'World Class' Chicago doubletalk in a library without a librarian... Latest Chicago publicity stunt touts controversial 'standards' and new 'Report Card' in a library the children can't use!

The library certainly looked pretty, albeit much smaller than the library a few miles away at the expensive private school where Chicago's mayor sends his children. And the books in the library were certainly the kinds of books that children in the elementary grades would want to be checking out and reading. But the books weren't available to any of those children, because the school is one of 160 in Chicago that doesn't have a library or librarian this year. But the location was great, apparently, for the staging of another Chicago school reform media event, so two of the most powerful men in America's third largest city took to the stage to do another publicity stunt on behalf of what they call "world class standards" for Chicago's children, in a location that indicated that those standards apparently do not include books.

Using the books in Chicago's Perez Elementary School as a kind of Hollywood stage setting for another Chicago education reform media event, Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard (left), Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (center), and Manuel Perez Elementary School principal Vicky Kleros talked to the press on the morning of November 14, 2011. When asked whether Perez had a librarian to staff the library within which the media event was held, the principal, finally, answered "No." The multi-million dollar Chicago extravaganza of corporate "school reform" now includes testing at every level from Pre-K and kindergarten (DIBELS) to eighth grade, but actual books for the city's working class children are not considered an essential part of Chicago's latest iteration of "school reform." While the media event was being staged in the closed library of Manuel Perez Elementary School, dozens of teachers were out of their classrooms downstairs working on Power Points and "Common Core." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Double and triple-talk as only Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his hand-picked schools chief, Jean-Claude Brizard can do it. The mayor of the third largest school system in the USA hosted a publicity stunt in the library of the Perez Elementary School in Chicago’s Pilsen community, proclaiming a series of untested “accountability” mandate and a new report card to supposedly bring Perez’s children up to what Emanuel calls “world class standards” — in a library that doesn’t have a librarian.

The latest confusion comes as a result of two versions of reality being presented by CPS and Chicago officials regarding Chicago's public schools' progress since mayoral control began in 1995. According to one version, which was standard until the election of Rahm Emanuel to succeed Mayor Richard M. Daley this year, the schools had made "steady progress" as measured by various test scores between 1995 (when Daley first got control over the schools) and 2010 (the last year by means of which Daley's regime could be measured).

The "progress" generally announced by Daley and his various appointees at CPS (Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, and Ron Huberman all served as "chief executive officer" of CPS during the Daley years) was supposedly proved as measured by standardized test scores. When Daley began his control, the schools were supposedly measured by the Illinois Goals Assessment Program (IGAP) and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS). By 1977, the IGAP was no longer being used, and the ITBS (and its high school version, the Tests of Achievement and Proficiency) were the measuring stick. After Paul Vallas was ousted in 2001 and replaced by Arne Dunca, CPS began standardizing on the Illinois state tests, which were used under the federal No Child Left Behind program. The two Illinois tests were the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) for the elementary years, and the Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE) for the high school years.

For most years, the ISAT and Prairie State tests showed "gains" in Chicago test scores.

Enter Rahm Emanuel in May 2011, and within two months CPS was claiming that the ISAT and PSAEs had been wrong, that the whole Chicago version of "standards and accountability" had been flawed, and that a new version of measuring schools had to be introduced: so-called "world class standards" now supposedly being measured by a thing called the "Common Core" (which actually does not exist except in theory at the present time). Almost immediately after he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of CPS by Emanuel, Jean-Claude Brizard began saying that Chicago needed to be measured by a standard he called "College and Career Ready," and that the "old" ISAT and PSAE standards really hadn't measured that. Suddenly, success became failure, and the old good became bad.

By November 2011, Emanuel and Brizard were pushing their version of Common Core and their disrespect for the previous versions of standards and accountability across the city, telling schools that where they had really believed they had been succeeding they had really been failing. The event at Perez Elementary School on November 14, 2011, was one example of that. Even though Perez is supposedly a successful school, it is actually "failing." The choice of Perez became obvious as the event went on, especially when the school's principal simply accepted, smiling, the verdict that said here school was not what it had been. "At first it's a shock, it's a shock to anyone who sees it," Perez Principal Vicky Kleros told reporters and parents during the event. "It's really a sobering score card."

Looking on, both Emanuel and Brizard smiled. But neither they nor Kleros could actually explain how one new set of criteria (which include a hodge-podge of testings and other things, none of which has ever been fit together and proved to measure anything like Emanuel is claiming they do) was any more valid, reliable or fair than the previous criteria. Had the scene been crafted by George Orwell and set in a barnyard during the Stalin years, it would have been a chapter from "Animal Farm." Whether Brizard or Emanuel is Napoleon can be left to literary students, but Kleros was clearly playing her role.

Officially, the media event was one in an ongoing series of carefully selected focus groups that Brizard (sometimes with Emanuel) has been holding with parents across the city as part of what some are calling a "charm offensive" in the buildup to the December 1 announcement that once again Chicago will be closing a number of schools in order to save them.

The November 14 event was larger than most (virtually all Chicago's corporate media were there) because it was also the event at which Mayor Emanuel unveiled a new "interactive map" so that parents and others could locate good schools (and, presumably, find the "bad" ones) based on the latest iteration of "Standards and Accountability" for Chicago's massive public school system. The latest version of this, which was unveiled in a Power Point at the October 26, 2011 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, divides all Chicago public schools into three categories (with 'One' being the 'good' schools; 'Two' being in the middle, and 'Three' failing). According to CPS officials, based on their latest recombination of the numbers, the majority of Chicago public high schools are now failing, and almost 40 percent of the elementary schools are, too.

