BOARDWATCH: Board of Education hears about latest annual 'Promotion Policy' and who must go to summer school. Then real schools continue to expose CPS incompetence and abuses from closings and the clout-heavy facilities plan

A new promotion policy was the main item on the agenda of the Chicago Board of Education (BOE) meeting of October 23, 2013. The promotion policy was dealt with at the Board's monthly meeting on in the fifth floor chamber at 125 S. Clark Street.

Chicago's "Chief Officer for Instruction and Learning" in 2013 is Annette Gurley (above). Gurley is apparently charged with doing the job that had been done by the former "Chief Instruction Officer" (Jennifer Cheatham, who debarked from Chicago and is now Superintendent of Schools in Madison, Wisconsin) and former "Chief Education Officer" Barbara Eason Watkins (who retired from Chicago and is now a schools superintendent in Michigan). One of the ways Chicago's Board of Education continues to publish confusing and often absurd edicts such at the latest (the 13th or 14th in 15 years!) promotion policy is by churning its Organizational Chart constantly (from "Education Officer" to "Instruction Officer" to "Teaching and Learning" officer) and hiring most of the members of the "cabinet" of the "Chief Executive Officer" from out of town. Most of those in the background who are regularly seated with Gurley are from out of town with no Chicago classroom teaching or principal experience, making them completely dependent on patronage from the mayor's school board members and "data." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.All board members were present, except Deborah Quazzo. Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Chief Counsel James Bebley. Honorary student board member, Ashley Gordan, was introduced and spoke briefly.

According to Board President David Vitale, the order of the items on the agenda was changed to accommodate board members. The new order was the CEO's report, public participation, an open agenda, and then the closed session.

The meeting began with the honoring of two schools, Frazier Magnet and Skinner West Elementary. Each school was given a U.S. Department of Education award as a Blue Ribbon School, for student achievement and academic growth. Principals and then students from each school spoke. The principal of Skinner West then concluded by mentioning that there is a Skinner West and a Skinner North and perhaps someday, there will be a Skinner East. No mention was made of a Skinner South.

Next, the assistant principal of Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory said that 40 of 46 students who ran the Chicago Marathon finished. The students ran to provide clean drinking water for children in Africa. So far, the students have raised $10,000 and $12,000 may be the final total. The assistant principal said that he was here to accept the honor because the principal of Gwendolyn Brooks was unable to attend today's ceremony since his wife gave birth last weekend.

The latest graphical absurdity promoted by the administration of Chicago Public Schools, the "Five Pillars" is on display by edict just about everywhere in the nation's third largest school system. Reminiscent of the "Five Year Plans" of the Central European dictatorships of the 20th Century, the pseudo-Grecian graphic follows in a tradition of at least a half dozen previous plannings since mayoral control began in Chicago in 1995. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt from the Power Point graphic displayed by Annette Gurley during the October 23, 2013 Board meeting. After the honors were completed, the business portion of the meeting > began with an announcement by CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett that the Samuel > Gompers School (a receiving school) would be renamed Jesse Owens (the > sending school). This was being done to reflect the vote of the Local > School Council. CEO Byrd-Bennett said that an Owens family member would > speak later in today's meeting.

Following this, CEO Byrd-Bennett announced that an updated elementary promotion policy was being recommended. She said the new policy was "evidence-based" and that the current policy was outdated. The proposed policy would assure that students were truly prepared for the next grade, Byrd Bennett told the Board members The Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) would be replaced by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) will provide a district-wide assessment that will be "aligned with the Common Core" and will be the basis of promotion decisions. STATE-WIDE testing will take place in Spring of 2015.

