'JB' and 'BBB' demand that principals set 'Stretch Goals' to prove 'high expectations' as the new CPS Performance Policy and the Five Pillars land across America's third largest school system

The "other shoe" finally fell on the roughly 600 principals in Chicago's real public schools on October 12, 2013. That's when the school system's "Office of Accountability" issued the memo warning them that they might be facing an accountability visit in their schools at any time. The memo, issued at the last minute before the long weekend and, as usual, without a CPS press conference, went to every principal of a real public school in Chicago.

The document, issued by email, came from John Barker, the latest "Chief Accountability Officer" at CPS. Barker was hired in December 2012 by the Board of Education without public discussion or debate at an annual salary of $165,000 and with a "relocation allowance" since he was, at the time Chicago hired him, working in Memphis, Tennessee. Barker's October 12, 2013 memo outlines what Chicago's current central office administrators claim will be the targets for each school to reach during the 2013 - 2014 school year. This claim is mandated on the principals in spite of the fact that the central standardized test (the ISAT) being used for so-called "accountability" will be completely different in 2014 from what it was in 2013 and the "value added" metrics in the latest Performance Policy have been exposed as frauds by recent investigations.

By October 2013, most of the members of the "cabinet" of Barbara Byrd Bennett, the second Chief Executive Officer of the nation's third largest school system since May 2011, had been imported to Chicago from out of town, usually after receiving a "relocation bonus." The people hired by the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel have all been trained by the Broad Foundation and are zealously adhering to corporate school reform dogmas.Beyond the minutae of test scores and other data points that can change or be manipulated in a dozen ways, the memo focuses on the usual Maoist rhetoric of corporate school reformers in the USA today. All it takes is strong beliefs and hard work -- a cultural revolution, not more resources and democracy -- to make even the poorest schools serving the most challenging communities "perform" at the "highest levels."

If you believe, Chicago is told, every school in Englewood or North Lawndale can become a New Trier High School in Winnetka or a Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire. This will take place by "stretching" even though a Chicago family wanting to purchase a home within a mile of either of those schools would need at least a million dollars. Meanwhile, Chicago's children often walk to school through communities where half the homes are vacant due to the recent predations of the housing industry. They are also more likely to know the sound of gunfire than their suburban "cohorts."

This is Chicago's version of "accountability" in 2013. But it's only for the city's real public schools, despite claims in the rhetoric that everyone will be "accountable."

Charter schools are still immune from the kinds of "accountability" that face everyone else in the nation's third largest school system. Despite the public claim that charters would be held "accountable" to the same "metrics" and face the same consequences, Chicagoans learned last school year that even the worst "preforming" charter schools and campuses can use their City Hall clout to avoid being closed, while hundreds of the city's real public school now will face closure for "poor performance".

According to the 2013 "Performance Policy" warnings issued late Friday, October 12, 2013, Network and central office inspectors might stop by to inspect the schools at any time. The inspectors are led by Chicago's current "Chief of Network Chiefs," Denise Little. Each of the 20 or more "Network" chiefs may also send out a team for inspection.

Chicago's latest "Chief Accountability Officer" (hired from Memphis, Tennesse, in December without any Chicago teaching or administrative experience) is named John Barker. He issued the detailed memo warning principals that at any time they might be visited by someone from Higher Authority and that their performance would be checked according to the latest CPS "Performance Policy." The Board of Education had approved the Performance Policy without any public review at its August 28, 2013 meeting. The policy was also described in a Power Point delivered to the Board meeting by Barker, who answered questions from the Board members, none of them critical of the contradictions in the policies promulgated by their unanimous vote that day.

Since then, principals in the city's real public schools have been deluged with various memos and meetings from their "Network Chiefs." The "Networks" are the latest name for Chicago's sub-districts.

Since mayoral control and corporate school reform began in Chicago in 1995, Chicago has had "District Offices," then "Regional Offices," then "Area Offices," and, currently "Networks."

