'JB' and 'BBB' demand that principals set 'Stretch Goals' to prove 'high expectations' as the new CPS Performance Policy and the Five Pillars land across America's third largest school system
The "other shoe" finally fell on the roughly 600 principals in Chicago's real public schools on October 12, 2013. That's when the school system's "Office of Accountability" issued the memo warning them that they might be facing an accountability visit in their schools at any time. The memo, issued at the last minute before the long weekend and, as usual, without a CPS press conference, went to every principal of a real public school in Chicago.
The document, issued by email, came from John Barker, the latest "Chief Accountability Officer" at CPS. Barker was hired in December 2012 by the Board of Education without public discussion or debate at an annual salary of $165,000 and with a "relocation allowance" since he was, at the time Chicago hired him, working in Memphis, Tennessee. Barker's October 12, 2013 memo outlines what Chicago's current central office administrators claim will be the targets for each school to reach during the 2013 - 2014 school year. This claim is mandated on the principals in spite of the fact that the central standardized test (the ISAT) being used for so-called "accountability" will be completely different in 2014 from what it was in 2013 and the "value added" metrics in the latest Performance Policy have been exposed as frauds by recent investigations.
Beyond the minutae of test scores and other data points that can change or be manipulated in a dozen ways, the memo focuses on the usual Maoist rhetoric of corporate school reformers in the USA today. All it takes is strong beliefs and hard work -- a cultural revolution, not more resources and democracy -- to make even the poorest schools serving the most challenging communities "perform" at the "highest levels."
If you believe, Chicago is told, every school in Englewood or North Lawndale can become a New Trier High School in Winnetka or a Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. This will take place by "stretching" even though a Chicago family wanting to purchase a home within a mile of either of those schools would need at least a million dollars. Meanwhile, Chicago's children often walk to school through communities where half the homes are vacant due to the recent predations of the housing industry. They are also more likely to know the sound of gunfire than their suburban "cohorts."
This is Chicago's version of "accountability" in 2013. But it's only for the city's real public schools, despite claims in the rhetoric that everyone will be "accountable."
Charter schools are still immune from the kinds of "accountability" that face everyone else in the nation's third largest school system. Despite the public claim that charters would be held "accountable" to the same "metrics" and face the same consequences, Chicagoans learned last school year that even the worst "preforming" charter schools and campuses can use their City Hall clout to avoid being closed, while hundreds of the city's real public school now will face closure for "poor performance".
According to the 2013 "Performance Policy" warnings issued late Friday, October 12, 2013, Network and central office inspectors might stop by to inspect the schools at any time. The inspectors are led by Chicago's current "Chief of Network Chiefs," Denise Little. Each of the 20 or more "Network" chiefs may also send out a team for inspection.
Chicago's latest "Chief Accountability Officer" (hired from Memphis, Tennesse, in December without any Chicago teaching or administrative experience) is named John Barker. He issued the detailed memo warning principals that at any time they might be visited by someone from Higher Authority and that their performance would be checked according to the latest CPS "Performance Policy." The Board of Education had approved the Performance Policy without any public review at its August 28, 2013 meeting. The policy was also described in a Power Point delivered to the Board meeting by Barker, who answered questions from the Board members, none of them critical of the contradictions in the policies promulgated by their unanimous vote that day.
Since then, principals in the city's real public schools have been deluged with various memos and meetings from their "Network Chiefs." The "Networks" are the latest name for Chicago's sub-districts.
Since mayoral control and corporate school reform began in Chicago in 1995, Chicago has had "District Offices," then "Regional Offices," then "Area Offices," and, currently "Networks."
They are all the same thing, with one major change. Halfway through the time when they were called "Area Offices," the Board of Eduction, then with Arne Duncan as CEO, changed the rules so that the people in charge of the "Areas" could be as unqualified as Duncan was to be a school administrator. (Duncan had no Chicago teaching experience, no teaching credentials, and no administrative training when he was plucked from obscurity by Mayor Richard M. Daley to head the nation's third largest school system in July 2001).
By the end of the Duncan years, a person did not have to be certified Illinois administrator to head a "Network" and boss around principals and others working in the schools. Since the Duncan years, and especially since the advent of the so-called "Networks" following the inauguration of Rahm Emanuel in May 2011, "Network Chiefs" have been selected not on the basis of Chicago teaching and administrative experience but after being vetted by the Broad Foundation. The "Networks" (with some odd names, as if those who did the designations were trying to obscure realities that Chicagoans knew) have been honed since Rahm Emanuel's Board of Education took over in June 2011 (its first meeting).
Although observers have noted that the "Performance Policy" approved by the Board of Education in August is almost an Alice in Wonderland document because of its reliance on standardized tests (that will soon be obsolete) and "Value Added" measurements (which have been exposed as fraudulent pseudo-science), the policy will be the obsession of most administrators across America's third largest school system. The 2013 "Performance Policy" is also, by Substance's count, the seventh so-called "Accountability" system pushed in Chicago since 1995, when the Illinois General Assembly gave Chicago's mayor dictatorial power over the nation's third-largest school system.
The October 12, 2013, memo from John Barker is below here:
From: John Barker Date: Sat, Oct 12, 2013 at 4:25 PM
Subject: IMPORTANT - 2013-14 School Performance Targets
In keeping with the tenets of Pillar 1 of the District’s Action Plan to deliver high standards, rigorous curriculum, and powerful instruction, our CEO has established a set of performance targets on several key indicators for all schools.
A PDF document with these targets – specific to your school – is now available on Dashboard. Here’s how to get there: USE INTERNET EXPLORER (IE) – it WON’T WORK if you use another browser…a) login and go to the “Reports” tab; b) click and select “Additional School-level Reports” – enter your login and password again; c) in the School Group drop-down box select your school (or network) and “Accountability” in the Report Category drop-down; d) click on “View Report” and then on the little plus sign beside the “CPS Performance Policy” folder; e) look for “2013-14 School Growth Target Report.” That report is a formatted PDF with targets specific to your school. Again, you MUST use Internet Explorer to get your report.
The targets were established for Elementary Schools (for ISAT, NWEA, Attendance, and On-Track) and High Schools (for EPAS, Attendance, Graduation, Freshmen On-Track) as a way to set high expectations for improvement across the district. For students in CPS, incremental improvements will not close achievement gaps, move student performance above grade level, or be enough to compete with other states and nations. With the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards being implemented across the district, there’s never been a better time to aim high on our performance targets.
A few points of clarity:
1. ISAT is changing for Spring 2014 – given the unknown new 100% Common Core aligned test, the best starting point for our projection of this year’s targets is the Spring 2013 performance.
2. A general guiding principle for setting targets throughout was to use a percentage reduction in the undesired outcome (e.g., reduce the number/percentage of students’ absences).
3. The targets are what some people call “stretch goals” – unless you stretch to reach them, you won’t be able to reach them.
4. Year-to-year, rather than cohort, measurements were used to set the targets. The CEO’s expectation is that your school’s absolute performance is better than it was last year. Lots better.
5. The direction to you and your team is to begin using the targets to drive strategic planning and execution immediately. Network Chiefs, the Chief of Network Support, and the CEO herself will have copies of your targets and will review your progress toward the targets whenever they visit your school.
Feel free to contact our office directly (553-4444) or email me for any follow up on the targets. Our team stands ready to help.
Many thanks for all you do for the next generation of Chicago’s children and have a restful holiday weekend -
John R. Barker, Ph.D., Chief Accountability Officer, Chicago Public Schools, 125 South Clark – 16th Floor, Chicago, IL 60603, Phone: (773) 553-4444