Annette Gurley, "Chief Officer of Teaching and Learning", then narrated a lengthy Power Point presentation. Gurley said that the new NWEA test will be more "rigorous" than the ISAT had been. Students will no longer be filling in bubbles, she said, but will write more and be exposed to more non-fiction. When all the rhetorical and Power Point verbiages were completed, the latest "Bottom Line" for the latest CPS "Promotion Policy" was the same as it has been since the first "Promotion Policy" under mayoral control was presented by Paul G. Vallas in 1996. Each "Promotion Policy" is actually a "Failing Policy" where certain children are penalized for social problems, usually in communities characterized by extreme poverty and segregation, and forced to go to summer school because of "failure." More than 15 years ago, Substance published the early results of research on the fact that retention (even with so-called "supports") is one of the best predictors of later dropping out. On October 23, 2013, the latest iteration of Chicago Schools CEOs (this year, Barbara Byrd Bennett) proclaimed the latest retention policy proclaiming, also, that this time the "supports" will really and truly work.She said that "Category Three" students (also referred to as "Tier Three" students) who receive low scores or low grades are most at risk and will receive priority attention. A multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) will provide additional time and web-based intervention, Gurley assured the Board and the public. According to Gurley, the new web-based system will tell what the student needs to work on, how each student compares to other students like this student, and provide student "supports." Summer school is one support. The new approach is not a one-size-fits-all approach, Gurley insisted, as the Board members nodded and smiled. The new testing (promotion and retention, along with summer school) program will be communicated to parents and the public by Tuesday, November 12, 2012, Report Card Pick-Up Day.

Ms Gurley went on to explain that every network must have a liaison person and every school must have a point person to help implement this policy. A personal learning plan (PLP) will be established for each student. Students who fall into Category Three will have to go to summer school. Fifteen and sixteen-year old students in fifth and sixth grade are not included in this plan. She said that a common grading policy is also being worked on.

Andrew Broy of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS, rhymes with LINKS) complained to the Board that public speakers were taking too much time ignoring the Board's official agenda and talking about a range of real problems affecting the city's public schools. Broy suggested that the Board hold one public participation for those who wished to talk about stuff on the Board's official agenda and another for those who just wanted to complain about things. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.After this report, President David Vitale informed the audience that parents and community could meet with board members during office hours by calling 773-553-1600. He also mentioned that Local School Council (LSC) nominations will begin in November. The LSC elections are scheduled to be held in April, as usual.

The November Board meeting will be held on November 20. Due to the Veterans Day Holiday, sign-up for public participation at the November Board meeting will begin on November 12 instead of November 11. As usual, the public is limited to 60 spots, and is required to sing up on line. Nobody mentioned that there are many "no shows" at the Board meetings, so that the people who sign up are less than two-third of the sixty slots (as happened again at the October 23 meeting). The Board continued to meet during the work day at its Loop headquarters, despite complains from the majority of people in Chicago.

As usual, it was more than an hour after the official starting time that the public participation began. Unlike the previous month, there were no aldermen scheduled to speak, and the secretary ignored the Chicago Teachers Union, again, for a couple of speakers.

Jill Wohl, of Inter-American Magnet School, was the first public participant to speak. She said that even though she is mono-lingual, her child is bi-lingual thanks to CPS. She spoke of the many benefits of multi-lingualism and her belief that students who are multi-lingual will be better prepared for the twenty-first century. She remarked that she felt high school was too late to begin teaching another language.

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey spoke to the Board after being ignored by David Vitale for a few minutes at the beginning of public participation. Sharkey reminded the Board that a retention policy is punitive and that in the past, the Board wound up with large numbers of large children still in sixth grade because of the failure of its failure and summer school policies. The kids left behind forced the creation of what eventually became the "Achievement Academies." It was unclear that anyone in Barbara Byrd Bennett's "cabinet" had any idea what he was talking about. Most top CPS executives have been imported to Chicago from out of town. Board members Mahaila Hines (who spoke about the problem) and Carlos Azcoitia (who didn't) were principals during the time when the retention policy of the Paul Vallas years resulted in very large students being squeezed into very small desks because they were still is "sixth grade" at age fifteen following years of retention, summer school, and "supports." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Brenda Delgado, of Salazar School, also advocated for dual-language programs starting in pre-K or Kindergarten. She, herself, had taught Spanish.

Andrew Broy, head of Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS), which he always talks about as INKS (rhymes with "links") made a proposal to the Board. Broy said he has been coming to the Board for four years. He said he feels that there is a "disconnect" between the items on the Board's agenda and the public participation comments. Broy told the Board members that he has been at Board of Education meetings at other places in illinois, and that usually public participation is based on what is on the agenda for the meeting. He didn't say anything about the fact that other Illinois school districts elect their school boards, and overtly criticized people who speak at CPS Board meetings without referencing the published agenda.

