CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Substance editor notes bias in New York Times Marshall High School coverage thanks to Koldyke link to Chicago News Cooperative

[The following letter was sent by e-mail to The New York Times on Saturday morning, February 13, 2010].

February 13, 2010

To: The New York Times:

I just finished the first posting of an analysis entitled "The New York Times gets one-fourteenth of the Chicago school closings story one-tenth right" at our Website, That story will be completed after we interview another dozen or so teachers, students, and parents from the Marshall High School community on Chicago's West Side. I am the editor of Substance, a monthly tabloid publishing news and analysis of Chicago's public schools.

Chicago Venture Capitalist and leaders of the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) Martin Koldyke speaks on January 31, 2008, at Sherman Elementary School on Chicago's South Side. The occasion of Koldyke's speech was the announcement by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley that Chicago's public schools would receive more than $10 million from the Gates Foundation to promote what is being called "turnaround." Despite the failure of reconstitution as a method for improving urban schools, Chicago began supporting so-called "turnaround" in 2008, with the reconstitution of six public schools (Copernicus, Fulton, Howe and Morton elementary schools; Harper and Orr high schools) under the name of "turnaround." With less than a year at the schools (and with more than $1 million in additional funds for each school), AUSL announced in early 2009 that "turnaround" was a success. With Koldyke at the time of the "turnaround" announcement in early 2008 above are Donald Feinstein (AUSL), JoAnn Thompson (a Chicago alderman), and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. When asked why he had abandoned "Small Schools" as the preferred "model" for improving schools (Orr High School had been in the middle of a major experiment in "Small Schools"), Daley's aides simply ended the press conference. In addition to being a major force behind AUSL and "turnaround," Martin Koldyke is also one of the leaders of the so-called "Chicago News Cooperative" which is now providing news stories which are placed in the pages of The New York Times. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.What you do not disclose in your notification of the source of the article "Marshall High School Moves Closer to a Sweeping Overhaul" is that the Chicago News Cooperative is owned, in part, by the one man in Chicago who has the most obvious vested interest in so-called "turnaround", Chicago millionaire venture capitalist Martin Koldyke. The conflict of interest shows throughout the Marshall High School article, which is not news but instead an infomercial for bad data analysis and worse public education policy.

The most prominent corporate booster of "turnaround" (which is not even a legal term in the State of Illinois; Marshall High School is about to be reconstituted, a policy which has been deemed a failure since the late 1990s by all reputable analysts of public education policy) in Chicago is the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). While AUSL's claims about its successes as a so-called "turnaround" specialist are widespread (and have even been parroted by the President of the United States and the current U.S. Secretary of Education), the factual basis for AUSL's marketing claims has never been established. AUSL is Martin Koldyke's baby. Everyone in Chicago knows it. Koldyke is not neutral in education policy circles in Chicago, but one of the bigger player on the side of the debate that claims a so-called "business model" is necessary to improve public education. "Turnaround", as your Business reporters know well, is a widely discredited term in corporate America, thanks in a large part to the fraudulent way it was practiced some time ago by charlatans like "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap, whose career as a media darling ended when he destroyed Sunbeam (once a major Chicago corporation) a decade ago. But prior to the exposes about Dunlap's Enron-style methods of "saving" corporations, "turnaround" was all the rage among boosters of a certain type of corporate leadership. A faction in Chicago, led by Koldyke, is still trying to whitewash the history of "turnaround" — at least for public schools. Now you have joined one side of a fierce debate.

As you have to be aware, one of the most prominent investors in the "Chicago News Cooperative" is Martin Koldyke. To run a story — as "news", not analysis (your columns were justified, not ragged right) when in fact it is promoting one side of an enormously important and controversial topic is simply beneath the Time. But you did it, and now you should answer for it. Not only has your relationship with the Chicago News Cooperative tainted your news coverage, but it has tainted it to the point where I had to dredge out of my memory one name that made the Times the butt of jokes a few years back: Jayson Blair.

