What took them so long? Signing bonuses and casino visits.

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The indictment of CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on federal charges was inevitable, even given the black hole that many federal investigations of Chicago corruption seem to disappear into.

Reading her emails, my main question is what took them so long?

“I have tuition to pay and casinos to visit :),” she wrote in one of them.

And this:

Some kickbacks would be disguised as “a signing bonus” when Byrd-Bennett left CPS and returned to work at SUPES and Synesi, the feds say.

“If you only join for the day, you will be the highest paid person on the planet for that day,” Solomon wrote. “Regardless, it will be paid out on day one.”

Of course, she will plead guilty.

It’s all on email.

On friggin’ email.

Don’t these people know not to put their dirty dealings on email?

Arrogance or stupidity?

Hell. I could prosecute this case and win. Her co-conspirators are pleading non-guilty. We might still get a trial.

Barbara Byrd Bennett is the second high-ranking member of the Emanuel administration to face major jail time.

Remember Rahm’s Comptroller Amer Ahmad who fled to Pakistan.

There will be more.

And Rahm?

Rahm owns all of this.

Election year CPS graduation rates.

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CPS President Vitale, CEO Byrd-Bennett and Rahm do the counting.

Anne and I are still on the road.

Still I want to wish my Park Ridge District 64 colleagues all the best as they start the new school year with students arriving in their classrooms today.

It is only two years since I retired, but it is a little odd when I think about the last grade of kindergarten students that I taught on now entering third grade and the third graders I last taught are starting middle school today.

Speaking of a little odd.

Rahm and Barbara Byrd-Bennett had their public relations department write up a campaign flyer and the Sun-Times printed iit as an op-ed piece touting CPS graduation rates.

The latest evidence of that progress is a record high school graduation rate of 69.4 percent for the last school year, a 4 percent increase from just a year ago. It may not sound like much that 7 out of 10 CPS students are graduating from high school — until you compare it to the 58.3 percent who were graduating just three years ago. 

That is good news!

Three years ago?

Back in June of 2012 Jean-Claude Brizard, Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s predecessor, made a similar announcement.

Chicago Public Schools announced Saturday that more than 60 percent of their 2007-2008 freshmen graduated last year, calling it a history-making record.

The current administration has only been in place for a year and therefore can take no credit for the increase in graduation rates. However, CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler says the news can provide “great momentum going into next year.”

More than 60%. Not 58%.

There’s an old Chicago saying about elections. It’s not how many votes you get. It’s who does the counting.

It seems true about graduation rates as well.

We’re closing your school, but dress appropriately.

Today I received this from a CPS teacher:

“With everything going on in CPS, THIS is the first interoffice memo I’ve been forwarded directly from the CEO in all my years teaching. There are so many reasons why teachers might not dress in her definition of “professional attire,” from crawling on the floor with pre-schoolers to trying to be more approachable and less intimidating during parent conferences. It’s just another example of top-down, corporate style management which is inappropriate for running schools. She does not mandate a dress code, and she does say she understands there may be exceptions, but this is still an absurd waste of energy and yet another demonstration of cluelessness from the tippy-top of CPS. “

 

Dress Code Memo Final April2014

Bully Byrd-Bennett’s up-to-the-minute rules on handling “insubordinate” teachers.

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February 28, 2014

Dear Principal:

We are offering the following guidance to principals on the administration of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) in schools where parents have opted out of the test and/or teachers refuse to administer the test despite our directives.  The overwhelming majority of students have not been opted out of the test and we must be sure that we create a fair testing environment without distractions or disruption for those students.  But, we also must ensure that students whose parents have opted out are engaged in productive and educationally appropriate activities during testing.

We recommend the following protocols before and during test administration:

(1)     For students who will be tested:

a.       In advance of testing day, schools should ensure that there is at least one appropriately licensed test administrator for every classroom in which students will be tested.  Please refer to your Test Administrator Manual or the ISAT IAA Administration Overview slides available here:  https://sites.google.com/a/cps.edu/kc/assessment/isat

b.     We must plan for the event that some teachers will be insubordinate and refuse to administer the test.  If the teacher regularly assigned to the classroom has refused that assignment, another teacher or an administrator should be assigned to administer the test.  The teacher who has refused the assignment should be given the option of going home without pay on all testing days or supervising the students who are not taking the test in silent reading activities.  If there are special concerns about a teacher’s conduct, principals should immediately consult with their Talent Generalist at 773-535-2800.

c.       The test administrator should administer the test in accordance with ISBE protocols (note that in classes with 35 or more students an additional proctor is required under those protocols).

