Protesting the closing of another Chicago school and what the latest research says about the 2013 school closings.

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Last October parents and teachers from the highly regarded National Teachers Academy marched on Mayor Rahm’s north side home to protest the plans to close the NTA and turn it into a new high school.

We have discussed the closing of the NTA several times on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

In this podcast we talk about the case of NTA and Chicago school closings with Niketa Brar and Elizabeth Greer who are school and community activists fighting to prevent the closing of the National Teachers Academy, and Scott Smith from the south side 19th Ward and a member of the Southwest Chicago Diversity Collaborative.
In a report released in May from the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research, it appears students, teachers and parents have not yet recovered – and may never recover – from the impact of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s massive closing of 50 neighborhood schools in the city’s African American and Latinx communities.

Some of the reports findings:

  • School staff said that the planning process for merging closed schools into welcoming schools was not sufficient, resulting in staff feeling unprepared.
  • When schools closed, it severed the longstanding social connections that families and staff had with their schools and with one another, resulting in a period of mourning.
  • A lack of proactive efforts to support welcoming school communities in integrating the populations created challenging “us” vs. “them” dynamics
  • The largest negative impact of school closures was on the test scores of students from closed schools; their scores were lower than expected the year of the announcement.

It does not appear that Rahm and the current appointed board have learned much from the disastrous 2013 school closing experience except how to proceed with less community push back.

Rather than closing a large number of schools at a single time, CPS is now using what has been called by some, slow-motion closures.


Study: 2013 School closings hurt Chicago’s children. But CPS CEO Janice Jackson says she will not be deterred from closing schools.

Photo credit: Fred Klonsky. May 2013.

Previous research warned Rahm and CPS that closings would hurt Chicago’s students.

Parents and teachers said the same thing.

Thousands marched in the streets in opposition to Rahm’s plan to shutter 300 and then finally 50 schools.

But Rahm and CPS would not be deterred.

Five years later a ground-breaking study by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research again said what we all knew.

Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union said the report validates that the closures were marred by chaos, a desperate lack of resources, lost libraries and labs, grief, trauma, damaging disruption, and a profound disrespect for the needs of low-income black students and the educators who teach them.

WBEZ’s Sarah Karp:

Interviews (by the researchers) paint a damning picture of a chaotic process where even fundamental tasks were flubbed as CPS rushed to close and merge schools in just three months. CPS voted to close the schools in late May, 2013. Principals and staff told researchers that textbooks and instructional materials were lost in the move. And, when staff arrived in August to open the school year, some of the receiving schools were unclean and upgrades were unfinished.

“Ultimately, teachers and staff in the six schools interpreted these losses as a sign that the district did not respect staff or care about the students in these schools. As one teacher explained, ‘CPS doesn’t care. They just don’t care, and it shows,’” according to the report.

As for the technology and new programming, staff appreciated the investment, but many of the schools were not able to sustain them because of budget cuts. Schools got new iPads, which were a hit with students and staff, but there was little training on how to use them for instructional purposes.

The year after the merger, teachers also reported a spike in “conflict and disorder,” and students said there was more bullying and fights. Over time, it lessened but did not return to the levels before the the closing, according to the study.  

It was not just staff and students from closed schools that were affected. The study found that students in the receiving schools also suffered. More than expected transferred out of the receiving schools in the year of the school mergers.

Lesson learned?

Not a chance.

The latest CPS CEO, Janice Jackson, called what happened “unacceptable.”

But said the outcome will not deter her from closing schools in the future.

Collective action to stop school closings. Contracts matter and a movement.

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CTU VP Jesse Sharkey and others showed up at CPS headquarters yesterday with a copy of the contract that the union bargained with the board.

The teachers’ contract — which was reached minutes before a 2016 strike deadline — allows closing schools only “where the school cannot satisfy graduation requirements for students” and only after the Chicago Board of Education holds public meetings to address under-enrollment.

Sharkey said the four Englewood high schools CPS wants to close — Harper, Hope, TEAM Englewood and Robeson — all still meet the graduation standards for their dwindling numbers of students.

Like the Sun-Times erroneously reporting the death of CTU President Karen Lewis,  they are wrong in describing the collective bargaining agreement as “the teachers contract.”

Both the CTU and the CPS board signed that contract. They both own it and are required to abide by it.

I know from personal experience that a CBA is too often spoken about as if it belongs to the teachers alone.

Not true. Contracts are agreements between two parties and are protections and constraints on both.

The CPS board agreed to a limit on school closures except under certain conditions. Those conditions have not been met in the case of the planned closings of four high schools in the African American community of Englewood.

