Sections:

Article

CEOs say the dumbest things when they are teacher bashing and union busting... Jean-Clause Brizard on Fox News with Robin Robinson prattling on through his talking points and babbling nonsense

Substance just published the January 2012 print issue of Substance, which keeps us on schedule during our 36th year of publication. The majority of stories are focusing on the struggles against the lies of CPS, centered on Jean-Claude Brizard and "turnaround." Meanwhile, our colleagues in the city's corporate media keep letting Brizard go on and on without forcing him to appear with anyone who knows what they are talking about to refute every one of his lies and slanderous talking points (e.g., did readers know that "123,000 students aren't getting an education..."? See the Fox News interview below). However, a couple of recent examples demonstrate that even in the most reactionary news centers in Chicago some reporters are trying to get the facts straight, even when they are forced to do one-on-one interviews with Jean-Claude Brizard (and do them without anyone who knows the facts there to contradict his talking points).

Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard (right, at Chicago Police Headquarters on December 13, 2011 for "CompStat CPS) has been under closer and closer scrutiny by Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) as Brizard's inability to talk about the real issues facing Chicago and its schools becomes more clear every time the Schools CEO retreats into puerile talking points and vacuous smiles, as he did on Fox News on January 10, 2012. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Take the following exchanges from a recent Fox News interview with Robin Robinson.

Robinson: I know principals who say you give me a full time social worker, etc., two assistant principals, and I can make a world of difference in this school.

Brizard: I was a principal, I can tell you that won't work. Having a social worker in one school will not make a school better overnight.

By now, everyone knows that CPS is blaming the furniture for the problems in some schools, while planning to fire teacher, lunchroom workers, security assistants, engineers and custodians. After all, we can't say "low performing children" (which is who gets the "low" scores) or "bad teachers" (because even thought we're teaching bashing we love teachers), so the viewer gets the following Bizarre from Brizard:

Robinson: But then you'll read of other parents who said their school was low-performing and it was phased out, phased down their kids were supposed to go someplace else, and the someplace else is no better, there may be a better option in their neighborhood, a charter school for instance that they can't get into. So for many kids, they're just kinda caught in the shuffle.

Brizard: That's exactly it, you are on target, so... Our issue with charters is that we don't have enough seats, which is why we have to have a lottery. So we need better, more and better, high quality seats in schools across the city so parents don't have to go through a lottery, they don't have to beg to find a good school. That is our aim.

Or take this other exchange, where Brizard manages to squirm around within his talking point and insult Robinson by evading the answer at least twice (and always going back to that "when I was a teacher" stuff...).

Brizard: Ultimately, it's gonna be about student achievement.

Robinson: How will we measure student achievement? ISATs?

Brizard: Well, that's one tool. The problem with the exam is not the test itself, but the proficiency score. I'm not a big fan of the ISAT but nonetheless it's the tool I have. Robinson: We're gonna judge you by it! Have to bring scores up. In the next few weeks ISATS are coming up. Are teachers teaching to the test?

Probably because Robin Robinson hasn't been covering CPS Board meetings, she doesn't know that since June, Brizard's mantra, backed up by those mendacious Power Points, has been that the measure of "standards" is "college and career ready" as measured by ACT, Inc.'s testings (the Explore, PLAN, and ACT). Brizard wouldn't dare say that to Robinson, because that would put on national TV the fact that Brizard and Chicago are pushing a "standard" that even the "standard's" own publisher (ACT Inc.) would never claim could do the job Brizard, Oliver Sicat, Tim Cawley, and the others have claimed during Board meetings. But they cannot get away with these lies forever, so let's keep demanding that Brizard face people who actually know more about the city's public schools.

One of the best things about reporting for Substance on CPS the past seven months, since Rahm Emanuel was inaugurated (that was in May 2011), was factually tracing how Chicago's corporate media have been the willing victims of staged media events and publicity stunts staged on behalf of the mayor's schools policy — and against the city's teachers.

Last month, Substance featured one of those policies in our editorial cartoon — "Rahm's Rent-A-Protest and "Rent-A-Preacher".

