Won’t Back Down – School Choice Movie

September 29, 2012 at 11:06 am 176 comments

I haven’t had a chance yet to investigate anything about this movie or the claims of it being propaganda.  Saw a link on Yahoo this morning and, um….. yeah, it does look to be reform propaganda.  You know I tend to sit more in the middle on the reform issue (let’s try some well-thought out different ways of doing things before jumping in whole-hog.)  But the interview with the movie producer and the 2.5 minutes movie preview are enough to creep me out.  As you may have learned, I hate it when truth is distorted or misstated.  So the depiction of the public school teachers in the film just piss me off.  Rude, violent, blatantly lazy and uncaring.

And you know what? Maybe there was a school like this with crappy teachers.  So this begs the question, what did the parents do when they “took over” this high poverty school?  Did they find the magic bullet to overcome the difficulty of educating kids of uneducated parents?  Because if they did, I certainly want to know what worked.   If you know anything about the school upon which this story was based, please share.

I DO like the idea of not backing down though.  As (I think) Carol pointed out, we should all “not back down” from whatever it is we want to change in the system.

Article here:  click on the link to see the preview.

FYI, The Heritage group appears to be a conservative/republican (?) group associated with Rush Limbaugh in some way.


Bob Bluey and Sarah Morris

The movie “Won’t Back Down” opened yesterday in more than 2,500 theaters across America. The film brings to the big screen the highly charged issue of education reform by showcasing how two committed parents take on the establishment.

With a cast of stars, including Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, the movie has already prompted protests from union leaders like Randi Weingarten and opponents of school choice.

The movie, set in Pittsburgh, is based on actual events that stemmed from the parent-trigger law in California. The law allows parents to organize and, with the support of at least 50 percent, implement reform measures such as converting to a charter school or changing leadership.

Earlier this week, one of the films producers, Chip Flaherty of Walden Media, visited Heritage to chat with talk-radio host Ernest Istook on Istook Live!, which airs daily from 9 a.m. to noon ET. Below is an abridged transcript of the interview.

ISTOOK: Everybody that’s a parent is concerned with the quality of their child’s education. Government gets in the way in so many ways. We’ve been talking about the draconian measures of school lunches that are causing so much controversy. But in your case, this movie is about schools and it’s about parents who decide they need to really get involved.

FLAHERTY: Exactly. It is a major motion picture. We have an unbelievable cast of Holly Hunter, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Volia Davis. And it’s really a celebration of the fact that parents need a seat at the table when it comes to their children’s education.

ISTOOK: It’s about parents. It’s about schools. And people are saying “Oh, OK we’ve seen a lot of movies that are about school and have kids and parents.” But this is not exactly Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

FLAHERTY: No, not at all. It’s truly like an underdog movie. It’s like Rocky, like Erin Brockovich. It’s a situation where — and it’s my favorite type of story like It’s a Wonderful Life — where you find a common person, in this case two moms who realize something cosmic. They’re able to turn around their school and give their kids a better chance for a better future. And with it the other kids in the neighborhood.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors has said that if you can turn around education, that’s the best poverty plan and the best crime prevention plan. Education really is the key to everything. And the beauty of this film is it’s wildly entertaining, it’s one of the best movies of the year, but you go into it and via the journey of the characters you identify with, by the end you’ve learned a lot more about education and you’re hopefully inspired to go out and make change in your community.

ISTOOK: And in this case, it’s not about triumphing over some rival school’s sports team. It’s about triumphing over the lethargy and the bureaucracy of the education establishment that gets in the way of getting your kids prepared for their future.

FLAHERTY: You’re exactly right. At the end of the day, it’s an anti-complacency film. Because right now in education we have too many people that are complacent. They just want to maintain the status quo because that keeps their power structure in place. And we really need a shift in that paradigm. We need parents to have a seat at the table. Right now, you have the room and you have the parents out in the corridor on a folding chair. And that is just not acceptable because no one is more invested in their kid’s future than parents. We need to get them into the same room, get them to the table so they can talk to the unions, they can talk to the school board and they have a real voice.

ISTOOK: Now, what area of the country is this taking place in? Because a key thing about this movie is that what enables them to get involved is a parent-trigger law that allows parents to get in there and take charge if the school is failing their children. So in what area of the country is this taking place? Because I know there are only a handful of schools in the country that have a law like that.

FLAHERTY: The parent-trigger movement started in California back in 2010. This movie is set in Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh at a failing elementary school. Pennsylvania does not have the parent trigger yet. Right now it’s in seven states in the country and 12 states are deciding whether or not they’re going to enact it. Like many things, it’s going to be something that starts out in California and sweeps its way across the country.

Within the movie, what happens is, Maggie’s character, which I mentioned is a common hero achieving cosmic things — she works in a used car dealership during the day, tends bar a couple of nights just to try to make to make some many for her only daughter. She’s a single mom and her daughter is being crushed in the elementary school; she’s in the third grade and can’t even read. And Maggie just wants to protect her child. So she goes to the teacher and asks if she can stay after school and help her daughter. The teacher says no; the union rule is door shut at 2:30 and can’t help. So Maggie goes to the principal and says, “I want another teacher.” And the principal says, “No, she has tenure and I can’t get rid of her.”

So Maggie keeps on trying all of these different things and she slowly becomes radicalized by the situation. Not because she has the time to do it — like so many reluctant heroes in life — but because she has an objective to defend and fight for her daughter. And we go on that journey with her and then she joins forces with Viola Davis, and eventually they’re able to utilize this parent-trigger law to give them something so they can really finally bargain and get to the table and have some power. And we talked about shifting that power to put power back in the hands of the parents and they’re able to take over the school.

ISTOOK: I know in the movie there will be some exposition to explain to people what the parents-trigger law is but maybe it would be good if you filled people in a little bit now in case they think it’s a parent bringing a gun to school.

FLAHERTY: Like any legislation, it has a provocative term. But really what it means is that if you are in a failing school and if you get 50 percent or more of the parents in that school district to sign a petition to say that they want change in the school, then you’re able to effectuate certain kinds of changes. You could have a charter school come in and take over the school. You could change the principal and leadership. There are a couple different steps you can take.

I think with any great legislation, the power of it is because parents can finally have a say. They will finally be able to have a “bargaining chip” and finally be listened to by the school board, by the unions, by the teachers.

All parent trigger means is if parents can get more than 50 percent of signatures of parents in that district, then they have the power to take over the school. It’s happening right now in Adelanto, CA, at a school where 68 percent of the kids were below reading level. The parents took over that school and right now it’s a big court fight and everything else. But so far, it is turning out for the parents.

ISTOOK: This is an era when public employees, and in particular school teachers, really push back against someone that threatens them. Now, I know you don’t mean to be a threat to them; you’re concerned about the kids. But are you getting some push back from places or organizations like teachers unions relating to your film?

