December 17, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education

[The following article was kept in a Queue File in December and early January 2014 15 during the time that the Substance website was crashed. After the site was repaired by Substance computer engineer Dan Schmidt by January 10, 2015, the articles were published. The date of the article is the date on which it was received by Substance editors. This article was originally submitted and edited on December 19, 2014.]

The Chicago Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, December 17, 2014, at its new location at 42 West Madison Street. The meeting was held in the "garden level" (basement) of its new headquarters which consists of four levels (including the garden level) connected by escalators. The latest headquarters for the nation's third largest school system is in what was once a Sears store, and the unusual configuration of the headquarters, as well as the Board chambers (where the meetings are held) reflects the corporate origins of the headquarters.

Albany Park community leader Neil Resnikoff spoke to the December 17, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. The background behind Resnikoff (above) shows the Orwellian big screen that dominated the Board meetings, and the timer showing how many seconds a speaker had left. Each speaker, no matter how important the topic, is allowed only two minutes to speak to the Chicago Board of Education. Substance photo by David Vance.The whole area was glassy and light. The layout of the meeting room was long and narrow, with only one overhead screen at the far end. Previously, the Board meetings were held in a room that was wider than long, and overhead screens, TV size, enabled the public to follow the action, both in the Board chambers and in a "holding room" ten floors above, where the overflow crowd would regularly be placed.

At the new headquarters, Board members sat on a raised platform, supposedly to allow audience members a better view.

The press was seated at the far right, instead of the far left. As in the past, the press is contained so that it is difficult for reporters, especially TV camera crews, to photograph more than the members of the Board.

After a welcome by Board President David Vitale, roll call indicated that Dr. Mahalia Hines, Board Vice-President Jesse Ruiz, Andrea Zopp, Deborah Quazzo, and Board President David Vitale were present. Absent was Dr. Henry Bienen. Also present were Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barbara Byrd-Bennett, Chief Counsel James Bebley, Student Honorary Board Member Angel Diaz and Shadow Student Board Member Mohammed Abdelmajid, a senior at Mather High School who plans to attend the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC).