Substance had been exposing those since August, when Rahm staged a media event for selected preachers at Sox Park (United room). One of our favorite moments was the Rent A Protest at City Hall the day Chicago City Council voted on its resolution in favor of Rahm's version of the "Longer School Day." But all of the Rent A Protests came into focus last Friday, on January 6, 2012, when Rahm's rentals brought in people (many desperately poor and in need of the money) for $25 to $75 per person to oppose the Chicago Teachers Union and support the closing of schools from Crane High School to Guggenheim Elementary. We exposed the buses, the protesters (many of whom joined our side) and the preachers who filled the buses. The only question now is where the $20,000 to $30,000 for the payoffs and the buses came from, and none of the preachers wants to talk with us about that. Yet... But the big news today (January 10 and 11, 2012) was the lengthy interview with Jean-Claude Brizard on Fox News. Don't take my word for it that this lengthy series of rather mindless talking points deserves its place in a series called "CEOs say the dumbest things..." Read the whole thing and see for yourself. The URL for those who cannot get the hotlink above is: http://www.myfoxchicago.com/dpp/news/education/chicago-cps-public-schools-education-teacher-strike-union-negotiation-jean-claude-brizard-20120110

Here is what Fox News put up. We haven't checked to see if it's precise, but it reads like what he was saying.

BRIZARD ON FOX NEWS JANUARY 10, 2012. Chicago CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard Grades His Mid-Term Performance. Updated: Tuesday, 10 Jan 2012, 6:38 PM CST
Published : Tuesday, 10 Jan 2012, 6:24 PM CST By Robin Robinson, FOX Chicago News

Chicago - Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard sat down with FOX Chicago News anchor Robin Robinson on Jan. 9, 2012, to share his thoughts about progress at CPS, as the district gets ready for the annual New Schools for Chicago Expo, where parents will be able to meet charter and alternative school leaders. Robinson: Are you determined to stick with plan to have CPS students in school seven-and-a-half hours a day, or are you watching what's going on now and planning to adjust?

Brizard: Part of it for me is not just to benchmark to the best districts in America, but to become a leader in the nation around education reform. What we had was a situation where we were last among big cities in America, with this implementation beginning next fall, we'll edge out the rest and be slightly ahead, not too far ahead but slightly ahead of the pack.

Robinson: But that's just in terms of minutes. And the parents' group Stand for Children, which stood with CPS in terms of the new law in the state for school reform, does not stand with you on seven-and-a-half-hours. They think that's just a little too long. They'd like to see something a little less.

Brizard: It really is about providing enough time for what we know teachers have to do, and kids have to do to be successful. So the pioneer schools have been tremendously helpful in terms of identifying the need.

Today, for instance, at Mays Elementary, the principal told us and the social studies teacher told me that before they had to trade off between history and science, on and off. Now they don't have to do that.

Robinson: Now they have it every day.

Brizard: Exactly. So that's the gauge that we're using, so the time, the minutes are important, we want to make sure that kids get the right amount, teachers get the right amount too,

Robinson: But they have some flexibility. if there's a school where everybody's doing fine in math and reading, but they would like to have some art or music or social/emotional learning?

Brizard: Almost yes. Part of it for me too is to take a look at the new standards, the common core standards.

I think every single school in our system can benefit from additional time in English language arts and mathematics. I love enrichment, I love intervention, I love recess, but when you take a look at the new standards kids have to meet in English and in mathematics and in science, they need more time to get there. None of us, I think, not just in Chicago but in America, are really where we need to be to compete with our colleagues overseas.

Robinson: Well we do have some complaints from parents at high performing schools about the amount of homework. and if we're gonna spend more time at school and still have this immense homework load, is there gonna be any easing up of that?

Brizard: I'm not big on having system-wide policies on homework, but really for teachers to use their judgment as far as what's required. Practice is important in school, not just at home, but in school. As you know, I have many kids who go to homes where they don't get the chance to practice, so that has to happen in school. So, I like homework, I used to give it as a teacher, but I'm a bigger proponent of practicing in school.

Robinson: Many parents argue if they were teaching you this in school, you wouldn't be spending four to five hours on it at home.

Brizard: Homework is supposed to be practice, not to go back and do more work. That's supposed to happen within the school day. What you get is the argument for making the school day longer.

TEACHER CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS Robinson: As you go into contract negotiations with teachers union, are you starting at seven-and-a-half hours so you can maybe back down to six hours and 45 minutes or maybe give you some leeway?