FLAHERTY: Very much so. And it really is a manifestation of human nature. We talked about that power paradigm. If you’re currently holding all the cards, you don’t want to see any shift in power. And I have to look at myself and say if I was holding all the power, I would probably feel the same way. Any time there is change to the status quo, it’s difficult. But what we try to do — and I think it’s very nuanced in the film and very fairly done — in the movie one teacher, who is an excellent teacher, talks about how the union came in to defend one of his favorite teachers growing up. Sometimes the power can be used to have positive results, but I think the pendulum has swung too far.

The film is rated PG and runs about two hours. Here’s the movie trailer:

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176 Comments Add your own

  • 1. chicagodad  |  September 29, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Here’s a good place to start. http://parentsacrossamerica.org/paas-parent-online-toolkit-for-the-wbd-movie-and-beyond/

  • 2. chicagodad  |  September 29, 2012 at 11:32 am

    And another page from PAA addressing knowledge/concerns the media should have when doing what they do with the movie. http://parentsacrossamerica.org/message-paa-entertainment-media-wbd-movie/

  • 3. cpsobsessed  |  September 29, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Thanks Chicagodad!
    From PAA ( Parents Across America, a pro public eduction activist group)

    1. There have been no successful parent triggers anywhere. Only two parent triggers have been attempted, both in Southern California. [i]

    2. The organization that created the parent trigger, Parent Revolution, organized both of those campaigns.[ii]

    3. Parent Revolution has been inaccurately described as “grassroots” and as founded by concerned mothers. Actually, Parent Revolution was created by charter school operator Steve Barr, who founded the Green Dot charter school chain.[iii] Parent Revolution has a $1 million annual budget and 10 full-time staff members. Its funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Wasserman Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and more.[iv]

    4. In both of those two parent trigger campaigns, many parents at the targeted schools said they did not want their schools to become charter schools, and a number attempted to rescind their signatures from the petitions. [v] In both, conflict and controversy exploded among the parents at the schools.[vi]

    5. In the first of those parent triggers (McKinley Elementary School in Compton, CA, December 2010), the charter school operator that had been poised to take over the school didn’t do so; instead, it opened a new charter school a few minutes away. Only a fraction of the McKinley families (apparently between 12% and 20%) moved their children to the charter school.[vii] With the charter school having opened nearby instead of taking over the school, the McKinley Elementary School parent trigger appears to have failed.[viii]

    6. In the second parent trigger (Desert Trails Elementary School in Adelanto, CA, January 2012), a July 2012 court ruling has been reported as a victory for parents. But actually, what the court ruled was that parents who wanted to rescind their signatures from the parent trigger petition could not do so.[ix]

    7. The current status of the parent trigger at Desert Trails in Adelanto is that Parent Revolution is seeking a charter operator to take over the school, although many parents have said that they don’t want the school to become a charter.[x]

  • 4. cpsobsessed  |  September 29, 2012 at 11:42 am

    I WOULD like to see how they portray in the movie exactly how these parents (busy, 3-job working parents) figure out how to turn their school around. Was there a charter operator involved in this movie? I’m probably gonna have to see it just to find out.

    I also realized that the power of an LSC to bring in a new school principal is one way to make a change in the existing system, but it does require buy-in from current school parents. If the whole neighborhood things their local CPS school stinks, they really have no recourse to make any change.

  • 5. Questioner  |  September 29, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    Cpsobssessed: cold you please clarify the second paragraph of your comment #4. Not sure if I understand what you were trying to convey.

  • 6. Questioner  |  September 29, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Meant to type could, not cold!

  • 7. cpsobsessed  |  September 29, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    What I meant was that an LSC has the power to make a big change to a school – bringing in a new principal (caveat: every 4 years when the principal’s contract is up.)

    But because and LSC is made up mainly of CURRENT school parents, it would be pretty impossible for parents who don’t attend (because the school is crummy) to get a new principal in place.

    So I was sort of going through the thought process – is there a current way for parents to disrupt a current “bad” neighborhood schools. Yes, via the LSC, but near impossible unless you can get buy in from current parents (and if they go there, they tend to be fairly happy in most cases.)

    Which brings me to my next question, what SHOULD parents do who feel they have a “bad” neighborhood school (as many on here say they do, so they pursue magnets, etc.)

  • 8. chicagodad  |  September 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    @7 The first thing to do is determine WHY the school is bad. Can’t formulate a solution without understanding the problem.

  • 9. cpsobsessed  |  September 29, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    How would parents who don’t attend the school do that?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 10. OutsideLookingIn  |  September 29, 2012 at 1:56 pm

    I saw the preview of this movie and wanted to throw up. As a parent of a struggling reader, I found the the fictional portrayal of the dyslexic child’s teacher too sickening to watch.

    Have you heard about Michigan’s highland park school district? Parents in the community enacted something kind of similar to a trigger law there earlier this year. But there were many more problems there unrelated to teacher quality.


  • 11. Questioner  |  September 29, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    Parents whose kids do not attend the school would have to go to the LSC meetings (open to the public) and maybe run for the community rep position on the LSC to begin to effect change.

  • 12. cpsobsessed  |  September 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    @11, correct. The problem is that with only 2 community spots (versus 6 parents and 2 teacher) it would be near impossible to make a change unless you were able to convince the rest of the LSC that a change was needed. I’ve known people who’ve gone in an tried and gotten nowhere. I’m sure it’s possible, just a huge uphill battle. I’m not even talking about unseating a principal – just making some little changes here and there.

    As I was thinking, what I WOULD like to see if there were ever a Parent Trigger enacted is that the PARENTS (the 50% of the district) who vote to trigger, have to sign something saying how they will change THEIR behavior and participation in the schooling process. As we’ve discussed here, that is often a big part of the problem. Easier said than done, of course…

  • 13. HSObsessed  |  September 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    I remember reading in Rahm’s transition plan his hope to introduce parent triggers, and the first thing I thought of was: Doesn’t he realize that in the schools that are most in need of change, it’s usually the parents who oppose any sort of massive revamping of the school? We’ver seen this over and over again. Good luck finding 50% or more parents who would pull the proverbial trigger in Chicago.

  • 14. SE Teacher  |  September 29, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I think that in the cases of when the parents did pull the proverbial triggers, they really didn’t know what to do and thus, turned to charters. And charters weren’t the answer.

  • 15. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  September 29, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    The trigger laws are interesting, but they do not go far enough because they wrap two decisions into one. The first is whether to radically change the school. A majority may be in favor of that. The second is how to change the school (e.g.,charter, new principal, turnaround, shutdown). The CA law combines those two steps.

