Did crazy on-line profiling arise from a robotic approach to human beings in the CPS 'Office of Human Capital'?... Crazy 'Teacher Fit' psychological test dumped by Brizard as soon as the media makes it a big issue

No sooner head the early editions of the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune come out than Chicago's latest public schools "Chief Executive Officer," Jean-Claude Brizard, was dumping the crazy psychological profiling device that had been implemented by his "Chief Human Capital Officer" and telling principals that "Teacher Fit" would not longer create an automatic block to the hiring of new teachers in Chicago. "Past performance is the best predictor of future performance" Brizard wrote in a hasty memo to the city's principals.

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard wasted no time dumping TeacherFit once the major media exposed the ridiculous manner in which it was being used by Alicia Winckler and the Board of Education's Human Capital department. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Readers curious to hear how the CPS "Chief Human Capital Officer" uses her own versions of history can find a number of interesting examples on line. In one, Winckler claims that the use by "Human Capital" of "New Teacher Center" improved the retention of new teachers. The URL for that video for those who can't access a link is:

At the time Alicia Winckler was appointed to the Orwellian-titled office of "Chief Human Capital Officer" in late 2009, there was no discussion on the Chicago Board of Education. The Board simply nodded and affirmed the hiring, which was done by then "Chief Executive Officer" Ron Huberman. Huberman had been given a green light by the Board (and those who rule Chicago) to create a massive (and massively expensive) system called "Performance Management", and an offshoot of the same ideology that created "Performance Management" brought Alicia Winckler to Chicago.

A year ago, Winckler was featured at the Milken Institute Global Conference (April 26 - 28 2010 in Los Angeles), and at the time the group provided its attendees with a brief biography of the woman who had just been appointed to head the personnel department of the nation's third largest school system. Knowing nothing about teachers, teaching or learning was obviously a plus in the eyes of those who hired Winckler, as the following pre-CPS biography shows:

Speaker's Biography: Alicia Winckler Chief Human Capital Officer, Chicago Public Schools

Alicia Winckler is the Chief Human Capital Officer for Chicago Public Schools. She has more than 15 years of experience, including 11 years leading human capital management in large and complex organizations. Most recently, Winckler led talent and human capital for Sears Holdings, where she was responsible for the design and delivery of all human capital strategies for more than 200,000 employees and 3,300 stores. Prior to that, she led global organization effectiveness for Coca-Cola Enterprises, spanning North America and Europe. Winckler has held multiple roles as a senior human resource generalist and has led the development and implementation of best-practice talent-management systems, ensuring alignment with overall organizational goals. She received a master's degree in industrial organizational psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver and a B.S. from the University of South Dakota.

During the nearly 20 months since Alicia Winckler became the "Chief Human Capital Officer" for Chicago's public schools, she has presented before the Board of Education on more occasions than any other senior staff member at the school system's central office. Either she is presenting a Power Point on the latest iteration of the CPS Human Capital work, or she is backing up another presenter, as she did at the first meeting of the new Board of Education on June 15, 2011, when she supplemented the presentation of novice (he had been in office less than one month) "Chief Administrative Officer" Tim Cawley.

The TeacherFit scandal that broke on July 21, 2011, was thanks to the Chicago Teachers Union and a no longer completely somnolent Chicago media. It became a major public issue as a result of the specific factual information that could be provided to the public by teachers, the union, and others on the scandalous use of the TeacherFit psychological profiling.

Long before that, and over a significant period of time, Alicia Winckler was implementing a series of "Human Capital" policies which were sabotaging teaching and learning and implementing a philosophy that is in contradiction with almost everything a school system that focuses on the education of children should be doing. Speaking in terms of providing "human capital" for the "global economy," Winckler regularly provided CPS with policies and proposals (all approved by the Board and CEO) which disrupted the work going on in the city's real public schools.

An insight into Winckler's philosophy and praxis is available, at least for now, on You Tube in her presentation to the Milken Institute. In her own words. Winckler's main narrative begins at the 16th minute of the panel and continues for several minutes. Those who cannot access the hotlink above should be able to get the video from the following URL:

On April 27, 2010, Winckler was in Los Angeles, apparently with the approval of CPS officials. There, she was on a panel at the Milken Institute that included a number of representatives from corporate America — but no teachers or educators. The panel: Panel Detail: Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM, Diversity 2.0: Building a Workforce to Succeed in a Global Workplace. Speakers: Deepika Bajaj, Founder and President, Invincibelle; Steve Bell, Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources, Diamond Resorts International; Randall Lane, Senior Leader, Global Inclusion & Diversity, Cisco Systems Inc.; Debra Nelson, Vice President, Corporate Diversity and Community Affairs, MGM Mirage; Alicia Winckler, Chief Human Capital Officer, Chicago Public Schools

Moderator: Fran Durekas, Founder and Chief Development Officer, Children's Creative Learning Centers Inc.