An announcement was made that a new Inspector General had been appointed. He is Nicholas Shuler, a lawyer, and a former member of the Chicago Police Department (CPD). CEO Byrd-Bennett also commented on the new location of the Board, saying the office spaces were smaller. Following this was the "Honoring Excellence" portion of the meeting, when she announced that students from Chi Arts School, which serves students from all over the city at its new location on Augusta, had performed in the lobby earlier. Soloist Sarah Ryan, of the Chi Arts Jazz Ensemble, then sang "Almost Like Being in Love" as the group performed. Next, CEO Byrd-Bennett mentioned a new partnership to boost college enrollment 60% by 2025 that was recently established. Aarti Duphelia, Chief of Academic Enhancement, explained the Power Point "Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Degree Attainment & Chicago Higher Education Compact," which asked "How many CPS 9th graders earn a bachelor's degree?" Chicago was compared to other urban areas. She remarked that Chicago, in recent years, was "ahead of the pack" compared to other large urban areas. 14% now earn a bachelor's degree compared to 8% in 2006. She said the CPS four-year college enrollment rates have improved moderately. Family finances sometimes explain why some students choose to attend two-year colleges first and then transfer to four-year colleges. After citing other statistics, she concluded that "CPS has made real progress in high school and college enrollment." After that presentation, another Power Point presentation "The State We're In: Chicago Highlights from Our 2014 Report Card on Public Education In Illinois," was introduced by Robin Steans, Executive Director of Advance Illinois, along with John Barker, This report showed the gains in NAEP 4th grade Reading and 8th grade Math by Chicago compared to Illinois. It also showed that Chicago's graduation rate increased from 47% in 1999 to 69% in 2014. Chicago also did well when comparing CPS freshmen to peers in similar districts. The report can be accessed at Leading into the next Power Point presentation, CEO Byrd-Bennett told of her visit to Perez School where a six-year old told of her realization that "the entire world is made of shapes." She then remarked that "the arts are an essential part of a high quality education. The last Power Point presentation by Director of Arts Education, Evan Plummer, explained the "Vision of the CPS Arts Education Plan." He said that "Math is the key to understanding the Arts." After comparing Arts statistics for School Year (SY) 12-13 to SY 13-14, mention was made of the need for an increase in Arts Essentials funding. For more information, Mr. Plummer can be reached at 773-553-3939 or After that report, Board President David Vitale reminded everyone that the Board members are available to meet with individuals and groups, by calling 773-553-1600. Then the announcement was made that the next Board meeting will be held at 42 W. Madison Street on January 28, 2015. Sign-up for the meeting will be from 8 a.m. on Tuesday, January 20th to 5 p.m. on Monday, January 26th, due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday. At 11:40, public participation began with Alderman John Arena of the 45th Ward. He said that Beard Elementary has no full-time nurse on staff. He added that some students need administration of medications and staff is not comfortable with having to do this. He said a full-time nurse is needed at Beard Elementary. He also mentioned that Vaughn High School shares this need. Board President Vitale said that "we will get back to you," and Alderman Arena was told the Board would follow up with a formal letter. Next, CTU Vice-President Jesse Sharkey heard Board President Vitale say that he was "pleased to see the progress Karen is making in her recovery." CTU Vice-President Sharkey mentioned three points: 1) The Board should continue meeting in the neighborhood schools, 2) Unjust rules in regard to the opt-out option need to be changed in state law. At present, an eight-year old can opt out of standardized testing, but parents cannot opt out their children. 3) A Washington Post article mentioned that teacher satisfaction had plummeted from 62% to 39%. He also mentioned that morale was declining because of the budget picture and because the state income tax is expiring. Board President Vitale responded, "We will continue next year to have a couple of Board meetings in the neighborhoods, the PAARC issue is being worked on in the agenda, we are concerned about the financial situation, and we are not ignoring anything you said." When audience members stepped up to the podium next, they were introduced to a new time-keeping system. On the podium was a light that was green for one minute and 30 seconds when someone began to speak, then the light turned yellow to indicate 30 seconds were left, and finally the light turned red when time was up. First to speak was Latoya Moore of the Dewey School of Excellence which had been turned around by the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Her child's grades had gone up and she was pleased with the family setting and safe environment after the turnaround. Next, two persons expressed concerns about the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PAARC) test. Jennifer Biggs, of Raise Your Hand (RYH), gave an update. She thanked CEO Byrd-Bennett for her efforts in delaying the PAARC and for working with legislators in regard to the opt-out policy. She said that she herself had opted out her own children and was treated respectfully. She mentioned that she intends to opt her children out of the PAARC. She added that Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) issues should not be repeated. She also said that she had a hand in a policy written by Michelle Gunderson. Carolyn Brown, of Thomas Kelly High School, also expressed PAARC concerns. She said that shifting the PAARC to a different class doesn't eliminate problems. The next two speakers spoke of their satisfaction with charter schools. Sharon Burney, a mother of a freshman at Baker College Prep, volunteered at the school. Her child had no reading teacher for five months at a previous school. She said she was not a fan of charter schools, but was sold on the school after visiting it several times. She thanked the Board. Ella Moore of Phillips Academy High School, said she was proud of her school. Her child had attended Dewey School which was turned around. She mentioned that the change in her child was magnificent. In the first few days of school, she received positive phone calls about her child. She said she loves AUSL schools. Board President Vitale congratulated the Phillips football team. Julie Rodriguez, of John C. Dore Elementary spoke about the need for an expansion to the school. She said an Art program had to be closed this year in order to open a second grade. She spoke of other effects of the need for an expansion to the school and added that Dore is a great school and recently received an award. Board President Vitale said, "We will come out." Andrea Zopp added that she was there. Two more speakers sang the praises of charter schools. Anita Munoz, of Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS) Irving Park, said that her child attended the first two years at regular CPS schools and missed the deadline for enrollment in a CICS school. She now has two children who are doing well at CICS. They have to travel three hours a day to attend. Kandi Lang of Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC) Academy Charter High School spoke of her pride in her son, who has gone from shy to confident. She said her son was accepted at five colleges. She mentioned that the neighborhood around EPIC has declined over the years. Socorro Velazquez, of Benito Juarez High School, said her son was dismissed a couple of years ago when he supposedly walked out of the school. She remarked this was, "Not so." She said her son has special needs. His job was to clean tables and throw out the garbage. He took the tests meant for cooks, but knew this was not for him. He couldn't get his job back. She said that she has difficulty getting around and is 71 years old. She asked, "What is my son going to do when we're gone." "He needs his job back." Board President Vitale said, "We will look into this and get back to you." The next nine speakers focused on Dyett High School. Joy Clendenning, of Kenwood Academy and Whitney Young High School, asked that Dr. Timuel Black, of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, be allowed to speak before her. He said that he supports the evaluation and rehabilitation of Dyett School. He mentioned that he turned 96 on December 7, has spent more than 95 years on the South Side in public education, and taught in public schools and colleges for forty years. He said that he was "calling on the Board of Education to respect the work of the Bronzeville community, preserve the legacy of Captain Walter Dyett, and support the plan for Dyett Global Leadership and a Green Tech High School." He added that unless the community around a school is involved, then that school has more difficulty. He remarked that the name Dyett once enjoyed fame and acclaim and repeated that he supports the rehabilitation of Dyett. Joy Clendenning, a Hyde Parker and mother of four, named groups she is a member of and stated that she is a former teacher. She said that she believes in strong neighborhood schools. She mentioned that she is stopped on the street frequently and asked, "What's happening with Dyett?" She belongs to the coalition to revitalize Dyett. She expressed concern that the Board was looking for someone else to operate Dyett. She is interested in a Fall of 2015 opening. Bob George of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, spoke of "the importance of an Open Enrollment Neighborhood High School." He also looked forward to the August 2015 opening of Dyett School. Dr. Finley Campbell of the Universalist Unitarian Caucus and Religious and Ideological Union came "to show support for the Save the Dyett School Committee, especially its liberal arts programming vision." He stated, "Anti-black racism remains the predominant form of racism in the U.S." He remarked that we must raise consciousness of ourselves and those in privileged communities. He spoke of the need to defend Dyett against this precursor of attack on education in Chicagoland. Joan Staples, of the Racial Justice Task Force of the First Unitarian Church of Chicago, came to show support for the Save the Dyett School group. She is retired from CPS after 21 years, seven of which were at Gage Park High School. She said that if a neighborhood school is seen as a community center, students will come. Eliza Fournier, of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Windy City Harvest Program, supports the Dyett Green Tech High School and its opening in Fall 2015. Jeanette Taylor, of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), mentioned that an autistic child can't get into a Selective Enrollment (SE) High School. She said that our children deserve a high quality open-enrollment school