(2)    For students whose parents have opted them out of the test:

a.       In advance of the testing days, the school should gather educationally appropriate independent reading level materials for these students or ask that students bring their own.

b.      On test days, schools should assign students who have opted out to other classrooms, the library or other appropriate space.

c.   Per ISBE guidance, test booklets must be distributed to students and the testing directions read to students.

d.  When students decline to take the test, they should be assigned silent reading using their independent reading level materials.  Testing materials should be collected from students who indicate they are done.

e.      Schools should ensure that there is at least one teacher or other appropriate staff member assigned to supervise these students.  Schools should anticipate that teachers who have refused to administer the test to their own classes may also refuse to distribute the test booklets and read the directions to students who have opted out.  When giving teachers that option, schools should advise them of this responsibility and have sufficient alternative staff available to distribute textbooks and read the testing instructions to them if necessary.

For special concerns regarding test administration, please consult with your Network Office staff.

Sincerely,

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Bully Byrd-Bennett’s up-to-the-minute rules for opt out.

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Dear Principal:

We are offering the following guidance to principals on the administration of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) in schools where parents have opted out of the test and/or teachers refuse to administer the test despite our directives.  The overwhelming majority of students have not been opted out of the test and we must be sure that we create a fair testing environment without distractions or disruption for those students.  But, we also must ensure that students whose parents have opted out are engaged in productive and educationally appropriate activities during testing.

We recommend the following protocols before and during test administration:

(1)     For students who will be tested:

a.       In advance of testing day, schools should ensure that there is at least one appropriately licensed test administrator for every classroom in which students will be tested.  Please refer to your Test Administrator Manual or the ISAT IAA Administration Overview slides available here:  https://sites.google.com/a/cps.edu/kc/assessment/isat

b.     We must plan for the event that some teachers will be insubordinate and refuse to administer the test.  If the teacher regularly assigned to the classroom has refused that assignment, another teacher or an administrator should be assigned to administer the test.  The teacher who has refused the assignment should be given the option of going home without pay on all testing days or supervising the students who are not taking the test in silent reading activities.  If there are special concerns about a teacher’s conduct, principals should immediately consult with their Talent Generalist at 773-535-2800.

c.       The test administrator should administer the test in accordance with ISBE protocols (note that in classes with 35 or more students an additional proctor is required under those protocols).

 

(2)    For students whose parents have opted them out of the test:

a.       In advance of the testing days, the school should gather educationally appropriate independent reading level materials for these students or ask that students bring their own.

b.      On test days, schools should assign students who have opted out to other classrooms, the library or other appropriate space.

c.   Per ISBE guidance, test booklets must be distributed to students and the testing directions read to students.

d.  When students decline to take the test, they should be assigned silent reading using their independent reading level materials.  Testing materials should be collected from students who indicate they are done.

e.      Schools should ensure that there is at least one teacher or other appropriate staff member assigned to supervise these students.  Schools should anticipate that teachers who have refused to administer the test to their own classes may also refuse to distribute the test booklets and read the directions to students who have opted out.  When giving teachers that option, schools should advise them of this responsibility and have sufficient alternative staff available to distribute textbooks and read the testing instructions to them if necessary.

For special concerns regarding test administration, please consult with your Network Office staff.

Sincerely,

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Bully Byrd-Bennett is now threatening parents and kids.

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Things are heating up in Chicago today.

Lines are being drawn in the sand (or snow).

CPS CEO is not just threatening teachers with the loss of their teaching certification.

She’s threatening parents.

I’ve heard from dozens of parents who are telling me versions of this:

Our principal just received word TODAY that students who chose to opt out of the ISAT must SIT QUIETLY at their desk with the unopened test in front of them for the duration.

Does this mean that teachers who are opting to not administer the test will suffer some kind of consequence? The discussion for (          ) opting out is over. He’s not going to sit at his desk for that many hours for that many days doing nothing.

He won’t be allowed to even read. Again, our principal just found out today.

So BBB has decided to take on the CTU, the teachers and now the parents AND punish their kids who choose to opt out of a state standardized test that is being dropped next year and will be used for nothing.

She’s saying, “Off with their heads.”

We will see whose head gets chopped.

BBB’s bully-letter goes viral and causes quite a stir.

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At around 11AM yesterday morning I got a message from a teacher who wanted to send me an email he had received from CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

It was the same letter teachers all over CPS had been handed yesterday morning.

