Philadelphia tries 'portfolio model' treating schools as if they were stock holdings... Just as Chicago dumps the notion and fires its 'Chief Portfolio Officer'!

It's been more than a year since the disappearance of Chicago's "Chief Portfolio Officer" and an end to that bit of corporate terminology, it was something of a surprise that Philadelphia has been adopting the same idea just as Oliver Sicat has disappeared from Chicago's public schools bureaucracy.

The "Chief Portfolio Officer" of the nation's third largest school system, Oliver Sicat, was still in office during the February 22, 2012 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education (above). Within a year, he -- and his office -- had disappeared. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt. But Sicat's time in office should not be ignored. Two-and-a-half years ago, Sicat was at the height of his power at CPS, and he joined with then "Chief Education Officer" Noemi Donoso to present the Board of Education with a proposal to shift the so-called CPS "portfolio" creating new "turnaround" schools and giving them to the control of the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL). Sicat and Donoso presented the Board with a 20-page Power Point that was the sole executive presentation to the October 26, 2011 Board meeting.

At that time, the "Chief Executive Officer" of CPS was Jean-Claude Brizard, who had been appointed by Rahm Emanuel in May 2011. During the final years of the administrations appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley, every year saw "trending up" based on standardized test scores.

Sicat's presentation put the spin on test scores that year into reverse, and what had been proclaimed as progress was now supposedly failure, showing that "turnaround" had become necessary. The Brizard regime declared that all “progress” (as measured by the ISAT and Prairie State tests) had not been true, and that they were able to prove that the Daley administration has "failed" by adjusting the ISAT and Prairie State scores of previous years to compare with the new CPS “standards.” Supposedly, CPS was supposed to make all students “College and Career Ready” as measured by Common Core. Sicat and Donoso were the first to proclaim it.

The problem facing the seven members of the Board in October 2011 was that for several years, Chicago's mayor had been proclaiming the steady improvement in the city's schools (as measured by ISAT and Prairie State scores). Instead of showing that new interpretation proved the failure of mayoral control, the Amendatory Act, and 16 years of Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, Ron Huberman, and Jean-Claude Brizard, the Board was claiming that these data proved that Chicago needed to push harder, “turnaround” more schools, and otherwise continue the teacher bashing and school bashing that characterized the years of “Renaissance 2010.” But beginning in October 2011, under Rahm Emanuel, it was under a new name (“Common Core”) and with a new objective -- "College and Career Ready.".

Corporate and mayoral control models do not have to be consistent to continue. Within two years after the proclamation of the "failure" of the previous work (under Mayor Daley), the two CPS administrators who had proclaimed it (Chief Portfolio Officer Sicat and Chief Education Officer Donoso) were gone, as was Jean-Claude Brizard. By October 2013, CPS now longer referred to its schools as being parts of its "real estate portfolio." The previous May, CPS had closed 50 of the city's real public schools, but the terminology was gone. So was Sicat. So was Donoso. So was Brizard.

But in Philadelphia, the era of "Portfolio" has just begun in April 2014.

Late on April 6, 2014, Diane Ravitch reported:

Some districts, thinking that they have latched on to new thinking, have adopted the idea of a portfolio model.

This means that they pretend that their community's public schools are akin to a stock portfolio. They keep the winners and "dump the losers."

This is truly a dumb idea. It turns out that the "loser" schools are the ones serving the children with the highest needs, who get the lowest test scores.

Closing their school doesn't help anyone learn to read, doesn't help immigrants learn English, doesn't help children with disabilities.

But some exceptionally thoughtless district leaders have adopted this as the newest, most indispensable fad.

As it happens, there was a discussion at AERA about the portfolio model

One of the panelists explained what it was, and another--who has the ear of the district's power brokers--endorsed the idea of "dumping the loser schools." Mark Gleason, CEO of the Philadelphia Partnership Schools, said it was time to dump the "loser schools."

And that is what his organization advocates. It has said nothing about the massive budget cuts that the Philadelphia schools have absorbed.

It has been silent about the systematic stripping of the public schools by Governor Corbett and the legislature. It has thrown its weight behind the idea of charter schools and stripping teachers of due process. Then policies of the PSP are no different from those of the extremist rightwing ALEC.

"You keep dumping the losers and over time you create a higher bar for what we expect of our schools," Gleason said Friday while speaking on a panel at the American Educational Research Association conference, which has been held in Philadelphia over the last week.

Last year, Philadelphia closed 24 schools in the wake of massive state budget cuts and the rapid expansion of charter schools.

Parents United for Public Education leader Helen Gym said that Gleason held "extremist" views on public education.

"Mark Gleason is not an educator, and I think that's one thing that should be pretty clear. He has been a relentless promoter of questionable reform models that have really wreaked havoc in other places. And he has unprecedented access to the Mayor's Office of Education, to the School District, to push his agenda," she told City Paper.

PSP, which issues large grants to schools that it wants to see expanded and lobbies policymakers, has become a lightning rod for criticism by public-education advocates since its 2010 founding. The group backs the expansion of charter schools and frequently opposes the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. It has quickly become a major force in city education politics, thanks to millions of dollars of funding from The William Penn Foundation. Controversially, PSP's board includes conservative figures Janine Yass, the wife of voucher-advocate and investment-fund manager Jeffrey Yass, and Republican powerbroker Chris Bravacos.

Someday, our policymakers will look at ideas like portfolio districts and review the havoc they have created. They are hurting children. They are destroying communities. They should stop calling themselves "reformers." They are destroyers of the lives of children, families, and communities. Mark Gleason, I mean you. Have you no shame?


April 7, 2014 at 7:35 AM

By: Ken Derstine

Origins of the portfolio model of corporate ed reform?

Both Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite and former Chicago Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard are graduates of the Broad Superintendents Academy.

Is this where the portfolio model of corporate education reform originated?

April 7, 2014 at 3:09 PM

By: Rod Estvan

Where in the world is Oliver Sicat

Just for the record Oliver Sicat is now President and CEO at Ednovate Inc which runs USC Hybrid charter High School. The Hybrid HS is supported by the Eli & Edythe Broad Foundation, Windsong Trust, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Guess who is on its Board? Noemi Donoso, Ph.D., remember her?

Rod Estvan

April 8, 2014 at 8:02 AM

By: Rebecca Silverstain

Pension crisis

Cut pension payments for the corrupt union leaders who gave a raise themselves on union dime and collecting more than 100K a year.

Limit the maximum pension payment to 90K .

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