and Dyett would be that school. Daniel Morales-Doyle, of the UIC, said there was no need to wait till 2016 to revitalize Dyett. He added that we shouldn't consider other proposals because another class of eighth graders should not be scattered outside of Dyett. Duane Turner, who lives in the neighborhood area, supports Dyett. He stated that he felt that the plan for 2015 should be implemented. He mentiioned that Alderman Burns of the Fourth Ward stated that Dyett would be a contract school. He said that the community does not want that, but instead supports an open-enrollment school. Next, Arny Stieber, of Veterans for Peace, named his associations and told of his background. He stated that "The Military teaches violence." He added that the Military teaches that violence solves conflicts. He remarked. "When people are trained to do bad things, they do bad things." He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s remark, "The greatest purveyor of violence today is the Military." He feels that our children deserve better and made a recommendation - Peace at home and Peace abroad. The next two speakers sought compensation from the Board. Okema Lewis, a Title One community resident, spoke of the need to reimburse parents for the money they had been promised for the work that they did. She said the work had been approved, a video had been taped, and a decision to pay for this had already been made by administration, but the parents were not reimbursed and have not received the income for their expenses. Jauntaunne Byrd, a mother of three and a resident of the Roseland Community where Curtis School is located, submitted a reimbursement request which was considered compensation, but the request was denied. She wants the Board to assist her in getting her reimbursement. Another charter school parent spoke next. Martha Rios, of the International Network of Charter Schools (INCS) Parent Leadership Network, shared her experience at her charter school. She said that her oldest child attended Catholic School and then a charter school to save money. Both her children now attend Namaste charter school, a K-8 dual-language school and are doing well. EvAngel YHWHnewBN thanked the Board for remembering the slain youngsters. She spoke of December 18, 2014, the 149th anniversary of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and said, "There will be a reading of the entire Constitution on the fifth floor of City Hall to honor the memory of 246 years of chattled slavery." She added. "Justice delayed is justice denied." She urged President Obama to issue an Executive Order regarding observance of this date on the150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th amendment. Two more charter school advocates spoke. Latanya Rutledge, spoke in support of the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). She said that nine years ago she enrolled her son in a charter school. She said that she has not regretted that since. Her son is now in college on scholarship and her daughter also attends KIPP. Paris Clark, a graduate of Kipp, supports KIPP and will be graduating from college. Her twin is also attending college. Next, Martin Ritter, a Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) staff member, spoke of a problem at Sutherland Elementary. He said a disservice was done to the daughter of a man present at the Board meeting, but not allowed to speak. Because of one test, the daughter was denied proper promotion. The father has sent letters. Martin Ritter said that Mr. Lauryn Sander's daughter does not deserve to be held back and asked the Board to please give him an audience. Yvonne Mcginnis, of We're Cleaning, Inc., told the Board that the Board needs to pay for services rendered and needs to admit that they owe money. She said that now the Board wants to delay payment which is devastating to this small company. She asked the Board to please give instructions to pay her today. Board President Vitale replied, with a wave of his hand, "This has been investigated and that's as far as I'm going." The next two persons spoke about the overcrowding at Dever School. Kerry Murphy said that Dever desperately needs an annex, that there are overcrowding issues, they have half a gym, and dance classes and lunch are held in the same room with only a divider between them. She added that the lunch line takes up the entire corridor causing unnecessary confrontations because of a lack of space. She repeated, We need an annex!" Board President Vitale said, "A Board member will come out." Patricia Armstrong, also of Dever, spoke of the conditions endured by the 850 students. She said there are eight lunch times, beginning at 10:15 and ending at 1:45. The children wait 5 - 10 minutes to get their lunches, leaving little time to eat those lunches. Two people collect lunch tickets and monitor the food temperatures. She said that Aramark has suggested that students wipe down the tables. Then Amisha Patel talked about the interest rate swaps. He said the toxic interest rate swaps need to be renegotiated, money is going to the banks and corporations, the banks could be ordered to redo the toxic swap deals, and the banks could renegotiate the swaps voluntarily. He asked CPS to speak out about the banks. Next, Cassandra Creswell, of More Than a Score, asked the Board to provide information about the PAARC and the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) tests. She said that these tests should not be used for high quality decisions and that CEO Byrd-Bennett acknowledged the lack of trust. Jose Olivares, of Hanson Park School, said that the school is overcrowded and has no air-conditioning or security guards. He stated, "Our kids are suffering." He added that he was a volunteer with Community United. He mentioned the money given to Lincoln School that Lincoln School didn't want. He affirmed that he wants an answer. He asked, "What's going to happen?" He reminded the Board that we're in a church, not a school. Board President Vitale told him, "We will talk to them again." Another charter school advocate spoke next. Sterling Gilmore, of Gary Comer College Prep, spoke in support of the Noble Network and Gary Comer College Prep. He said he was bullied because of his speech impediments. He said the neighborhood schools could not support his needs and that he had to work hard to learn. He spoke of future plans to become a photographer. Then Neal Resnikoff, of Albany Park, North Park, and the Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice, talked about Common Core. He said that Common Core was an attack on public education and would narrow the curriculum. He mentioned neighborhood schools that have been closed and military schools that have replaced closed neighborhood schools. He stated that the PAARC test for Common Core is unscientific and funded by big corporations. He added that corporations want programs that allow them to make more profits. Next, Cholonda Mcintyre, of J. N. Thorp, told about how money is being spent at J. N. Thorp. She said that Denise Little (Chief of Networks) needs to talk to the interim principal, who gave raises to employees which the parents do not want. She said that the money is needed for a Special Education teacher and more. She said that this budget transaction needs to be investigated. She asked, "Is this legal?" " Is this right?" She remarked that this was not helping the children. Board Vice-President Ruiz asked her, "Do you have notes so we can follow up?" Lurena Johnson-White, of the Burnham Math and Science Academy, said that miscalculation of student grades has been taking place and therefore students appear to be failing when they are not. She said that the ability to convert grades to obtain an average was not being used correctly. She also said that the students and the parents were not informed how students were doing on graded assignments and the school will not give the students their grades. She explained how she took her daughter's individual grades and used them to obtain a correct average. She was directed to speak to a Board staff member. Ryne Peolker. of Stewart School, asked, "Why are we having meetings at 10 a.m.?" He said that Stewart School in Uptown, which is low-income, was closed. Now, he says, above-median-income people are being moved in. He said he wants his neighborhood school for neighborhood children and he wants low-income housing. He said, "Profit above people is being advanced." He then presented Board President Vitale with a large red Christmas stocking that he said contained something that David Vitale deserved. He did not tell what was in the stocking. After his presentation, Brenda Martinez, Orozco Academy, told of two students being assaulted by six students with a pocket knife in the cafeteria. These were fifth graders. Her daughter was told, "You are going to die today." She was not notified till 3 p.m. when she picked up her daughter. Her husband, Jorge Martinez, spoke next. He said he filed a police report. He added that the same assaulter punched another student. He also said that meetings had been held, on December 1 and on December 7. Board President Vitale told him, "We will follow up on your concerns." Then, Angela Bryant, a parent of a student at Andrew Jackson Language Academy and a lawyer and educator, talked about her shock at the offensive materials being used for Sex Education. She said the parents were grateful for the Board's response and corrective action. She also requested that Chicago comply with the Illinois Sex Education law and that the "Age of Consent" should be told to children. She also spoke of other recommendations. Board President Vitale thanked her. Last to speak was Ronald Jackson, who spoke of the SWAP deals. He told the Board that they could get out of the SWAP deals if they chose to, or they could wait till the election is over and then there wil be more charter schools. He mentioned that CEO Byrd-Bennett had asked how many teachers are certified. He said that Teach for America (TFA) teachers have degrees, but are not necessarily certified. He added that New York dealt with the SWAP problem but the Board wanted the kids to fail. At 1:25 p.m., public participation ended. Forty-seven of sixty persons signed up to speak had spoken. Only one Board member, Dr. Mahalia Hines commented, asking for the Dyett plan. The Board then went into closed session. The first meeting of the Chicago Board of Education at its new headquarters in the old Sears store in Chicago's Loop took place on December 2014. The new Board chambers seemed deliberately established to make public participation difficult, and news media coverage nearly impossible. In an Orwellian (or Kafkaesque) move, the meetings are to be dominated by a huge TV screen which forces everyone to watch the members of the school board pontificating. Later in the month, one of the many scandals regarding Board members will be revealed: Board member Deborah Quazzo, who had been appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to succeed Board member Penny Pritzker, had major conflicts of interest. Despite rationalizations by the mayor and some of his supporters, Quazzo remains on the Board.


