How to defraud the public with New Schools nonsense... Lessons from Chicago's summer hearings

REPORT/COMMENTARY on Chicago Public Schools’ Summer 2009 REN 2010 Hearings et al. By Susan Zupan

May 7, 2009. The prelude to the "New Schools" July 2009 hearings discussed in the accompanying article took place on May 7, 2009. At that time, CPS CEO Ron Huberman (above at podium) brought forward the latest "RFP" plans of the Chicago Board of Education's Office of New Schools. While most of Chicago thought that "Renaissance 2010" was going to end in 2010, Huberman and others have made it clear that they will continue to push "New Schools" across Chicago through 2015 and beyond as long as Mayor Daley and corporate Chicago demand them. Above, Huberman responded to a skeptical question from Sun-Times reporter Rosalind Rossi (foreground lower right) with comments about how he is checking out, examining, and reviewing everything about everything). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.As part of the ongoing campaign to expand what was "Renaissance 2010" to 2015 and beyond, the Chicago Board of Education's Office of New Schools held hearings at various places around Chicago in July 2009. Many of the hearings were reported by members of CORE, but what was also needed was s summary of what's going on in "Renaissance 2010" and Chicago's "Office of New Schools." The targeted areas and schools that were treated to the hearings in July 2009 will be the ones blitzed by the school closings, phase outs, consolidations, and turnarounds next winter. The ultimate goal of this report is to inform the readers about “what’s out there?” in regard to these “new and improved” schools, presently called charter, contract, or performance schools. Members of CORE (Caucus of Rank and File Educators) attended each of the six “hearings” held by CPS (Chicago Public Schools) this summer.

Please be forewarned that this report was written by one member of CORE, a member who unfortunately, frankly, mentally overdosed from too much jargon, after attending four hearings and reviewing information on the other two. (If you can imagine the spew of “educational” sputum from Arne Duncan et al. gradually mutating into the droned voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher for hours and days on end, then you get the idea.) Thus, from a slightly deranged perspective, comprehension of the English language now and forever more to be questioned, the reporter wondered how to best present and characterize the hearings for you as assigned, dear readers. …

It would help if you could conjure up the old image of a snake oil peddler, someone who claims to cure all that ails you – “you” in this case being society, the snake oil peddlers being the presenters of the “new and improved” schools, with personnel from CPS’s Office of New Schools assisting with the medicine bags at their sides. But perhaps even better, can you dredge up for a moment that old, cartoon, stereotyped image of the puny guy on the beach getting sand kicked in his face by the hulking muscular guy? Good. But guess what?!? WE in the PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE THE BIG HULKING MUSCLE GUY getting the sand kicked in our eyes by the puny guy! It’s NOT the other way around, people! A part of me believes that all we really have to do in public education is collectively STAND UP.

After attending these hearings, I am dumbfounded that public education is under attack from what might generously be described as Shih Tzus with Rottweiler complexes! (No offense meant to any dogs.)

Thus, it is impossible for this “reporter” to “report” on these “new and improved” school proposals with any amount of seriousness that would give them the credence that comes from being reported on seriously. So, perhaps the most effective way to present our public education side, remarkably the side under attack, is to use a little irony and sarcasm.*

*FYI-FTWDU (For Your Information-For Those Who Don’t Understand)

IRONY: a figure of speech in which the words express meaning that is the direct opposite of the intended meaning; Synonyms for SARCASM: derision, ridicule, mockery, irony.

Therefore! Presented below is a “RUN FOR THE TOP” PRE-Proposal Checklist of Ten “Must-Haves” for anyone (and believe it when I say anyone!) who wants to know what it takes to make it in elementary and secondary education in CPS and the United States today, especially with Flunkin’ Duncan slightly elevated from his status of not being qualified to sub in any classroom. These items were taken directly from the REN 2010 Hearings, just tweaked a bit. This is a “BEST OF” collection!!!