Winckler's remarks on the panel can be found at URL:

Less than one day after the ridiculous impact of Winckler's use of TeacherFit hit the news, the use of the psychological test to screen out prospective teachers was ended by the current Chief Executive Officer, Jean Claude Brizard. (Brizard is the third "CEO" since Winckler was hired, making her a senior staff member at the top of the executive ranks, despite the fact that she has been at CPS less than two years).

Since she was appointed without explanation to the job of "Chief Human Capital Officer" (with a salary of around $200,000 per year) by former CPS CEO Ron Huberman in December 2009, Alicia Winckler (above, explaining the budget Power Point to the new Board members at the Board's June 15, 2011 meeting) has taken on more and more power and taken CPS personnel policies in more and more bizarre directions. The Summer 2011 use of the unproved psychological profiling tool called "TeacherFit" was one of the innovations Winckler (who had no experience in education prior to Huberman's appointment of her) brought to the way CPS now "manages its human capital." Despite parodies and anger at the use of the corporate jargon ("human capital"), Winckler's power grew when the latest corporate Board of Education was appointed in May 2011 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Brizard's July 21, 2011 message to the principals follows here:

Dear Principals, As a former Principal, I know the importance of hiring the best instructional talent and believe that Principal autonomy is critical in making these decisions. Teaching that engages our students and enables them to achieve their full potential is a complex skill that requires multiple proven-methods to evaluate effectively. Effective tomorrow morning (Friday, July 22nd), all TeacherFit results will be provided to you to utilize at your discretion. While our goal is to continue to provide you with access to valuable and well-researched tools, you will have the maximum discretion in their utility and will have the option to move forward with any hiring decisions that may have been impacted by this program.

We all share the same goals of hiring the highest quality talent and will continue to entrust to you the decision-making regarding using multiple methods to achieve your goals. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance and the closer that you can simulate the actual work environment, the better. Alicia Winckler spends most of her time during meetings of the Chicago Board of Education utilizing her telephone and blackberry and ignoring the people who speak to the Board. Above, Winckler engrossed in her technology during the December 15, 2010 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.We value your voice and hope that these actions are responsive to your feedback. I want to ensure we provide you with the support to have the most successful start of school in CPS’ history. Jean-Claude Brizard, Chief Executive Officer, Chicago Public Schools


Chicago Public Schools officials Thursday did an abrupt about-face on implementing a controversial teacher-applicant test and said TeacherFit scores would no longer be used to automatically blacklist potential teachers.

In an e-mail, Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard told principals they could use TeacherFit scores however they wanted, and would be free to hire candidates whom CPS officials previously had eliminated from the candidate pool based solely on their TeacherFit scores.

The Thursday 6 p.m. e-mail followed a Thursday Chicago Sun-Times story concerning the deluge of complaints to CPS about the hundreds of teacher candidates who had been told they were, in effect, blacklisted from job consideration based solely on their TeacherFit scores. The test claims to probe the “soft skills’’ — such as self-initiative and organization — needed to be a teacher.

The Sun-Times reported that deans of 22 Chicago area colleges of education, the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Principals Association had requested CPS meetings or placed phone calls to object to placing so much weight on one new test. Thirty percent of those who took TeacherFit since June had scored in the “red” — or unacceptable — zone under a cut-off set by CPS, not the test developer.

Alicia Winckler (center) ignoring the speakers during public participation at the February 2010 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Principals and others questioned the reliability of the test, saying that scholarship winners, graduates of select education programs and “dream candidates’’ they had observed in action and wanted to hire were told they failed the test and would be barred from job consideration for 18 months.

Applicants themselves charged they had no idea from CPS’s online instructions for the multiple-choice survey that TeacherFit represented a do-or-die test.

Instead, several said, they followed the form’s instructions to be excruciatingly honest because their responses “might be verified at a later stage” and “applicants whose responses are found to be inaccurate or dishonest will be disqualified from further consideration.’’

“Now, I feel like I should have lied,’’ said Mia Lawrence, who said she was one of at least five graduates of National Louis University’s education program to be told they flunked TeacherFit.

Lawrence pointed to one TeacherFit question that asked “How do you feel about a job that would require you to regularly work after hours?” She said she probably selected ”inconvenient.” but may have chosen “not inconvenient” if she thought a job depended on it.

Alicia Winckler, Chief 'Human Capital' Officer of Chicago's public schools, concentrates on her Blackberry during public participation at the Chicago Board of Education's April 2011 meeting. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Chief CPS Human Capital Officer Alicia Winckler defended the use and validity of TeacherFit as a gatekeeper as recently as Wednesday, but also said officials were preparing a response to principal complaints.