January 11, 2015 at 12:01 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Return of Substance stories

Substance is back on line as of the early hours of January 11, 2015. Readers who wish to make comments about Substance or about articles at may do so provided they follow our guidelines. The main one is that under "Your Name" in comments the reader making the comment provide our readers with their complete names (first name and last name) -- and no pen names or pseydonyms.

January 14, 2015 at 9:20 PM

By: Neal Resnikoff

Beat Back Common Core and its PARCC test

This is the text I prepared to present to the Board of Education meeting. I was able to present about half of it before being cut off. I presented to the Board fact sheets on Common Core prepared by Albany Park, North Park, Mayfair Neighbors for Peace and Justice. You can get a copy of the fact sheet, which has citations for the main points I make in the presentation, by writing to

I want to address the issue of Common Core. This is a set of standards that is to be reflected in high stakes standardized tests and that will narrow the curriculum and education that our students get, unless it is beaten back.

Common Core is an attack on public education by corporations. You, like Governor Quinn, who signed onto it, did not take up your responsibility to organize the necessary debate and discussion before imposing it without the knowledge or permission of parents, teachers, and other concerned people in the city.

People have the right to decide what kind of education our children should receive. You repeatedly violate that right:

You have made devastating decisions, against strong community opposition, to recently close 49 more neighborhood schools, to install a military academy to replace a popular community school in Logan Square, and to increase the number of privately run charter schools-- which are taking money away from our neighborhood public schools.

But now you have a chance to deal with the problem of Common Core and its unscientific and oppressive standardized test known as PARCC, to be administered in the spring.