Last month I received a letter from Scott Smith of the 19th Ward, located on the south side of Chicago.

It’s been quite a couple weeks for Chicago’s public schools. As the moratorium on school closings has ended, CPS has yet another CEO resigning due to corruption and is trying to close all – yes, all – the public schools in a South Side neighborhood: Englewood, a community with a deep need for the kind of strong ties that schools provide.

Last year, a group of parents and community members – organized under the name 19th Ward Parents United – demonstrated a sense of collective power when we banded together as a group with a shared purpose of common good and holding our leaders accountable. 

If you’re unfamiliar with those efforts, read below:

Together, we prevented the closure/merger of three high-performing public schools.

In the last several months, I’ve wondered what the next step is, especially as we’ve watched National Teachers Academy in South Loop and now the schools in Englewood experience a similar situation.

How do we make sure the public has a hand in the decisions about our schools, both here in the 19th ward and on the larger South Side? And how do we use the power we have to support those who don’t have it (yet)?

More than that, I’ve wondered how else to advocate for the needs of parents and students in our public schools. How do we push for economic transparency, quality housing, diverse communities, improved public transit, well-trained and supported public safety staff and strong, community-centered neighborhoods?


The CPS board has announced their intention to close the National Teachers Academy along with closing the four open admission neighborhood high school serving Englewood.

We talked with NTA activists Elizabeth Greer and Niketa Brar on Hitting Left a few months back.

Scott Smith, Elizabeth Greer and Niketa Brar will be back on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers on February 16th

Leaving Hillarytown.


-Arthur Goldstein blogs at NYC Educator.

Hillary Clinton opened her mouth the other day, and said she wouldn’t keep open any school that wasn’t better than average. She later clarified to say she meant good, rather than better than average. To me, that was not much of a distinction. I work in a good school, but I don’t delude myself that it’s because we are all super teachers. I’d say it’s because we have super kids, and that any school with such kids can do well. Just ask Geoffrey Canada, who had to dismiss entire cohorts to make himself look good. Ask Eva Moskowitz, with her got to go list.

For anyone who hasn’t noticed, there is a direct correlation between high poverty, high needs, and low test scores. Kids like the ones I serve are a drag on any school, because it turns out people who don’t know English tend to score poorly on standardized tests in English. Perhaps one day someone will do a study and prove it, and we’ll all be amazed. Until then, schools dominated by ELLs will be targeted. For example there was the one in Rhode Island, where they wanted to fire all the teachers. Obama and Duncan thought that was fantastic. (If I recall correctly, the teachers were kept on, but under worse working conditions. Another victory for the reformies.)

Despite this explanation in Diane Ravitch’s blog, and the convoluted story to which it links, I cannot rationalize this as Hillary having misspoken. While the feds don’t directly close schools, they’ve had massive influence in school closings anyway. For Hillary to even utter such a sentence indicates to me that she has drunk deeply of the reformy Kool-Aid that says teachers and schools are to blame. She does  not seem to have read Ravitch or considered what this reformy movement is all about. It also kind of dashes my hopes that she will advocate for a rational teacher evaluation system. The fact that Eli Broad contributes to her gives me even more pause.

Read the entire post here.

Random thoughts. Averages.

This clip of Hillary is making the social media rounds this morning.

I will tell you whose Facebook news feed it’s on.

Every teacher I know.

They are NEA and AFT members who may well be wondering why our leadership rushed their endorsement of her.

They are math teachers who wonder what Hillary was doing when she attended math class at nearby Maine South High School in suburban Park Ridge.

They are shaking their heads by her misuse of averages.

On the one hand, this is just a case of Trump Mouth.

“Closing schools that aren’t performing better than average,” is a practical impossibility since as soon as you close the ones below the average  you have created a new group that are below the average.

On the other hand, it is red meat to the corporate reform crowd in the Democratic Party.

The truth of the matter is that labeling public schools, teachers and students as failures is Democratic Party policy at both the local and national level.

Keeping schools open or closed does not really fall under the job description of the president.

That didn’t keep Obama’s Secretary of Education from creating policies that encouraged the practice of closing schools.

And stupid math has shown its ugly head before.  No Child Left Behind demanded 100% of students be at grade level by 2014.

“Each State shall establish a timeline for adequate yearly progress. The timeline shall ensure that not later than 12 years after the end of the 2001-2002 school year, all students … will meet or exceed the State’s proficient level of academic achievements on the State assessments …”

Not only didn’t that happen, it couldn’t. Many of the states’ assessments are normed, with some students necessarily falling above and below an average.