Brizard: Let's be clear. We don't need to negotiate the time with the teachers union. We have to negotiate the impact of changing the workday (as in, the money they get for it). Money, other kinds of issues, are part of the bargaining, but the time that we're looking to extend the school day, is within our control. We do want our teachers on board, we do want their help, we want them to be on board we want them to be part of our process, which is why about 600 teachers have been involved in this conversation about the full school day, and we have a small group of teachers who are helping us write the documents, the guidance documents for all schools across our system, so they are engaged in our process. At the same time though, we can implement without CTU's permission.

Robinson: But it could still be a negotiating tactic. You could still — "How bout seven hours?" It could still be on the table.

Brizard: To be clear though, we don't want to negotiate our core values. When you look at what we have to do for our children, when you look at the time that we need, being last in the country, watching what some of the pioneer schools have said to me, in terms of not having enough time for science or social studies, you can't negotiate the fact that you have to give kids the fundamentals to be successful. Let's negotiate how fairly we have to treat our employees, and what teachers actually need to be successful, but let's make sure we don't negotiate what kids need to be successful.

WHAT PARENTS SHOULD BE DOING. Robinson: What should parents be doing right now as all schools are thinking about what they're going to do with this extra 22 minutes a day or whatever it turns out to be?

Brizard: One, get engaged. Go to the local school council meeting to talk about, and talk to the principal about what they're planning to do for next year. We are providing guidelines for schools, but there's some autonomy, some flexibility, for them to implement the how of making this happen. Get involved in that conversation.

Second, parents should always be a partner in a child's education, meaning for instance, what kind of homework is being given, if any, um, what a parent can do to support a teacher, in terms of museums, you know, math practices, not having too much television on at night, making sure you go to bed on time, all of that comes to, and be part of the work that we have to do as we prepare a kid to be successful.

Robinson: There are parents who have never approached an official at their kids' school. Aren't schools required to get parent feedback as they plan the full day?

Brizard: We can't require someone to collaborate, but that's key to our success. We're doing it as a system, talking to our parents, having focus group meetings, principals have to do the same, they have to engage the PTA, the local school council, in that conversation. Again, we have the parameters, but they have to innovate within those parameters.

Robinson: You can't make parents come, but is there a framework where you are saying you must have meetings where parents have to be invited into that conversation?

Brizard: It's part of our training in getting principals to really understand they have to engage their larger community. The pioneer schools have done that with great success in engaging the parents in terms of understanding what has to be done, but again, it's the right thing to do. And principals have to do it, teachers and their teams have to do this otherwise you're gonna get into this antagonistic relationship with your parents, you don't need that.

TURNAROUND SCHOOLS. Robinson: you had quite a hefty number of school actions announced last month. how many schools turned around or shut down?

Brizard: The big story is the turnaround, the largest turnaround effort in the history of CPS. So about 25 school actions, again that can be a bit misleading because the three schools are finishing their phase-out that's technically part of that, a school that closed last year is part of that, but really the big story is the turnaround.

MOVING KIDS AROUND/BRONZEVILLE SITUATION Robinson: Around those school actions there's a lot of angst. Parents who say, "What about the upheaval in those students' lives, those neighborhoods?"

Brizard: The Bronzeville community, I think is the hot topic right now in our city. When I met with the group KOCO, when I met with the Community Action Council (the CAC), that's exactly what we talked about, what I heard back in June from them. I met with them three or four times, met with them more than any other group in the city.

I heard that from parents, "You closed my school, you moved me someplace else. That school then got closed again!" We're very careful now not to do that, which is why the big story is the turnaround. Kids are not being displaced, they stay where they are. Just two schools really will be closures. Those kids are moving to much better places, places we know are on trajectories for great success. One of them is a level one school, one of the best schools in the city. So we're being very careful for that not to happen again in the future.

Robinson: But you understand the skepticism when it has not been proven that moving kids from failing schools to, usually, other schools that are failing almost as badly has not resulted in some better outcome for them. And in fact, many of them aren't even tracked so we don't know the result of them being moved from a low-performing school.

Brizard: Which is why we're not doing that, that's exactly it. We have seen in the past, this is what CPS has done, and I understand we have to gain peoples trust to understand that we are very different than what happened in the past and we understand that. Which is why we did not do that. So when you look at Price Elementary, for instance, those children are being moved to National Teachers Academy, a Level One school, $35 million building, phenomenal structure, great school and NTA, trust me, is gonna be one of the best schools -- I had one parent actually visited, wrote me a letter, and said, "My god, I walked into that school, I was in love, do what you have to do."

