to publish in journals read by dozens than on blogs read by thousands.

That is why I had to laugh when I read this summer’s review of edTPA published by the very same NEA in its research journal, Thought and Action.

Its circulation is limited, so it should have some credibility.

It’s authors are Deborah Greenblatt, a Ph.D. candidate in urban education at The Graduate Center at the City University of New York with a concentration in educational policy and leadership and Kate E. O’Hara, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Education at New York Institute of Technology.

Neither are bloggers to my knowledge.

As states across the country continue their implementation of the edTPA, a complex and high-stakes certification requirement for teacher certification, there are important lessons for educators and education advocates to learn from New York State’s implementation. As Linda Darling-Hammond, developer and promoter of the edTPA, cautioned at the 2014 American Educational Research Association meeting: “New York is a prototype of how not [original emphasis] to implement teacher performance assessment.”1

edTPA stands for the Teacher Performance Assessment Portfolio, an assessment of teacher readiness developed by The Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning and Equity (SCALE) and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) but nationally distributed and scored by Pearson Education, Inc. It differs from previous assessments in that it purports to measure “performance” by requiring student teachers to compile a portfolio, including lesson plans, student work samples, a short classroom video (15 to 20 minutes), and a lengthy “instructional commentary” of 40 to 60 pages.

Currently, there are 622 educator preparation programs in 35 states and the District of Columbia participating in edTPA. Some states are still exploring its use while others require edTPA as part of program completion or for state licensure.2Among them, New York’s story is unique: Although the New York State Education Department had begun working with Pearson in 2009 on its own teacher performance assessment, it switched to the edTPA when it became available in February 2012. The handbooks and rubrics were made available to faculty and students in New York’s schools of education that same spring.3 New York only conducted one year of field testing before fully implementing the edTPA as a high-stakes assessment.4

As a result of the rapid rollout, faculty at colleges of education had little time to reflect on their data and prepare their students for success: “We have basically set up a cohort of our students to fail,” warned Jamie Dangler, vice president of the United University Professions (UUP), the union of State University of New York educators, to New York State Education Department officials in January 2014, “and the consequences will be disastrous for students and teaching programs.’”

With the federal push to standardize a national evaluation requirement for pre-service teachers, all states and their educators must also consider and contend with the impact of profit-oriented corporations in the teacher preparation process. The certification of teachers has been taken out of the hands of the states and now turned over to a for-profit company that has much to gain from a national adoption of the edTPA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Concerns over the corporatization of teacher certification are fueled by Pearson’s lack of transparency. When participating in Pearson workshops, trainings, or test scoring, faculty have to sign non-disclosure agreements. Faculty are not allowed to share materials with their colleagues or their students.5 Furthermore, although the edTPA Myths and Facts document asserts the criteria for selecting and training scorers is “rigorous,” the teacher candidates’ score reports do not include the qualifications of their scorer nor is specific data about edTPA current scorers readily available online.

It is our hope that educators, activists, and policy makers will benefit from the lessons we have learned in New York and join our effort for a certification process that does not standardize teacher education programs but rather draws upon an effectively designed certification process and represents what is important to the profession, not politicians and corporations.

After describing the negative lessons learned by the roll-out of edTPA in New York state, the authors conclude:

The practical and ethical implications for implementing the edTPA are complex and significant. From our experiences in New York State, it is arguable whether or not the edTPA adequately assesses teacher performance. However, what we can say with certainty is that the edTPA privileges student teacher placements; shifts student teaching of candidates to test prep by candidates; has inherent inconsistencies in the scoring by Pearson; privileges certain candidates and higher education institutions; and makes assumptions about candidates’ technology access and skills. As teacher educators, we have learned significant lessons, and so have our teacher candidates. “The moral of this story is to predict what the raters might want, and give it to them, no matter how relentlessly repetitive and monotonous the rubrics may be.”30 A follow-up lesson is that the teacher candidates do truly “perform” on this test, determined to create a show that their audience will like. With edTPA portfolios being outsourced nationally, teacher candidates can only hope that their performance earns them applause from the lone worker being paid $75 per portfolio. Although currently the edTPA is being used by more than 70 percent of teacher certification programs in the country, the flaws are evident. A word of advice from New York: Buyer beware.

I didn’t say it.

But it’s true.

The real mystery of Block Island.

Arthur Kinoy October 2001

The great civil rights attorney, Arthur Kinoy. Photo: National Lawyers Guild.

