Mayor, Huberman tout ISAT 'preliminary' results on day of Board of Education meeting

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman drew the majority of Chicago's media to the Burr Elementary School on the city's northwest side on June 23, 2010, for a press conference announcing the release of the "preliminary" results of the 2010 ISAT tests. The press conference began at 9 a.m. at Jonathan Burr School. The ISAT (Illinois Standards Achievement Tests) are the elementary school tests that are used to judge schools. The preliminary high school test results (from the Prairie State Achievement Exams, or PSAE) were not on the agenda.

Mayor Richard M. Daley read from his prepared remarks at the June 23 press conference. Behind Daley (right above) stands CPS CEO Ron Huberman. Substance photo by John Kugler.The last-minute decision to hold the event three miles from Chicago Public Schools headquarters was not explained by City Hall of CPS media people. The press conference was overseen by Mayor Daley's press aide, Jacqueline Heard, and by Huberman's communications chief, Monique Bond.

After introductions from the Principal Vinita Scott, and 1st Ward Alderman Joe Moreno, Mayor Daley read from his scripted Press Statement. The text of the mayor's statement as distributed to reporters follows:

“To me, these scores are good news for our city and our students. They demonstrate that we continue on the right path to success,” Daley said in a news conference held at Jonathan Burr Elementary School, 1621 W. Wabansia Ave.

“Today, parents, teachers and principals from schools and neighborhoods across Chicago have reason to be proud. Our students and teachers have once again made all the people of Chicago proud. This is their shared accomplishment and they should be pleased,” Daley said.

After about five minutes of Daley's reading he introduced Ron Huberman with the words: "That is why we took the political risk to accept the responsibility for education for our students which I am very pleased to have [sic]. Time again it has been shown this was the right step for our city to make education the highest priority. Yes hold the Mayor accountable for it."

Huberman started his talk with “we are very excited to be here with you today to review the ISAT scores… that as you can see are skyrocketing.”

He then introduced the Assistant Principal Sonia Lopez, Chief Performance Officer Sarah Kremser, and Denise Little, Area 7, Chief Area Officer, and Deborah Esparza Area 2 Chief Area Officer. According to Huberman, they were present to help answer any “Education Based Questions,” after acknowledging the Principal’s 30 years of service.

Huberman then launched directly into his PowerPoint presentation. The basis of the presentation was a 1.9% composite scores the ISAT test. There was a +.5% increase in reading, +2.8% increase in math and +3.6% increases in science. “Reading is not showing as much growth as the other areas have,” remarked Huberman.

An indication of how hastily City Hall and CPS set up the media event at Burr school came while Ron Huberman was talking about the supposed gains in the ISAT preliminary scores. The banner on the wall fell down, interrupting the event. Substance photo by John Kugler.Around this time a large banner behind the speakers came loose off the wall.

As the slide presentation went on the figures seemed to be confusing and overlapping. In slide 10 of the presentation it states that 68.3 percent of the reading scores portion of the ISAT "Meet/Exceed" But in the very next slide there is a figure that states 14.6 percent exceed state reading standards.

The same seemed to be true with math scores and percentages. In Slide 12, 76.4 percent math scores Meet/Exceed; and then slide 14 states 18.1% exceed state math standards. Then with the science statistics has 67.9% science scores Meet/Exceed and then slide 17 has a figure 9.6% exceed state science standards.

The figures seem to be that sometimes contradictory and definitely confusing, as reporters noted. Huberman admitted during a presentation that the Exceeds percentage is a "higher standard" which he stated shows that “students are going to be college ready to succeed in the realm of science.” Taking the CEO’s own statement it means that 90% of CPS are not ready to succeed in science at the college level.

Rosalind Rossi of the Sun-Times asked about some of the graphs that have two different data sets, one that is labeled Without English Language Learners (ELL) and the other dataset labeled, with English Language Learners. And that it seemed to be confusing and hard to understand with two sets of information on the same graph. Rossi pointed out that reporting scores in the past was much easier and simplified as has been past practice when parents get students report cards. Huberman's response was “It's not so much confusing, it's providing clarity from year to year. It was always reported without ELL. Introducing ELL changes the numbers and so we think we should show both ways. It's more information.”

