A parent wants to know why an expensive corporate training program is being implemented at his neighborhood CPS school.

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Logan Square’s Darwin Elementary School.

A few years ago there was some controversy over Steven Covey’s The Leader in Me program which was purchased by CPS. CPS had spent over a quarter of a million dollars on The Leader in Me at the time.

Supporters of the program, started under former CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard before he resigned in October, say it fosters a disciplined approach to education and helps with so-called social emotional learning. But some critics say there is not enough proof it works and argue it is costly at a time when the district is facing financial woes.

The program, called “The Leader in Me,” was created by the Utah-based Franklin Covey, a publicly-traded company that CPS has paid more than $263,000 since 2005, including more than $111,000 this year.

This year’s spending was for The Leader in Me, the brainchild of the company’s founder, Stephen Covey.

Covey, who died last year, is the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the centerpiece of leadership training programs run by Franklin Covey that have been used by Fortune 500 companies.

The Leader in Me is a version of Covey’s book adapted for younger students and used by more than 1,000 schools worldwide, though company officials admit evidence that it works is mostly anecdotal and say it’s still too soon to fully measure the impact of the program on the schools where it’s used.

Offered to all CPS schools before the start of the 2012-2013 school year, Andrew Jackson, Walsh Elementary, Pershing West Elementary and South Loop Elementary were the only schools to sign on, a CPS spokesman said.

Brizard is long gone as CPS CEO.

But The Leader in Me is still around.

And a Logan Square’s Darwin Elementary School parent and LSC member, Jeff Young, wonders why?

In a letter sent by Jeff Young to the other members of the Darwin LSC following a school walk-through.

I am concerned about a video we were shown, prior to the walk, in which students and teachers from Darwin appeared. This video, as it was explained to us, was produced by the FranklinCovey company for use with it’s “Leader In Me” program.

In a later letter Jeff Young lays out his objections to a corporate training tool being used at a public elementary school:

1) There is no objective, 3rd party analysis as to whether Leader In Me is any more effective than any other program with similar goals that doesn’t cost as much nor require as much from our school (see 3).

2) Principals in Kentucky and Missouri have been disciplined by their districts for consulting for Franklin Covey while implementing Leader In Me at their schools. Links to articles discussing these situations are below. It concerns me that this program has a financial incentive for it’s adoption with no proven, verifiable academic benefit.

3) Leader In Me contractually obligates our school to share student absenteeism and disciplinary data with Franklin Covey, as well as hold Leadership Day annually. Federal laws tightly controls the disclosure of student data outside of the school; I’m not certain the data we are providing is publicly available or not. By hosting Leadership Day at Darwin, we are essentially holding a sales event at our school for Franklin Covey during which our children help sell their product.

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