'Common Core' craziness begins in Chicago... Brizard administration ordering everyone out for unproved projects

Anyone who thinks that Chicago's schools will be getting less bureaucratic and less jargon crazy under the administration of Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard just because Brizard once upon a time was a teacher and principal should begin watching how Brizard rolls out the "Common Core" straight jacket to Chicago's public schools. The memos below came to us from a reliable source and check out. The Brizard administration is pushing the "Common Core" nonsense with as much vigor as they are pushing the waivers. It's all in and all out in Chicago, with no discussion as to whether this expensive trip is necessary or desirable. One of the things that makes many of us wonder is who are the 80 "adapters" who have already completed the application. Common Core is among the most nonsensical emanations to come from the Duncan administration at the U.S. Department of Education, as teachers, students and parents at all levels will see as this rollout moves forward.

Chicago's "Chief Education Officer" Noemi Donoso (above, at the August 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education) has no teaching or administrative experience in Chicago, which is considered a top qualification for here job at more than $200,000 per year. Most of her career has been spent promoting privatization through charters and other attacks on public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.There are also several priceless sentences, such as: "... ILT sessions— Each quarter, all Networks will bring together schools’ Instructional Leadership Teams for full-day professional development sessions. These sessions will focus on two inter-related outcomes and will be co-facilitated by the central office PD team and Network teams..."

For those who have fallen behind on Chicago schools jargon, the "Networks" are basically the subdistricts of Chicago's school system (of more than 600 public schools). "Networks" is the newest name for what were the "Areas", which replaced the "Regions," which were invented when Mayor Richard M. Daley took over the school system in 1995. The names of the men and women who were in charge of these entities went from "District Superintendents" (during the pre-mayoral control era) to "REOs" (Region Education Officers) under Paul Vallas (1995 - 2001), to "Area Instruction Officers" (AIOs) under Arne Duncan (2001 - 2009). When Ron Huberman took over as Chief Executive Officer, the areas remained, but Huberman changed the name of the top people in each to CAOs ("Chief Area Officers") because he wanted to be able to hire people who didn't know anything about classroom teaching, often MBAs with clout. The CAOs remained under Interim Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany (2010 - 2011).

Jean-Claude Brizard renamed the "Areas" "Networks." He also renamed the chiefs of those thingies "Chiefs of Schools." The "Networks have somewhat crazy names as well. Instead of being numbered, as they were throughout Chicago history, they are now named after some non-existent geographic designator never before heard of in Chicago or in Chicago's public schools.

Chicago's new "Chief of Instruction", Jennifer Cheatham, like most of the hierarchy appointed by Jean-Claude Brizard over the summer, has never taught a semester in a Chicago public school, but spent most of her career as a consultant elsewhere and has some Harvard time. She was first appointed a CAO by Ron Huberman two years ago. Here is how CPS described her then: Area 9: Jennifer Cheatham comes to CPS from San Francisco, CA, where she directed a not-for-profit partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District that focused on impacting the learning of ELL students. Prior to that, she was the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the San Diego Unified School District. Jennifer started her educational career as language arts teacher, and has additional experience leading teachers, principals, and district leaders in reform efforts. Jennifer is currently completing the Urban Superintendants Program at Harvard, and she will soon receive her Doctorate in Education, Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from Harvard University.

Anyway, below is an idea of how the Chiefs of Schools are going to be organizing their Networks to do Common Core for the 2011 - 2012 school year.

First is the memo from the "Midway" Chief of Schools:

Hello Midway Network and neighboring High School principals,

ILT Sessions: The first round of quarterly ILT sessions focused on the Common Core Standards and building an aligned theory of action is quickly approaching. Attached is a flyer with specific information about the logistics for your session. Also attached is an overview of the Common Core implementation plans, followed by the list of all Network sessions on pages 3 and 4.

Please keep in mind the following:

• High schools will attend with the elementary Network that they are geographically situated in, to foster greater collaboration and articulation between grades. For example, Douglass High School is supported by the West Side HS Network, but is geographically situated within the Austin North-Lawndale Elementary Network and will attend with this group.

