Rahm Emanuel, Jean-Claude Brizard stage media infomercial for Noble Street Charter Schools

Two days after the Chicago Board of Education voted to add 12 more charter schools to what it is currently calling its "Portfolio" of schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer staged another of their publicity stunts, this one to tout the wonders of Noble Street Charter Schools. The event, which took place on the morning of December 16, 2011, followed the same script that the mayor and Brizard have been using lately to promote favored education projects — a staged "discussion" with people (during which TV cameras are on but reporters can't ask questions, followed by a carefully staged question and answer session.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (center at podium below) staged another scripted media event a week before Christmas vacation is to begin for the city's public schools at the Noble Street Charter School "Pritzker Campus" on December 16, 2011. Above, Emanuel stands under one of the many motivational slogans that dot the school, while discussing how he wants every school and teacher in Chicago to emulate Noble Street's tradition of dotting its halls and classrooms with the banners of colleges and universities. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.At this particular media event, the mayor and Brizard sat in the usual horseshoe table, where they were flanked by six students, three Noble Street graduates now in college and three seniors who are about to attend college. The entire event was meant to promote "college and career readiness" and the uplifting mantra, preached by the mayor and all those around him, that basically says that all a school needs to get all students to succeed is a "culture" that promotes success.

All external factors, from poverty to gangs to broken families, are supposedly factored out when the "Noble Way" is in place. During the re-run of the question-and-answer script that has been utilized by Emanuel and Brizard on several occasions in the past, reporters are barred from asking questions. They are there to record, mainly for TV cameras, the happy faces presented by the mayor and CPS.

During the past few months, Substance has covered similar events at Perez Elementary School (releasing the bizarre "report card" that trashed most of the city's real public schools), Morton "School of Excellence" (promoting the AULS "turnaround model" in opposition to the supposed "failure" of real public schools in Chicago), and at Chicago Police Headquarters (a huge gathering supposedly doing a "CompStat CPS" which was really a carefully staged event designed to present TV images of the mayor and others in command of reality). For those unable to access the hotlinks above, the URLs for these stories are:§ion=Article (for the Perez story).§ion=Article (for the story promoting the "Morton School of Excellence" and AUSL). (for the CompStat story).

At the bend in the performance horseshoe that has come to characterize the setting for Rahm Emanuel's quasi-informal discussions with people sat Pablo Sierra (left front), Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard (whom Emanuel constantly refers to, even in the Christmas season, as "JC"). The classroom above, which apparently was used for Advanced Placement U.S. History classes on a regular school day, had been carefully arranged for the event. Neither the mayor nor his group asked why there were no students (except those in the above photograph) at "Pritzker College Prep" on December 16, 2011, although the day was a regular school day for real CPS public schools. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The event included the usual claim, voiced by Emanuel since his election campaign a year ago, that Noble Street's high school "campuses" are the most successful "non selective enrollment high schools" in Chicago. Nobody was allowed to mention the fact that for more than a decade, since Noble Street opened its doors in 1999, those who operate Noble Street engage in an annual ritual of making sure that their most low performing students leave "Noble" and return, sometimes in large numbers, to real public high schools.

The idea of a Pritzker as "Rosie The Riveter," the classic World War II production poster, was one of the many motivational posters and slogans scattered across the city. Although the mayor's December 16, 2011, infomercial for Noble Street's "Pritzker Campus" was held in part in a room studying Advanced Placement U.S. History, it is unlikely that the kids at Pritzker will study the history of the Pritzker family, which devoted itself (under the leadership of A.N. Pritzker, the family patriarch) to accumulating wealth during World War II — not to fighting against Nazis or to making things for the war effort. The basis of the Pritzker fortune was laid by "A.N." during the Depression and World War II based on crony capitalism (close ties to Chicago political leaders Jacob Arvey and some unique associations with the legal work of Chicago's mob. By the time the wounded veterans and the more than ten million Americans who had actually fought the war returned home, the foundations of the massive Pritzker fortune had been secured (but not through any sacrifices on the battlefields of Europe or in the fiery battles of the Pacific. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.A major focus of the event was to promote the mayor's request that every school and teacher in Chicago display college and university banners — from kindergarten through high school — as Noble Street schools do to promote a focus on college preparation. Emanuel told the assembled reporters that he had asked the major colleges in universities across the country to donate banners for each of Chicago's public schools, and that many had already complied.

