'High school transformation summit' April 10... Catalyst promotes corporate attack on general high schools.

Why Catalyst lies

On February 27, 2008, Catalyst Chicago reported on its website that a student named Terrence Williams had spoken at the Board of Education meeting in favor of the “turnaround” proposal for Orr High School. According to Catalyst: “Terrence Williams, a recent graduate of one of Orr’s small schools, spoke in favor of the turnaround…” Catalyst's paymasters and business sponsors have been the leaders in teacher bashing, privatization promotions, and union busting in Chicago for more than a decade. Despite the fact that high schools are the recipients of all the failures of corporate "school reform", Catalyst's proposal for "transformation" continues to bash the city's remaining general public high schools and their teachers and principals.

Actually, Williams opposed the “turnaround” — an attack on the principals and teachers at the small schools at Orr. Williams told the Board of Education the opposite of what Catalyst reported. Like most of the speakers and protestors at the February 26 Chicago Board of Education meeting, Terrence Williams was supporting his school and opposing the latest corporate “school reform” attack on the public schools.

So Catalyst reported the opposite, which is still on the Catalyst Web site the first week of April 2008, despite demands that it be corrected.

An aberration? Actually, no. Catalyst is not an “independent voice” of school reform in Chicago. Like the Sun-Times and Tribune, it is one of the many voices promoting corporate “school reform” and privatization against the public schools.

The example on this page (Catalyst’s sponsorship of a “High School Transformation” meeting on a school days that excludes every high school teacher, principal, student, and parent in Chicago) is typical of how Catalyst operates.

Anyone who ever thought Catalyst was doing more than apologetics for Richard M. Daley’s version of corporate “school reform” needs to take a clear and close look. The spinning of the “data” has always been part of the Catalyst method of reporting and constructing “news” (and making a powerful record of distorted analysis that is replicated from their Web site). Catalyst’s reporters and editors all ought to be working on the Sixth Floor at 125 S. Clark St. (Communications Department), but they are more useful to their corporate paymasters presenting all the CPS talking points and Duncanian lies from an “independent” source. One of the earliest, most sustained, and silliest of Catalyst’s attacks on the general high schools took place nearly a decade ago, in 2000, at the time Paul Vallas and Gery Chico came up with “Intervention” as the way to fix “failing high schools”. “Intervention” was accompanied by a lot of hoopla, and much teachers bashing (and principal bashing, too) — just like “Turnaround” today. One of the more droll moments came when Catalyst presented the “data” to show the “failing” of the schools that were put on “Intervention” back in the summer of 2000. At that time, the “data” came from the TAP tests (the high school version of the ITBS). Catalyst ignored the fact that the publishers of the Iowa and TAP tests had said, as late as that year, in their Administrators’ Handbook for those tests that the tests were not to be used to measure schools, teacher performance, or for high stakes decisions about individual children. The big scandal that year (and for the preceding four years) was that CPS had been using those tests — despite the clear warnings -—for precisely those three forbidden uses. (Just as Arne Duncan’s using the ACT results today to slander the general high schools). As usual, Catalyst jumped not to the side of the facts, but into the lap of CPS and promoted data that were spun for the purpose of teacher bashing.

Every “Intervention” graph Catalyst published (fed straight to them from CPS) showed the schools getting “Intervention” going DOWN.

Collins. Bowen. Etc. DOWN THEY WENT (according to the graphs in Catalyst, which were very narrowly rendered to show precisely the lies that was being used that year). No mention of context, or of the fact that the tests said DO NOT DO THIS WITH THESE TESTS. Catalyst was just doing its job, performing its cheerleading function behind a smog of “data” and pseudo-facts (quotations from various people, all saying the same thing, but from different parts of the echo chamber). Summer, then autumn of the year 2000, Catalyst continued with its excited promotions for “Intervention”. They followed up in September, October, and November with exclusive inside reports during which their novice reporters careened from school to school with JoAnn Roberts, the fast talking “chief” of Intervention and the “teams” that Roberts commanded (while all the while attacking teachers and humiliating principals). The general line of Roberts (and Catalyst) was that the reason for the “failure” of the high schools was that the teachers (and principals) didn’t really really believe that “All children can learn…”

That smog of defamatory “data” against Bowen, South Shore, Collins and the other high schools — all for “Intervention” — was followed up by a ridiculous six-month long series of stories following (breathlessly, in many cases) the “Intervention” team. Every stupid thing said by JoAnn Roberts (who was briefly “Chief Intervention Officer” for CPS at one of the highest salaries downtown) was repeated and reported. Roberts even claimed that the schools being subjected to her “Intervention Team” could all get their “average” TAP scores “up” to “75” (meaning an average score at the 75th percentile) in one year with the right intervention strategies. No mention (from Catalyst) that doing such a thing was either statistically impossible or would have involved massive fraud. (In those days, “average” was the median on the TAP and Iowa tests).

From the day of the first high school reconstitutions to the current fanfare about “Turnaround”, Catalyst has been an unabashed cheerleader for the teacher bashing attacks on the city’s general high schools. That process continues on April 10 at the bank building around the corner from CPS headquarters. Anyone who wants to understand the news from Catalyst would do better following the corporate money that sustains Catalyst and not worrying about whether a report such as the false news Catalyst printed about Terrence Williams after the February 2008 Chicago Board of Education meeting were true. 


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