    One anti-union, pro-reform AEI write has a good summary of some of the problems that emerge, although I do not agree with his solutions:

    One of his arguments is that once a reform option is found, impatient parents may reverse the reform path quickly by the same law. What he misses is that cycling is inherent to a choice model. If a new principal, a turn-around, or charter is guaranteed a period free from further change, parents effectively have no choice in that period.

  • 16. CarolA  |  September 29, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    CPSO: Just as there are only 2 community seats on the LSC, there are only 2 teacher seats as well. The current parents will always outvote the teachers and community even if the community and teachers are on the same page.

  • 17. HS Mom  |  September 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    @16 – I see that and agree. Some people are very inconsiderate. As far as the point about teachers, no they are not required and not paid yet most – not all – consider it an important way to start the year, set the tone and a really good chance to connect with parents informally. Most – not all – put a lot of effort into their presentation. Something that makes a statement about that teacher (one way or the other). Just saying, there’s great teachers and there’s great, highly involved parents. I think that most people posting here are one or the other or both.

  • 18. HS Mom  |  September 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Ooops reply 17 belongs under calendar – will copy again since I can’t delete it.

  • 19. junior  |  September 29, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    @16 CarolA

    Actually, the original design of the LSCs was to have a parent majority. Do you remember when 6 out of 11 members were parents?

    Well, thanks to lobbying by the CTU over a year ago, there is no longer a parent majority, because a school staff position was added to the LSC. Can’t understand why a secretary or security guard needs representation on the LSC in order to improve the school — just dilutes the true childrens interests (parents) and expands power of the employee-centered educational system that we have.

  • 20. junior  |  September 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Oh, and where was the pushback or outrage from ANY of the parent groups when that happened?

  • 21. local  |  September 29, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Saw this re movie at PURE website: http://pureparents.org/?p=19725 / “The 3 Big Lies in the Won’t Back Down movie”

  • 22. local  |  September 29, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    Think of every “buck the system” teacher movie you can. Compare & contrast.

  • 23. local  |  September 29, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    The Heritage Foundation? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Heritage_Foundation

  • 24. local  |  September 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Very impressive. See a lot of schools mentioned frequently here.

    From the CPS BOE meeting report at Substance:

    “The meeting began with recognition of schools that had the largest gains in ISAT scores. Among the schools recognized were Oscar Meyer, Coonley, Decatur, Skinner North, Whitney Young, Lincoln, Hawthorne, and STEM. The principals credited the success of the schools to teachers going for National Board Certification, teachers taking responsibility for every student, making sure the school is not a test-prep school, adding IB (International Baccalaurete) and Montessori courses, being a Pioneer School, really good teachers, awesome parents who trust the principal and the process and believe in what the principal does, a principal who steers the boat with a single vision, the growing community, and being risk-takers.”

  • 25. local  |  September 29, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Saw this: “1) An honorary Student Board Member is being sought. Applications from Juniors or Seniors will be accepted next week.”

    I really hope the student board member (honorary) is from a really high-poverty HS. That POV would be very interesting.

  • 26. local  |  September 29, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    Just occurred to me… the film & arts industry is heavily unionized. I wonder how much of the Don’t Back Down workers/talent were union. Ironic.

  • 27. Rangoon  |  September 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    #24, that’s interesting. I remember reading whent he scores were released, that Skinner North actually dropped in it’s ISAT scores after it’s “Pioneer” year. I wonder where the board is getting it’s info.

  • 28. chicagodad  |  September 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    From what I’ve seen of the many reviews out there, they are divided into 2 basic types, ones that basically ignore the politics and facts surrounding the movie and think it’s not too bad in spite of its broad brushed stereotyped characters, and other very critical ones by those who know the backstory on who made the movie and why and see it as little more than another deceptive sales pitch by those who put profits before students. The later group sees WBD as just another front in the hostile takeover of public education. Considering how far from reality the movie needs to deviate to make it’s points and set up it’s fantasy depiction of good vs. evil I’d have to agree with them. Teachers who don’t stay after school because the union won’t let them? SERIOUSLY??? Was there nothing real they could use? Hmmmm…….

  • 29. chicagodad  |  September 30, 2012 at 12:11 am

    A stinging rebuke from the NYT. The first sentence is harsh!

  • 30. NBCT Vet  |  September 30, 2012 at 12:52 am

    A cute take on the parent trigger dialogue:


    Funny-strange. Unfortunately, it contains too many cynical truths to be funny-ha-ha.

  • 31. portageparkmom  |  September 30, 2012 at 7:29 am

    Can we get a parent trigger law for the school board? I’d be all for that.

  • 32. Maureen  |  September 30, 2012 at 8:09 am

    31 — Brilliant idea, portage mom!!!

  • 34. chicagodad  |  September 30, 2012 at 10:07 am

    @31 If I had a twitter acct. I’d be burning the twitterverse with this, a wooden stake to the heart of the beast, it’s that perfect! I’m stealing this and spreading it around.

  • 35. chicagodad  |  September 30, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Off topic, but an important article to read, a welcome back to school letter to parents. http://www.schoolleadership20.com/profiles/blogs/dear-parents-a-must-read-by-donald-sternberg

  • 36. RL Julia  |  September 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    The problem with “taking back a school” is that ultimately it is most easily done from the inside – by parents who are already at the school -who have put their money on the table so to speak. However, If one was determined to change a school as a parent whose children didn’t attend the school I’d say you’d have to get a large, active and committed group of people together and attend EVERY public meeting – and attempt to win over the parents whose kids were currently attending the school. You should also run for community member on the LSC and work actively with the alderman. It probably wouldn’t hurt if you have a reputation of being a productive member of your community in other ways prior to showing up – and it probably wouldn’t hurt to meet privately with the principal to see what they have to say….

    You should also have a very well articulated, thoughtful reason about WHY your kids aren’t attending the school – a reason that gives the school in question specific benchmarks that you would want them to achieve before you find the school to be a reasonable choice – and be sure to wear your thickest skin and raincoat – at some point you will be challenged as to why you are creating a problem when your kids aren’t even there (which is going to automatically make you an outsider -even if you live across the street from the school). Additionally, you should bring your checkbook(s) – raising money for a collaboratively developed program or project is always a good way to make inroads/new friends. I personally don’t know why anyone would bother doing this – quite frankly, I believe it is easier to accomplish the sorts of change from within the LSC system but kudos for being willing to expend the time/energy!

  • 37. junior  |  October 1, 2012 at 9:23 am

    We already have a parent trigger law for the BOE — it’s called mayoral elections. Maybe your candidate lost that election. Sorry if that’s the case. You’ll have another chance soon.

  • 38. Mayfair Dad  |  October 1, 2012 at 9:36 am

    “Yes, via the LSC, but near impossible unless you can get buy in from current parents (and if they go there, they tend to be fairly happy in most cases.)”