The first phase of the event featured Chicago's mayor, schools CEO, and the principal of Perez sitting in a semi-circle in the school's library surrounded by parents and two aldermen, Danny Solis of the ward in which Perez is located and Latasha Thomas, chairman of the City Council Education Committee. The parents around the table were each asked questions about what they were looking for in a school for their children and how the new "Report Card" and map might help them.

The event was then opened up for questions from the press, who were still, for the most part, trying to figure out how CPS had been improving (according to test scores) for the past four or five years of the Daley administration but had suddenly discovered that it was really mostly "failing" (according to test scores) now that Emanuel and Brizard had "recalibrated" the data to bring into play what they are calling "world class standards" based on a number of tests and measures that are generally not supposed to be utilized for such things.

The back and forth between the mayor and some of the reporters, who seem to be becoming a bit skeptical about the claims of CPS officials, went on until this reporter asked, appropos of the "Climate and Culture" part of the Report Card, whether the library in which everyone was sitting had a librarian so that the children everyone was talking about could utilize the books everyone was sitting in the midst of.

After a pause, the principal answered: "No."

In a mayoral press release issued during the event and provide to reporters, City Hall stated the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. November 14, 2011. CONTACT: Mayor’s Press Office, (312) 744-3334

Mayor Emanuel, CPS Unveil Interactive Online Map Where Public Can View All School Progress

Report Cards Providing Detailed School Performance Data, School Progress Report Cards Also Available to Parents During Report Card. Pickup for Regular Track Schools on Wednesday and Thursday

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard met with parents at Perez Elementary School in Pilsen to discuss the new school progress report cards that all parents will receive this week during report card pickup as well as two comprehensive measures to ensure the public has access to critical data on schools citywide. The public will have access a comprehensive online map that will allow parents to view key performance data for schools in their area or anywhere in the city.

“We cannot close the achievement gap and provide our children with the education they need and deserve without accountability in our school system. This new tool empowers parents to hold schools accountable for performance and provides them with another opportunity to be engaged in the education of their children,” said Mayor Emanuel.

School progress report cards tell the story of a school’s performance by providing information about academic performance, teachers and staffing, school culture and climate, and parent satisfaction. The progress reports provide easy-to-read charts on each indicator that synthesize data on graduation rates, student and staff attendance rates, student-teacher ratios, school safety, and the percentage of students at grade level in reading and math, among other factors.

“Parents are key partners in our effort to support principals and teachers in helping to boost student performance. We want to provide them with access to data on performance in a clear and understandable way so that they can be informed and fully engaged in their child’s education,” CEO Brizard added.

In addition, Mayor Emanuel announced that the public will have access to all school progress report cards through a comprehensive online map. Parents will be able to view all schools within their area and click on the “push-pin” associated with a school to view a pop-up box with key facts from the progress report card. The popup box will include school name as well as the school’s performance level, safety score, family involvement score, key testing data measuring college readiness and, for high schools, both the graduation rate and college enrollment rates. At the bottom of the box, users will be able to click on a link to full progress report card for that school.

While progress report cards put the student performance data into context and the online map helps parents compare schools in their areas, the mayor also announced that data on each school would be available at To date, this is the largest data dump of CPS information on individual schools and will offer the public information on 30 key areas critical to student academic success ranging from student test scores to parent involvement ratings.

The progress report cards look beyond the traditional metric of Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) data to tools that better gauge college readiness. Instead, parents will find information on the percent of students who perform at grade level compared to their national peers, based on the growth assessments CPS implemented district-wide in 2010. The progress reports also show the percent of students keeping pace academically compared to their peers nationwide from the beginning to the end of the school year.

In eighth grade, CPS administers EXPLORE, an assessment of college readiness that demonstrates what percentage of students is graduating from an elementary school are prepared for high school. These results are also included to help measure student academic performance within elementary schools.

"Rohm" and "Zohm" (taking a bite of accountability from Rohm) on October 31, 2011 at the Substance offices. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In addition, CPS is providing parents with a report on the performance of students in the early elementary grades in both literacy and math. Student progress in pre-kindergarten through second grade is crucial for ensuring that students are successful later in elementary and high school, which is why the district has placed an emphasis on providing opportunities for preschool and full-day kindergarten citywide.

At the high school level, student progress will be measured in three distinct ways:

· Student Progress toward College Readiness: This includes reporting the average ACT score for our juniors. This test score is an important part of each student’s college application and students need a score of 21 or higher to have a good chance of success in their college courses. In addition, reports use data from freshmen and sophomore scores on EXPLORE and PLAN, which gauge college readiness.

· College Eligibility: In addition to the high school graduation rate, CPS is also reporting a college eligibility rate. This rate is based on the combination of ACT scores and GPA seniors must achieve in order to be eligible for enrollment for a selective or highly selective college. · College Enrollment: CPS is also reporting the college enrollment rate. This represents the percentage of seniors who enroll in a two- or four-year college the fall after high school graduation.

CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard met with parents of students in CPS schools throughout the summer to gain their feedback on what should be included in the school progress report cards and the school culture was one element parents wanted more information about. Progress reports include comprehensive information on the culture, climate and safety within the school from student and teacher surveys conducted by the University of Chicago. In addition, parent survey results for each school will include both parents’ perceptions of school engagement and the quality of the school environment.

School progress report cards aim to empower parents to spark conversations with teachers about their child’s performance and what their school needs to succeed. To view the interactive map of schools and their progress report cards, please visit


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