Her new boss, Brizard, made clear he had considered principals’ comments Thursday in his e-mail, saying “We value your voice and hope that these actions are responsive to your feedback.’’

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said TeacherFit had been in the works before Brizard was tapped CEO in May, but it was not until Wednesday that he “got a deeper understanding of how the TeacherFit policy was impacting principals’ ability to make their own hiring decisions.

“After speaking with some of them personally, he decided [Thursday] to change the policy. He believes this system will serve as as critical tool for principals in their hiring process, but also believes it shouldn’t be the only tool they can use.’’

Kozminski Interim Principal Sandy Traback was thrilled Thursday that she was now free to hire a “dream candidate’’ who had failed TeacherFit. Traback said the candidate was on the dean’s list at Michigan State University, won glowing reviews from at least two administrators and impressed her as a talented special education teacher during her observation of the candidate as she taught summer school.

“I think Mr. Brizard made a very wise decision,’’ Traback said. “I’m really touched that he listened to principals.’’


A new questionnaire that probes the “soft skills” needed be a teacher has resulted in what critics call the “blacklisting’’ of hundreds of potential Chicago Public School teachers — including some who already had job offers, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Alicia Winckler (center above, studying her Blackberry during the May 25, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education) has served as the Chicago Board of Education's "Chief Human Capital Officer" since December 2009, when she was hired by former CEO Ron Huberman from Sears Holdings. Winckler, who had no previous education training, experience, or licenses, has brought a laughably robotic approach to what she proudly refers to as "human capital" in a system that is supposed to serve the complex educational and human needs of more than 400,000 children daily. During Board of Education meetings, as above, she ignores the people speaking until called upon to answer "human capital" questions or provide the Board with "data" to support policies. In the photo above, the person on Winckler's right, Diana Ferguson, was attending her final meeting as the Board's Chief Financial Officer. To Winckler's left (behind sign marked "Reserved") is Ferguson's apparent successor, Melanie Shaker, who began working for CPS in August 2010. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Graduates of the Academy for Urban School Leadership’s teacher training program touted by Mayor Rahm Emanuel have, in effect, flunked the test. So has a winner of a prestigious Golden Apple scholarship. Likewise a special-education major who made the dean’s list at Michigan State University and was described as a “dream candidate’’ by a CPS principal who wanted to hire her.

Of the 3,900 CPS teacher applicants who have taken TeacherFit since June, 30 percent have scored low enough to be excluded from hiring — for the moment, said Alicia Winckler, head of the CPS Office of Human Capital. Some were told to reapply in 18 months, but CPS is now rethinking that 18-month time-frame and whether to grant some low-scoring applicants some leeway, Winckler said.

Winckler and a spokeswoman for the Chicago Public Education Fund, which spent $130,000 to develop TeacherFit for CPS use, say they believe strongly in TeacherFit’s validity and ability to identify strong teacher candidates. They note that similar personality-test-like job application questionnaires are common in the business world.

However, deans of 22 Chicago area colleges of education are requesting a meeting with CPS officials over the use of TeacherFit as a tool that can completely knock a candidate out of the CPS teacher applicant pool, said Victoria Chou, dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

“It’s smelling bad so far,’’ said Chou, who called some of the TeacherFit questions “crazy.’’ “I cannot help but think there hasn’t been enough evaluation undertaken before these high stakes are put into place.’’

The Chicago Teachers Union is asking CPS to dump the test completely, said CTU President Karen Lewis.

“It’s unacceptable,’’ said Lewis. “Any test can inform [the application process] but it shouldn’t drive it.’’

“No one should be blacklisted, in 1950s talk, simply because they didn’t score appropriately,’’ agreed John Butterfield, a former CPS principal and now assistant to the president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. The association plans to “lodge a complaint’’ with Winckler, he said.

“I don’t think anyone’s career should be up or down based on one test,’’ Butterfield said.

Butterfield, Chou and other area deans of education say their email and phone lines have lit up since last week, when CPS teacher applicants started to be notified that their TeacherFit responses had knocked them out of the applicant pool — including some who had already been offered CPS jobs.

Sandy Traback, interim principal at Kozminski, said that only a few weeks before year-round classes start she was blocked from hiring a “dream candidate’’ who had two other CPS job offers as a special education teacher because of TeacherFit scores.

The candidate had made the Dean’s list at Michigan State and had received rave reviews from supervisors at two different CPS schools where she had student-taught and taught summer school. Traback even personally observed her summer school teaching and was impressed.

“Everybody said, ‘If you need a special education teacher, this is the one you want,’ ” Traback said.