1) NAME and TERRITORY. You must rename the school. Eliminate the present name, probably based on some great American or other world-renown citizen who actually accomplished great things in his/her lifetime. Puh-lease! Replace that with an acronym or such for promises that have yet to be achieved. Keep in mind that you are adults saving children from the “failing public schools,” making your school from scratch (not very unlike your Aunt Bea’s fruitcake), wanting to help little “Minnie Mouse” learn to read, and be sure to use invented spelling for your acronyms. For example: SPPARCCLING KLEEN Academy. (Special aPProaches Academy for Regular to slightly aCCelerated peopLe wIth uNrealistic Goals who Keep overfLowing with Excesses of Ego and arrogaNce).

Impress upon the audience, tax-paying citizenry that they are, how they might help you work with the local alderman/woman and CPS to rearrange and rezone Chicago school attendance boundaries until everyone involved, with the exception of the local neighborhood public school, can claim to achieve their goals and document success with the students! Illinois politicians ain’t got nothing on the educational gerrymandering taking place under CPS today!

2) “STABILITY.” Spin the audience out of their collective minds with opposite-talk more impressive than anything poor George Orwell couldn’t come up with in 1984! Demonstrate how aware you are of “important recent studies.” (*SIDENOTE: Repeatedly use terms like “important recent studies” to back up everything you say, even though you have no data available when asked about the studies you reference. Probably no one will ask, but if anyone does, like someone from CORE, simply eyeball that “trouble-maker” and tell them they can just “see you after class, missy” for that information.)

Sample Script: (Slightly paraphrased from Flunkin’ Duncan’s Department of Edjamacation) “We are aware that ‘important recent studies’ correlate the importance of stablilty and student achievement.” (Before you let the audience process or digest that – hit ‘em hard with the opposite of what it really means:) “Therefore, we will encourage the nation to utilize the successful TURNAROUND model from CPS! This way we can stabalize your children’s lives with (--fill in proposed, invented spelling acronym for the new school--).” (Do this before anyone, especially the children, recovers from the predictable SHOCK DOCTRINE TRAUMA inflicted on their fragile body systems and all-around eco-systems from losing everything that they mistakenly held near and dear to their hearts in their lives to date.) If necessary, state clearly, “And if you do not comprehend that this is NOT contradictory, well then you must have been educated in one of our nation’s failing public schools.”

As any seasoned teacher might tell those who never listen to seasoned teachers but instead rely on the book knowledge of new teachers who have never before been left alone in a classroom of students, the “turnaround model” works as well as when a teacher punishes the whole class for some mayhem in which everyone was certainly not involved. (Don’t you wistfully remember how you loved and respected the authority of the teachers and administrators that did that?) The classroom full of students will forgive you immediately and forever love you for punishing everyone indiscriminately. So just why not punish the lunchroom and janitorial staff for the school’s test scores??? Who does that guy who changes the mousetraps think he is when he and everyone else in the building is so closely associated to a “failing” school in a totally economically-deprived, poverty-stricken area of the United States of America, and they are not held accountable!? Whaaaat?! They think their service over the years under such conditions should be honored or something when everyone else, especially politicians, practiced non-benign neglect!? Puh-leeeeze!

Keeping with the rhetorical opposite-speak of NCLB (No Child Left Behind – Good one! HAAAAAAAW!!!), the “democratic,” Chicago “turnaround model” (with a whopping 70% failure rate in the business world) is being held up as the front-and-center example-to-be-followed by the powers-that-be exactly as the data on the importance of STABILITY rolls in. This is not much different from the Charter School model being held up front-and-center as the example-to-be-followed exactly as the CREDO (Center for Research on Education Outcomes, Stanford University) data shows the abysmal FAILURE nationally of the Charter School model in education ( The prior “republican” “Healthy Forests Initiative,” in which we were told how forests needed to be destroyed in order to save them, fell right in line with this politically bi-partisan phenomenon.

3) DISCIPLINE. Your policy will truly be the envy of the public schools! You might have a chance to claim some success on the totally uneven playing field created for you against the neighborhood, public schools! However, please note that how you present your policy will depend on your particular audience: OPTION A: This first option is for audiences with parents who desperately want to get their own angelic babies away from those “other” CPS students. SCRIPT: (Deliver in a hush-hush/between-you-and-me manner) “Don’t worry about all you’ve heard and read about those “other,” disruptive CPS students! They are only included temporarily in order to get “buy-in” from the surrounding communities of the city for whom gentrification is just a bulldozer away. Understand that we initially have to follow inconvenient rules, regulations, policies, procedures, and laws in order to get started. Rest assured! We quickly put THOSE students on our fast “sailing” track of study – as their butts sail right out the front door of our building straight into the neighborhood school (“INCOMING!”) that is required, unlike us, to take all comers with no exceptions, loopholes, or lies.” (Be sure to refer the parents to your web site where your kick-them-out policy is directly spelled out.)