Broy then made what he told the Board he hoped was a friendly suggestion.

Broy recommended that the Board further restrict public participation. He said he believes public participation should be broken into two parts: those speakers who wish to speak about items on the current Board's agenda and those speakers who wish to make what he called "general comments." He added that Jesse Sharkey, Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Vice-President, said he would think about it and consider it. Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz gave his opinion that Andrew Broy's idea was a "brilliant comment."

No sooner had Andrew Broy of INCS won praise from Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz than Broy's proposal to further restrict democracy at Board meetings was challenged by West Side community activist Dwayne Truss (above). Broy suggested that the Board require speakers to talk about items on the Board's official agenda, even though the Agenda is always sanitized and major discussions are left off because of loopholes in the Open Meetings Act. Truss forcefully told the Board that every citizen has the right to their two minutes. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Immediately, the public disagreed with Broy. Dwayne Truss, a long time leader in the city's Austin community, currently also with Raise Your Hand, expressed the opposite viewpoint. He said, "My two minutes is my two minutes. I'm a taxpayer." Truss spoke of a misalignment of resources to have a new charter school in Austin, when schools had been closed and there is no magnet school in Austin. He said that Austin doesn't need another charter school when it doesn't have a magnet school.

School closings were on the agenda again when Marlene O. Rankin, daughter of Jesse Owens, thanked CEO Byrd-Bennett and the city for renaming Gompers school as Jesse Owens School. [Jesse Owens was a field and track athlete who won four gold medals at the1936 Olympic Games which took place in Nazi Germany.] She said that this year was the one-hundredth anniversary of her father's birth.

Jesse Sharkey, CTU Vice-President, expressed worry about the promotion policy. He felt there would be more retained students. He was concerned about the supports. He said he thought summer school would be seen as a punishment, that it would be computer-based and that it would not provide enrichment. He added that we should learn from the Achievement Academy program which the Board had in place for students who were repeatedly held back and eventually got too big to remain in elementary school. He also said that he had been hearing about teachers facing "a deluge of paper work."

Board members offered various comments at this point. Board member Mahalia Hines seemed to be agreeing with Sharkey about the Achievement Academies, addressing the problem of "15-year-olds in sixth grade..." That problem was widespread within a few years of the previous retention policy. It was unclear whether Barbara Byrd Bennett understood the problem in the context that Sharkey and Hines were speaking or whether Byrd Bennett even knew what an "Achievement Academy" was in Chicago.

Expressing a growing undercurrent of dissatisfaction about the ignorance of top CPS officials on some of the most basic questions, Board member Mahalia Hines asked about the retention and summer school policies and how they would work when children were constantly retained, as happened last time Chicago's schools did retention on a massive scale. Barbara Byrd Bennett and her top cabinet members had no idea what the "Achievement Academies" had been. Substance photo by David Vance. Manolita Huber, of Peterson School, and a single mother of three children, spoke against the expansion of new charter schools on the Northwest Side. Following up on research published recently, she noted that after closing nearly 50 schools because the Board claimed it didn't have the money and that the schools were "underutilized," CPS immediately put tens of millions of additional dollars into the budget for charter school expansion. She said that it doesn't make sense to spend money on new charter schools after CPS had closed so many of the city's real public schools. She said that it's also misleading. The new charters will cost the taxpayers extra while at schools like Peterson her children are facing large class sizes. She added that taxpayers will still have to pay for new charters while neighborhood schools suffer. She reiterated that funds should be reallocated to neighborhood schools -- not charter school.

Claudia De Luna, of Hibbard School, spoke of the lacks being endured in neighborhood schools. She also stressed that charter school money should go to neighborhood schools.

Mary Hughes, of Cassel School, said her oldest child is a special needs student in a Level One Fine Arts Magnet School which is over-crowded, resulting in split classes for five different grade levels. She spoke of her concern for safety and the fact that the school needs too many modular units to relieve over-crowding.

