Rahm took Duncan’s graduation requirement idea and ran with it. Duncan is looking for Rahm’s job. Skip the middleman.


Rahm’s graduation requirement: Must have travel plans.

You know that incredibly stupid idea Rahm has proposed as a CPS graduation requirement?

The one where you must have a promise of a job that isn’t there?

Or a letter from a college, like Chicago State, that can’t afford to offer any classes?

The one that would be dependent on CPS guidance counselors that have been fired?

The one that will provide the army with cannon fodder?

And forget it that as a high school grad you might have other plans?

That stupid idea?

Guess where Rahm got the idea?

This from recently FOIAed Rahm emails:

Former Chicago Public Schools-turned-U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan also was in Emanuel’s inbox with an idea that the mayor took to heart.

“Think about making completing a FAFSA [financial aid application] and applying to two or three colleges or the military a new CPS graduation requirement,” Duncan wrote on Jan. 11. “Graduation rates continue to rise. This would signal the importance of ongoing education/training. A HS diploma is great, but not enough. No other school system I know of has taken this next step.”

A month later, after Duncan wrote again to talk about an “intensive tutoring program.” Emanuel replied, “Thanks. You know we are doing a version of your graduation requirement.”

Duncan replied, “Didn’t know. Good?”

Last week, Emanuel announced that, starting with the current freshman class, CPS will make “having a plan for post-secondary success” a graduation requirement.

That means that, in order to graduate, members of the Class of 2020 and beyond will have to present a letter of acceptance, either to a four-year college, a community college, the military, or a trade. Without a “post-high school education plan,” they won’t graduate.

There is talk that Duncan wants Rahm’s job and Rahm is willing to step aside and let him have it.

Duncan is already providing the stupid ideas to the Mayor.

Skip the middleman.

Duncan out. King in.


– My friend Bev Johns sends this along:

With Arne Duncan returning to Chicago, here is a posting from a professor friend in New York on John King.


John King came to the DOE from New York State where he was Commissioner of Education for 3 1/2 years, having come there from work in the Charter School movement.

While here, he maintained or increased the Common Core tests (New York own tests) and implemented the teacher evaluation system that tied the results to the tests. In addition, he apparently supported the NYS involvement with the InBloom data collection system, later ended by legislative action after parent protests. (It is hard to know his personal commitment to any of the above as NYS Education is also controlled by Board of Regents and the Governor has significant input, but it appeared that he was a strong supporter.) 

These events led to very strong opposition from parents, teachers, and some other reformers, leading to a strong opt-out movement where 20% of all students refused to take the tests. 

At one point, he scheduled a series of meetings with parents around the state to hear their concerns, but cancelled them after the first turned ugly.

He was said to have called parents a “special interest group”.

He left, with many enemies, particularly the parents and the teacher unions, and many reformers (i.e. see Diane Ravitch’s blog). 

As for Special Education, my major gripe was, and still is, that a state testing system where  only 5-10% of the students with disabilities are found proficient (English Language Arts and Math) is not very helpful and is more likely to be frustrating to students,  parents, and teachers.

However, I do not recall it being a particularly active period in special education policy, as the focus during his years, was on these other issues.

GAO report. Arne Duncan garnishes pensions of 22,000 seniors over 65 years old.

arne duncan

The Huffington Post.

The Education Department is demanding so much money from seniors with defaulted student loans that it’s forcing tens of thousands of them into poverty, according to a government audit.

At least 22,000 Americans aged 65 and older had a part of their Social Security benefits garnished last year to the point that their monthly benefits were below federal poverty thresholds, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Education Department-initiated collections on defaulted federal student loans left at least another 83,000 Americans aged 64 and younger with poverty-level Social Security payments, GAO data show. Federal auditors cautioned that the number of Americans forced to accept poverty-level benefits because of past defaults on federal student loans are surely higher.

More than half, or 54 percent, of federal student loans held by borrowers at least 75 years old are in default, according to the federal watchdog. About 27 percent of loans held by borrowers aged 65 to 74 are in default. Among borrowers aged 50 to 64, 19 percent of their loans are in default. The Education Department generally defines a default as being at least 360 days past due.