Common Core is a program initiated and funded by the biggest corporations in the U.S. Some 25 years ago one of their main organizations, the National Business Roundtable, made clear that they need students who will help them make more profits. They then worked hard to impose programs such as No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and now Common Core. The corporations want students trained to be obedient employees with a narrow outlook and set of skills, or soldiers who follow orders for the wars launched for the corporations greater profits and power.

But these corporate goals are not what most parents or teachers want for their children.

Those running Common Core have actually warned parents that up to 70% of children will fail Common Core tests such as PARCC. This is a barbarity. Failure can only discourage and humiliate children--especially poor and minority children. Teachers are forced to teach to these tests, and are terrorized because they and their schools will be evaluated based on invalid student scores.

Why are the federal and state governments so insistent on implementation of these Common Core tests --which are designed and sold to school systems like ours by monopoly corporations such Pearson?

The Chicago Teachers Union is on record against Common Core, with a unanimous vote of their House of Delegates. Many parents and other teachers have organized against Common Core here and in many other states, some school boards and school administrators. Here in Chicago people are organizing to oppose and opt out of this years PARCC test.

How about representing the people and join in with those who are opposing the PARCC tests. A school board that represents the people would support discussion by those who are bringing out the damage that Common Core will be doing.

This damage of Common Core includes the narrow standards that exclude truly critical thinking and consideration of history and social justice issues, that exclude creativity and art. Common Core ignores the developmental realities of children. The program violates the needs of special education students and English language learners. The Common Core program is providing sensitive private data on children and their parents to all sorts of vendors and others.

I have a fact sheet on all this and would be happy to answer your questions.

What do you think about what Ive just said?

January 15, 2015 at 8:48 AM

By: Rod Estvan

Neal's comment

Neal I think it is important to note that the Illinois learning standards established prior to the implementation of the common core where also fully supported by corporate interests. In fact if you read professor Michael W. Apple's books on the history of U.S. curriculum you will discover text book corporations and psychological/standardized test designers have for close to one hundred years played the critical role in the development of what are now called state standards.

I think your comments over dramatize increased corporate involvement in this area, educational curriculum has always been designed to support the market economy of our nation, the common core is not at all unique in that regard. But where the common core is different in my opinion is in its radical increase in complexity and its presumption that eventually most students with time and supposedly rigorous instruction will be able to master a level of complexity expected of middle class and higher income high school students by as early as late middle school.

There is a deeper agenda here and that is over time to reduce the number of people receiving college credentials hence access to a wide variety of occupations in our nation. The additional complexity of the common core and associated tests will also be used to limit access to two year technical and vocational programs.

While my argument, which follows similar analysis being developed in Europe by left wing economists,runs contrary to the predominate narrative that the U.S. economy needs an ever more highly trained workforce, I believe it to be valid because of globalization. More and more intellectual work in the field of computer science will be moved off shore where individuals with advanced skills and degrees can be had much cheaper than here.

Even the skilled trades are being impacted by this, many structures are now built faster and with fewer workers out of modules that have been produced by computerized machines that in some cases are programmed in part by off shore consultants.

The Common Core can not be extracted from its historical context. Indiana under Republican leadership opposed and rescinded a move to the common core, the learning standards now in place in Indiana still fully reflect the corporate interests that dominate the education of that state's workforce.

Rod Estvan

January 18, 2015 at 6:08 PM

By: Neal Resnikoff

Common Core... A reply to the comment by Rod Estvan

No to Common Core. Reply to Ron Estvans comment...

No to Common Core. Reply to Ron Estvans comment.

Rod raises a number of important points for consideration.Rod is certainly right that the ruling class in the U.S. has always used its power to have education serve its aims. No question about that.

However, Common Core is distinct in its program for public education and students in that it tightens the relationship of the parts, and closes many of the spaces that have been open in schools and for teachers to be innovative and encourage childrens creativity and all-around development.

The (higher?) standards set (secretly) by a body of mainly non-educators chosen by corporate funders and initiators determine everything else in Common Core. That is, theres a requirement that everything be aligned with the standards, which are not open to change by states or local areas. When a governor of a state signs on to Common Core that means adopting the whole package, starting with developmentally inappropriate or otherwise unacceptable standards for each grade.

On unacceptable standards, in Language Arts, for example, close reading of texts is commonly to be done without presentation and consideration of historical or social context, or discussion and evaluation of the content of the readings. This particular conception of close reading rules out a broad discussion of issues raised by readings, and does not encourage true critical thinking. I cannot speak knowledgeably about the problems that many critics have raised about standards for math.

There has been a lot of discussion by educators, with many examples, about how developmentally inappropriate the Common Core standards are for elementary school children.

The character of Common Core does have a lot to do with the particular time were in. The U.S. ruling class is in big trouble, especially internationally-- where competitors like Japan, Germany and China threaten to take over the economic lead of U.S. corporations. And I agree that the U.S. corporations no longer need the same number of highly trained technicians and innovators from the U.S. In fact, Common Core is designed to have most students fail (for example, with the test-makers choosing cut-off points for grading tests), undoubtedly so failing students can be prepared for the rank-and-file of the military and low level jobs--and made to feel that they got what they deserve.

The curriculum under Common Core is narrow and tightly controlled with less role for any teachers decisions. Its an oppressive set-up which is expected to produce mostly obedient graduates who do not think broadly about the rights and wrongs in the society, including students being prepared for management careers.