Parent Crystal Watts praised the KIPP Ascend charter school to the Board. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The charter schools then began speaking. Crystal Watts, a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter school parent, told the Board she has a child in Kindergarten and sixth grade at a KIPP charter school in the North Lawndale community in the 24th Ward and that it's just great. She offered the opinion that "hands-down," KIPP is the best. She told of students being able to dress up as famous characters at Halloween and the playground that had been improved by KaBOOM. She passed a frame containing several photos of the new playground to the Board's secretary for viewing by the Board members.

The discussions quickly returned to the problems of the city's real public schools.

The Board members actually seemed to be paying attention when some dramatic revelations about Earle Elementary School, one of the new "STEM" "welcoming schools," took the floor to speak. Michelle Clark, parent of a student at Earle Elementary, said she felt that the Corey H law was being disregarded, that children went to city parks without their parents' permission or school supervision. She then charged that the Earle school library is now a storage room. She told the Board that the current interim principal wants the school to be "bookless." She added with a list of how the principal has been switching multiple teachers to other positions and is "young and stubborn."

Betty Phillips, also of Earle Elementary School in Englewood, asked that the Board remove the current interim principal who has been there three years without a contract. Ms. Phillips said that the principal told the parents they are not welcome in the school. This parent also stated that the school has no library -- and that corporal punishment was taking place. She asked, "Is it because we are Englewood and not Hyde Park or Lincoln Park?"

Jennifer Biggs. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Jennifer Biggs, of More Than a Score, spoke of the promotion policy and expressed the concern that too many students would be retained. She asked when will the testing madness end? She wondered if the opt-out child was at risk of flunking.

The situation of Lincoln Elementary School in Lincoln Park returned next. Stephanie Klein, a parent at Lincoln Elementary, talked about what she claimed was the extreme over-crowding taking place at Lincoln. She said that additional classrooms had been provided at DePaul University for one year, but said that DePaul will not renew their one-year lease. She added that the DePaul building is working very well, but the deadline for the lease is looming closer every day.

Klein was followed by Kim Morrow, a parent of two at Lincoln Elementry. Morrow also mentioned the problem of over-crowding. She said that students from Lincoln now attend school in six classrooms at DePaul University. She asked that DePaul partner with Lincoln and renew the present lease. Colleen Day, of Lincoln School, stepped to the mike to say she would not speak, but Daniel Klein, Vice-Chair of the LSC at Lincoln, would. Since Klein was signed up to speak, he went next. Daniel Klein added his support to the use of the former Children's Memorial Hospital site as the best option for a solution to long term overcrowding. He said he has lived in this district for seventeen years > and repeated that Lincoln needs more space.

Lincoln continued as Eric Gurry, parent of two students at Lincoln School, spoke of a long-term solution that would have a long-term impact. He asked that the Board not divide this district. He said it could drive families to the suburbs. He said that our community is united, not divided. He spoke of 1300 petitions in favor of a united district.

Camille Hamilton-Doyle, of the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference, was next, as CPS continued to face the consequences of its massive school closing decisions of May 22. She asked that Canter School, a middle school in Hyde Park be kept open. She said that Canter Middle School students do well and attend good > schools later. She added that two new high-rises are being built and that Shoesmith School was overcrowded now.

Nancy Baum of the Hyde Park Community Conference asked that Carter Middle School be kept open. She said that the school presently has only > eighth grade which will be the last graduating class. She asked the > Board to take students from Shoesmith, which is overcrowded, to Canter > to form a typical 6th-8th grade middle school. She asked that Shoesmith > School go no higher than fifth grade to bring this about.

Scott Babich of Canty Elementary School reminded the Board that the severe overcrowding at Canty had first been brought before the Board in October 1998, making the October 2013 meeting the fifteenth anniversary of the Board's ignoring the problems at the Northwest Side school. Substance photo by David Vance.Scott Babich, an LSC member at Canty School, said the school is 150% overcrowded. Pointing out that Canty has been asking for relief for 15 years, he listed things that resulted from the overcrowding: students have to eat lunch in the hallway and in the back of the auditorium on folding chairs, teachers have no place for planning, there is literally no space left in the school. He said that during cold weather "recess" also takes place in the auditorium. He said that once again, Canty wants relief. He told the Board that this appeal was on the 15th anniversary of Canty's first appearance before the Board of Education, which was in October 1998!

