Newly appointed Chicago Board of Education fails first test

Although greeted with high hopes by CTU and community members who have been adversely affected by the horrors of mayoral controlled school policies since 1995, the new Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed board of education, which includes former teachers, workers for social justice and pro-union members, failed its first test.

Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle at the June 26, 2019, meeting.While speaking repeatedly throughout their introductions, during policy discussions and in public participation comments of "equity," most of the board members voted in favor of an updated school ratings policy that added special education high schools to the onerous labeling of schools based on some "metrics" over which school teachers and administrators have little control. Board members Dwanye Truss voted no and Revuluri abstained.

Substance will be adding reports on this first meeting of the del Valle board throughout the month. Check back regularly as we post more analysis and speaker testimony in addition to the articles we have already posted.

Articles that report on testimony from the June 26 CTU press conference and Board of Education meeting are linked below:

Board of Education president responds to Substance: "George Schmidt was a great man"

'A crisis of trauma and not meeting students' mental health needs' addressed at Board of Education meeting (video links included)

CTU press conference highlights needs in schools; former student testifies of help he received from social workers

The following report by the Chicago Tribune does a good job explaining the corporate view of the SQRP rating policy, which was approved by five board members.

Vowing to be transparent, Lightfoot’s new Chicago school board says it will livestream sessions, hold some meetings in neighborhoods



JUN 27, 2019 | 7:22 AM

When Mayor Lori Lightfoot replaced the entire Chicago Board of Education earlier this month and named Miguel del Valle president, he said they didn’t want a rubber-stamp board.

Though the mayor’s handpicked board members passed all of the public agenda items at their first meeting Wednesday, they first spent hours debating a range of issues and hearing from citizens, ultimately approving changes to policies including how schools are rated and which companies will be barred from doing business with Chicago Public Schools.

While signaling she supports the eventual move to an elected school board, Lightfoot chose to reconstitute the board in the meantime, tapping del Valle, a former state senator and city clerk, as the new board president.

Among his first orders of business Wednesday was announcing a series of changes to meeting procedures intended to make good on the mayor’s promise to make the board’s work more transparent.

Future meetings will be livestreamed and translated into Spanish, and votes unrelated to legal or personnel issues will be taken before members enter into closed-door talks. Additionally, the board will vote at its next meeting on whether to publicly post proposed policy changes a month in advance of board votes to allow more time for public review and feedback, and later this year will start holding some meetings in city neighborhoods in late afternoon or evening — rather than the usual morning meetings at the CPS district headquarters downtown — to make it more accessible for more people to attend.

The board also plans to create new committees that will “focus on critical education policy issues” and hold hearings at community sites, and will identify priority items from its meeting agendas that members will discuss before the public comment period.

“I want (board members) to be vocal and to be engaged at every level," del Valle said. “Even if we disagree or do not share the same opinion, it is necessary to hear the diverse opinions of this board.”

Del Valle, Vice President Sendhil Revuluri, and members Dwayne Truss, Elizabeth Todd-Breland, Lucino Sotelo, Luisiana Meléndez and Amy Rome were sworn in at the start of Wednesday’s meeting.

The new members cast their first votes nearly six hours later, after dozens of people spoke during public comment period.

In the board’s first vote, members ultimately approved a more extensive system for rating school quality. Truss voted against it, and Revuluri abstained.

Similar to how the district measures whether high school freshmen are on track to graduate, a new metric approved Wednesday will attempt to gauge whether students in grades three through eight are on the right path. It will factor into the school’s rating, along with nine other categories, including student growth and attendance.

“Why do we rate schools? We are trying to communicate to parents and other stakeholders how schools and the district as a whole are doing," Jeff Broom, CPS’ director of school quality measurement and research, told the board.

The ratings help identify schools that need extra support and help schools set goals and make decisions, Broom said. Though a school’s rating doesn’t tell its full story or determine whether it’s appropriate for a family, it can be a starting point for those conversations, he said.

The policy incorporates smaller changes to how high schools are rated, and so-called options schools are adding measures already in place at traditional high schools.

“Just because a student has dropped out and reenrolled doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be expectations around that student having access to post-secondary opportunities, so we want to make sure these options schools are providing those opportunities,” Broom said.

Truss questioned whether input from teachers, local school council members and parents was considered.

Among the other measures the board passed is an accelerated placement policy that in part determines when students can start kindergarten early. Board members also approved a “reciprocal debarment” policy, meaning any person or company that has been banned from working with another public agency would also be prohibited from any contracts with CPS. District spokeswoman Emily Bolton said no current district contractors are affected.

The new era for the board begins as the current teachers contract is about to expire, and as the Chicago Teachers Union pushes for a swift resolution of ongoing negotiations. Wednesday, CTU members rallied outside the district headquarters.

“You’re coming into a position facing a 20-year backlog of misguided education policies,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey told the new board Wednesday. “Many of these policies … were not subject to public discussion, were voted behind closed doors and had real harmful effects on our schools, our students and the people who work in our schools. I’m talking about things like CPS embarking on a charter school-opening binge at the same time they were closing a dozen public schools a year, or doing things like using racially loaded metrics to label schools as failures, using carceral terms like ‘probation,’ to basically label and undermine the success of whole numbers of public schools across the South and West sides.”

Mechanisms like how is a school rated, measured and funded are tied up in “problematic history,” Sharkey said. He said he hopes the new board will work on those issues, specifically referencing the school quality rating policy.

“The discussion we got to hear was much needed," Sharkey said. "This needs to fundamentally change. ... It labels schools as failures when really all it is doing is reflecting the socioeconomic status of the students in the neighborhood in which the school happens to be located.”

The terms of some of the new board members are due to end in 2022; others in 2023. But it’s possible that by then the district will have shifted to an elected board, something that would require a change in state law. Lightfoot has said she supports the idea but opposed a bill that passed the Illinois House this spring that would have created a 21-member elected board, calling it unwieldy.

Del Valle said Wednesday there “will be an elected school board in the future,” but until that happens, the new board members are committed to “strengthen(ing) a foundation an elected school board will build on."


June 28, 2019 at 7:35 AM

By: Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) Facebook Page

SQRP rating system

Board members asked meaningful questions about the SQRP rating system. I felt hopeful that it would be rejected until CPS could come up with a policy that doesn't disproportionately impact high-poverty schools. It is so disheartening that this was somehow passed. (First commenter)

I agree. This was a perfect opportunity to delve in to parent and community involvement with SQRP. This is JJ "vision" but she needs to realize a vision is manifested by all stakeholders and no one should be excluded!

(Second commenter)

I’m so confused how this was passed. I wasn’t surprised that JJ defended it, but I’m surprised this new board, who seemed so promising, passed it. There’s so much to our school than our test scores, and the old and new SQRP fails to acknowledge that.(First commenter)

June 28, 2019 at 7:41 PM

By: john whitfield

New Bd. of Ed. president, former State senator Miguel del Valle

With Chicago having being a 'sanctuary city' bilingual education activist Miguel del Valle , the former state Senator should be the perfect fit for overseeing the huge influx of English language learners that have landed, and will be landing in Chicago. Miguel is well loved by teacher activists that have also fought for multilingual / multicultural education. He has always been sensitive to the needs of instructors. Miguel himself learned English the hard way, especially during his initial school years, but has always comprehended the value of learning and growing in two languages, taking such an honorable attitude to the state capital, thus helping us for decades.

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