    I respectfully disagree with your characterization of parents with kids at underperforming schools as fairly happy in most cases. Rather:

    Fairly apathetic in most cases. Fairly clueless in most cases. Fairly dependent on teachers’ schoolyard spin in most cases. Fairly new to the US and wishing to remain invisible in most cases. Fairly uninformed as to what is desireable or even possible in most cases. Fairly satisfied to have their kids attend a school with running water and not in a mud hut in Yemen in most cases. Fairly limited by gang territories as to what school their kids can safely walk to in most cases. Fairly certain that “choice” is something that pertains to the rich or politically connected and not poor folks scratching out a living in most cases.

  • 39. Seen too much  |  October 1, 2012 at 11:58 am

    #38 You are correct but please do not assume that the teachers are spinning. If we trust the parent and the parent trusts us we give them the numbers to call and complain. WE DON”T LIKE WHAT IS GOING ON AT THE SCHOOL EITHER! No one listens to us. Please remember we have bills-we are not independently wealthy. Parents are the key. CPS counts on parents being intimidated, non-English speaking or just as you said, apathetic. I think if you listened to the teachers during the strike you could sense our frustration. I still have guilt because I left a totally dysfunctional school early in my career. After a courageous teacher went on Walter Jacobsen to speak about the conditions and then was transferred the following Monday I decided that there would be no change so I transferred. Great kids, lots of overwhelmed grandmas raising their children’s children and a culture of who cares from administration.

  • 40. local  |  October 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Saw this review of the flim:

    Won’t Back Down, BY ROGER EBERT, September 26, 2012. cast & credits. Jamie (Maggie Gyllenhaal), Nona (Viola Davis), Breena (Rosie Perez), Evelyn (Holly Hunter), Michael (Oscar Isaac), Principal (Bill Nunn). 20th Century Fox presents a film directed by Daniel Barnz. Written by Brin Hill and Barnz. Running time: 121 minutes. Rated PG (for thematic elements and language).

    The failing primary school in “Won’t Back Down” succeeds in teaching only seventy percent of its graduates to read. The American public education system seems to be in meltdown, producing high school graduates less literate and numerate than the grade school graduates of a few generations ago. “Won’t Back Down” blames this failure on teachers’ unions and bureaucracy. It embraces a slowly growing movement in which parents vote to take control of their children’s own schools, reward gifted teachers, and throw out overpaid, lazy and administrators held in place by seniority. It all sounds so simple — and it is, because the movie makes it simplistic.

    In this scenario, based on the proverbial “true story” that isn’t even cited in the film’s end credits, a heroic working-class mom and a heroic gifted teacher join forces to collect signatures, stage protests and then force a public vote by the school board in which the good guys take over a Pittsburgh grade school. What happens afterward is not very informative; we get one shot of the corridor walls of the new school, papered with student artwork.

    Maggie Gyllenhaal stars as Jamie Fitzpatrick, a single mom, auto-dealer secretary and night-shift bartender, whose dyslexic third grader Malia (Emily Alyn Lind) is trapped in the classroom of an entrenched teacher (Nancy Bach), who, by common agreement of her colleagues, is the faculty’s most overpaid and badly performing member.

    Jamie becomes determined to get Malia switched to the classroom of an inspired teacher, Nona Alberts (Viola Davis), but is blocked by the stonewall attitude of the school principal (Bill Nunn). During a heart to heart with Nona, who has been ground down by the system, Jamie asks, “Do you want to start a school with me?” Not without hesitation, Nona agrees.

    This launches a formula effort in which the inspirational Jamie energizes an effective opposition, even though the Viola Davis character would seem better suited to that challenge. That’s little surprise in a film where typecasting and color-coding makes it easy to predict which characters are good or bad.

    The film adds two unnecessary subplots, one involving a romance between Jamie and the heartthrob teacher Michael (Oscar Isaac), and another about Nona’s failing marriage with her husband (Lance Reddick), who texts her to say “This isn’t working” and leaves for no apparent reason, other than to be an absent dad for their son (Dante Brown), and then to turn up to hug her at the end.

    Rosie Perez is utterly misused as Breena, Nona’s best pal at school, and Ving Rhames turns up as the principal of a charter school, who presides over a heartbreaking lottery. Both the lottery scene and the anti-union material seem to be fictionalized versions of material in the powerful documentary “Waiting for Superman,” which covered similar material with infinitely greater depth.

  • 41. junior  |  October 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    There should be a parent trigger for spam posters on CPSO.

  • 42. cpsobsessed  |  October 1, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Heh heh. Now if someone made a documentary about an actual parent trigger situation I’d love to see that!

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 43. cpsobsessed  |  October 1, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks, Local. I think I won’t waste my time on it. It sounds unbearable for a range of reasons.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 44. frank  |  October 1, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Second worst movie opening. Ha

  • 45. chicagodad  |  October 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    @37 Junior, not nearly soon enough. Decisions are being made on policy / how to spend our tax dollars that I and others know to be BOGUS! I’m not waiting for an election to fight it. Democracy is not just elections, silly position to take.
    @38 Pretty much spot on Mayfair Dad. LSC’s work very well where there’s good and sufficient involvement and have far less chance of that where there’s not. As to the “who cares apathetic” folks, sad but true. Lived in those places over the years and saw it first hand. What’s worse is when there is a desire for betterment but no capability to define the what to how to – makes the bad even worse. Thats fertile ground for false and costly solutions that do no one but the carpet baggers any good.

  • 46. local  |  October 1, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    This is one way to get change at a school (from Chicago Journal):

    “Local students will be able to get into Jones by applying for either the selective enrollment process that traditionally has been used to admit kids into the school, or through the separate Career and Technical Education application process, Powers said. He recommended anyone who wants to get into Jones fill out both applications.

    “If seats in the neighborhood program aren’t filled with local students, then Powers said they’d take kids from outside the neighborhood boundary. They’ll likely use that ability to grab students who just missed the test score cutoff for Jones’ selective enrollment program, taking more kids from the hundreds who miss the cut every year.

    “Integrating neighborhood students into a thriving selective enrollment school is a new process for CPS, and Fioretti’s education liaison Leslie Recht said at Tuesday’s meeting that if it works, it could be put in place at more schools.

    “The new Jones building is set to open in fall 2013. A freshman class of neighborhood students in the program will join the roughly 900 selective enrollment students on that first day. A new grade level of the Career and Technical Education program will be added each year afterwards.”

    — Personally, I’m not sure what makes a HS program pre-law or per-engineering. Anybody know? Lots of social science & logic for prelaw and science & math for the engineering kids? I’m not sure I’m seeing any different path. Will their diplomas be different. Will they they “SEHS” grads or not? What am I missing?