But with the candidate sitting across her desk, Traback tried to select her on the CPS computer system and couldn’t find her application. She called CPS Human Resources, only to be told “she didn’t pass the TeacherFit evaluation. And I said, ‘what the hell is that?’ ”

“I could actually watch her teach,’’ Traback said. “I saw the quality of the work she was doing. . . . I am very concerned that some candidates have been caught up in this, and it’s going to be a loss to CPS.’’

The candidate — and many others — said she thought she was merely taking a survey when she filled out TeacherFit. She had no idea her career would rest on her answers, she said.

“Had I known, I might not have been as honest,” and instead given the answers she thought test evaluators were seeking, said the candidate, who asked to remain anonymous.

The CTU’s Lewis said the union complained about some questions during the TeacherFit development process because some seemed to probe for people who were “willing to work for free.’’ One current question asks candidates “how do you feel about a job that would require you to regularly work after hours?”

Other questions ask candidates to recall how frequently they did something — such as help their peers with a difficult task — over a 10- or five-year time frame. A 10-year span would take a 21-year-old teaching candidate all the way back to age 11, one education professor noted.

TeacherFit co-author Neal Schmitt, a psychology professor at Michigan State University, said many of the questions involve “personality or attitude’’ items that try to get at the “soft skills’’ needed to be a teacher — student focus, planning and organizing, results-focus, perseverance and self-initiative.

Development of the test was paid for by the Chicago Public Education Fund, which counts as a board member Bruce Rauner, a wealthy venture capitalist and close ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Rauner was a driving force behind the sweeping school reform bill that Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law last month.

Penny Pritzker, a member of the billionaire Pritzker family, stepped down as the fund’s chair after Emanuel named her a Chicago School Board member.

TeacherFit questions were field-tested on a sample pool of 867 CPS teachers, with an average work experience of four years, who were also rated separately by their principals. TeacherFit scores wound up correlating closely with how teachers were rated by their principals, Schmitt said.

However, CPS ultimately decided which scores would fall into what CPS calls a “red, yellow or green’’ category, with “red” being the lowest score, and what stakes to attach to results, Schmitt said.

North suburban academic powerhouse Stevenson High School also uses TeacherFit as a candidate evaluation tool, but not a blacklisting device, said Stevenson Township High School District spokesman James Conrey.

“No current candidate at Stevenson is excluded from consideration based solely on TeacherFit answers, and no future candidate will be excluded based solely on TeacherFit answers,’’ Conrey said.

“TeacherFit is just one piece of the puzzle, in our view, not the be-all, end-all determining factor in deciding to hire teachers. We wouldn’t stand for a teacher basing a student’s semester grade solely on the result of one test, so why would we follow a different philosophy in our hiring practices?”


July 22, 2011 at 10:14 AM

By: John Kugler

Damage Already Done

I am not an attorney, but to me how can you prove:

If you were damaged or not from this test.

If you were denied the job or not.

If your reputation was tarnished by a low score.

Where are theses scores?

Who gets to see them?

Who does the scoring?

Do non-certified administrators have access to these personal records?

Probably best to seek out legal advice but if you got all your paperwork: of resumes submissions, interviews and did not get a job you also might have a grievance to file.

What I really do not get about this story is the clear, at least in my opinion, ethics violations, of the testing contract. Was this thing even approved by the Board? How does Winckler decide anything that relates to education when she has absolutely zero experience or training as an educator?

Looks like another fine mess she got CPS into.

What is sad is that these non-educators and hatchet people Huberman brought into the system, some even still hold-overs from Duncan is that any trained teacher who has gone through basic teachers training would not make these types of mistakes.

The first few things I learned was liability, liability, liability!!!!

For a teacher to make such a mistake: basically using and manipulating test data from a non-tested and non-approved assessment device that was purchased from a crony vendor to fail students would have at least garnered disciplinary action, an inspector general investigation and if it was really bad termination.

July 28, 2011 at 9:27 AM

By: Chris Rudzinski

TeacherFit is a good fit

I understand that my comment will create different kind of responses.

I would like to say that the TeacherFit assessment is not difficult and requires 8th grade level thinking skill.

I took the test by myself and scored "green"with 100/100.

Definitely,I am not a CPS administrators' supporter, but just simple honesty motivated me to post this comment.

People who were unable to score high should definitely assess their own ability to function.

February 8, 2013 at 8:19 PM

By: Marty Fix

TeacherFit only measures principal compatability.

"TeacherFit questions were field-tested on a sample pool of 867 CPS teachers, with an average work experience of four years, who were also rated separately by their principals. TeacherFit scores wound up correlating closely with how teachers were rated by their principals, Schmitt said. "

All this test measures is how much a principal would like the teacher he is hiring. Nothing more.

There is no association and definitely no cause and effect between a teacher's ability to teach and TeacherFit.

It is obscene that administrators are more concerned about finding teachers they like than finding teachers who are effective. They are happily wasting money on equipment and software that does nothing to improve the education of the students.

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