Garrison Keiller famously skewered this notion years ago when he described the fictional town of Lake Wobegon as a place where “all the children are above average.”

Since the NEA and AFT are pumping a ton of money into Hillary’s campaign, maybe Presidents Lily Eskelsen Garcia and Randi Weingarten can pull her aside with a little math tutoring.

The more difficult job will be to get Democrats to stop with the school closings, particularly those that target communities of color.

It is a measure of how much Democratic and Republican Party politics have become a Bizarro World that candidates like Clinton consider promising to close schools rather than open them is the what you say to get elected.

My suggestion is to call Dyett High School an “incubator.”


The three-day community vigil at Dyett High School.

For the past couple of days parents and members of the Bronzeville community have been holding a vigil at the neighborhood’s last open admission public high school.

That would be Walter H. Dyett High School.

CPS plans to shutter it.

But community and school activist Jitu Brown and others have developed a proposal for the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School, supported by the CTU and other organizations in the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett.

“If Dyett closes, there will be no more open-enrollment, neighborhood high schools in Bronzeville, and the question we have for Ald. Will Burns and for Mayor Rahm Emanuel is, ‘What did you do?’” said coalition leader Jitu Brown. “Not how you felt, not what your opinion was about it, not a letter you wrote, but what did you do on behalf of those students?”

I hesitate to give suggestions to Jitu Brown who is a genuine leader in the community.

But I suggest that he rename Dyett and call it an incubator.

I mean, that’s what schools are, right? Incubators for our young people to grow and learn and be innovators?

I got this idea from reading about Howard Tullman.

When millionaire Democrat Howard Tullman wanted public money for his incubator project at the Merchandise Mart, the Mayor and the Governor were eager to hand over a check.

On Monday, the state confirmed it will pledge $2.5 million from the Build Illinois bond fund to retrofit an additional 25,000 square feet on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart into workspace for digital entrepreneurs. 1871’s goal is to help build businesses to the point of self-sufficiency.

“This expansion shows that our investment in the next generation of Chicago businesses is paying off,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. “The jobs of tomorrow will come from the types of small businesses growing at 1871 today, and this expansion will allow even more entrepreneurs and businesses to locate here, bringing new jobs with them and supporting the city’s economic growth.”

1871 is a co-working space for tech entrepreneurs who want to build new companies. Benefits include the opportunity to collaborate with other entrepreneurs and venture capital firms who also call 1871 home — currently about 250 companies. It’s name is a nod to the rebuilding that took place in the city in the year 1871 after the Great Chicago Fire.

One more thing, brother Jitu.

The 1871 incubator project belongs to millionaire Howard Tullman.

In addition to calling your plan for Dyett an incubator you should be like Tullman and donate some money – big money – to the campaigns of Rahm, Rauner or Pat Quinn. It doesn’t matter which. The Tullman brothers don’t let things like party affiliation bother them.

Howard Tulllman has been a big-time Democratic Party donor. 

And his brother Greg Tullman is a big-time Rauner donor.

No need to thank me, brother Jitu.

Just trying to help.

Save Dyett.

From Progress Illinois:

Chicago education activists are ramping up their fight to save Walter H. Dyett High School from closing at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

At a news conference at City Hall on Monday, a coalition of parents, students and South Side community leaders blasted Chicago Ald. Will Burns (4th), whose ward includes Dyett, for not supporting their proposal to keep Dyett open beyond 2015 and transition it into a “global leadership and green technology” open-enrollment, neighborhood high school. Toting signs reading “Stop disinvesting in black children,” members of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School called the alderman’s lack of support for their community-driven, academic plan “disrespectful” to the families who live near Dyett and accused Burns of “ignoring” the needs of neighborhood children.

The Chicago Board of Education voted to phaseout Dyett, located in the city’s historic Bronzeville community, back in 2012 due to poor academic performance. Dyett is slated to close completely in 2015 after its last senior class graduates.

For several months now, the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School has urged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and school district officials to accept the group’s blueprint to offer a global leadership and green technology curriculum at Dyett. The coalition’s plan, developed over a two-year period, also includes programs involving agricultural sciences and cultural awareness. Blacks in Green, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Metropolitan Tourism Council, Teachers for Social Justice as well as parents and students from Dyett and its feeder schools helped produce the school proposal.

The coalition has collected some 700 petition signatures in support of the community-proposed high school, which is also backed by the DuSable Museum of African American History, the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, the Washington Park Advisory Council, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) College of Education.

Read the entire post here.