Cassie Creswell, of More Than a Score, spoke of privacy concerns in regard to an Illinois Sharing Environment data-based system, inBloom, owned indirectly by Rupert Murdoch. She told the Board that the data system is being developed to collect information on students and teachers without parental permissioin. She opposes it, says security cannot be guaranteed, that data breaches are a concern, and that the information in the system could follow the students for decades.

Wendy Katten, of Raise Your Hand, told the Board that she had come to speak about the Physical Education (P.E.) Policy, but that was no longer on the agenda. Between the Longer School Day and the recent cuts, she reminded the Board, there are no resources to do PE. She said that daily P.E. will be required in elementary and high schools. She mentioned that principals are concerned about funding and that it was not "budget neutral" as some CPS officials had been sayin. She asked that the high schools be given three years to implement the new P.E. policy.

Then she went on to another topic: fingerprinting of volunteers. In regard to school volunteers, she said that finger-printing of volunteers takes place at the CPS Elizabeth Street location, which is close to downtown. She agreed that background checks are needed before accepting people as volunteers, but questioned the universal use of fingerprinting for volunteers.

Cassie Cresswell of "More than a score" told the Board members that they were privatizing sensitive data about children through a contract with an outfit called InBloom which has ties to Rupert Murdoch, among others. She told the Board members that parents were organizing opposition to the privatization of the information CPS collects about our children. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Maricela Salazar spoke in Spanish which was translated. She asked that Canter be made an independent school. She said that without money, it was not possible to hire office staff for later in the day.

Hertha Ramirez, a teacher, asked that the Belmont-Cragin Early Childhood Center be made independent. She said that now it is a branch of Belmont-Cragin School which she said is two miles away. She asked. "What are the steps to become independent?"

Raquel Macial, spoke in Spanish which was translated. She is a parent of two at Hanson Park Elementary, which she said is in need of funding to relieve over-crowding. She added that charter schools will cost millions and affect future funding for neighborhood schools. She asked that the Board look at each individual school.

Next, the Board's policy of trying to hold its existing charter schools "accountable" came under fire again. (A few months earlier, clout had ended the Board's attempt to put one of the Aspira charter schools on what amounts to "charter probation"). It happened again with the "Catalyst" charter schools at this meeting.

Gordon Hannon of Catalyst Charter Schools (no relation to Catalyst magazine) clasped his hands as if in prayer while asking the Board not to put the Catalyst schools on what amounts to charter school "probation." Hannon claimed that the bases of the designation were unfair and didn't take into account the other wonderful things that the Catalyst charter schools were doing. Hannon had never appeared at any Board meeting when similar unfair "metrics" were being voted on and then used to subject the city's real public schools to closing for "underperformance" or for "turnaround." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. Gordon Hannon, of the Catalyst Charter Schools, said that two schools will be on the charter "warning list" and said he does not understand why this is on the agenda. Basically, Hannon noted, as many real public schools have over the years, that the test-score-based criteria for probation (and closing or tunraounding schools) were lacking in nuance and didn't take into account the factors facing the schools educating people in areas like North Lawndale and Austin (where two of the Catalyst charter schools are).

Elizabeth Jamison-Dunn, who told the Board she is a Catalyst founder, said that education equals freedom. She said she was attending this meeting to speak on behalf of Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School.

Linda Kapers then told the Board that was a parent of a child at Paderewski School, which was closed. She said that her son, who is in sixth grade, now attends Catalyst Howland Charter School (in North Lawndale), and wants to go to DeLaSalle Institute. Nobody mentioned that Catalyst charter schools are affiliated with the teachers at De La Salle.

The speakers on behalf of Catalyst charter schools continued. Colleen Reardon, of Dominican University and chair of the Academic Committee of the Board of the Catalyst Charter Schools, spoke about the two Catalyst Schools that had been been placed on the warning list. She asked the Board to reformulate the warning list.

