Jaisal Noor, TRNN Producer: In Chicago, hundreds of teachers, parents, and students have launched three days of marches to mark a final protest against plans to shutter 54 public schools. The march route includes the targeted schools, which are almost all in low-income black and Latino neighborhoods in Chicago's south and west sides. The protests will culminate with a mass demonstration and civil disobedience in downtown Chicago Monday, and direct action is also expected to escalate for Wednesday's scheduled final Board of Education vote over the fate of the schools.
Brandon Johnson is an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union, which led the protests.
Brandon Johnson, Organizer, Chicago Teachers Union: People are tired of their communities being disinvested in. People are frustrated with the mayor and CPS ignoring parental and community teacher voice. You know. So we want our voices to be heard loud and clear. We want to raise the consciousness of the communities that are most impacted by these failed policies so that there can be some real conversation about what our students deserve and what education should look like moving forward.
Noor: : This final week of protests are the culmination of months of marches, demonstrations, and civil disobedience organized by unions, parents, and community organizations. They aim to pressure Chicago's board of education to reject the closures. A recent poll found that six out of ten voters oppose the plans. But the board is handpicked by Rahm Emanuel, who says although the closures may be painful, they will help bridge the school system's billion dollar budget deficit.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CEO, Chicago Public Schools: These proposals have caused community anguish, and I understand that. Change is really hard. Change is frightening. And we all get really uncomfortable when the status quo, even part of the status quo, is changed. But when the status quo is not working, change is inevitable.
Noor: But opponents of the closures got a boost last week when the city's hearing officers--retired state and federal judges--came out against 13 of the closures, arguing they would force parents and children to cross gang lines and endanger their lives. One of the schools cited was Manierre, located in the Near North Side, where the Cabrini Green projects once stood. The city wants to close Manierre and send its students to Jenner. Retired Cook County judge Paddy McNamara recommended the school not be closed, saying, quote, "There is a history going back over 40 years of rivalry between the two schools."
Two Chicago police officers on patrol in the area also told The Real News that the closure of Manierre would likely cause fights, but they said, hopefully, not result in gun violence.
Chicago Children and Parents March to Save Our Communities and Neighborhood Schools; Day Two
To March for a day is not enough to Save Our Schools! Chicago parents march on. Children too fill the streets. Our babies know their schools and education is threatened, as is their future! Teachers also stand in support of Our Children, Our Communities, and Our Neighborhood Schools! We say, Save Our Schools, Our Children, Our Communities.
Today, tired from yesterdays walk, we March On! Sick and tired? We are sick and tired of being treated as though we are sick and not worth the time or energy needed to provide an equal and equitable education for all. We are the people! We are the power! We are parents, pupils, professionals; we are what makes this country great. We are Our Children, Our Communities, and Our Neighborhood Schools. We March On. Please Join Us!
Teachers, Professionals from every field March together to Support Chicago Community Schools and save these excellent learning centers from closure. The Chicago Teachers Union shares, "West side marchers say, "ONE TERM MAYOR."" #cpsclosings #westside #chicago
We thank you Chicago Teachers for standing strong to Save Our Students Schools and the right to a public education for all!
Day One May 18th 2013 By Bob George. Save Our Schools National Director. May 18, 2013
What would you say if you were told that your children must go to a school that for 8 years has been on academic probation?
Dominique Grant's child along with 250 other parents and grandparents are being told that they must send their babies to just such a school. Who has the right to tell a parent where to send their child to school? In our city the powers that be reside in the Chicago Public Schools. Officials within CPS sent out the orders, marching orders, and so, we March! Mothers and fathers whose children attend Jesse Owens Elementary School took to the streets on May 18th, we March in protest. The parents know that their community-based school [Owens] currently meets the utilization standards of CPS at 71% and still it will be closed.
The children will be sent to Samuel Gompers School. Gompers has been on academic probation 8 of the past 8 years. It is currently at 55% utilization and has no air conditioning. Jesse Owens School, the children's neighborhood school has been on academic probation once in the last 8 years. Dominique Grant speaks highly of the excellent experienced teachers at Owens. She praises and appreciates the staff that is intimately involved in the community. "These teachers know our children. Many have been teaching here since I attended and graduated with honors. My education at Owens allowed me to attend the selective enrollment Mt Greenwood School recognized as one of the Best Schools in the State by Chicago Magazine in 2011."
Dominique Grant wants her children to have at least what she had, certainly not less. Doesn't ever parent? The best teachers...