Standardized testing, while always suspect in terms of its validity in testing more than class background and ability to take tests, and often used in suspect ways in the past, such as tracking students, did not generally overwhelm the curriculum to the extent it is doing under Common Core. And, extremely important, the high-stakes tests are now to be systematically used to unfairly judge teachers and schools by how well their students score.

Demoralizing teachers isnt new, but this is more extreme and harder to get around. And there is the related issue of privatizing failing schools.

Common Core also has something quite new, which is vast data collection on students (starting in kindergarten, and perhaps pre-kindergarten) through high school (and perhaps beyond), and their families, on a large scale which will get out (one way or another) to employers, the military, etc., and where parents will be unaware or not allowed to opt out.\r\rAlong with this is the new emphasis on use of computers, not only for test-taking but also for monitoring students and using this data to design corrective lesson plans and curriculum content. They are also being developed to replace professional teachers with monitors or aides. So at this point in history the ruling class has more highly developed technology which is being used for greater control in all spheres of life. Theyre at the point where they can track individual key strokes on each computer, and have a highly sophisticated method of surveillance where theyll be able to assess student behaviors and attitudes like never before.

So with all this, its very good that parents and teachers are today more aware of whats going on than ever before, are generally very angry when they learn whats going on, and are organizing to say NO to various parts of Common Core and to Common Core as a whole.

At present in Chicago, the drive to opt out of the Common Core PARCC test to be administered in the spring is an important wedge for getting at all of the issues of education that Ron raises.

We cannot afford to take the stand of, in essence, saying that things are the way they are, and there is little we can do. We need to take the stand that the schools should be our schools, that the people should be the decision-makers, not the corporations.

And this is happening across the country. For example, in New York State, mass opposition to the data collecting corporation led to InBloom going out of business, and parents are watching to see what ruling class operatives will try to put in next. In Boulder, Colorado, almost all the high school seniors as a group refused to take required standardized tests. There is a movement where parents, teachers and students are insisting on being the decision-makers.

And further, besides all the criticism and resistance to Common Core, theres very healthy broad discussion going on about what kind of schools and education should be developed for modern democracy to flourish--the role of the arts, discussion of social issues, true critical thinking, and decision-making by students, parents, teachers, people in the wider community.

A good thing that the imposition of Common Core has inadvertently stimulated is wide discussion about what kind of democracy we want. This started when the public learned about the completely undemocratic decision-making involved in the design and implementation of Common Core and began to realize that corporations had directly funded and controlled the whole process of re-shaping public education.

Parents, teachers and the general public have protested against how Common Core further narrows what is being imposed on children and talked about what orientation and focus they want in public education and their right to be involved in making decisions about the orientation and focus of public education in the U.S.

Do we want education to narrowly serve the needs of corporations and their military? Or do we want it to prepare students to become thinking people who can make sound value judgments about the world we are living in and can contribute to making a new world?

So, to sum up, Common Core is an important development by the ruling class to further control and narrow curriculum-- not to mention privatization and much higher profits by the high-tech, testing, textbook and lesson plan corporations.

We certainly need to analyze what Common Core is and the role it plays. Most importantly, we need to collectively oppose it and insist that we, the people, be the decision makers about schooling and organize to oppose the dangerous direction in all spheres of life being taken by those who now rule the society--and desperately want to have everything under their control.

What do you think?

January 19, 2015 at 5:02 PM

By: Rod Estvan

The ruling ideas are those of the ruling class

Karl Marx was wrong and right about many things during his life time. Technology and advances in mathematics have made what appeared to be isolveable dilemmas of capitalism at least containable. But Marx once wrote: "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas."

This theory of Marx has held up well, so if one opposes the common core and proposes no alternative to it, essentially arguing reverting back to the older Illinois learning standards we are still trapped within what could be called a paradigm of corporate ideology. If one argues that the primary reason to oppose the common core is because it is part of a national curriculum as some Republicans do based on the principle of state's rights, you also remain trapped in the framework of corporate ideology.

The space for teaching against the stream in the prior Illinois learning standards was extremely narrow, while it is true that more non-explicit text could be used in instruction there were clear limits to the choice of literature a teacher could use. For example someone like the editor of Substance George could take a standard of English literature and make it have contemporary meaning within an urban student's world, while another teacher could take the exact same piece of literature and provide no progressive contextual meaning at all. In fact there were teachers who considered what George, myself, and other left wing teachers did as inappropriate politizarion of instruction, because we often broke with the ruling ideas that were to be given to the next generation.

So I have no objection to opposing the common core and in fact Governor Rauner may oppose the common core as eventually so may the Republican National Committee, but they won't oopose the ruling ideas that Neal correctly challenges.

I would add that if the changed cut scores on ISAT actually reflect what will be the results of common core based assessment higher income children will come out of this the big winners. Low income students statewide experienced on average in 2013 and 14 a 27% decline in the numbers of students at or above standards, whereas non-low income experienced about a 21% decline.

But when one looks at elementary school districts with average household incomes of $100,000 or more a year there was almost no decline at all. Lake Bluff's non-low income students experienced only a 6.5% decline and once non-low income disabled children are extracted there was no deline of signifiagance at all. We can see similar data in other exclusive high incme school districts.

Opposing the common core is progressive only to the extent it challenges the ruling ideas as Marx once called them, if it doesn't do that it does not make much difference.