As unpaid student debt approaches $1.3 trillion, the federal watchdog’s findings underscore the consequences of increased student debt burdens and the risk they’ll wreak havoc on households in the coming years if U.S. workers continue to see little increase in their paychecks, the economy barely grows, and the Education Department’s contractors keep borrowers in the dark on repayment options.

“This GAO report strikes me as a kind of canary in a coal mine,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Wednesday during a hearing prompted by the report held by the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “What it says to me is, look at this narrow slice of the Baby Boom generation that now has debt [and] look at its impact … which is, if anything, more pernicious and insidious than it is for younger people.

“This age group is not only affected in more serious ways, but it is also going to grow,” Blumenthal continued. “In other words, this report says: Look out, the cliff is ahead, or the avalanche, [or] maybe it’s a tsunami, of older student debt.”

Struggling borrowers are rarely able to discharge federal student loans by declaring bankruptcy. As a result, federal auditors noted, their student debts follow them into retirement.

As the increase in average college tuitions outpaces federal borrowing limits for undergraduates, more parents are taking out federal student loans to pay for their children’s education. But GAO auditors said the vast majority of loan balances held by older Americans is for their own educations. Among borrowers aged 50 to 64, about 73 percent of their federal student loan debt was for their own schooling. For borrowers aged 65 and older, more than 82 percent of their debts was for their own education.

Some 40 million Americans have student debt, according to the Federal Reserve and the Education Department. The average recipient of federal student loans owed 28 percent more in 2013 than in 2007, after adjusting for inflation, according to Education Department data.

Meanwhile, the typical holder of a bachelor’s degree working full time experienced a 0.08 percent decrease in weekly earnings during that same period. Among workers with advanced degrees, median wages increased just 0.02 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read the entire story here.

Arne’s proof. Marcy’s proof.


This morning NPR reports, “Under the new guidelines, Duncan says he’ll require proof that these (Special Needs) kids aren’t just being served but are actually making academic progress.”

During the 2011-2012 school year – my final year of teaching – I was on evaluation. In our district tenured teachers were formally evaluated by the principal every two years.

The process would usually involve several meetings and a classroom observation.

For many years my school had a large number of Special Needs students – particularly students with autism – and we struggled to successfully apply best practices, including inclusive classroom settings for every student.

It was always my belief that even those students who were identified on the far end of the autism spectrum should be included with typical students in the art room. With the help and support of great paraprofessionals, that is what we did.

The idea of being evaluated by the principal in the final year of my teaching seemed silly. It was a fluke of the calendar.

But as union president I had witnessed awful principals give poor evaluations to retiring veteran teachers just so they could claim they were not giving every teacher a high rating. And I had also seen the devastated look on many of these teachers’ faces who took this stuff seriously, believing that after a life-time of teaching, they were now considered less than adequate.

I, on the other hand, was more skeptical of the process. So when Marcy, my principal, asked me to fill out a sheet on what my professional goals for the year were, I told her that I had none. “I’m a good teacher. I will be a good teacher this year. I am retiring at the end of this year.” 

She asked me to tell her what my goal for the lesson was that she was going to observe.

I told her, “Why don’t we meet afterwards, and you see if you can tell me what my goal was?”

At the appointed time, Marcy walked into my room with pen and a legal-sized note pad and sat on a stool in the corner.

It was a class of fifth graders and we were exploring perspective. I was demonstrating the tricks of using one-point perspective to create the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface.

This class – like most of my classes – had a student with autism. In this case Jimmy was on the extreme end of the autism spectrum. He was not verbal and would often appear inattentive, shaking his hands or staring out the window. But we – the paraprofessional and I – knew that Jimmy was hearing me, understood at some level and with problematic motor skills, Jimmy would attempt to do the work. Or some work.

Marcy missed all that.

Worse, Marcy was unaware that she was missing it.

In her post-observation write-up she said that Jimmy was not engaged.

I was appalled. I refused to sign the write-up and wrote a response which I insisted be placed in my personnel file.