• Schools can bring a maximum of 4 ILT members. Central Office will pay for subs for 2 teachers. Details on procedures for this will be sent separately.

• Registration must be completed on CPSU prior to the session. See the flyer for the specific search term to use. Questions about CPSU should be directed to or 553-5060.

• We will provide 2 printed copies of the Common Core Standards. Please print additional at:

• Updated location information for Networks still listed as TBD will be provided by this Friday at the latest.

Early Adopters: Another of the major vehicles to support implementation of the Common Core Standards is the work we will be doing with the Early Adopter schools. These schools will create the exemplars of planning and instruction that can help guide the entire district. The application window closed last week, and we originally planned on announcing the schools by this past Monday. However, due to the overwhelmingly positive response (over 80 complete applications!) we’ve had to push our planned announcement date to the beginning of next week. As such, the originally planned lead teacher meeting for tomorrow has been postponed. Schools that have applied will be notified via email, and should plan on attending a kick-off event September 23rd (Track R schools-during the PD day), or September 30 (Track E-PD day).

If you have additional questions about the logistics of the ILT sessions or the Early Adopter schools, please reach out to Didi Swartz (cc’d).

Thanks for your hard work! We look forward to seeing you over the next two weeks.

Sincerely, Jennifer Cheatham, Chief of Instruction


Chicago Public Schools, 125 S.Clark St., Chicago.

Common Core State Standards 2011-2012

Overview: In the 2011-12 school year, Chicago Public Schools will be launching a multi-year initiative aimed at establishing a coherent curriculum and assessment system based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The CCSS describe what students should know and be able to do at every grade level in mathematics and literacy in order to be prepared for college and career and present a terrific opportunity to increase expectations for teaching and learning across the system.

This year, the District also restructured its “field” offices. The new structure consists of 14 elementary and 5 high school “Network” offices that are then clustered into larger geographic “Collaboratives.” The new Networks are community-based and each Collaborative includes a geographic set of schools PreK-12. This new structure provides a vehicle for creating better alignment PreK-12 to college and career readiness across all grades. The objectives for our work on the CCSS in 2011-12 are as follows:

• All schools and Network teams will become familiar with the CCSS at all grade levels • All schools and Network teams will learn how to plan (long-term and short-term) from the standards

• All schools will learn what standards-based grade-level texts and tasks look like • All schools and Network teams will learn how to create rigorous performance tasks aligned to the standards

In order to be successful, the district will use four major vehicles to launch the CCSS across the system:

1) Instructional Leadership Team (ILT) sessions— Each quarter, all Networks will bring together schools’ Instructional Leadership Teams for full-day professional development sessions. These sessions will focus on two inter-related outcomes and will be co-facilitated by the central office PD team and Network teams:

a. A shared understanding of the new Common Core State Standards and how to engage teachers in short-term and long-term planning using the standards

b. The development and monitoring of a clearly articulated Theory of Action and Action Plan aimed at student mastery of the standards

The training of ILTs is essential because a move to the new CCSS will require a dramatic shift in the daily work of schools, which requires effective shared leadership. These trainings will also allow for greater collaboration between elementary and high schools, as high school ILTs will attend the sessions alongside the elementary schools in a particular Network.

2) Training for Network Teams- Once a month, the new Network teams will participate in professional development focused on building their coaching capacity to work closely with principals, ILTs, and teacher teams in relation to the new CCSS. It will also build their capacity to support short and long-term planning using the CCSS in teacher teams.

3) Saturday training/work sessions- In addition, separate optional Saturday training/work sessions will be offered to teachers to better facilitate direct communication of the essential understandings and allow time for teachers to collaborate with their peers. This work will be jointly led by the central CCSS Work team and by coaches across the Networks.

4) CCSS Benchmark Assessments- The district will launch a quarterly CCSS-aligned benchmark assessment in literacy and mathematics for 2nd-8th grade so that educators and parents can begin to understand the level at which students are expected to perform and how students are doing at reaching that level of performance.

5) Early Adopter Schools- Finally, a sub-group of schools will participate in more intensive professional development with the standards—helping to define our common curriculum along with performance tasks and exemplars of student work and laying the groundwork for 2012-13.