As it has for the past few summers, August ends with a gathering of the east coast wing of our family on Block Island.

It is an hour’s ferry ride from Point Judith, Rhode Island.

We rent a house next to the Fire Department. It sits on a hill overlooking a lagoon and  beyond to the beaches that face the Atlantic.

Block Island does not have the reputation for wealthy and celebrity summer visitors of its northerly neighbor, Martha’s Vinyard.

It does have some resident celebrities like Christopher Walken.

But celebrity watching is not why anybody comes here. It is certainly not why we come.

Like most others, we come for time with our family and the beauty of the island.

I am always pleasantly surprised by what I discover when I come.

A few summers ago I came upon the story of Monroe Engel, a Block Island summer resident who went to Mississippi in 1964 to take part in Freedom Summer.

Block Island is where the Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan, who was outspoken in opposition to the war in Vietnam, came after his conviction for destroying draft records in Catonsville, Maryland.

Berrigan was sentenced to three years in federal prison.

He was arrested by federal agents on August 11th, 1970 when they raided the Block Island home of William Stringfellow, an attorney and Episcopal theologian and Anthony Towne, a poet.

Stringfellow and Towne named their farm Eschanton, meaning hope.

Berrigan had been staying for four months in an 8 by 15 foot room, a former stable, sleeping on a thin mattress.

Block Island was also the summer home of the great Civil Rights attorney, Arthur Kinoy.

The National Lawyers Guild writes of Kinoy:

As a young lawyer in the early 1950s, deep into the Red Scare, Kinoy took on progressive work with a commitment few attorneys were brave enough to muster. He served as counsel to the communist-labeled United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, defended witnesses called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), and made a last-minute appeal on behalf of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg following their espionage conspiracy conviction.

Kinoy also fought alongside civil rights activists in the South, guiding the establishment of a Mississippi legal office to support the 1964 Freedom Summer campaign. Two years later, he was once again before HUAC representing student anti-war activists when the acting chairman, taking issue with Kinoy’s vigorous argument of a point, had him forcibly removed from the hearing by three marshals. A famous photograph of the event arguably turned public opinion against the long-running tribunals once and for all.

In perhaps his most famous case, following the chaotic 1968 Democratic National Convention, Kinoy joined fellow Guild attorneys William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass in representing the Chicago Seven.  After a tumultuous trial in which all the defendants and attorneys were cited for contempt, Kinoy and his team ultimately secured freedom for the Seven on appeal.

I am told that when Arthur Kinoy first came to Block Island fifty years ago he became immersed in its history which led to him writing the book, The Real Mystery of Block Island.

Kinoy died in 2003 at the age of 82.

edTPA and TFA are two sides of the same coin.


Teach For America thinks you can put anybody in front of a classroom after a few weeks of boot camp training and they can fill the increasingly growing number of classroom teaching positions that cannot be filled by those from traditional teacher preparation programs.

TFA leaders think education majors are a waste of time.

TFA supplies teachers mainly for schools with poor students and students of color.

In a few cases this works.

Some people are born to teach.

But it is not sustainable and teachers leave TFA in a few years, creating a revolving door of inexperienced teachers.

edTPA also thinks traditional teacher preparation programs are lacking. They will argue that TFA and traditional teacher preparation programs undermine the professional status and quality of our classroom teachers.

They believe – and I have gotten an earful (or rather, Tweetful) this week – that licensure of teachers should look more like the fields of medicine and law.

This has not come from student teachers who have been victims of edTPA. It has come from university people who work for and with edTPA.

They got mad when I mentioned Bill Gates.

Gates is all over Stanford’s SCALE, but not edTPA, they tell me.

Fine. Whatever.

I’m told that in New York and Illinois the problem isn’t with edTPA and their 45 teacher functions that appear on their Stanford created rubric.

I’m told the problem is implementation.

It seems the problem is always implementation.

These university researchers have great ideas that just can’t seem to get implemented right.

Even our unions, when they defend Common Core, say the problem with Common Core is implementation.

PARCC testing?


Clearly we have a continuing problem with implementation.

I get it that Stanford’s SCALE and edTPA folks think that if we don’t build a wall of rubrics, the folks at the National Council on Teacher Quality and TFA will end up sending an army of untrained people into classrooms.

Yet edTPA is having a similar impact. The more hoops we create for student teachers to jump through, fewer of them will be willing to make the leap.

And then we will have the situation we are already starting to see in states with teacher shortages. Provisionally certified teachers in classrooms.

