MEDIA WATCH: How much longer will America's corporate media report the words of Chicago's 'Great White Hopes'? Even The New York Times is noticing that Duncan's Chicago 'miracle' claims are a media hoax!

After nearly a year of constant cheerleading for Arne Duncan, New York Times education reporter Sam Dillon has finally written (or been ordered to write) a slight correction to his previous hagiography. As those who've followed the national reporting on Duncan — the least qualified U.S. Secretary of Education in the brief (35-year) history of the U.S. Department of Education — have noted, The New York Times fell right into line in bashing the opponents of "Race to the Top" and praising Duncan. The Times's coverage of Duncan began on Page One in December 2008 without such as a critical glance at Duncan's actual record as the second so-called "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's 400,000-student public school system since the system was turned over to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1995.

Nearly five years ago, on February 22, 2006, former Collins High School Principal Grady C. Jordan, above at microphone, warned that the proposed closing of Collins High School (and subsequent conversion of Collins into a charter school and an AUSL "turnaround" training school) would destroy the education of students from the West Side, where he had worked for most of his professional career of more than 30 years. Dr. Jordan and other professional educators, many of them black, was ignored by Arne Duncan, who had no professional experience or credentials during the years he served as the so-called "Chief Executive Officer" of Chicago's public schools. Nevertheless, and despite the protest of thousands of teachers, students, parents and community leaders against Duncan's schools closings juggernaut, more than 50 Chicago schools were closed on various pretexts during the seven years (2001-2008) Duncan served as CEO in Chicago. To many observers, the ability of Chicago's corporate media to ignore the voices of the best trained and most highly qualified generation of educators in Chicago's history in order to promote Duncan's school closing agenda was just another instance of the long and scandalous history of white supremacy in Chicago. Duncan had been appointed by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in July 2001 to launch the massive privatization of Chicago schools, especially the schools in the city's segregated black ghetto. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.With the publication of one critical article, The New York Times still can't claim it's beginning to provide an unbiased review of both the Secretary and the programs he is pushing, but many critics are noting that it's better late than never. At least Rod Paige had spent years teaching schools, coaching sports, and serving as the (controversial) superintendent of Houston's public schools before George W. Bush appointed him the nation's chief education officer. Arne Duncan's experience prior to his July 2001 appointment by Richard M. Daley to the city's top education job was as a tutor in a tiny after-school program run by Duncan's mother near the family's Hyde Park home on Chicago's South Side. In a way that has become almost laughable were it now so serious, Duncan has even taken to citing those years as a touching part of his personal narrative in speeches about how to change American public schools for the better since President Barack Obama tapped him to be U.S. Secretary of Education in December 2008. [see especially Duncan's October 9, 2009 speech at the University of Virginia at http://www. substance news. net/articles. php?page= 935§ion=Article for an example of Duncan's attempt to expand his young volunteer work into the basis for his current job].

The question now is whether the Times will dig a little deeper into every corruption that took place under Arne Duncan. These range from the endless stream of school closings (and the placement of public resources into the hands of corporate or callow charter school "entrepreneurs") to the cover up Duncan helped with when the scams of the "Save a Life Foundation" were exposed. The "Save A Life Foundation" story and Duncan's role in it is one of the many examples of how Duncan constantly ducked his fiduciary duties to taxpayers and children to hold those receiving Chicago public education money "accountable" while relentlessly privatizing public assets and leading the teacher bashing charge against teachers who continued to teach at public schools with low test scores.

Thanks to Bob Schaeffer of Fair Test ( and others for sending us the following.

Bob Schaeffer wrote to the Assessment Reform Network ListServe: Just as "No Child Left Behind" was based on the phony "Texas Miracle" fabricated by George Bush and his first Secretary of Education Rod Paige, the Obama Administration's school reform agenda draws upon a "Chicago Success" fantasy promoted by his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The new Chicago schools study is available free online at http://ccsr.uchicago. edu/content/publications. php?pub_id=136 If his tenure in Chicago was evaluated via a "performance assessment," Duncan would have flunked out.

The delightful phrasing couldn't have been better had it first appeared in the pages of Substance, the only newspaper that remained skeptical and critical as Duncan's inanities went from being sound bites to the center of public education policy, first in Chicago and now across the entire USA.

