Can You Hear Us Now!

Following the speakers at last night’s Board business meeting, Superintendent Vargas gave his report to the community.

Commissioner Elliott was concerned that only an estimated 20% percent of students will be engaged in extra learning opportunities. She was more concerned with time on task than the increase in instructional time suggested by the superintendent.

Is the time taken for test prep, testing, and post testing, considered time on task?

Commissioner White was concerned that the Board did not receive the report but was only hearing it at the meeting that night.

Accountability!

Commissioner White was also concerned that the report had no time frame, it did not represent the majority of the schools in the city, and there needed to be more targets and goals. He went on to say that, while the report outlined the problems in the district, it offered no solutions and called for the Superintendent to work with parents, students, and the community to formulate solutions.

This community has been coming to the Board with relevant, researched based solutions to the problems we have been facing for more than ten years.

Commissioner Powell was concerned with the “No Tolerance” policy of City government as it targets young Black and Hispanic males for harassment. Commissioner Powell suggested that there needs to be a conversation between the Superintendent, Mayor, and Police Chief about the negative effects this policy has on the attitudes of these young men.

Doesn’t that fall under the purview of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee, chaired by President Malik Evans?

Commissioner Elliott pointed out that the district has it’s own policies that harass our students. She gave an example of a student at Freddie Thomas who was given two days in the In School Suspension room for wearing the wrong color shirt to school.

This has been happening since the uniform policy and ISS were instituted years ago.

This community has not been silent during our descent to the bottom.

Our children deserve a School Board that actually welcomes the help and guidance of the community.

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Accountability Requires Accountability

This year more elementary schools have become K-8 schools and All City High was created. Dag Hammerskold School #6 was closed and Helen Barrett Montgomery School #50 was put in its place. Freddie Thomas is housing the Montessori School and Kindergarten is now mandatory with attendance rules applicable.

There have been many changes in the district this year and there are as many questions as there are changes. However, the most important question is, “Have the changes had a positive or negative effect on our children?”

Unfortunately, we have learned from the first wave of K-8 restructures, that no one is keeping track. There was no study on whether or not the K-8 model was successful, just a gathering of hearsay and testimony from principals and administrators.

There was no tracking of the I’m Ready Program which is a miserable failure. There was no tracking of the Young Mother’s program, another failure. North S.T.A.R. Program, in school suspension, programs that continually fail our children and yet are supported by the School Board, costing millions of tax dollars and the educational lives of our children.

We cannot hold the Superintendent accountable for the failure of programs that are put in place by the previous superintendent and supported by the Board. The Board cannot be held responsible for the programs because they are only concerned with policy issues. Administrators cannot be held responsible since they are told what to do and are expected to do what they are told. Principals cannot be held accountable since they only have jurisdiction over their school, not the district. Teachers cannot be held accountable since they had little to no input into the process of developing the programs. Parents and students certainly cannot be held accountable for a system in which they are victimized.

With no one being held accountable for the success or failure of our system of education, our children are left to drown in a sea of irresponsibility and inefficiency.

Accountability begins at the top and holds everyone underneath accountable. The “top” is the citizenry of this city.

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SNAFU

SNAFU – Situations Normal-All Fouled Up, means exactly what it implies.

Reports from all over the district, elementary to high school tell of the district starting the school year “all fouled up”, there aren’t enough qualified teachers so the district is pulling substitutes from anywhere they can find them, but that’s normal.

The beginning of the school year sets the tone for parent-student-teacher engagement, cooperation, and success. Unfortunately, for too many of our children the school year begins in chaos which continues until late October when all the teacher assignments are filled and classroom sizes are evened out and students are reassigned to different teachers. No one considers this change of teachers detrimental to students because no one considers the fact that losing the first teacher can be devastating to a child who has made a connection with that teacher. This loss can be tantamount to experiencing a death for some children.

Each school year, September and much of October are lost in the shuffling and reshuffling of teachers, students, and sometimes even classrooms. In many classrooms substantive teaching doesn’t begin until weeks after the first day because there aren’t enough books for every student at that grade level and teachers have to finagle their schedules in order to share text books.

There are problems that must be ironed out in the beginning of every new venture however, going to school is not new and by now the problems encountered should be minimal.

Parents and students have become so used to this opening ritual that some parents don’t bother sending their children to school until the first full week. They are not entirely wrong in their complacency with the system, it does not work.

People don’t seem to realize that the system of education is crippled with ineffective and inefficient rituals that not only harm children educationally, but discourage successful teaching practices. These problems exist outside of the classroom and are out of the control of teachers.

Our children must not endure another year of SNAFU operating procedures. We must reform education now!

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Good, Bad, or Indifferent

One important aspect of the Chicago contract was the bullying article. This clause was not about children bullying children, but principals and administrators, bullying teachers.

Karen Lewis, CORE member and CTU President gives an example of the bullying teachers receive when they don’t “do what they’re told”. A Nationally Board certified teacher, teaching 7th and 8th Science was reassigned to a Kindergarten class.

Teachers have strengths and weaknesses and different grade levels carry with them aspects of the child’s level of maturity that make matching a teachers strengths to that level of maturity necessary in order for learning to occur. When that decision is left up to an individual who is not concerned about the child or the teacher, but the bottom line, education fails.

There are good teachers and bad teachers however, the worst teachers are those who are indifferent. Teachers who are only in the classroom long enough to complete their administrator’s degree to move up and out. There are a great many individuals who enter the field of education because of the money at the top, not the children on the bottom.