That means they don’t know anything about teaching.

45 checks on lists of teacher functions on a edTPA rubric doesn’t make anyone teacher-ready on their first day on the job. Yet that is their claim.

In my experience, it takes five years before you know what the questions are.

Experience teaching and reflecting on that experience is what makes good teachers.

A rubric of 45 teacher functions? On most days I did 45 teacher functions before noon.

Yes, there is a problem with Pearson’s connections to all this.

Yes, I am sure there are implementation problems.

But it is the conception of teaching as a mostly technical enterprise that can be mastered in time for day-one that is at the root of what is wrong with edTPA.

Rerun: Andrea Zopp’s busy daily schedule. CPS board member’s schedule: Close 50 public schools. Go to the gym. Dinner at Vinci. Play at Steppenwolf. Tend the vegetable garden.

With the news that Urban League President and former CPS board member is running for U.S. Senate, I thought it would be a good time to reprint this post from May of 2013.

Zopp recently defended the CPS $20 million dollar no-bid Supes contract.


CPS board member Andrea Zopp.

Shia Kapos in Crain’s:

Andrea Zopp, CEO of Chicago Urban League, is moving into the long weekend the way we all should—with a long work-out and massage.


8 a.m. Start with Zumba class in Beverly and then a workout with trainer Kathy Dalby at HiFi Fitness on Orleans Street.

11 a.m. Get a massage at XSPort Fitness on State Street with Gary Smith.

1 p.m. Hair appointment at Ulta on State Street. “I’ve been going to Heidi White for a long time.”

6 p.m. Dinner at Vinci Restaurant on Halsted Street.

7:30 p.m. Attend Steppenwolf’s “Head of Passes” performance.


8 a.m. Take a 3-mile run with husband Bill Zopp.

9 a.m. Get daughter Alyssa ready for her big day as an extra in a summer movie that’s filming in town.

11 a.m. Brunch with friends who are participating in Bike The Drive on Lake Shore Drive. “I’m not doing it because my bike is a mess.”

3 p.m. High school graduation party at a friend’s house.


7:30 a.m. Running the annual Ridge Run 5K in Beverly. “It’s a fun day. After the run, we have a neighborhood party in Beverly. We’ll walk the (Memorial Day) parade.”

Afternoon Planting vegetable garden—tomatoes, cucumbers, beans peppers. “We have a lot of yard, flower beds everywhere that need tending,” she says. “I haven’t had a chance to get out there so I’m hoping the weather will be good.”

Life in Rahm’s Chicago. Welcome back, Amer.


My drawing from July, 2014.

The poster boy for Rahm’s City Hall corruption, Amer Ahmad, is coming home.

Not home to Chicago, where he was hired by Mayor Rahm’s Chief Financial Officer, Lois Scott.

Home to Ohio where he is accused of steering $3.2 million in securities and brokerage work to a high school classmate who then kicked back $500,000 to Ahmad.

His flight back to Ohio was free.

Ahmad was extradited from Pakistan and flown to Columbus, Ohio, where he will appear for a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Watson at 10 a.m. Friday.

Ahmad was a fugitive in Pakistan ever since he fled the States following his conviction for bribery and conspiracy and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

His crimes had all taken place prior to Lois Scott bringing him to Chicago.

Scott was known as Rahm’s financial guru.

She’s gone now.

edTPA. The Gates and NCTQ plan, a long time in the works.


Graphic: Rethinking Schools

edTPA is not new.

I have been posting about it now because the implementation of edTPA in Illinois, mandated by the Democratic Party controlled state legislature as the path to teacher certification, is moving at full steam.

If you go back to the summer of 2013 Rethinking Schools has an article by Wayne Au which places edTPA right in the center of the debate over corporate school reform, the Gates Foundation and the corporate National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).

Incidentally, I wrote about the cozy relationship between the Illinois Education Association’s Executive Director Audrey Soglin and NCTQ back in April of 2013.

But this is part of what Wayne Au wrote for Rethinking Schools two years ago:

Conservatives have been developing an infrastructure to attack teacher education at least since 2000, when the Thomas B. Fordham Institute created the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). As former Fordham Institute board member Diane Ravitch recalls: “Conservatives, and I was one, did not like teacher training institutions. . . . [The Fordham Institute] established NCTQ as a new entity to promote alternative certification and to break the power of the hated ed schools.”