  • 47. CLB  |  October 2, 2012 at 9:37 am

    CPS is not a city agency in any normal sense of the word. It is a separate creation of the state legislature. It has its own tax levying powers. It is absurd to argue that to change the BOE you should have to vote out the mayor. It is so absurd that virtually no other school district in the state does it. We have had sole mayoral appointment since 1995; that has given us the school system we have today. If mayoral control was superior to an elected school board, we wouldn’t be having most of theses conversations. Drop-out rates would be low, achievement would be high, and parents wouldn’t be anxious over exactly which school their child got into.

  • 48. kiki h.  |  October 2, 2012 at 9:55 am

    47, it wasn’t so great before mayoral control. When you’re dealing with a city like Chicago, I doubt that the school board can do much. There are too many other contributing problems.

  • 49. chicagodad  |  October 2, 2012 at 10:15 am

    If we have the right kind of elections allowing the parents and citizens to have clear information from the candidates themselves with the influence of money and external agenda driven groups excluded, then we will be able to have a school board that can move us forward in the right direction. It has to be like the LSC elections. Position papers from candidates only, full disclosure of their backgrounds/CV/affiliations, strictly defined format for any debates or discussions, in other words a totally level playing field where nothing is hidden. If for no other reason, we should do it this way to giver the politicians and lobbyists nightmares. The first amendment must be understood as a starting point, not a limiting factor that perversely permits unlimited cronyism and lies as we see now.

  • 50. ncm  |  October 2, 2012 at 11:00 am

    Off topic CPSO, but nowhere to put it. Can we talk about what the heck is going to happen with the budget shortfall/deficit given the pension crisis in Illinois (and around the country)? Editorial from today suggests CPS will not survive. What does that mean? There are no public schools? Doesn’t it make fiscal sense that public employees have to pay a bit more into their own pensions just as taxpayers will likely be asked to pay more? What are the solutions for the next 1-3 years? How will we make sure our schools will not bear the burden of flawed legislative policies? Isn’t pension reform mandatory NOW?


  • 51. local  |  October 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Will the real parents please stand up?

    Parents don’t want a “war.” They want a district that’s looking out for all children, that is capable of collaboration and able to hear the views and voices of real parents in the system.

    By: Wendy Katten / October 1, 2012

    More at: http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2012/10/01/20467/will-real-parents-please-stand

  • 52. CLB  |  October 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    @48 The mayor always had control. Before 1995, the mayor appointed and the aldermen had to confirm. Chicago never had an elected school board.

  • 53. klm  |  October 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    OK, some people will role their eyed when I say this, but yet again I have to mention that many of the comments here are written by middle-class born-and-raised people that went to “good” public schools and can’t imagine or have no experience with genuinely “bad” ones. Hence, we all communicate here about the best strategies for giving our kids a good education in CPS because we don’t want our kids stuck in the kind of schools that most kids in Eglewood or Lawndale have no choice but to attend.

    Well, let me tell you. I grew up in an inner-city housing project and went to “bad” public schools K-8. About 1/3 of the teachers were really making an effort, about 1/3 were just going through the motions, but yes, were at least “attempting” to teach. However, about 1/3 of my teachers really were as bad as the above mentioned movie and some documentaries (some people consider ‘propaganda’) like “Waiting for Superman”, “The Lottery”, “The Cartel”, etc. have pointed out in dramatic fashion. I saw it all –my 2nd grade teacher had us watching ‘The Electric Company’ and ‘educational films’ much of the time while she hung out in the hallway or the Teachers Lounge. My middle-school math teachers just gave assignments (never really taught and called us ‘stupid’ [ver batem] when we didn’t understand) and then went in the hall and chit-chatted 70-80% of the time. My middle-school was done at 1:30, but I swear, many of the teachers were practically running us over in their cars, getting way ASAP (one teacher [not mine] would usually leave at 1:25 –he owned a bar and wanted to be sure it was open and running by 2PM). I had teachers that read newspapers, books, put their heads on the desk to rest and didn’t do much of anything. I KNOW for a fact that my 6th grade teacher was drunk some of the time (she died several years later in a head-on car crash while [surprise!] driving drunk my as my mother told me when I was at college –it was on the local news), so it’s not a real big surprise that she wasn’t a good teacher. I had an 8th grade science teacher that started the year by saying “I don’t know anything about science, but I’m going to try my best” (he has been a truly wonderful band teacher for 20+ years, but the cut-backs in the 1980-Era recession made music a non-issue and because of tenure, seniority rules, etc.,he was given the assignment to teach science [?.!……?…!!!!!!]. He was a nice man, really and I know he tried, but we learned nothing, really.

    May God strike me dead if I am puffering any of this for drama –I swear I’m not.

    I don’t believe for a second that the.fore-mentioned “bad” teachers started out that way, it’s just that after so many years it’s almost impossible financially or professionally to “start over”, so some teachers really did just do the minimum, cling to tenure and wait until they qualified for a pension. I know it must have been overwhelming to start out wanting to teach, save the world, etc., before the reality of dysfunctional behavior, bad attitudes, violence, etc., that were part of my schools turned “good” teachers into jaded “union rule book.” I understand how it happens and why.

    But it still makes me sick and I’ll never, ever understand why the best interests of kids and families are not first and foremost when it comes to education. If some people point out these horror stories, why is it the reaction of some people to act like it’s all non-sense or some anti-union quasi-fiction made-up by ignorant, right-wing no-nothings?

    Some facts are true, even if we don’t want them to be.

  • 54. chicagodad  |  October 3, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    kim, I value your story and know it’s true, but you are missing one key point: why were the teachers not given the support they needed to be able to not burn out and lose hope but instead to make the difference they went into those schools to make? That is entirely the fault of the central administration and sometimes the principal. You also spoke well about all the problems the kids had that made it extra hard for the teachers.Teachers who could leave schools like yours did so at the earliest opportunity, leaving too few good ones who had the will to stick it out. I know one of those teachers, now working hard and happy in one of the best public schools in the country, right here in Chicago. It wasn’t the kids that drove her out, though that was a small part of it, it was the punitive disrespect from the school’s administration who were desperate to raise test scores at all costs to save their own careers from the fools above them that pushed her over the edge. This is the story told by far too many who left the profession, and also by those who got a job in one of those great schools it’s hard to retire from because they love the job there so much. Be well kim.

  • 55. HS Mom  |  October 3, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    @53 Klm – Thank you for sharing once again 🙂 Parents don’t need a PHD to know when their kids are hurt and are talked down to; when they are not learning and continually behind. Thank you and others for speaking up.