OPTION B: This second option is for audiences with parents who desperately want someone to help them take care their babies with “social and emotional issues” (aka, see “other” above).

SCRIPT: (Deliver in a loud voice like you really mean it, since you don’t. Ideally, you should probably try to believe your own BS, but if you just can’t, at least try to act like it.) “WE MEET THE NEEDS OF ALL STUDENTS! WE ACCEPT AND KEEP ALL STUDENTS! WE ARE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL! WE CONSIDER ALL OUR STUDENTS AS OUR FAMILY!” (*SIDENOTE: Watch your wallet with people at any job who refer to you and fellow workers as “family”…)

If someone from the audience doesn’t buy this passionately delivered B.S., because (dang!) they witnessed otherwise from what has already happened to other students, parents, and “families” they know, grant them that you’ve possibly, unknowingly, regrettably, made mistakes in the past, but that is all over now. Keep talking reassuringly until they nod meaninglessly and/or zone out completely. (Be sure to NOT refer any of these parents to your web site.)

FOR BOTH OPTIONS A and B: Be sure to let the audience know that in your school they will observe and hear things never before seen or heard in any traditional public school in any city or state, such as: “students working together,” “engaged students,” “motivated students,” and (my personal favorite ->) “smiling students.”

As for any continuing, pesky questions about special education, ELL (English Language Learners), and students with “social/emotional issues,” simply choose from the two right answers and passionately regurgitate: 1) “We KNOW they will succeed!!!” and/or 2) “EVERY child has an IEP” (Individual Education Plan). Do NOT give any specifics, since you don’t have any. If you attempt to field audience questions about students with special needs, and you have no real-life experience but you think you can try to fake it, you will simply expose yourself embarrassingly.

4) NCLB (HAAAAAAAW!!!) and FUNDING. TALK THE TALK AS YOU WALK A VERY DIFFERENT WALK. Talk the talk of “the failing public school system” in your city/state/country as you walk the walk of keeping African-American and Hispanic students not only “in their place,” but actually PUT THEM BACK FURTHER, BABY! Do NOT let any audience members or the public at large learn about the recent CREDO study. (See web site cited above in #2.) The data from this first comprehensive report on the state of charter schools in our nation shows that charter schools are an impressive, almost-overall failure. Only 17% nationally show gains over their virtual peer, public school counterparts; for those of you who attended these “new and improved” schools, that means an 83% failure rate for what they were created to achieve.

The failures are most shocking for the above-mentioned “sub groups” of students, that is, the minority students who were supposedly targeted for help by the snake oil, charter school peddlers in the first place. According to the study, for example, in Illinois, minority students (the majority in CPS) “gain significant losses” in their first two years in charter schools in reading and/or math. It takes the students three years just to get back up to even with their virtual peers who stayed behind in the “failing public education system”! Perhaps this is the origin of Flunkin’ Duncan’s recent “RUN TO THE TOP” opposite-speak, naming phenomenon…

With stimulus money from the federal government, charter school snake oil peddlers can take all the money and continue their officially documented record of (not letting minority students achieve) success!!! States that do not comply with this Chicago-style Civil Rights Initiative will get the same amount of money (pssst… NONE!) as the now documented, “not-as-failing-as-we-thought” public schools!!! (*SIDENOTE: A scan of a recent CPS racial survey indicates that approximately 57% of CPS elementary schools are 90% or more segregated with African-American (43%) or Hispanic (14%) students; 71% of CPS elementary schools are 75% or more segregated. Therefore, Chicago is a good model to follow for a post-1954 Brown v. Board of Education nation, no?)

Besides having tons of federal taxpayers’ dollars thrown at you to continue and increasingly push the nation’s minority students back, you will want to brag about your other secure funding from businesses and political figures (vested interests of one state senator and one Cook County Commissioner were revealed at two of the hearings). Let the audience know how much you and they can rely on that steady and reliable source of income to maintain your homemade school. Tell how the “business model for education” is as proven a success as it has been for regular businesses in our “global economy” in which we must groom and prepare America’s children to equal the telemarketing and sweatshop skills and jobs of competing countries.