Before noon it was posted here without comment. No comment was really needed. It was a bully-letter that threatened parents, students and teachers with consequences if they did not fully cooperate in the testing madness in what BBB accurately described as the current testing season.

First she threatened CPS parents:

Parents requesting to have their children opt out of the NWEA MAP must first have a conversation with the principal to discuss the consequences to their children. If after this conversation they still wish to opt out, they must make their request in writing.  Parents should be informed that there will be no alternate instruction given during the assessment and that children who are not being assessed will be required to engage in a silent, self-guided activity while their peers are being tested.

Then she threatened CPS teachers:

Please remember how seriously I take our District’s zero-tolerance policy for any cheating or testing improprieties. The consequences for violating this policy have been and will continue to be enforced, up to and including termination.

By evening, the letter had gone viral with 10,000 page views on my blog alone. Thousands more Chicago parents saw it as it was reposted on Facebook hundreds of times.

Catalyst ran an article in the afternoon:

Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett sent a letter to parents on Wednesday telling them why they should not have their child opt-out of the ISAT and the NWEA/MAP tests, the second time in less than two months she has issued such a letter.

In a swift counter-move, parent groups that oppose high-stakes testing said the letters indicate that CPS leaders are worried about a growing resistance to standardized tests, with some parents saying their children spend too much class time on too many tests, with serious consequences tied to their outcome.

The Chicago Teachers Union joined in also, calling for a boycott of the ISAT this year.

Then the Trib:

A letter to parents and guardians from Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett appears to indicate that students who opt out of a new districtwide assessment test in the spring will not be eligible to pass certain grades or to get into selective enrollment high schools, angering some parents.

The letter seems to indicate that the district no longer will be using the statewide assessment test, Illinois Standards Achievement Test or ISAT, for enrollment decisions for highly competitive selective enrollment high schools.

Scores “at or above the 24th percentile” on the Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress or NWEA MAP test “will be required for selective enrollment eligibility and promotion for children in grades 3, 6 and 8,” the letter states.

For parents who have been prepping children to improve their seventh-grade ISAT scores for this spring’s test for high school admissions, that leaves little time to prepare for the new test.

“It’s very negative in tone,” said Cassie Creswell, a CPS parent involved with More Than A Score, a group against the use of high-stakes assessment tests.

The Trib quoted CTU VP Jesse Sharkey:

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said Byrd-Bennett’s letter “attempts to scare (parents) off from opting out” of the ISAT and NWEA MAP tests.

BBB’s letter, which was intended to frighten parents, seemed to have had the opposite effect.

As a parent commented on this blog:

How do you opt out? Do you just tell the principal?

Yep.

CPS budget bomb. Students will need to bring their own toilet paper.

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There will be fewer dollars for art in Chicago schools.

The promises by Rahm that a longer school day would expand the curriculum is a lie.

Another Rahm Emanuel lie.

There will be less money available for music.

There will be no money for toilet paper.

You’re concerned with the Common Core?  My friend Matt Farmer suggests CPS parents will need to be more concerned with the Charmin Core.

Over the past few days word has emerged about massive school budget cuts.

Massive cuts.

Amundsen High School’s 2013-14 budget is $780,000 lower than 2012-13,

Roosevelt High School  is down $1 million. Lincoln’s is down a million.

Catalyst reports that while CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is denying that there will be cuts to school budgets, principals are saying the opposite.

Changes in enrollment or the number of poor students would not cause drastic shifts in school budgets. In fact, one North Side principal said that he is projected to get 40 more students, yet his budget did not increase at all.

With tenure and seniority rules that have become less a factor in teacher retention due to so-called reforms, principals will now be forced to choose between veteran teachers and paper.

One principal, whose teachers average 10 years of experience, said he isn’t getting any of the money–and though he values veterans, he can understand why schools might decide to hire less experienced, and thus less expensive, ones.

Another principal said his budget is $1 million less than this year, yet he is projected to get about the same number of students.

“I’m cutting three assistants, a half-time teacher, and a full-time teacher,” he said. “I’m also increasing class sizes from 20 in primary to the max of 29.”

Says CTU President Karen Lewis:

“There is a literal wealth of revenue that the district has ignored. CPS claims to act in the interest of the children, but by cutting budgets up to 25 percent in lieu of going after potentially billions of dollars, one has to ask just how much are they really doing?”