In response to a question about why the scores went up, Huberman went into his explanation on why the ISAT scores went up:

"…in those schools where you had very strong alignment on the instructional framework, it worked good," Huberman said. "So what does that mean? It’s where you have classrooms, teachers, and the schools that engaged in curriculum mapping, so they were very clear about what standards were being taught where. They were strict for the most part about following their school-based pacing guides that say what to teach when. They had well embedded assessments which are tests that say are the kids learning what they're supposed and when not they were in engaged in re-teaching to make sure all the kids moved. I know that all sounds like a lot of educational Mumbo Jumbo. What that means is that those schools were very very focused on how they delivered instructions to kids.

Another question concerned that proclaimed budget crises and teacher layoffs would have an adverse affect on the growth in scores. Huberman’s answer was even with fewer and fewer resources that we will always be innovative and work hard as we can to “deliver products.”

Huberman was again asked to explain instructional framework and if was having consistent curriculum. The response was no.

“It’s not about curriculum at all,” replied Huberman.

CPS defines Instructional framework with the following from < > …ensure that our students are being exposed to the kinds of instruction and content that will allow them to meet standards that are appropriate for their grade going beyond the basics to be able to apply concepts … that all teachers are using rigorous and structured approaches to instruction that we know lead to growth in achievement for all students.

Where at this time he went into talking about excellence in teaching and the best teachers needed create a common instruction framework that defines what excellence in teaching looks like. Huberman then started talking about how he intends not to fire or lay off any teachers other than those that are not performing and raising student test scores. He mentioned how the Illinois School Code as he read it allowed the firing of teachers that where not performing despite the contract with the Chicago Teachers Union. According to Huberman, the collective bargaining agreement is in conflict with the Illinois School and that the school code overrides the union contract.

“What we want are best teachers.”

This reporter then asked Huberman why he fired 54 Lead Literacy Teachers, supposedly the top teachers in the school system, last Friday (June 18, 2010) and at today's news conference made statements that only unsatisfactory teachers will be fired.

I met with the laid off teachers Monday and Tuesday night, none I spoke with have less than superior ratings (highest you can have as a teacher) all hold multiple degrees and certifications to teach in the State of Illinois. Many are also National Certified teachers. All were doing exactly what Ron Huberman talked about in the press conference: mentoring and helping guide teachers using superior instructional methods to improve student performance and as was stated at the press conference scores have gone up according to CPS graphs.

Jacqueline Heard, Mayor Daley's press secretary said: “Sir this is a Press Conference. We are here to get questions from the press first.”

At which time I showed her my Substance press credentials and answered: “I am the press. Substance News.”

At that time she abruptly ended the press conference. 


June 24, 2010 at 5:03 AM

By: kugler

Life is Stranger Than Fiction

Here is the video of the press conference.

ISAT Test Scores Press Conference 0622310

UPDATE: Got an email that there might be more teachers that were fired last week.

The 54 Coaches mentioned in the article, I don't believe are the same as the SCRMA Coaches. We SCRMA Coaches (called Literacy Coaches who total over 100), are also citywide but work in the schools to support teachers of grades K-8...not 1st and 2nd year teachers only (as the article suggests). Brunswick is not the head of our program. The director of ORLA (Office of Reading Language Arts) is Paul Whissett, who used to be over the Library Department. So, I don't know if this article really refers to all of us or not--different program, although we all fall under the title of "citywide" Coach.

June 25, 2010 at 11:50 PM

By: Jim Vail

Interesting Report

John - Another fine job reporting the Daley obsurdities. One thing though - I would have made your ending the lead - in reporter lingo the beginning. The fact that the Mayor's press spokesperson could just casually call off a question by saying only the media can ask questions calls into question if this was actually a press conference - or merely a Daley Show and Tell to compliant corporate spinmasters.

Something like this you can't write with a straight face - it's so funny it's sad. And for the other so-called reporters in the room to not demand Huberman answer your question is equally interesting.

The story here was quite simple - Mayor calls press conference to deflect outrage against school cuts at Board of Ed meeting down the street - dog and pony show is laughable - please, no real questions.

To the Board - Substance is the enemy because it is real media - critical, suspicious, informed and intelligent.

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