Robinson: But then you'll read of other parents who said their school was low-performing and it was phased out, phased down their kids were supposed to go someplace else, and the someplace else is no better, there may be a better option in their neighborhood, a charter school for instance that they can't get into. So for many kids, they're just kinda caught in the shuffle.

Brizard: That's exactly it, you are on target, so... Our issue with charters is that we don't have enough seats, which is why we have to have a lottery. So we need better, more and better, high quality seats in schools across the city so parents don't have to go through a lottery, they don't have to beg to find a good school. That is our aim.

NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS. Robinson: Why, the question is, can't you bring those resources to bear on an existing neighborhood school — probably the people there could succeed if they had all those resources?

Brizard: We have. We've spent millions in places like Price and Guggenheim and other schools in the city with no results whatsoever. When you take a look at the amount of money we've spent on places like Dyett and Crane, millions of dollars sometimes above and beyond the regular CPS allocation, the human resource we've poured into those buildings over a decade, and we're still losing half the kids to dropping out, we know that has not been successful.

And as an educator, 25 years in this work, I can tell you that money by itself doesn't solve it, even though we've spent money into those buildings, it's the human talent, it's the leadership, there's so much that goes into this recipe of creating a good school, when you see the historical failure you know no amount of money is gonna make it any better. Robinson: Because you've seen historical failure, how do you know no amount of money's gonna make it any better?

Brizard: One, we've spent the money in CPS. Two, in other cities I've been to, and other examples around the country, we have seen where the US government, the state governemnt, the local city school districts have put millions into these places, with no results whatsoever.

Robinson: So it must be the people, it's not the money.

Brizard: It's all of the above. So I'm saying very simply is that no one individual slice is responsible for the failure. It often is a toxic mix of failure that creates, that perpetuates that kind of failure. We know what goes into the ingredients for creating a good successful school.

Robinson: So if you're in a neighborhood with five low performing schools, one of those is being turned around next year and they're gonna have full time social worker, etc. -- how do the other schools who were not targets for action compete with that? They still have all the lack of resources that kept them low-performing.

Brizard: I would argue very simply it's not about competition. It's about creating good schools everywhere. At times, I think we have as a system, we have to admit failure, and say that we've poured millions into these schools, we've given them a lot of those kinds of support, with not much difference in terms of the achievement.

I think I met the principal of Howe Elementary back in May. She said to me that the former staff came and visited and they said what'd you do with the kids? And she said, walk around. It's the exact same kids but a whole different atmosphere in the school, leadership, the teachers, all of the above was changed to create a different sort of mix that created success in that school.

Robinson: But didn't that principal have some resources that the previous administration at that school didn't have?

Brizard: Some, but not much. But, but --

Robinson: I know principals who say you give me a full time social worker, etc., two assistant principals, and I can make a world of difference in this school.

Brizard: I was a principal, I can tell you that won't work. Having a social worker in one school will not make a school better overnight.

Robinson: Nothing's gonna make it better overnight!

Brizard: No panacea, it is a mix. it is a mix of issues that have to come together, so lets go back to the USL, you have an aligned principal, with aligned teachers who've been trained specifically to come and turn your school around. So that doesn't happen by accident, it happens by design, when you have people come in who are ready for that kind of challenge to take a dysfunctional system or school and make it better, so it's not just more money, or a social worker, it's a whole dynamic of people who have to come together to make it happen. It's never the kid, it's never the student. It's always about the adults.

Robinson: For parents who feel their kids are guinea pigs... they're trying something else... what do you say to those parents who feel their kids have been experimented on?

Brizard: I say to them, let's go visit together. Go and see. Don't take my word for it. Go to Howe, go to Harvard, go to the schools that have been turned around in the past few years. Go see for yourself. We are not experimenting. We are using proven practices, unlike past efforts, these are proven practices to actually make the system work.

Robinson: Parents often see great schools with not enough seats.

Brizard: I have 123,000 kids who everyday go to a school that is low quality, who are not getting an education, the vast majority are not getting an education, I have a problem. I don't have enough capacity right now to do all of it, so what we've started is a slice, but this is a multi-multi-year effort, I need much more to get done in this city.