“Recently they announced a plan for a ‘quality, 21st century education. Their 21st century plan looks more like a 19th century plan. They are leading our district and students in the wrong direction.” 

Byrd-Bennett may deny school-based cuts, but Ben Joravsky has seen the PowerPoint.

A PowerPoint presentation I saw from a principal of a southwest side high school is most revealing. “Everything means everything,” the principal warns. Counselors, supplies, paper for the copy machine, teachers—he’ll have to cut whatever it takes to slice $2 million from his $15 million budget.

It’s a theme echoed by other principals. The word of the day is that cuts are coming if the mayor can’t get more aid from the state.

As I read about the million dollar a school budget cuts Rahm as ordered Byrd-Bennett to order her principals to make, my sister-in-law Susan sent me this Sun-Times story.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to transform a six-block stretch of the downtown Chicago Riverfront into an enticing public space that will someday rival Millenium Park inched closer to reality Thursday.

It happened after City Hall closed on a $99 million federal loan that will finally allow the mayor to get moving on the long-awaited riverwalk build-out between Michigan and Lake.

Long-awaited? By whom?

Kids can’t wipe their butts with a riverwalk.

Suspending disbelief.

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I saw the first Fast and Furious movie with Vin Diesel.

I think we are up to six or twelve. Something like that.

The first one was stupid. I don’t imagine they have gotten better.

Fans of the series will tell me that I need to suspend my disbelief.

But there are limits.

Recently Anne and I went to see The Great Gatsby in 3D.

I haven’t seen a movie in 3D since the Sixties.

But the new technology made it harder for me to be drawn in to the story.

It flattened all the actors out. The 3D technology made it seem as if Nick, Gatsby and Daisy were made of cardboard taped to popsicle sticks that were just below the picture frame.

I was unable to suspend my disbelief that I was watching anything more than Leonardo DiCaprio pretending to be a rich guy in the Twenties.

So it was that when CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told the City Club of Chicago, and by extension all of us, to suspend their – and our – disbelief that the historic closing of 50 Chicago public schools would make things better, she appeared flat – like a puppet on a stick. And her words had the ring of disingenuousness, as if she herself couldn’t suspend the disbelief either.

In her speech to the City Club she once again explained all the precautions the City was taking to make the Safe Passage program work.

“We will never deliberately put our children’s safety at risk,” she said.

And then Byrd-Bennett listed the various efforts the city would take to protect the students who are forced to leave their neighborhoods, crossing gang lines, to attend distant schools.

Try to suspend disbelief?

I keep asking myself, why would you claim all these Safe Passage efforts if you weren’t deliberately putting our children at risk?

The in box. “Ms. Bennett said that ‘the average student need only walk two city blocks’ to their new schools… and some only 800 feet! Does anyone really believe that?”

Fred,

When it comes to the Chicago Public School system there are always multiple political agendas. The welfare and safety of children is rarely a priority. The education and enrichment of students is an after thought. Chicago Public Schools have been historically under funded with obsolete resources, deteriorated structures and failed programs. Teacher and student moral are low and parent input and influence is only a consideration.

Shortly after I retired (2009) I became a member of a Chicago neighborhood “CAC” Community Advisory Committee. There were about 40 parents, teachers, administrators and CPS staffers on the committee. The meetings became a venue for parents and teachers to “vent their frustrations” in a public forum and aim verbal admonishments at CPS staffers and programs. Nothing of significance was ever accomplished. And when we did want to take a vote to do something in support or take a position against, we were reminded by the alderman that “the role of the committee is strictly advisory”.

Then like now school closings and quality public education was on the agenda. But despite our efforts, CPS stuck to plan and did exactly what they wanted to do regardless of parent, student and teacher wishes and opposition.

Now CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are conspiring to close more schools in impoverished African American neighborhoods. When BBB was interviewed on 105.9 radio she could not say how many teachers jobs would be affected, she could not gauge how effective the new schools would be for students. But when asked about the danger, displacement and inconvenience of the plan, Ms. Bennett said that “the average student need only walk two (2) city blocks” to their new schools… and some only 800 feet! Does anyone really believe that? She didn’t have other important stats but she knew exactly how far each and every one of the thousands of students would have to walk. Busing was not even mentioned!

So now we have Chicago Firefighters who are being asked to man city corners with the so called “safe passage” patrol persons who are charged with children safety in Chicago’s many danger zones.

Chicago Firefighters? I say let BBB, Rahm and CPS board members man the corners, walk the beats and enroll their children in CPS.

– Curtis