Schaeffer's note included the following reprint from the October 29, 2009 New York Times:


Following his brief but powerful testimony against the closing of Collins High School during the Chicago Board of Education meeting of February 22, 2006, former Chicago high school superintendent Dr. Grady C. Jordan, above, spoke with anyone from the media who wished to hear his views on the proposed closings. During both his comments and subsequent media interviews, Dr. Jordan warned that closing all-black high schools like Collins and sending Collins students to similar schools like Crane, Manley, and Marshall high schools (all schools that are segregated, 100 percent African American, and serving a student population that is 100 percent poor) was like "sending these kids from one leaky boat to another..." Despite his more than four decades in public service and the fact that he had served for years as the superintendent of Chicago's high schools, making him one of the top African American educators in the State of Illinois, Dr. Jordan was never again asked for his opinions about the closings which Arne Duncan did year after year. In the view of most observers, by choosing Duncan over Jordan as the spokesman on the subject of schools closings, Chicago's corporate media simply proved its white supremacist bias during the years Duncan was overseer of the most vicious privatization attack on Chicago's black community in history. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presided over the closing of dozens of failing schools when he was chief executive of the Chicago public schools from 2001 until last December. In his new post, he has drawn on those experiences, putting school turnaround efforts at the center of the nation's education reform agenda.

Now a study by researchers at the University of Chicago concludes that most students in schools that closed in the first five years of Mr. Duncan’s tenure in Chicago saw little benefit.

“Most students who transferred out of closing schools re-enrolled in schools that were academically weak,” says the report, which was done by the university’s Consortium on Chicago School Research.

Furthermore, the disruptions of routines in schools scheduled to be closed appeared to hurt student learning in the months after the closing was announced, the researchers found.

At the time Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan proposed the closing of George W. Collins High School in January 2006 (above, at a meeting of the Chicago Board of Education), Duncan had already destroyed three of the city's most famous black high schools — Austin, Calumet, and Englewood. Each of them was turned over to what Duncan fondly referred to as "Educational Entrepreneurs" as part of the "Renaissance 2010" program first promoted in 2003 by the powerful Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago and announced as policy by Mayor Richard M. Daley in July 2004. Duncan's ignorance of the city's public schools system, combined with his complete lack of qualifications to run the system, did not stop the local and national media, including The New York Times, from quoting Duncan as an authority on urban education and ignoring the hundreds of more qualified and experienced black teachers, principals and administrators who led protests against Duncan's policies. When Duncan's policies of school closings and "turnaround" were finally criticized by The New York Times in October 2009 following a report from the University of Chicago, the charges of white supremacist bias in news coverage only increased. The Times had previously praised Barack Obama's appointment of Duncan and reported his every strange utterance and policy uncritically until loud white voices were raised from the University of Chicago against Duncan. The common sense and experience of black people and educators like Dr. Grady C. Jordan were "whited out" of the official narrative during the Duncan years in Chicago and during the early months of the Duncan administration in Washington, D.C. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The reading scores of students in schools designated for closing “showed a loss of about six weeks of learning” on standardized tests in the months after the closing announcement, the report said. Math scores declined somewhat less, it said.

Partly because of the disruption caused by the closings, Mr. Duncan changed strategy after 2006. Instead of closing schools permanently, or for a year, and then reopening with a new staff, he shifted to the turnaround approach, in which the staff of failing schools was replaced over the summer but the same students returned in the fall.

The new report focused only on the elementary schools closed permanently from 2001 to 2006, and thus offers no conclusions about the effectiveness of the turnaround strategy.

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for Mr. Duncan, noted that the report also found that students who ended up in higher-achieving schools showed more gains on standardized tests.

“Clearly, the students who transferred to better schools did better, but the ones who went to similar schools did not,” Mr. Hamilton said. “That’s why we worked in parallel to create more new high-quality learning options.”

During the years he was eliminating black teachers and principals and closing black schools, former Chicago schools 'Chief Executive Officer' Arne Duncan could count on a number of corrupt elected officials and corrupt public officials to support him in his attacks on public education. Among the most prominent in praising Duncan during most of his years in office was former Chicago Alderman Arenda Troutman (above, at microphone in February 2006 supporting Duncan). Troutman is now serving a term in federal prison after pleading guilty to multiple counts of corruption following a federal sting during which she was caught bragging to an informant that "all [aldermen] are hoes..." while setting up a payoff. None of the corrupt dealings Troutman had with the Chicago Board of Education during Duncan's tenure as CEO of CPS (2001 - 2009) was even investigated, and Troutman routinely provided support to Duncan's attacks on black teachers, principals and schools. Substance photograph by George N. Schmidt.Still, the report’s findings are likely to provoke new debate about Mr. Duncan’s efforts to encourage the use of Chicago’s turnaround strategy nationwide. He has set the goal of closing and overhauling 1,000 failing schools a year nationwide, for five years, and Congress appropriated $3 billion in the stimulus law to finance the effort.