    @54.”why were the teachers not given the support they needed to be able to not burn out and lose hope but instead to make the difference they went into those schools to make? That is entirely the fault of the central administration and sometimes the principal”

    Someone over at central admin. is keeping the kids back at failing schools. That’s scary. The schools don’t have the ability to manage and implement their own solutions. That is a concern. Is it so inconceivable that parents would be desperate to do better by their kids than let the years go by as they wait for the system to be fixed.

  • 57. klm  |  October 4, 2012 at 8:57 am


    Yes, yes, yes to all that you said regard support from central administration, etc. I don’t mean to downplay what you’re saying, but is this really news? Many schools have been failing for generations, by now. How long are parents supposed to sit by and do nothing when their kids are stuck in a school that’s clearly a dysfunctional failure-factory? When’s the magical “improvement” going to happen? People kids’ are frequently not learning as much as they should and sometimes there really are teachers that (for whatever reason understandable or not) don’t seem to care or even try, so why shouldn’t people be pissed off? People in the North Shore or even the more affluent parts of Chicago don’t have to deal with such dysfunction in their schools, so why should poor people?

    I’m not anti-union (I used to work for one), but when anybody points out that there really are instances when union interests clearly do not meet up with the best interests of children, some people almost explode with indignation over such naive “quasi-falsehoods” (as if these things are just made up or blow-up 10,000% by anti-teacher trouble-makers that have no idea how difficult it is to teach in a high-risk school) and start blaming anybody but the teachers that are clearly not even trying and that are using tenure rules to keep their job. Sometimes people really are doing a lousy job, but union rules keep them employed –it does happen.

    I know union hiring and firing rules are not universally complicated (almost every district has its own contract and these things have to be agreed upon, not just OK’d by a school board controlled by teacher unions, as some union-bashers claim), but sometimes union contracts really do keep bad teachers employed when ones that at least are willing to try their best are kept out.


    I don’t think that there are many even pro-Charter people that believe Charters are a panacea for all that fails urban public education (even among people that love to bash teachers’ unions). However, there really are instances when certain charter schools (by no means all, for sure) work better at educating at-risk kids than traditional K-12 public schools that were set up in a model that seems to work best with low-risk, middle-class kids.

    For example, the KIPP Schools really do offer an environment that’s very pro-education and where being “smart” is OK for kids from places like Lawndale and Englewood. The pro-achievement cultural norms and pro-education environment of some charters can seem petty, ridiculous and kinda’ stupid to some (mainly middle-class people who cringe when they hear about fines, detentions, etc., for seemingly small lapses in school protocol) but believe me, many of the kids attending them and their families welcome such an environment, being that there’s so much chaos going on in the neighborhood outside of schools. Many parents are happy for their sons to attend a school where they won’t be teased or bullied for being on the honor roll. This is especially true for African-American males in inner-city schools, where ones that are “smart” or bookish are sometimes treated almost like pariahs and called “Oreo” and “Whitey” –I saw it first hand growing up. Many of the most “popular” boys (the ones that bullied the ‘smart, you-think-you-betta-than-me-cause-you-smart? boys) were dead or in prison within a decade. If a KIPP School (or virtually any charter for that matter) were available to me, I’d of jumped at the chance. Now, it’s true that the thugs and gang-bangers would still have been at the neighborhood school, but at least those of us that really wanted a decent school would have had options for something better.(and at very least an environment that was objectively safer and less fear-inducing).

    It seems like some people want to throw out the baby with the bath water when it comes to charters. No, not all are good, but many do objectively provide a better learning environment than what kids would have had otherwise. Why is that so bad?

  • 58. chicagodad  |  October 4, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Here’s the short real world answer to your question. If you take the teachers from the north shore school you mentioned and stick them in the most dysfunctional school in your area nothing will change. It’s not the teachers. Send the teachers from that dysfunctional school to the north shore and nothing will change there either. You basically admit that the community can’t/won’t solve it’s own problems, the ones that go into the schools on the backs of the kids and look to the schools to supply discipline and consequences. Kids who can’t deal with that get thrown back to the neighborhood schools making them worse than they were before, after the most involved families that could get out did. How is that good for the community, to say to so many that the only thing we have for them is to get thrown under the bus. CPS won’t spend the $ on peer to peer student run systems for behavior probs, sorry, can’t find the link now, but the program has been used here and did well. The bottom line is that there are solutions but only charters are being positioned to use them, and the ones they use are more like prison than real intervention.

  • 59. another CPS mom  |  October 4, 2012 at 10:33 am

    @ 57 “Now, it’s true that the thugs and gang-bangers would still have been at the neighborhood school, but at least those of us that really wanted a decent school would have had options for something better.”

    How did those thugs and gang-bangers get that way? How did those students who wanted a “decent school” get that way? Could answers lead to a solution for CPS?

  • 60. another CPS mom  |  October 4, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I think I heard the two candidates agree on education policy in the debate last night. Somewhat interchangeable?

  • 61. Patricia  |  October 4, 2012 at 10:51 am

    @klm thank you for your insightful posts. I am learning a lot from them. The issue you bring up with it “not being cool” to be smart is really eye opening. The way you describe it, i can completely visualize it.

    What do you think stops a school from having the culture of a charter where “being smart” is not only cool, but expected/accepted? It seems parochial schools have the same success for what appears to be similar reasons—the culture and expectations at the school. chicagodad mentioned some programs that seem to have worked. What is stopping neighborhood shool leadership from creating a culture of expected achievement? Do you need to throw money at this problem (which is always nice)? Money does not buy a culture, does it? What can neighborhood schools do to make it a comfortable enviornment for students to be smart? It sounds like in some schools, “the inmates are running the prison or the patients are running the asylum” to put it in non PC terms.

  • 62. cpsobsessed  |  October 4, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I thought romney sounded almost like he wants vouchers. Obama said he’s for choice too (I imagine he means charters) but yeah, not very dissimilar…

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 63. RL Julia  |  October 4, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I am becoming convinced that how a school is, how the student’s behave and value is really all about the community and more specifically the parents. If parents don’t have high expectations for their kids or think that all they have to do in regards to their children’s schooling/education is drop off and pick up their kids aren’t going to do very well ultimately. If they start thinking of their kid as a resource who can run errands, financially contribute, babysit etc… and put priority on their kid filling that role in the household over their kid’s education – no amount of school is going to improve that child’s lot in life. The parental commitment and valuation of education is what ultimately matters. As many of you know, my kids went to the neighborhood school which is a great school with great teachers and many more resources than many other CPS schools. Neither of my kids are what I’d consider scary smart. My son is now at Northside as a freshman. His classmates from the neighborhood school by in large are at the neighborhood high school (although they mostly all tried for the SEHS’s) – there were economic differences for sure- and parental education ones too – but having seen most of these kids enter into kindergarten all as potential rocket scientists and brain surgeons and knowing the school enviroment and teachers pretty well, I can say the ONE of the most compelling and controllable reasons that my son is at Northside and his equally intelligent classmates are not is because he did his homework. Every night. And turned it in everyday at school. And if he brought home low grades, they were questioned and if he didn’t understand either his parents worked with him until he did understand or he got help from the teachers at school who were generally more than avaialble to help him – as they did all the other kids. And while he was expected to do his chores and be a contributing member of the family, he was not expected to take care of his three younger siblings everyday afterschool or make dinner every night etc… but mostly, I think it was because we expected him to do well, questioned when didn’t do well, gave/got help when it was needed and made him do all of his homework.