Rod Estvan

January 21, 2015 at 11:11 PM

By: Neal Resnikoff

A Peoples alternative to Common Core standards

A Peoples alternative to Common Core standards. A reply to the last Rod Estvan posting.



We should oppose Common Core with the idea that quality public education requires basic changes. The alternative is for teachers, parents, students, and the broader community to have debate and discussion about what we, the people, want the aims, content, methods, kinds of assessments, etc for public education to be. This means that we, the people, should aim to set very different standards for the public schools than Common Core.

Such discussion and debate has been ongoing over the years, and so we are not starting from scratch. This discussion about what the aims of public education should be has sharpened on the blogs and list-serves challenging Common Core and challenging the high stakes testing of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top and now Common Core. People have roundly denounced Common Core as presenting a narrow curriculum, and proposed the alternative of various forms of child-centered education that encourages the arts, critical thinking, social issues, and more. Alternative views of this sort were expressed by several of the speakers at the last Board of Education meeting.

This discussion is going on now in an organized way across the countryas a part of the opposition to Common Core and its various parts. I dont think this kind of discussion and outpouring of ideas about what is needed in public education at the grass roots level has ever gone on before in such a widescale way.

Across the country people need to be better organized to accomplish setting the standards for schools, but we are not starting from zero. Take Chicago , for example. There are already many working together in Chicago to oppose and opt out of high stakes testing and to have alternative forms of assessment of students. People are working to have a representative elected School Board (which includes discussion of whats wrong with the decisions of the present Boardsuch as privatizing public schools and taking them further out of public discussion and eliminating important programs in the arts, physical education, and more). There have been forums in which teachers and parents express what they would like to see in schools for their children. There was the big opposition and speak-puts against the shut down of neighborhood community schools. The Chicago Teachers Union came out to oppose Common Core and to raise the issue of what school orientation and content should be. Substance has been one platform for discussion of all this.

The corporate ruling class is right now somewhat on the defensive on Common Core and high stakes testing and release of private data about students as a result of the challenge to their ruling class imposition of Common Core and related schemes. This is a good time to work actively to develop a peoples alternative for public education, in Chicago and elsewhere in the country.

Consciousness of the need for thoroughgoing changes in public education is growing. This is grounds for optimism. The ideas of the ruling class are dominant in the institutions they control, but they cannot control the rising consciousness and organized actions of people at the grass roots, across the country.

January 25, 2015 at 9:28 AM

By: Rod Estvan

A people's alternative

I have not seen anything in the United States in the last ten or fifteen years comparable to what the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, proposed for a pedagogy with a new relationship between teacher, student, and society. What Neil just did again was to critique the common core and testing, not to show really any concept of alternative standards.

Last week on Chicago Tonight (WTTW) a very articulate teacher Michelle Gunderson, a teacher at Nettelhorst Elementary gave an excellent critique on the new common core test. But to be honest she did not say one word on if the NWEA or ISAT should remain in place, overall assessments should be eliminated, or what type of alternative curriculum she would like to see.

This show can be seen at What unfortunately has happened is that some progressive educators who wanted alternative curriculum joined the charter school movement. The best example of that here is Namaste Charter School , around the country there are many other such examples and progressive educators who created private schools.

I am sorry to say Neil I just don't see the current opposition to the common core as leading to any type of people's alternative in relationship to standards, the critique is for the most part pragmatic and in my opinion correct. Parents are with very notable exceptions are also highly pragmatic and see the time spent on assessment as largely a diversion from learning. But Chicago parents in mass are not looking at the common core through the lens of anti corporate ideology or opposition to globalization.

I do think an articulate teacher like Gunderson provides a useful corrective to the excess in assessing children, but not really a people's alternative to corporate controlled standards.

Rod Estvan

January 26, 2015 at 12:39 PM

By: Neal Resnikoff

More on an alternative to Common Core

On Alternatives to Common Core.

As I have indicated earlier, working out the kind of education needed now is a process, and a very positive feature of the process is that it involves public discussion among thousands of people.A number of educators have contributed books with worked out ideas, but such books are not all that is needed. Quality public education is a right belonging to the people as a whole, and the people together--including professional educators--should and are fighting and learning together on what education based on modern democracy (i.e. people's democracy--of the people, by the people for the people) should be.

Here's an example of the discussion and action going on that helps in this process.


Hands Up, Dont Test

Jesse Hagopian says protests against police and high-stakes testing have more in common than you think


EduShyster: You happened to be in Boston recently giving a talk about the new uprising against high-stakes testing on the same night that thousands of people here were

protesting police violence and institutional racism. Heres the

peoples micexplain how the two causes are related.

Jesse Hagopian: If I could have, I would have moved the talk to the protest to connect the issues. I would have said that the purpose of education is to empower young people to help solve problems in their community and their society. The purpose of standardized testing is to learn how to eliminate wrong answer choices rather than how to critically think or organize with people around you or collaborate on issues you care about.

These tests are disempowering kids from the skills they really need to solve the big problems that our society and kids themselves are facinglike rampant police brutality and police terror.

Whats the point of making our kids college and career ready if they can be shot down in the street and theres no justice?