“You cannot tell whether Jimmy is engaged or not engaged simply by a one-time observation,” I wrote. “You clearly have very little knowledge of autism, although you were a special education administrator for many years.”

I also pointed out that whether a child has autism or is a typical student, engagement is not binary. A student is not in or out. There are degrees of engagement with a project. This is no less true for Special Needs students.

The Obama administration said Tuesday that the vast majority of the 6.5 million students with disabilities in U.S. schools today are not receiving a quality education, and that it will hold states accountable for demonstrating that those students are making progress.

A major shift in Special Needs accountability.

It must be demonstrated that the students are making progress.

One can only shudder at what Arne has in mind.

A view from the bottom of the academic barrel.

Arne Duncan looks for his ass.


This is me.

Down here at the bottom of the academic barrel.

Or so says Education Secretary Arne Duncan. 

Arne grew up in Hyde Park, a Chicago neighborhood encompassing the University of Chicago.  His father was a psychology professor at the university and his mother ran an after-school program primarily serving African-American youth in Kenwood.

Duncan attended the University of Chicago Lab School and later Harvard University. He graduated magna cum laude in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. His senior thesis: The values, aspirations and opportunities of the urban underclass.

That’s almost a punch line.

Arne is back at the blame game.

His current thesis is that the problem in American schools is teachers. We come from the bottom of the academic barrel.

That would be me and all the great teachers I have taught with over thirty years.

I didn’t go to Lab. Or Harvard.

My education was at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Although some did refer to it as Harvard on Halsted. But I think that was irony.

In order to attend that public university, I had to borrow thousands of dollars and drive a taxi cab.

My education classes at UIC were filled with working class white students from the Southwest Side and immigrants from Pilsen. Black women who had raised kids and then returned to school to teach. Former Special Needs paraprofessionals who wanted to work with Special Needs kids as teachers. A few lawyers from La Salle Street who had found their first-choice careers unfulfilling and void of meaning and wanted to do something they found more worthwhile with their lives and for the lives of others.

When I was teaching you couldn’t find a Harvard grad in the entire faculty of Carpenter Elementary School in Park Ridge. Our school provided a great education to a large Special Needs population who attended Carpenter along with regular education students. It was and still is among the highest performing schools in the state of Illinois

We did it with what Arne calls teachers from the bottom of the academic barrel.

Whatever you do Arne from Hahvahd, don’t blame poverty. Or stupid corporate reform experiments. Don’t question standardization and privatization of everything that isn’t nailed down.  Or the restraints put on the amazing teaching talents of my colleagues by your common core and testing madness. Don’t look at decreasing funding and the effects of draining our school systems of resources for neighborhood schools because Rahm is shifting them to charters.

The question just suddenly occurred to me. Arne has a degree from Hahvahd.

Why hasn’t he ever taught in a classroom?


First a disclaimer.

In order to pay for college for my two kids, like most but the 1%, we had to borrow money.

Educational Credit Management Services had a monopoly on the repayment of the debt. It’s not like a home loan where you can change who handles the mortgage.

ECMS was awful. Incompetent. You couldn’t talk to anybody. We had an automatic payment system so we never missed a payment. Never were late. Yet they would screw up our account numbers. Since we had two loans we had two accounts. They would credit all payments to one and none to the other.

Unraveling their mess was the essence of frustration.

Luckily we are done with them.

But we hate them.

The stories in today’s New York Times shows them to be hate-worthy.

Like this one.

Stacy Jorgensen fought her way through pancreatic cancer. But her struggle was just beginning.

Before she became ill, Ms. Jorgensen took out $43,000 in student loans. As her payments piled up along with medical bills, she took the unusual step of filing for bankruptcy, requiring legal proof of “undue hardship.”

The agency charged with monitoring such bankruptcy declarations, a nonprofit with an exclusive government agreement, argued that Ms. Jorgensen did not qualify and should pay in full, dismissing her concerns about the cancer’s return.

“The mere possibility of recurrence is not enough,” a lawyer representing the agency said. “Survival rates for younger patients tend to be higher,” another wrote, citing a study presented in court.