  • 64. klm  |  October 4, 2012 at 1:28 pm


    In my first post, I mentioned that 1/3 of the teachers in my inner-city schools really did make a real effort to teach, 1/3 went through the motions of teaching, but at least did it. I was talking about the 1/3 that were not doing their job.

    My point was that these kinds of “bad” teachers were allowed to work in the inner-city schools I attended, but their behavior would not be tolerated in the Norrh Shore by either parents or administrators. I can’t imagine there are many teachers at New Trier or at the Sear School in Kenilworth (or at Lincoln, Blaine or Bell for that matter) that that are allowed to read for pleasure at their desk for hours a day, have TVs on and show films for hours every week, leave the classroom for much of the time and basically just baby sit sometimes instead of teach. But this behavior was tolerated at my schools. Why?

    I never said there not any teachers that worked hard and got us learning –far from it. My 1st and 3rd grade teachers were genuine saints. It’s a hard, seemingly thankless job to teach at-risk kids in inner-city schools, sometimes. I’m sure it is. Kids come in with attitude problems, many are way behind cognitively and socially, etc., but you know what? Some teachers really were good and many/most at least made some kind of an effort.

    It’s the 1/3 that didn’t even try and that seemed to not care that I have a problem with. And yet they were allowed to “teach” and get the same automatic raises and accrued pension benefits as those that were really teaching.

    Do teachers have a license to not do their job simply because they have lot of poor white trash, welfare kids and sons and daughters of felons for students? If we sit around and wait until there’s no poverty, crime, lousy parenting and violence in Englewood or Austin, then nothing will ever change.

    I don’t expect miracles. The whole “Super Teacher” that produces miracles is a Hollywood-style myth, I know that. But I expect somebody that is getting a paycheck from a public school system to actually teach, not cling to their tenure and complicated union rules to protect them from accountability and complain about how tough and impossible their job is, so why bother trying?.

  • 65. chicagodad  |  October 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    It’s fair to say that was then, this is now. Where are the stories of this happening today? 1/3rd? With all the scrutiny of teachers I doubt that just sitting at a desk or other non working behavior would go unnoticed let alone unpunished. In addition, other teachers and in fact the union would have something to say to the slacker who stinks up the reputation of the job like that, giving an excuse for the teacher haters to point the finger. Look at how hard it is to get experienced, skilled teachers to go into schools like that and how high the turnover is of new teachers The causes for that are the place to find your answer, and the answer is the working environment. Like I said before, no support, just unearned blame and very adverse conditions. Reformers have pointed to the need to get experienced teachers back into those schools but in spite of their corporate wealth, have done almost nothing to make it happen but wish things were different or back legislation to claim that unskilled alternative teachers are the same as the really good ones.

  • 66. klm  |  October 4, 2012 at 4:13 pm


    I agree with you that that kind of nonsense I described most likely does not occur today to such an extent tody–there really is more accountability even in the most under-performing schools, at least in CPS. I have a sister-in-law that teaches CPS in Englewood and she works HARD and loves her students. However, she does say that there are teachers that are in no way holding their weight, so other ones have to work harder: “I always know when kids had Mrs.So-and-So they’re going to be on track, but if they had Mr So-and-So I knew they’d be behind”, etc. So why is Mr. So-and-So still teaching at that school? Or anywhere for that matter?

    I’m talking a period 1972-1981 for my own experience, before “A Nation At Risk” was published. Also, love it or hate it, but NCLB at least seems to have opened the discussion for accountability, even if its implementation can be debated.

    That said, there are real horror stories out there even today in the national media. Sometimes teacher unions really are trying to block or limit changes that can benefit at-risk students. Remember, the movie “Don’t Back Down” is based on a real story, not fiction.

  • 67. chicagodad  |  October 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    WBD is not based on a real story, it is “inspired by actual events” in spite of the fact that one of the big corporate front groups is now claiming otherwise. Parent Tricker is only the illusion of choice, forcing parents to select from what they are offered, not enabling them to choose what they really want. They can’t choose to have a library added, a nurse or counselor, more art classes, newer text books, smaller class sizes, nothing like that. Their only choice is to hand the school over to someone else to run, a choice that future parents of the community can’t revoke. It’s no choice at all, not true parent involvement, just manipulation and deception.

  • 68. MSS  |  October 4, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    @61 What do you think stops a school from having the culture of a charter where “being smart” is not only cool, but expected/accepted?

    Maybe the inability to charge students tuition for compulsory evening classes to make up for grades of D or F in regular classes
    This is a practice of some charter schools, as is attaching fines to misbehavior and/or truancy and/or tardiness. Privatization proponents make little of it, but I think it’s a big difference between the systems, forcing a student to transfer rather than being kicked out. “if you can’t pay the bills, well…”

  • 69. Angie  |  October 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    @68. MSS: “Maybe the inability to charge students tuition for compulsory evening classes to make up for grades of D or F in regular classes”

    Which of the charters in Chicago charge this tuition, and how much? Please provide a link.

  • 70. Patricia  |  October 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    @68 MSS. The items you list do not correlate to the culture charters seem to provide where being smart is cool and valued/expected as I originally asked.

    Fines are just a form of discipline that has a value to the student. Parents use this all the time. Maybe or maybe not monetarily, but it is just a tool (carrot or stick) to promote the desired behavior. It is like the high school version of a preschool sticker chart. (yes fine is stick and stickers are more carrots, but maybe HS students need different approach.)

    If it is a successful tool, what is to stop a neighborhood HS from implementing something similar to the fine, but use something other than money if money is forbidden by CPS? BTW–are fines “outlawed”?

    What stops a neighborhood HS from forming a student council that has a peer discipline “court” committee?

    What stops a neighborhood HS from creating a culture where being smart is cool and valued/expected? The answer can’t be “only charters can do it.” AND if that is the answer, then I can see the desire to expand them aggressively.

  • 71. MSS  |  October 4, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    A former student of Noble schools couldn’t pay bills for D’s and F’s. Some of my bully students from 8th grade lasted a year or so at Noble, then off to the CPS school. I don’t have a link to the contract that they get parents to sign, but I’d sure like one. State Sen Delgado attempted to block this practice in Springfield, but I don’t think it got very far.