You look at how testing and the preparation for testing now monopolizes class timethat is the American school system. If our schools emphasized rote memorization and dumbing down, that would be unfortunate. But the problem goes so far beyond that. We face huge problems as a society: mass incarceration, endless wars, income inequality. Our education system has to be about empowering students to solve those problems.

EduShyster: I can think of one key difference between the two movements. All of the people who are protesting testing are white suburban moms who are unhappy that their kids arent as brilliant as they thought.

Hagopian: That comment is offensive for lots of reasons but one of the biggest is that it dismisses the parents and teachers of color who are leaders of this movement.

Look at Castle Bridge Elementary in New York where more than 80% of the parents opted their kids out of the test. The PTA leaders who helped spearhead that movement are both parents of color. Look at Karen Lewis in Chicago, who has led a civil rights struggle for the schools Chicagos students deserve, which includes a fight against high-stakes testing. In Seattle we organized a multi-racial coalition, and some of the most vocal opponents of the MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) test were Black teachers, myself included. We were able to partner with the NAACP and it was a really powerful coalition. At one point the NAACP held a press conference and said *Look: the MAP test is the tool thats used to decide who is in AP classes which are overwhelmingly white. This is a tool of institutional racism and tracking and the MAP tests have long played that role. If this is the metric that we use to decide who is advanced and who isnt, and only white children end up being identified as advanced, then something clearly isnt working.*


EduShyster: In your new book, More than a Score, you argue that the movement against high-stakes testing actually started with civil rights activists. Explain.

Hagopian: The first major test resisters were Black intellectuals. Horace Mann Bond has a beautiful passage where he describes how these tests are used to rank and sort our children and how, when you test the kids in the rich neighborhoods who have access to all of the resources and of course they do better. It has nothing to do with intelligenceit has to do with access to resources. What he wrote in the 1930s is exactly what we see happening in our schools today.

Or W.E.B. Dubois, founder of the NAACP, who spoke out against early standardized tests because they were grafted onto the public schools via the eugenics movement, the idea being that it was possible to prove white supremacy through *scientific* methods. He knew from the very beginning that these tests were designed to show Black failure, and theyre still showing that.

The fact that theres been such a stability of test scoresthat rich white students score the bestshows that these are a tool for ranking and sorting. And increasingly these tests are being used to shut down schools in poor neighborhoods and which serve predominantly students of color.

EduShyster: Heres where I have to channel one of my favorite critics. Lets call him Math Teacher, because thats the name he uses when we tangle on my blog. He teaches at a Boston charter school, and as hell be quick to ask, if those schools are failing to teach kids at the most basic level, should they be kept open?

Hagopian: Thats a great question. As much as I vehemently defend our public schools against corporatization and what I call the testocracy, I think that we have to acknowledge that our schools have long played the role of ranking and sorting students into different strata of society, and students of color in particular have been sorted into the bottom.

Theres a tension in public schools because on the one hand they play that ranking and sorting function, but on the other hand they hold radical democratic possibilities to empower people with the knowledge that they need to transform society. Thats why schools are contested spaces and why every civil rights movement in our history has been focused on the schools in some way. We need to transform our school system. The question is *who are the best people to do that?* And the best people to do that are teachers and parentsnot billionaires or the one percent. The sorting process worked out just fine for them.

EduShyster: What if the billionaires suddenly decided to transform the public schools into the sorts of schools where they send their own kids?

Hagopian: Ive often said that the MAP boycott didnt start at Garfield High School, but Lakeside High School, where Bill Gates went and where his kids go. The private schools for the elites never administer the MAP tests and all of these other tests because for their children they want the performing arts, creativity, time to develop their children into leaders, libraries with tens of thousands of volumes, study abroad programs, Olympic swimming pools. But they want for our kids rote memorization and thats getting *career and college ready.* We say *whats good enough for your child is good enough for ours.*

EduShyster: Garfield High is associated with rabble-rousing teachers because of the successful MAP boycott, but students there are really active too. I follow you on Twitter, so I know that in addition to walking out to protest the Ferguson decision, students also walked out over budget cuts. Are all of these walkouts getting in the way of their test prep?

BSU signsHagopian: Garfield High is going through an incredible season of student activism. Im the adviser to the Black Student Union at Garfield High School, whose members were recently recognized by the Seattle Human Rights Commission for being rising human rights leaders. After the Darren Wilson decision, they called a meeting in the cafeteria, held a speakout, then 1,000 students marched out of Garfield and to a rally at the NAACP. I happened to be driving down the road and had to pull over because all of a sudden here come 1,000 students chanting *hands up, dont shoot.*

The students will tell you that the problem isnt just in Ferguson or on Staten Island, but with institutional racism. They look around and its there in the Seattle Public Schools with, for example, disproportionate suspension rates for minority students. They feel like its their responsibility to highlight these issues and to act on their own behalf. Theyve become the teachers. Theyre teaching a whole city about the depths of racism in our society and what it means to stand up for what you believe in.

Thats exactly what education should be about. These students didnt just become activists overnight, by the way. The last few years, students protested against budget cuts at Garfield High, followed by the successful MAP boycott that galvanized our whole community, and really demonstrated to students and teachers the power of standing up. I think what Im most proud of is that were actually showing what the alternative to rote memorization and standardized curriculum looks like.

Jesse Hagopian teaches history and advises the Black Student Union at Seattles Garfield High School. He is the editor of More than a Score: the New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing.

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 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:

3 + 5 =