September 20-29: Quarter 1 Network ILT Sessions (see next page for specific school dates)

October 17-Novemeber 4: Quarter 1 CCSS Benchmark

October 22, 29: Optional Quarter 1 Teacher work session

December 6-15: Quarter 2 Network ILT Sessions

January 11-20: Quarter 2 CCSS Benchmark

January 21, 28: Optional Quarter 2 Teacher work session

February 14-24: Quarter 3 Network IL Sessions

April 9-17: Quarter 3 CCSS Benchmark

April 14, 21: Optional Quarter 3 Teacher work session

April 24-May 3: Quarter 4 Network ILT Sessions

May 29-June 6: Quarter 4 CCSS Benchmark

Network Support, In addition to central office support, Network teams will be essential partners in this work. They will:

• Continually support principals, teachers and the community in moving toward a greater understanding of the Common Core standards and the necessary changes to instruction, planning and school structures

• Co-facilitate professional development

• Create and implement differentiated systems of follow-up and support for ILTs and grade level/course-alike teams to carry out unit planning/formative assessment development 

Quarter 1 Schedule of Network Training

• September 20: o O’Hare Network Elementary schools + Neighboring High Schools: Taft, Northside Learning, Von Steuben, Vaughn OCC, Chicago Academy, Foreman, Schurz, Roosevelt, Northside College Prep, CICS Northtown

o Pilsen, Little Village Elementary schools + Neighboring High Schools: Juarez, Spry, Farragut, Infinity, Multicultural Arts, Greater Lawndale, World Language • September 21:

o Ravenswood + Neighboring High Schools: Chicago Math and Science Academy, Sullivan, Senn, Rickover, Amundsen, Uplift, Lakeview, Lane, Devry, Mather

o Austin, North Lawndale + Neighboring High Schools: Douglass, Austin Business, Austin Polytechnical, Voise, Clark, Community West, North Lawndale Charter Christiana, Collins Academy, North Lawndale Charter Collins

• September 22:

o Fullerton + Neighboring High Schools: Steinmetz, Aspira, Kelvyn Park, Prosser, Noble St. Pritzker, Lincoln Park, CICS Quest, Payton

o Pershing + Neighboring High Schools: Air Force, Tilden, Richards, Kelly

• September 23:

o Alternative schools

• September 26:

o Garfield, Humboldt Park + Neighboring High Schools: North-Grand, Noble St. Rowe-Clark, Orr, Westinghouse, Raby, Chicago Talent, Marshall

o Midway + Neighboring High Schools: Kennedy, UNO Garcia, Curie, Solorio, Hancock, Gage Park, Hubbard, Bogan

• September 27:

o Burnham Park + Neighboring High Schools (High Schools have been split between the Burnham Park Network and the Skyway Network due to the large number of High Schools in this area): Noble St. Muchin, Instituto Academy, Jones, Perspectives Joslin, Graham, Young Women’s Charter, Urban Prep South Shore, Dunbar, Chicago Military, Chicago Arts, Perspectives IIT, Phillips, King

o Lake Calumet + Neighboring High Schools: Corliss, Washington, CICS Longwood, Carver

• September 28:

o Fulton + Neighboring High Schools: Aspira Ramirez, Clemente, Prologue Early College, Wells, Noble Golder, Noble Rauner, Best Practice, Noble Bulls, Phoenix Military, Marine Military, Crane, Young, Manley, Chicago Academy for Advanced Tech, Noble UIC, Urban Prep East Garfield Park

o Skyway + Neighboring High Schools (includes Burnham Park High Schools): Bronzeville, Williams Medicine, Shabazz Dusable, Kenwood, Dyett, Ace Tech, Hyde Park, U. of C. Woodlawn, Simeon, Noble Comer, South Shore, School of Leadership, Epic, Hirsch, Chicago Vocational, New Millenium

• September 29:

o Englewood-Gresham + Neighboring High Schools: Amandla, Hope, Lindblom, TEAM Englewood, Urban Prep, Noble Englewood, Robeson, Harper, Southside OCC, CICS Ellison, Perspectives Calumet, Perspectives Calumet Tech

o Rock Island Neighboring High Schools: Prologue Johnston, Harlan, Julian, Fenger, Morgan Park, Chicago Agricultural, Brooks