With $5 million from then-Secretary of Education Rod Paige and the Bush administration, the NCTQ founded the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE), which would grant anyone a “passport to teaching” as a valid teaching credential in any state that agreed, as long as the individual had a bachelor’s degree and passed a background check and a computer test. Voucher proponents and advocates for privatizing public education filled the ABCTE’s advisory board, and Kate Walsh, now president of NCTQ, served on its board of directors.

Although the ABCTE still exists as an online teacher certification program (get your teaching credential for just under $2,000!), it lives on the fringes of the national education policy conversation. On the other hand, corporate education reformers have placed NCTQ in a position of national prominence. Diane Ravitch explains: “Today, NCTQ is the partner of U.S. News & World Report and will rank the nation’s schools of education. It received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to review teacher quality in Los Angeles. It is now often cited as the nation’s leading authority on teacher quality issues. Its report has a star-studded technical advisory committee of corporate reform leaders like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee.”

NCTQ supports the use of high-stakes test scores in teacher evaluation (known as value-added measurement, or VAM), including using test scores of students to rate the teacher education programs from which their teachers graduated. Taking a page directly out of the rabidly pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) playbook on education reform, NCTQ has already issued report cards for teacher education by state and is on the verge of “grading” most individual teacher education programs in the country.

Kate Walsh and the NCTQ are part of the cabal of corporate reformers dismantling public education today, and they have teacher education squarely in their sights.

So the edTPA has to be seen strategically as a push back against the forces of corporate education reform. It aims to reframe teaching as a profession along the lines of being a medical doctor or a lawyer (think national bar exam for teachers).

This would explain why edTPA has roots in the ideas of Linda Darling-Hammond and other proponents of focusing on teacher quality.

Like other education reform ideas that seemed good at the time, they often get turned into their opposites with the infusion of foundation and corporate dollars.

I got into a Twitter debate about edTPA with John Seelke, an employee of the University of Maryland and someone who does student teacher placement and supervision

He has been one of the rare defenders of edTPA to comment since I started writing about it.

Seelke’s objectivity is suspect as someone who is employed to implement edTPA.

But he raises a good question:

“Connection to Gates? Is edTPA perfect? No…do it think it’s better than other current assessments like praxis?”

By praxis, John means the current system of local cooperating teacher evaluation along with a university or college supervisor.

Au raises a similar question:

If we sink the edTPA, what will we be left with? In the midst of corporate education reform, will we in teacher education get stuck with whatever Kate Walsh, the NCTQ, and the privatizers have in store for us? That is a dilemma, and I don’t have the solution. I do know, however, that the edTPA has had a significant impact on my teacher education program.

As I have written before, whatever problems there are with current teacher preparation practices, nothing can be fixed by handing it over to private corporations like Pearson which rake in million of dollars in profits or by implementing the plans of the Gates Foundation.

Chicago Tribune: Teacher compensation is a perk.


It has been just a few days since the Chicago Tribune embarrassed itself by publishing the ghoulish op-ed by Kristen McQueary which called for a devastating natural disaster like Katrina to hit Chicago.

Only “water gushing through manhole covers” could bring school reform to our city wrote McQueary, praising the privatization of New Orleans schools that followed Hurricane Katrina.

This morning they publish another one of their patented bull poop articles on teacher pensions, claiming a district’s pension pick-up is a “perk.”

They write that this perk is “little noticed.”

That’s because to most observers of collective bargaining agreements between labor and management it is not normally considered a perk to receive compensation for your work.

A point about the contract language: If someone were to read the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the Park Ridge board of education and the Park Ridge Education Association (of which I was a member for 30 years) it says, “the Board shall pick-up the teacher’s required contribution to the Illinois Teachers Retirement System (TRS).”

What does this mean?

It means that the board will take the 9.4% our of our check  and send it to TRS. We paid the entire amount but the board transferred the money. That is all that they did. It was nothing more than an electronic transfer of our money so that we didn’t have to mail in a check to TRS ourselves.

Yet someone might read that and think the board paid our contribution. They would think wrong.

Are there districts in Illinois that pay all or a share of the teacher contribution?


In the course of negotiations both sides of the table understand that there is a finite amount of money to be bargained. How that money is divided up is what the bargaining is about.

Some goes directly to salary. Some goes to benefits such as health insurance. Some goes to pension payments.

If you look at collective bargaining agreements between teachers and school boards state-wide you will see that some are heavily weighted towards salaries. Others are weighted more strongly to the benefit side.

It’s all bargained compensation.

Compensation is not a perk.

No matter what the Trib thinks.