The Times should return to the days when The Times had a Chicago bureau which covered Chicago news with reporters who were employees of The Times and subjected to all of the ethical, professional, and other restraints that supposedly govern such people. To outsource your "news" coverage to an entity with such an obvious corporate bias and then to publish a "news" story that shows such bias in such detail is unseemly, to say the least.

For further information, you can read my own commentary on your article. It will remain as the top story in the left column of our Home Page at for the next 36 hours, since this story is so important in the ongoing debate over education policy not only in Chicago but across the USA.

As Substance makes clear in both our print and on-line editions, we take a side and don't pretend to practice that simplistic "objectivity" that The Times still pretends to. In your Chicago coverage, at least, your pretense of objectivity has become a joke. George N. Schmidt

Editor, Substance



February 15, 2010 at 2:48 AM

By: kugler

like an infection

these people are all diseased, and do not understand that they are damaging a whole generation of children that one day will become adults and will always remember who was their enemy. at that point in time i will not be around to witness what will happen to those that harmed and killed children for personal profit.

John Kugler

notre force, parce qu'elle nous donne l'ascendant de la Vérité sur l'imposture, et les droits de l'intérêt public sur les intérêts privés

February 15, 2010 at 8:15 AM

By: Patricia Breckenridge


The American public must wake-up and understand that corporate America is taking over your rights to govern the public school system with your public dollars. Corporate America is capitalizing on your child's right to a free education with public funding and rights to a neighborhood school by gentrification and re-locating low socio-economic status families.

Senator Meeks is trying to abolished LSC's so your school community will have no say asto what Principal is hired and the Board of Education will continue to close your neighborhood schools and retire and fire your compassionate staff even though they've earned tenure.






February 15, 2010 at 8:30 AM

By: Patricia Breckenridge

Low Socio-Economic Status Invalid and Unreliable Test Data

Patricia Ann Breckenridge, M.Ed.

CPS Teacher, CORE, PUSH, United Church of Hyde Park

Subject: Low Socio-economic status Invalid and Unreliable Test Data

Public School Closing Hearing: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 Schneider School Closing

I hold a Masters degree in Education. I have taught in the public school system for 15 years. I have served as a collegiate reading clinician during graduate study at The University of Illinois at Chicago, I published a literacy website at I am a parent of a CPS graduate who now attends college. I am a member of CORE (Caucus of Rank and File Educators) serving the public to keep traditional public neighborhood schools open and not reconstituted, consolidated, turned around, phased out, chartered, closed, etc.

A family’s socio-economic status is based on family income, parental education level, parental occupation and social status within the community, (such as contracts within the community, group organizations, and community’s perceptions of the family). Families with low socio-economic status often lack the financial, social, and educational supports that categorize higher socio-economic status families. (Demarest, Reisner, Anderson, Humphrey, Farquhar, and Stein, 1993).

Creating conditions for effective schooling for students who are at-risk and low socio-economic status includes maximizing time, holding high expectations, establishing a school climate that is supportive of academic learning, and strengthening parental value and support. (Knapp & Shields, 1990)

CPS has not created conditions for effective schooling for students who are at-risk and low socio-economic status, therefore I question the validity and reliability of test data that was obtained under substandard learning environments.

Until CPS can implement the needed interventions for at-risk and low socio-economic status students with the power invested in me as a master degreed scholar of these United States I declare the closing and other methods of unfounded intervention of CPS schools to be held unsubstantiated, unwarranted, and unprofessional.

I further declare that any data obtained during the ineffective administration of at-risk and low socio-economic status curriculum be deemed invalid and unreliable for the purpose of penalizing CPS employees, parents, communities, stakeholders, and their mission to educate at-risk and low socio-economic status students.

In conclusion, educating our children requires reading clinics as prerequisite to the next year’s curriculum. CPS is failing to implement instructional strategies to enhance and master the component of “readiness” when learning and becoming educated. These reading clinics must include components of going back to where the student is, self-help sounding, speed up word recognition, develop comprehension skills, and sustain a love for reading. Hence, students should have ownership over their instructional levels, but this literacy need is long neglected.

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