December 27, 2012 at 12:11 AM

By: Debra Buffington-Adams

What the children need before CCSS assessments

I am amazed at the intensely involved pre-planning, additional planning and post planning for instructional changes to align with Common Core which does not seem to include a thorough re-teaching of basic skills. Creating a more rigorous curriculum should have included more rigorous teaching of phonics. All the think alouds and critical thinking exercises and retelling stories are meaningless if the children still cannot read the passages effectively. Without the basics being mastered the money spent on CCSS will just be money spent. When students are able to read without being constantly told what the words are, the CCSS curriculum will fall into place more easily.

December 27, 2012 at 6:28 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Common core assumes a decline in performance

There is of course as Debra Buffington-Adams indicates a need for foundational reading skills for students to be able to meet the Common Core reading standards. But that is not the case if the unspoken presumption is that effectively those students who are currently far behind in reading skills need to be written off as the cost of reform.

The Common Core is built on the idea that the more difficult reading standards that begin at Kg will with time raise the bar for students nationally. Higher income children will probably be able to meet these standards. Lower income students will likely not be able to catch up and CPS is assuming a massive drop in the percentage of its students meeting or exceeding standards.

It is assumed that eventually all boats will rise based on the Common Core, but that has been the assumption in all education reform in our country since at least the 1950s and it has not proven to be the case. The one truth that proponents of the Common Core have in their favor is that having a slower curriculum for lower income children that spends more time on foundational reading and math skills also creates children who may eventually have basic skills but lack higher level thinking skills.

There is an economic basis for the Common Core and that is that the vast majority of the future work force will need to have higher level thinking skills and be able to manipulate data. I believe that assumption is incorrect, the greatest increase in total jobs in the future economy will be for lower level health care workers. Because of the massive advancements in computer technology the need for workers to actually utilize data may decline in the future and much of the current data crunching will be fully automated. Because of the cost factor much of the programing for this automation will be done off shore especially in India where many software companies already send much work.

Rod Estvan

December 27, 2012 at 5:39 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Eugenics, Race to the Top, and USA fascism

One of the better reads for the holiday season for me was "The War Against the Weak." As most careful students of history know, many of the Nazis' race theories were developed in the USA, with a major contribution being made by "social scientists" from my alma mater, the University of Chicago. Eugenics, the pseudo-science that gave rise to so many of the monstrosities of the middle years of the 20th Century, has been making a rapid comeback during the early years of the 21st Century.

What Rod Estvan writes about is not only an accurate rendition of current events, but it's also past history and a near certain future prophecy. As long as social darwinian monstrosities like "Race To The Top" and Common Core can be foisted on the majority of the people in the USA by the sure winners in the "one percent," we'll stay in the same muddled boat "we" were during the 1920s and 1930s, confused by the prattlings of the professors and the preachments of the paid preachers. "All children can learn..." (why didn't I think of that when I was teaching!...). High standards and all the other nonsense that's been substituted for a program that battles inequality and injustice.

I remember that during the years of USA slavery, there were those who insisted that the slavers in the South had won their patented version of the early 19th Century "Race to the Top." The proof, as far as the Arne Duncans and Barack Obamas of the world then were concerned, is that that Southern "nobility" lived in those Tara-like mansions and were able to ape the nobilities of Europe right down to the fox hunts and the other ignoble sports of kinds and lesser lords.

And during the years of Eugenics in the USA in the 20th Century, we had scribes like Margaret Mitchell ("Gone With The Wind") wrapping the same garbage in ribbons and bows for mass consumption by the very same working class men and women (including my two parents) who would a few years later have to march across Europe and up through the Pacific to defeat those monstrous ideas -- at least for a couple of generations.

Arne, Barack, David and the rest of those guys wouldn't be caught dead quoting from Mein Kampf, but the fact is, their theories and even their apologetics for their vicious programs are based on the same ideologies that were being preached by the Eugenicists in the first 40 years of the last Century.

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