If, just if, that funding goes bust, you know it’s simply the price of doing BUSINESS, with children as widgets, parents as customers, teachers as salespersons, principals as CEOs, etc. It’s nothing personal (like caring for children, for crying out loud), it’s just business.

5) PARENT AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT. Be sure to overemphasize over and over again your school’s tremendous involvement opportunities for parents and community members in your new school!

Just DO NOT mention that the parental and community powerhouse of involvement that comes from being on an LSC (Local School Council) is eliminated in your school. Get that concept of parents and community members being able to vote for and have authority over a School Improvement Plan as well as hire and fire a principal OUT OF THEIR HEADS!

Be sure to have any and every acronym for parent/community input include an “A” for Advisory! The absolute power and total control your personality needs and desires are all yours! Until and unless CPS ever uses something as useful as a reliable, psychological Personality Profile Test of some kind to screen out those administrators who “do not work well with others,” you are home free and in charge!

Be sure to explain how your “new and improved” school will connect the students and their families with the gazillions of social services they may need that are available in the neighborhood and the city (because this is a concept that must never have occurred before to anyone in CPS, run by the mayor of Chicago, to try to accomplish in the neighborhood, public schools).

6) JOB BRIBES. Bribe the parents and the community with the good ole “job possibilities” carrot-on-a-stick! Let them hear you LOUDLY answer “YES!” to any and all questions about future job possibilities for school community members! But just like the fine print and indiscernible monotone ramblings of pharmaceutical commercials, only very very very SOFTLY mention “application process.” Do this so that later you can claim that you already clearly explained it, when no one in the neighborhood finishes the process with an actual job.

7) EMPLOYEE DISMISSALS/TURNOVER. Here are two rather insignificant issues that can be addressed easily enough. First, your astronomical turnover rate! Yikes! But stress that it is due to these danged employees who refuse to comply with your reasonable 24/7/365 work schedule all for the sake of the audiences’ kids! Slam unions! We don’t want these kids to ever think unions –with their danged insistence on livable wages and hours- are good for them and their families, now do we? Duh!

Second, so what (!) if you’ve fired anyone who brought so-called “problems” out into the public. (Obviously taking care of the special needs of the students with special needs means ignoring them and/or kicking their butts out the door to go get their needs met, maybe, at the local public school.) Lead the audience along in following the logic that since you are perfect in all you do, anyone who dares to speak out or write otherwise about any kinds of “problems” is obviously not a stable enough individual (even if your individuals add up to masses) to have near anyone’s precious babies! Emphasize your strong social studies curriculum at this point in the presentation. Emphasize how your school’s employment policies greatly assist in the preparation of your students for their future positions (down and out) in the global economy, the value of which cannot be questioned. Be sure to use the strategy of opposite-speak in keeping with the line of discussion, using words and phrases such as “democracy,” “responsible citizenship,” and various trite phrases from the Bill of Rights.

8) GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP. Let the audience know about CPS’s GEO (Global Education Outreach) Project. Explain how the public schools of America, and Chicago in particular, are failing so miserably in the basic, adult job of educating our nation’s youth, that CPS (under Dunkin’) has proudly gone begging on the world stage for anyone with barely discernible English to please come to our country and give us a hand up from the floor!

In this reverse Peace Corps Program, Chicago is portraying the United States in a much friendlier/less-threatening light by facilitating the arrival of “versatile teachers” from “over five continents and several countries” to “serve in schools with traditional low scores due to lack of qualified teachers.” (*SIDENOTE: The quotes are straight from an actual flyer.) 

Let the audience know all about how declaring “WE SUCK!” to the world makes our fellow global citizens feel better about us and themselves!

They like us so much better when they are encouraged to arrogantly and patronizingly look down on us! Stress how the audience members’ children can be a part of this program (or might already be). Tell the audience how you are planning for your students to participate more fully now (and who knows of future job possibilities!) as you introduce this concept to the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Defense Department! “BIG and BAD” is OUT, baby! “PLEASE! HELP US SUCCESSFULLY RAISE OUR OWN CHILDREN” is IN! “WEAKNESS is STRENGTH!” (in the new millennium, not 1984). Explain that you will follow this CPS model and truly stop at nothing to slam the public education system of our nation.