The staging of a mayoral media event in Chicago provides some benefit to the local community. During the hour before the arrival of the mayor's entourage at "Pritzker College Prep" (above), two Chicago garbage trucks went through the streets with extra crews, who not only made sure there was no garbage in the area, but also picked up litter along adjacent blocks. A street sweeper also went back and forth down Cortland in front of the school until it almost shined. The above photograph was taken a half hour before the officially announced start time for the mayor's event at Pritzker. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The staging of a Rahm Emanuel media event in a gritty community such as the one surrounding "Pritzker College Prep Campus of the Noble Network of Charter Schools" does provide some help for the community. During the hour before the arrival of the mayoral entourage, two Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation garbage trucks and a street sweeper patrolled back and forth along the streets adjacent to the school, while a crew of approximately a dozen people went down the blocks picking up trash. Two neighbors confirmed that such attention to the trash in the area around the school is not common, although both asked not to be named. One of those who served as part of the entourage was 30th Ward Alderman Ariel Reboyras, who is emerging as a City Council ally of Emanuel.

Following the event, the Mayor's Press Office issued a press release. Apparently, the purpose of the event was to give the mayor a forum to announce what is being called a "Pennant Drive." But this is not about the Chicago White Sox or Chicago Cubs. Read what the mayor is calling his "Pennant Drive" below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 16, 2011. CONTACT: Mayor’s Press Office. (312) 744-3334

MAYOR EMANUEL ANNOUNCES PENNANT DRIVE TO PROMOTE COLLEGE AS A GOAL FOR EVERY STUDENT IN THE CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Best practice from Noble Network of Charter Schools will be replicated throughout CPS system

Today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO JC Brizard held a roundtable event with current and former students of Pritzker College Prep, part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools. The roundtable discussion involved discussions with the students about their aspirations for college. After the discussion, the Mayor announced a college pennant drive that will be showcased throughout the Chicago Public Schools.

“An integral part of the school culture at Noble schools is to set high expectations – they expect that all of their students will go to college,” said Mayor Emanuel. “We are going to replicate this best practice in every elementary and high school in the city by hanging school pennants. In every hallway of every CPS school, our students will be thinking about college and the prospect of continuing their education in the future.”

The Mayor’s office contacted more than 250 colleges to participate in the college pennant drive, in which colleges from throughout the United States donate pennants that will then be hung in CPS schools. To date 61 schools are participating or have committed to participate in the pennant project, for a total of 5,187 pennants donated or committed by schools. Teachers and staff members are able to hang the pennants of their alma maters directly next to the door, outside of their room, providing consistent inspiration and reminders for the students about the prospect and value of a college education.

“It is essential that we search everywhere for best practices and great ideas that can inspire our students,” said JC Brizard. “The Noble Schools celebrate the achievements of their alumni and promote the idea of college, and this is something that we want to replicate throughout our system. All CPS schools should be setting high standards for themselves and their students.”

Every Noble campus that has alumni, five to date, has created an 'alumni hall,’ a portion of the campus that is centrally located so that every student will see it every single day. Pennants are hung from the colleges that alumni of the Noble School attend, along with plaques to commemorate the graduated students who attend those schools. The purpose is to celebrate those students who have gone on and graduated from college and to motivate current students to achieve the successes as their peers.

Two of the people who stayed behind the scenes during the media event were Noble Charter Schools CEO Michael Milkie (above left) and the mayor's special assistant for education, Elizabeth (Beth) Swanson. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.“We think it's important for students to see that each of the adults in the building has achieved the goal we're expecting for them - college graduation,” said Michael Milkie, CEO and superintendent of Noble Network of Charter Schools. “This also gives students an opportunity to reach out to someone who has attended a college they are considering. And finally, it opens the doors for communication about a wide range of school locations, conferences, sizes and programs.”

Outside of the pennants, the Noble Schools have achieved tremendous success in a short period of time and have become the inspiration for many approaches and best practices being used throughout CPS. The schools are known for strong leadership, data-driven analysis and decision-making, and a high degree of accountability.

The results are striking. Seven of the top 10 non-selective high schools in the city are Noble Schools. The schools serve 6,500 students and have a waitlist of more than 3,000, and the average ACT score is nearly 3 points higher at Noble Schools than in the rest of the CPS system. Last year, 1,976 people applied for the 126 open teaching positions at Noble.