Or this one:

 In 2004, when Ms. Hann filed for bankruptcy, Educational Credit claimed that she owed over $50,000 in outstanding debt. In a hearing that Educational Credit did not attend, Ms. Hann provided ample evidence that she had, in fact, already repaid her student loans in full.

But when her bankruptcy case ended in 2010, Educational Credit began hounding Ms. Hann anew, and, on behalf of the government, garnished her Social Security — all to repay a loan that she had long since paid off.

When Ms. Hann took the issue to a New Hampshire court, the judge sanctioned Educational Credit, citing the lawyers’ “violation of the Bankruptcy Code’s discharge injunction.”

Or this:

Another case dating from 2012 involved Karen Lynn Schaffer, 54, who took out a loan for her son to attend college. Her husband, Ronney, had a steady job at the time.

But Mr. Schaffer’s hepatitis C began to flare up, and he was found to have diabetes and liver cancer. He became bedridden and could no longer work. 

Ms. Schaffer said she did her best to cut expenses. She began charging her adult son rent, got loan modifications for her mortgages and cut back on watering the yard and washing clothes to save on utilities. She woke up at 4 every morning to take care of her husband before leaving for a full day at a security job.

But Educational Credit said Ms. Schaffer was spending too much on food by dining out. According to Ms. Schaffer, that was a reference to the $12 she spent at McDonald’s. She and Mr. Schaffer normally split a “value meal,” a small sandwich and fries.

“I was taking care of Ron and working a full-time job, so lots of times I didn’t have time to fix dinner, or I was just too darn tired,” Ms. Schaffer said in an interview. The lawyers also suggested she should charge her son for using their car, require him to pay more in rent and rent out the other room in their house.

Asked for comment, Educational Credit said that Ms. Schaffer “did not meet the legal standard for undue hardship,” and that she declined an income-based payment plan. Her lawyer argued that the plan would treat any forgiven loans as taxable income at the end of the repayment period so it was not a viable option.

From Arne Duncan’s Department of Education which has the exclusive contract with Educational Credit:

Chris Greene, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said that the department offers flexible repayment options and believes that Educational Credit complies with the law and government policies. He said that if there was evidence of wrongdoing, the department would investigate.

Hateful creeps.

Well, of course Arne Duncan wouldn’t want Joshua Starr as NY schools chancellor.


Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Obama’s Education Secretary Arne Duncan tried to pressure NY Mayor Bill De Blasio on his new school chancellor appointment.

Joshua Starr was on De Blasio’s short list.

Did Duncan overstep his duties in interfering in the De Blasio deliberation?

Of course.

Did Duncan have a good reason? Yes. Starr is everything Duncan is not. Duncan was simply echoing the views of his friends like right-winger Checker Finn.

Valerie Strauss posts award-winning school Principal Carol Burris, who has documented the problems with New York state’s new teacher evaluation system and talks about Starr and his history.

There are those who will ignore all of the elephants in the room—poverty, segregation, overcrowding, prejudice, inequitable learning opportunities, and watered-down curricula for some students. They will follow the reform playbook and shout “no excuses” at every turn.

Yet when school leaders like Josh Starr, who have done the real work of making schools better for students speak out, they are a threat to the lockstep reform agenda set by Finn and his friends. Finn saw fit to attack Starr because Starr’s importance extends beyond Stamford and Montgomery County. Parents listen when real reformers point out that today’s reform emperors have no clothes. They are credible critics who have no self-interested reason not to embrace test-based accountability reforms except that they are wise enough to know that those reforms simply will not work.

Folks like Chester Finn easily dismiss teacher unions and the leaders of struggling school systems as being awash in vested interests and ulterior motives. It is not as easy to dismiss a Josh Starr who runs great schools just a stone’s throw from Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s office. And that is why Chester Finn would spend an entire column criticizing one superintendent for his beliefs. As Finn knows, test-based accountability policies are deeply unpopular among parents across the nation, and their survival becomes more precarious when accomplished and courageous superintendents point to the truth.