Unfortunately, these are the individuals “BB” wants to lead education, people interested in securing the “bottom line”, not providing an excellent education to children. This is part of the training “BB’s” superintendents receive.

True education reform means getting “BB” out of education and refocusing education on the child. Our children are failing because the “bottom line” is indifferent to the loss of humanity our children suffer at the hands of high stakes testing and “spot check” learning.

If teacher evaluations are going to hold any weight, they must be meaningful. Teachers must be allowed to teach before they can be evaluated on their methods of teaching. How do you assess a teacher’s ability to engage students when they are told when and how to deliver the information students must learn?

Our children have become indifferent to receiving an education because the leaders in education are indifferent to their needs in the delivery of education.

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Won’t Back Up

On September 28, 2012, the movie “Won’t Back Down” will play in theaters across America. For those that have been diligent in the struggle to reform education, this movie represents another extravagant attempt by “BB” to sway the opinion of the general public against public education with “movie truths” instead of the real truth.

The first “movie truth” is the movie’s premise. We are told that the plot is inspired by real events where a parent works with a teacher to invoke the parent trigger law and take over their children’s school.

The real truth is, it wasn’t until July 2012 that a judge upheld the parent trigger law in Adelanto, California’s Desert Trails Elementary School. Since it takes a year or more to produce a movie, there was no inspiration at its inception.

Another “movie truth” viewers are to expected to believe is that the poorly run school in the movie is an inner city school.

The real truth is you will be hard pressed to find an inner city school with a majority Caucasian student population as portrayed in the movie.

The “movie truth” would have the public believe that a teacher would put a child in a dark maintenance closet amongst cleaning supplies.

The real truth is that parent wouldn’t have to force parent trigger legislation, that parent would seek a lawyer and charge the district with institutional child abuse.

A movie is entertainment, period. Unfortunately when movies purport to be “inspired by real events” the general public believes the events of the movie actually happened. Undoubtedly there will be many more “movie truths” scattered throughout the film that must be exposed.

For those who are engaged in the real life struggle to bring about widespread, fundamental, successful, sustainable, effective, and efficient reform to education, there is little time to waste combating the propaganda of “BB”. Yes we must expose the lies, but this movie deserves no more attention than that.

It is imperative that the focus of the battle remain on the children.

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Back To “Big Business” As Usual – NOT!

You will be hard pressed to find a news report about the end of the Chicago teacher’s strike that concentrates on what the teachers won for their students.

Teachers were fighting for smaller class size, arts education, more hands on and relevant learning experiences yet the only issues reported on by the “BB” networks were salary and evaluations. Once again “BB” presented the facts in a way that would cause the American public to harbor even more resentment towards teachers.

The strike wasn’t settled it was suspended. There is a big difference. Because of the dedication teachers have toward their profession, their consideration for parents and students, teachers returned to the classroom before they were truly satisfied with the results of the strike or the contract they negotiated.

Now is the time for all good teachers to come to the aid of their fellow workers. The before and after school information rallies should go on as planned. Unfortunately, as what happens in America, once the flames of the fire have been extinguished, no one pays attention to the embers.

Fortunately, those who have been committed to securing widespread, fundamental, effective, efficient, researched based, successful, and sustainable reform in education are not fooled by the magnanimous generosity of “BB” as it tries to turn the country against those who would educate the future of America.

We have come a long way in the struggle to improve the system of education for our children but we have not succeeded. The end of the Chicago strike must be the beginning of many other acts of courage and strength against those that would use our children to maintain their profit margins.

If we cannot hear the truth from their media sources, we must spread the truth throughout America by every other means available. This is, and must continue to be, a truly grassroots movement, that unites us as a people, Americans, against the tyranny of “BB” and its minions.

We must remain steadfast in our struggle to save the educational lives of our children.

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The Parent-Child/Student-Teacher Connection

Though the Chicago strike is settled, we must continue to work together to provide our children with a comprehensive, sustainable, effective and efficient system of education. We must see the strike as the beginning of the movement to reform education.

The most positive aspect of the strike was the unity between parents and teachers. This positive relationship is crucial in the movement to reform education.

Before there can be a positive and successful connection between home and school, which is an absolute necessity in order for educational success to occur, the teacher must know, understand, and respect the culture of the child. This is an aspect of education that has been researched and manipulated, but never truly addressed.

The teacher is never given the opportunity to discover the cultural makeup of the students before they enter the classroom. Teachers are given specifics about the child however, unless they know the child from previous grade levels, teachers receive students into their classrooms knowing nothing about them or their families.

And, even when teachers have prior knowledge of students, that knowledge usually centers around behavior or some negative quality of the student and/or parent. Yes, students are judged by the actions of their parents.

Current research and training in cultural diversity deepens the diluted racism of the mis-educated. Diluted because it has been watered down and packaged to look like equity when it only exacerbates the problem of racism by convincing adults that a child’s intelligence can be measured by gender, skin color, and their parents financial standing.

In a truly reformed system of education, teachers would be given the opportunity to meet with parents and students prior to the start of school to discuss expectations, motivations, and beliefs to better understand the student and to make clear to the child that both the parents and teacher are working together towards their success.

This is one aspect of the reform movement that cannot be ignored. Parents and teachers must begin to work together for the benefit of the children.

Join the Movement to Save Our Children!