9) CURRICULUM. The key concept to keep in mind here is “old is new.” Promise unseen and unheard of programs never before witnessed in the nation’s public school system, such as: tutorial/remedial work for lower-achieving students, accelerated and/or more challenging work for high achievers, research report writing, thematic units of study, and “TECHNOLOGY!” For the last one, be sure to express the word as if it is a panacea for all that ails the world! (Advice: Try not to let the audience ask questions about your technology panacea. “We need to grow that” just doesn’t cut it as an answer to money and funding issues for continual updates or how to supply computers for computer homework when the students have no computers at home.)

However, although “old is new,” you might add something flashy/splashy! CPS will encourage you to turn that one-idea-you’ve-just-had-in-your-head-for-the-longest into a kind of theme park school. For example, build your whole elementary school proposal around a game, such as Chess, in which the whole school is “on board” with a united intellectual pursuit!

Or, for a high school, greatly emphasize a theme such as “Media Arts,” even if the students take only two or three extra elective courses on “Media Arts” compared to a regular high school curriculum. Be sure to add that whatever career choice a student opts for at the high school level, you will arrange internships with both private and public-related sectors, even if these are presently and will probably remain nonexistent. (Does the Fire Department know that one “new and improved” school promised an inquiring student an internship with its bomb squad?) (Actually, some of the theme-type ideas at the hearings could possibly be incorporated into existing neighborhood schools as elective options for interested students. Why not, CPS? Why instead entertain the creation of whole new schools around such one-hit-wonders?)

As for “Character Education,” lots of posters and role-modeling by the adults will take care of that.

10) “DATA DRIVEN ANALYSIS.” I’ve saved one of the most important checklist items for last! Be sure to inundate, I mean FLOOD, the audience with brochures or flyers with unintelligible charts and graphs filled with, and I mean saturated with …very selective data!

If you have twenty campuses and after intensive scrutiny you find that nineteen are not able to supply any data demonstrating success, fill the flyer up with selective data that shows success from that one campus only! Test scores a flop? Don’t mention them! If you actually have no useful data, or NO DATA at all because you are a brand-spanking-new, homemade-fruitcake-from-scratch school, even though you are being characterized as “improved” compared to the traditional public schools, simply put it this way: “Our school is a model that is being looked at!” Show and tell about your student re-enrollment numbers, parent satisfaction percentages, the astronomical amount of observed smiling students, anything!!! Woweee!

If it LOOKS good, and/or it SOUNDS good, it should SELL good! Be sure to brag about Flunking Dunking’s visit to one of your other successful schools in Washington, D.C. Tell how he shot some hoops and taught everyone how to perfect their game of BULL, a variation of HORSE. Drop his name a lot, as if he’s really qualified! (Bwuaaaah! Haaaaah! Haaaaah!) People will believe anything!!!

CLOSING REMARKS: COLLECTIVELY, LET’S JUST STAND UP. The bully is usually weaker than anyone thinks. (Think “Flik” in A Bug’s Life!) 

Final edited version of this article posted at August 5, 2009, 2:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


August 7, 2009 at 12:12 AM

By: de la cruz


The de la cruz school building, is at this very moment, being turned into a charter school. They are liers all at CPS.

August 7, 2009 at 5:22 PM

By: Follow the Money

Lots of Close Ties at CPS

Just realized today that there is a link between Erikson Institute, New Leaders for New Schools, and New Schools Project. Who is the man behind the curtain?

August 11, 2009 at 9:44 AM

By: How do you spell Bowman and what's the link?


Next time you're looking into CPS, watch Barbara Bowman reading novels during meetings of the Board of Education -- unless she is called upon to provide Michael Scott with the "reasons" to close more pre-kindergarten programs, privatize them, or otherwise destroy programs that worked for young children.

Then trace the clout in all directions. The family resemblances are amazing when you look closely. Someone should write up all the ways Chicago Clout is spreading, locally, regionally, academically, nationally, and internationally. Have fun.

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