A review of the history of school reform efforts, published in the current issue of Education Next, a journal published by Harvard University, argues that school turnaround efforts have failed more often than not.

Corrupt elected officials like Arneda Troutman were not the only black people necessary to Arne Duncan's success in privatizing vast numbers of black schools and firing large numbers of black teachers and principals. Corrupt appointed officials were equally necessary for the job to go forward. The most important black "community leader" to slavishly promote the policies of Mayor Richard M. Daley during the Duncan years (2001 - 2008) was (and is) Chicago Board of Education President Michael Scott. Scott's "street cred" from his West Side roots enabled him to carry the Duncan program forward despite organized opposition from thousands of people, including black teachers, principals, parents, and students. From 2001 to 2006, Duncan could count on Scott's unequivocal support for the privatization policies of Mayor Richard M. Daley and Daley's "Renaissance 2010" program. Scott routinely berated parents who objected to the closing of their school, proclaiming that the parents didn't really know what was best for their children. After a brief hiatus from the school board, Scott was put back into power in February 2009 to provide support for a continuation of the mayor's school closing policies following the departure of Arne Duncan to Washington. In January 2009, Daley appointed the city's third "Great White Hope" Chief Executive Officer, former Chicago Transit Authority President Rob Huberman, a mayoral protege, as CEO of CPS, continuing the tradition of crony appointments that had begun when mayor control was instituted in 1995 and Paul Vallas, the city's former budget director, was appointed by Daley as the first CEO in CPS history. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.“This leaves reform advocates in a pickle,” said Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “The Obama administration’s solution is that we’re going to make all the lousy schools better, but that’s harder than the administration has let on. The next most attractive alternative is to shut them down, and let the kids go to other schools, but this Consortium report has found that that brought little benefit to students in Chicago.”

Final edited version of this article posted at November 1, 2009, 10:00 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.


November 4, 2009 at 12:51 PM

By: Nat Turner

Taking Stock

It’s a good day to look around, smell the coffee, and take stock. It’s been a year now since Barack Obama won the Presidency and the day after Michael Bloomberg suffered the complete rejection of the people of New York City. No one who wasn’t paid to vote for Bloomberg did so. And to look around on this day is to more clearly see that many of the things wrought by globalization, the drive to turn the planet and its inhabitants into one giant multi-national sweatshop, have begun their descent and will soon crash and burn.

Oligarchs in public office and oligarchs with undue influence over public policy will soon disappear. Michael Bloomberg bought his last term in public office last night. He will not even finish this one. Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton Family will soon disappear from the public discourse. Unlike Warren Buffet’s “all-in bet on the American economy” railroad purchase yesterday, Gates and the other oligarchs sold-out to globalization long ago. It is clear they lost their bets.

The flunkies of the oligarchs will fade with them. That list is very long and the only question is how high it will go. But someone celebrating a big anniversary today might want to look around, smell the coffee, and take stock.

The victims of the oligarchs and the refugees of globalization will not disappear. For us the long difficult struggle in the twilight of capitalism has begun. There will be socialism and life or fascism and death.

November 4, 2009 at 7:56 PM

By: Jean Schwab

Taking Stock?

Your letter made me uneasy. I like change too but your vision is too off the wall.

November 5, 2009 at 9:26 AM

By: Nat Turner

Yes, Taking Stock

My letter made me uneasy too Jean. But then, looking around today, unease may be called for, if not outright alarm. I just wish you had argued against my analysis rather than just characterizing it as "off the wall". Tell us all how so?

November 6, 2009 at 4:04 PM

By: Margaret Wilson

Retired Teacher

Some aspects of socialism are good but I'm not sure that I buy into all of it. The Health Care program being proposed will cost most of us a great deal of money by the increase in taxes. I don't think it is wrong to expect people to work for a living and to earn things and not just have them handed to them. Having people on welfare for generation after generation has not worked and has just helped to see the demise of the middle class in this country. I guess that's my problem with your letter. I've worked hard all my life and have little to show for it. I don't think people should get something for nothing because this leads to the entitlement attitude that many young people have.

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