Robert Lamont, of Veterans for Peace, told the Board he is a graduate of Harper High School, where he took JROTC. He said his final rank in Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) was Captain, and that he then went into the Army before the Vietnam War. He said he learned violence in the Army. He said that he received a teacher's certificate after his time in the Army and became a teacher at Westinghouse High School in 1968, He asked the CPS to demilitarize.

Betty Hughes, who has both children and grandchildren attending Earle Elementary School on the South Side, told the Board that the interim principal was devastating the school. She provided the Board and the public with photographs of the closed Earle library, which is being used as a storage room. According to the interim principal, Earle is going to have a "bookless library," Hughes and a colleague told the Board. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Hongbo Wang, of Whitney Young Magnet School, wants a ten-point grading scale across all high schools. She said schools have different grading scales resulting in different Grade Point Averages (GPAs) which discriminate against the students at schools like Whitney Young.

Michael Zhou, also of Whitney Young Magnet School, also spoke of the need for a ten-point grading scale. He spoke of a Yale University study which showed that students are discouraged by low grades.

Marlene Rankin spoke on behalf of the family of 1936 Olympic hero Jesse Owens thanking the Board for renaming Gompers Elementary School after Owen. The Board had closed Owens school as part of its attack on inner city schools under the pretext of saving money by ending what the Board called "underutilization." Another dozen schools named after Black heroes and heroines (from Arna Bontemps to Matthew Henson and others) were closed by the Board's May 22, 2013 vote, but the Owens family and the media focused only on the one. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Tracy Stanciel. also of Whitney Young, spoke of a loophole in the Selective Enrollment (SE) Policy which is used to place elementary children into Chicago's coveted magnet high schools, like Whitney Young.

She said that the present policy gives an advantage to private school students who can take standardized tests multiple times. She told the Board members that private school students also take the Terra Nova standardized test instead of the ISAT and take the test over and over, then only submit their highest score when applying for admission to Young, Payton or one of the other selective enrollment high schools. She then addressed the strange distribution of schools in Chicago in 2013. She said she lives in the "Gap" with ten high schools within blocks of her house. She asked for a moratorium on adding more high schools in her community. Apparently in disagreement with the other speakers from Whitney Young, she remarked that student effort dropped with the change to a ten-point grading scale. Then she finished by addressing one of the most explosive issues facing the schools every year at this time (when admissions to selective enrollment high schools are being done) -- the "Tiers" dividing various parts of Chicago based on economic status. She said her area is considered "Tier 4" despite the fact that there are apartments in the area whose residents are definitely not "Tier 4." She noted this disparity exists while President Obama's Kenwood home is also considered Tier 4. She asked CPS to look at the Tier systems.

This concluded public participation. Thirty-two out of sixty participants who signed up to speak actually did speak.

Once again, the Board members asked critical questions. One of the most unusual exchanges came when Board member Henry Bienen addressed the "Tier" problem that had been outlined by the speaker from Whitney Young, and a confused Barbara Byrd Bennett thought that Bienen was talking about the "Tiers" by means of which students would be divided in the "Promotion" policy. It was left to John Barker, the "Chief Accountability Officer," to explain that in Chicago's public schools in 2013 there is a difference between some tiers and other tiers. Previously, Andrea Zopp had noted that CPS seems to create an acronym for just about everything.


October 26, 2013 at 11:31 PM

By: Paulette Lane

CPS Board Meeting about the Gap Community Tiers

The "Gap" is divided into Tiers "3" & "4." One Tier dropped to Tier "3" for 2014-2015.

Pershing West at 3200 S. Calumet is in the Gap. If you key in their address, you will find it in Tier "3."

October 27, 2013 at 12:24 AM

By: Paulette Lane

CPS Board Meeting about the Gap Community Tiers

This is CPS current Tier Map using the 2013 Census Data for the 2014-2015 school year:

It's been our for some time now.

October 28, 2013 at 11:35 PM

By: Harriet Benson

Board minutes

Thanks for posting these detailed minutes so quickly. That's a lot of work!

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