"The real crisis is the level of poverty in too many of our schools and the relationship between poverty and student achievement. Our lowest achieving schools are the most under-resourced schools with the highest number of disadvantaged students. We cannot treat these schools in the same way that we would schools in more advantaged neighborhoods or we will continue to get the same results." ~ PISA: It's Poverty Not Stupid Mel Riddle
Education policymakers and analysts express great concern about the performance of U.S. students on international tests. Education reformers frequently invoke the relatively poor performance of U.S. students to justify school policy changes.
In December 2012, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) released national average results from the 2011 administration of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan promptly issued a press release calling the results "unacceptable," saying that they "underscore the urgency of accelerating achievement in secondary school and the need to close large and persistent achievement gaps," and calling particular attention to the fact that the 8th-grade scores in mathematics for U.S. students failed to improve since the previous administration of the TIMSS.
Two years earlier, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released results from another international test, the 2009 administration of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Secretary Duncan's statement was similar. The results, he said, "show that American students are poorly prepared to compete in today's knowledge economy. ... Americans need to wake up to this educational reality-instead of napping at the wheel while emerging competitors prepare their students for economic leadership." In particular, Duncan stressed results for disadvantaged U.S. students: "As disturbing as these national trends are for America, enormous achievement gaps among black and Hispanic students portend even more trouble for the U.S. in the years ahead."
However, conclusions like these, which are often drawn from international test comparisons, are oversimplified, frequently exaggerated, and misleading. They ignore the complexity of test results and may lead policymakers to pursue inappropriate and even harmful reforms.
Both TIMSS and PISA eventually released not only the average national scores on their tests but also a rich international database from which analysts can disaggregate test scores by students' social and economic characteristics, their school composition, and other informative criteria. Such analysis can lead to very different and more nuanced conclusions than those suggested from average national scores alone. For some reason, however, although TIMSS released its average national results in December, it scheduled release of the international database for five weeks later. This puzzling strategy ensured that policymakers and commentators would draw quick and perhaps misleading interpretations from the results. This is especially the case because analysis of the international database takes time, and headlines from the initial release are likely to be sealed in conventional wisdom by the time scholars have had the opportunity to complete a careful study.
While we await the release of the TIMSS international database, this report describes a detailed analysis we have conducted of the 2009 PISA database. It offers a different picture of the 2009 PISA results than the one suggested by Secretary Duncan's reaction to the average national scores of the United States and other nations.
Because of the complexity and size of the PISA international database, this report's analysis is restricted to the comparative test performance of adolescents in the United States, in three top-scoring countries, and in three other post-industrial countries similar to the United States.
When Is Change "Change?" New York Mayoral Candidate Thompson Fiddles With Education Frame
Photograph: In a speech at the Kimmel Center at New York University on Wednesday, William C. Thompson Jr. said he wanted the city's communities to steer an educational overhaul, not a public official.
In New York City, as elsewhere in the country, Mayoral candidates look through the lens that we call education and see currency, cash, dollars, and cents. After all, dollars deliver votes and those who dole out cash are invested in education today. Perhaps that is why public schools are not seen as a good investment. Children? Young ones cannot cast a ballot. Thus, the education agenda is tailored to adults, adult who see education as a source for earnings.
Capital gains. Control. Charter Schools. Cyber-classrooms, of these there are plenty. Success stories that acknowledge public school students and their achievements are marked for deletion. The current Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, being a media mogul can do this easily. Candidates who would like to be the next Mayor of New York must find another means for framing the education message.
'I will be bold while timid.' I will take charge while taking none. I will close schools, some, but is that not better than several? Under my administration charter schools and traditional learning centers will be required to meet identical standards, although I do favor the policies and practices of charters. I am not like Mayor Bloomberg; I am different, and yet, the same.' This is a précis of a speech Mayoral aspirant delivered to a near empty room on the ninth floor of the Kimmel Center at New York University.
Bloomberg and Thompson each embrace curriculums that focus on career and technical training. Not everyone is "college" material. He too thinks "gifted programs" must be expanded. Mr Thompson believes that Master Teacher programs are promising. More money for Teachers who take on tougher assignment is, in his mind, just.
Essentially, the Mayoral-hopeful summed it up by saying, "I don't want to be an education mayor, and I know that the current mayor has talked about that often. I want New York City to be an education city." However, please do not trust me. Read the story yourself. Tell me; what do you think?
He would keep mayoral control of the New York City school system, but relinquish control of the board that approves educational policy. He would cease closing schools as aggressively as the Bloomberg administration has been, yet "take action" against faltering schools.