When you look at neighborhoods in the city where I have kids who are dying, I have kids who are not educated, kids who are underemployed, unemployable, skills gap, a drop-out situation that is unacceptable, nearly 40 percent of my high school kids are dropping out of high school. Those are the issues we have as a city. To fix it will take many more than one year and what we've done so far is a slice of what has to be done.

MEASURING PROGRESS. Brizard: I'm impatient, things have to happen for me right away, again I have kids who are in the educational emergency room. I don't have time to sit and argue. We have work to do. We need to engage our community. So I say to people: You already are seeing results, largest turnaround efforts, these are formative right now. In terms of full school day, we are giving teachers the time they need for kids to practice.

Robinson: When will we see results and how will we measure them?

Brizard: Ultimately, it's gonna be about student achievement.

Robinson: How will we measure student achievement? ISATs?

Brizard: Well, that's one tool. The problem with the exam is not the test itself, but the proficiency score. I'm not a big fan of the ISAT but nonetheless it's the tool I have. Robinson: We're gonna judge you by it! Have to bring scores up. In the next few weeks ISATS are coming up. Are teachers teaching to the test?

Brizard: Good schools, good teachers, never teach to the test. If you have good teaching the results come by themselves. I was a teacher. I can tell you that. And I had an exit exam at the end of my physics class, but I taught the course. I taught the standards. You do that, you will get the results.

Robinson: So over the next few weeks, the teachers shouldn't be doing anything different.

Brizard: They should be teaching to the standards year-round. Shouldn't be a crunch when all of us are getting worried about this one test.

Robinson: But every high performing grammar school — parents spend for ISAT prep — we are teaching and learning to the test.

Brizard: Some people I'm sure are doing that, but I'll tell you great teachers and great schools don't teach to the test, they teach to the standards.



Comments:

January 12, 2012 at 4:27 PM

By: Rod Estvan

CEO Brizard's interview

Substance as always does pick up on important things and Robin Robinson's interview with CEO Brizard was important. Before I say more, much credit needs to be given to Robin Robinson for her questioning and whether Substance readers agree or not with me I will say Mr. Brizard dealt adroitly with many of the questions given to him.

I don't agree with some of the CEO's responses, in particular his discussion of the "millions of dollars" poured into Crane and Dyett high schools. Over the years in relation to special education services at these two high schools I have seen zero evidence of massive levels of instructional resources put into these two high schools. Both of these high schools have huge special education populations, Dyett has 25.6% of its population with disabilities and Crane has 25.8% when the average school in Illinois has only 14% of its enrollment composed by students with disabilities.

But probably the most interesting aspect of the interview was the position CEO Brizard enunciated in relation to one area of CTU/CPS negotiations that are considered now under SB7 to be "permissive" areas subject to bargaining at the determination of CPS. Meaning CPS does not have to negotiate but can impose on the teaching force its position on things like class size and the length of the school day. Here is what he said: "Let's be clear. We don't need to negotiate the time with the teachers union. We have to negotiate the impact of changing the workday (as in, the money they get for it). Money, other kinds of issues, are part of the bargaining, but the time that we're looking to extend the school day, is within our control." He also said that not negotiating on at least the workday's length is a core value CPS will not bend on.

This was an important public statement and it merits some thought on the part of teachers and some parents who have reservations over the proposed increase in the length of the school day.

Rod Estvan

January 12, 2012 at 6:33 PM

By: Julie Woestehoff

Robin Robinson

PURE ran this story yesterday -

http://pureparents.org/?p=18293

January 12, 2012 at 7:22 PM

By: Susan Hickey

Brizard's view of social workers

I found JC comment that having a social worker will not make a school better overnight disappointing. It appears he thinks very little of what we do as social workers. We know we cannot improve students' performance overnight BUT we can make a difference in children's lives. JC does not see the whole child but he sees rather stats and scores. Students cannot learn if they are hurting, hungry, isolated.

January 12, 2012 at 11:39 PM

By: Kimberly Bowsky

Social Workers +

The CEO's comments insist on what students don't need: stable schools, resources including funds, social workers, and teachers. I suppose the next comment is that they don't need a public education, either. Stick 'em in front of a screen and test 'em.

Let him give his speeches in Bannockburn, Kenilworth, or Beverly Hills, CA.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at substancenews.net. We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 2 =