They are all the same thing, with one major change. Halfway through the time when they were called "Area Offices," the Board of Eduction, then with Arne Duncan as CEO, changed the rules so that the people in charge of the "Areas" could be as unqualified as Duncan was to be a school administrator. (Duncan had no Chicago teaching experience, no teaching credentials, and no administrative training when he was plucked from obscurity by Mayor Richard M. Daley to head the nation's third largest school system in July 2001).

By the end of the Duncan years, a person did not have to be certified Illinois administrator to head a "Network" and boss around principals and others working in the schools. Since the Duncan years, and especially since the advent of the so-called "Networks" following the inauguration of Rahm Emanuel in May 2011, "Network Chiefs" have been selected not on the basis of Chicago teaching and administrative experience but after being vetted by the Broad Foundation. The "Networks" (with some odd names, as if those who did the designations were trying to obscure realities that Chicagoans knew) have been honed since Rahm Emanuel's Board of Education took over in June 2011 (its first meeting).

Although observers have noted that the "Performance Policy" approved by the Board of Education in August is almost an Alice in Wonderland document because of its reliance on standardized tests (that will soon be obsolete) and "Value Added" measurements (which have been exposed as fraudulent pseudo-science), the policy will be the obsession of most administrators across America's third largest school system. The 2013 "Performance Policy" is also, by Substance's count, the seventh so-called "Accountability" system pushed in Chicago since 1995, when the Illinois General Assembly gave Chicago's mayor dictatorial power over the nation's third-largest school system.

The October 12, 2013, memo from John Barker is below here:

From: John Barker Date: Sat, Oct 12, 2013 at 4:25 PM

Subject: IMPORTANT - 2013-14 School Performance Targets

Dear Principals,

In keeping with the tenets of Pillar 1 of the Districts Action Plan to deliver high standards, rigorous curriculum, and powerful instruction, our CEO has established a set of performance targets on several key indicators for all schools.

A PDF document with these targets specific to your school is now available on Dashboard. Heres how to get there: USE INTERNET EXPLORER (IE) it WONT WORK if you use another browsera) login and go to the Reports tab; b) click and select Additional School-level Reports enter your login and password again; c) in the School Group drop-down box select your school (or network) and Accountability in the Report Category drop-down; d) click on View Report and then on the little plus sign beside the CPS Performance Policy folder; e) look for 2013-14 School Growth Target Report. That report is a formatted PDF with targets specific to your school. Again, you MUST use Internet Explorer to get your report.

The targets were established for Elementary Schools (for ISAT, NWEA, Attendance, and On-Track) and High Schools (for EPAS, Attendance, Graduation, Freshmen On-Track) as a way to set high expectations for improvement across the district. For students in CPS, incremental improvements will not close achievement gaps, move student performance above grade level, or be enough to compete with other states and nations. With the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards being implemented across the district, theres never been a better time to aim high on our performance targets.

A few points of clarity:

1. ISAT is changing for Spring 2014 given the unknown new 100% Common Core aligned test, the best starting point for our projection of this years targets is the Spring 2013 performance.

2. A general guiding principle for setting targets throughout was to use a percentage reduction in the undesired outcome (e.g., reduce the number/percentage of students absences).

3. The targets are what some people call stretch goals unless you stretch to reach them, you wont be able to reach them.

4. Year-to-year, rather than cohort, measurements were used to set the targets. The CEOs expectation is that your schools absolute performance is better than it was last year. Lots better.

5. The direction to you and your team is to begin using the targets to drive strategic planning and execution immediately. Network Chiefs, the Chief of Network Support, and the CEO herself will have copies of your targets and will review your progress toward the targets whenever they visit your school.

Feel free to contact our office directly (553-4444) or email me for any follow up on the targets. Our team stands ready to help.

Many thanks for all you do for the next generation of Chicagos children and have a restful holiday weekend -


John R. Barker, Ph.D., Chief Accountability Officer, Chicago Public Schools, 125 South Clark 16th Floor, Chicago, IL 60603, Phone: (773) 553-4444



October 15, 2013 at 3:18 PM

By: Amy Gooden

Stretch goals

Traditional neighborhood schools,if they survive, will be the dumping ground for students not acceptable to the privatized charter system. When these traditional public schools close, the stretch goals will go with them.

For those Principals that think going along and getting along will save your jobs, those of your favorites and your schools - forget about it. Your jobs are the next part of the layer cake to be destroyed.

Stretch goals are nothing but carrots dangled in front of you. These goals will never be reached to the satisfaction of those in charge of this nightmare.

The next layer of the cake to be destroyed consists of the network chiefs.

The line from Dante's Inferno "abandon all hope ye who enter here" says it all about the systemic hell of CPS.

October 15, 2013 at 5:37 PM

By: Rod Estvan

how much of a stretch

Might it not be possible for some brilliant CPS math teacher to write an article on the probability of reaching some of these stretch goals based on prior achievement gains of various schools? Such an endeavor is beyond my own mathematical competency but it seems doable by those with the analytical skills.

Rod Estvan

October 16, 2013 at 5:56 AM

By: George N. Schmidt

BBB 'math' -- Stretching until I'm nine feet tall?

Since "A Nation at Risk" 30 years ago (!), mathematicians have been proving that the reports and studies (later, Power Points) of the corporate "school reform" crowd are logical, mathematical and social absurdities -- and dangerous. Meanwhile, you can tell the pundits and preachers and professors who are providing the apologetics for the Church of School Reform. They always trace the origin of the "warning" to "A Nation At Risk." As Diane Ravitch points out (having devoted much of her career to working on the side of the Church of School Reform), it's never been true.

This current Chicago Boys' Chicago Plan is just the latest iteration of three decades of nonsense.

A decent mathematician -- hopefully, with the literary and math skills of, say, Lewis Carroll -- can do this job easily. The same logical and mathematical acumen being utilized by BBB and JB (this year, Barbara Byrd Bennett and John Barker) could "prove" that my 12 year old son Sam (based on the height he's gained between sixth and seventh grade) will one day be eight or nine feet tall. Or that my elder son (now 24) was going to be pitching a four seam fastball 125 miles per hour by the time he was 21 (based on the improvements he had made between 12 and 16).

Last week, two divas of Chicago's ruling class, Desiree Rodgers (the one who prattled about creating "Brand Obama" until she totally screwed up her job at the White House) and Frank Clark (former CEO of the school closing meetings last winter -- and also former CEO of Com Ed), stood before an audience of children at the Museum of Science and Industry, supposedly to tell the children about the need to do STEM stuff.

They went on and on and on about how they had become successful role models and powerful (and rich) people in Chicago (leaving out some key moments in their exotic careers, of course). They told the children that they didn't really know much "math," and probably couldn't pass a 9th grade algebra test.




Finally, Clark noticed that the children were NOT PAYING ATTENTION and, being an IMPORTANT EXECUTIVE ordered them to pay attention. Like a rookie sixth grade teacher, he got what he deserved and the mutiny against his self-important self just increased.

The kids, who had been bused to the Museum of Science and Industry for this supposedly inspiring moment with two eminent Chicago plutocrats, were whisked away.

The math these people understand wouldn't get them from here to Los Angeles in an airplane, but because they have POWER it really doesn't matter. In fact, every time their colleagues on the Board of Education nod dumbly and numbly at the latest Power Point, then go to the Cliffs Notes data sets carefully provided for them by whoever is currently "CEO" of the nation's third largest school system, the danger grows.

But the fact probably is this: The better our side is at math, the more clear the lies of their side become. Trouble for us is, no matter how hard we laugh, at 125 S. Clark St., on the second floor of City Hall while Rahm does his Mussolini routine during a Council meeting, or at the Museum of Science and Industry, these liars, thievers and cheaters are still in power.

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