    Look if I want Jesuit school tactics in my kids public school, that’s all fine and great…for now. A free public education – is it a right or a privilege? Rauner’s idea of competing networks of private tax funded schools is about as good as competition amongst oil companies and telecom; ie there is none. Pay or go away.

  • 72. teacheer  |  October 5, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Loathing teachers is a bipartisan act. They both hate teachers. Obama thinks they are useless and Romney thinks they are thugs. Ahhhh teachers have finally inspired bipartisanship…..haha

  • 73. WendyK  |  October 5, 2012 at 3:59 am

    @Patricia – one item that should be keeping schools from fining kids is FAPE – this stands for Free and Appropriate Public Education that kids with disabilities are entitled to under IDEA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

    We’re putting a document together at RYH and finding the percentages of IEPs served at elem charters is well below district average. Only two charters we found had IEP percentages over 10%. Many in the single digits I am now wondering if FAPE has anything to do with it.

    Another thing I am hearing some charters are violating is FERPA laws – this is like the HIPAA of Education. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

    I agree we have to find ways to motivate kids and seems all parties could be working together much harder on this. Charters should not get a free pass when it comes to breaking federal laws though. They receive lots of public money and should be held to the same standards as everyone else. I am not against school choice but I see all the ways in which our system creates tiers of schools.

    Oh, Namaste has the highest percentage of IEPs served for a charter elem at 17%.

  • 74. klm  |  October 5, 2012 at 9:32 am


    Well, no, this movie is a Hollywood-esque spin, but it was “inspired” by an actual Parent Trigger event at an actual school (Desert Trails in Adelanto, CA). I’ve been reading about it in the national media for aprrox. 2 years, heard it being discussed by investigative journalists on MSNBC’s (hardly a right-wing news outlet) ‘Morning Joe’, along with similar stories. In each case, Teacher Union administrators and lawyers really have gone on attack –sometimes using less than 100% ethical tactics to stop parents from implementing changes to schools through Parent Trigger or other methods. There are other stories of parents picketing, trying to change schools through Parent Trigger, etc., when the best teachers are being laid off and the mediocre ones kept because of seniority rules, etc. I’m not making this stuff up. Why shouldn’t parents want the teachers that most are most capable teaching their kids.

    Why shouldn’t we be happy when parents of (mostly) at-risk kids from lower-income neighborhoods are getting upset that sometimes the public school system (administrators, teacher unions, and everybody else with a vested interest in retaining the status quo) really are standing in the way (objectively) of their kids getting a decent education –or at least preventing any changes that may (or, yes, may not) improve things. It seems very democratic and we should applaud these kinds of stories of parental involvement, not dismiss them at ignorant and naive anti-public education vignettes that have no relevance.

    So many comments here are complaints about how tough it is the teach poor kids because parents aren’t involved enough. But, when poor parents in places like Adelanto (and Compton) really are showing that they care and are concerned and have genuine complaints about a school that warrants drastic change, some people want to say, in effect, “They don’t know what they’re doing, they’re brain-washed (probably by some Koch Brothers-funded right-wing, anti-teachers union, propagandist group that pretends to care about education, but really just wants to privatize public education, etc., ……God forbid we imagine low-income parent are informed and are able make up their own minds –that’s not possible, I guess.),

    Whose money is it anyway, when we’re talking public education? Teachers’? School boards’? I was always under the impression that public school funding is meant to be used first and foremost to educate children, not placate unions and administrators. Accordingly, if parents in Adelanto, CA want to use Parent Trigger to change their objectively failing public school why should anybody stand in their way? If they’re making a big mistake, they’ll eventually know it, but at least they’re trying and getting involved –isn’t that what we all want to see?.

    Closer to home, if CPS parents in Lawndale or Englewood (or Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast, for that matter) want to send their kids to a charter school (charter schools ARE public schools, after all, and if they’re getting extra money from private sources, then good for them –my kids’ CPS schools get private donations and I don’t see people screaming ‘conspiracy’, so why all the assumptions about charter school private funding being ‘tainted’ by people out to destroy public education), why assume they don’t know what they’re really getting into and are too unsophisticated or uneducated on the subject to know what they want and understand the real implecations. I know CTU doesn’t like it, but shouldn’t families be able to decide what’s best foe their kids’ education, not CTU?

  • 75. junior  |  October 5, 2012 at 10:12 am


    Well put.

    But don’t you know yet that the system is about the adults, not the kids? Watch the testing issue. Now that it affects the adults in the system, there’s going to be a much larger push against the testing.

    I have my own modest proposal for “opting out” of testing. If my kid gets a bad teacher who is simply phoning it in all year and makes my kid miserable — though let’s say now that generally we’ve had excellent teachers in our milieu — then the kid can simply the fill out the final ISAT bubbles randomly. How’s that for elevating the kid’s voice? If enough kids do that to a bad teacher, we can call it the “student trigger.”

  • 76. SoundsFine  |  October 5, 2012 at 11:05 am

    75 – love your idea.

  • 77. Paul  |  October 5, 2012 at 11:06 am

    @74 klm, nicely said.

    @73 WendyK, I hope you’re balancing your investigation of any charters violating IDEA and FERPA with a similar investigation for regular CPS schools. I think there’s a danger in holding charters up to a higher standard. My understanding from advocates for students with disabilities is that many CPS schools violate IDEA regularly. Pointing out problems in charters is important, but the “failing” schools they may replace could have bigger problems.

    I think a better issue to investigate is why the “failing” schools targeted for closure are failing. What are the root causes of that, and what should be done about it? Is it the school, the teachers, and the administrators; or is it the poverty, the community, and a lack of resources? What do parents and prospective parents in those neighborhoods want? Do they just need a library, air conditioning, a new playground, and books on the first day? Do they need more teachers, wrap-around services, and social workers? Or, is the school leadership failing? Are the teachers failing? Would a new school model (e.g. charter) make a difference?

  • 78. Patricia  |  October 5, 2012 at 11:30 am

    @ WendyK Thanks for the insight into the legalities for students with Iearning issues and thank you @Paul for highlighting that charters should not be singled out. It appears to be a system wide issue. I believe Family friend would be able to shed some good insight onto this topic. I am not familiar with the IEP topic to have an opinion either way.

    My original questions remain………………what is stopping a neighborhood school from implementing/creating a culture where it is “cool and expected/accepted” to be smart? The reason can’t be that a school with kids on IEPs can’t have a culture of being smart. I find it hard to believe that the answer is that only charter schools can do it. There must be ways that are not monetary and do not cost additional funding to accomplish this. What is stopping neighborhood schools from doing this?

  • 79. junior  |  October 5, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    @78 Patricia

    I think :”culture” comes from everyone collectively — administrators, teachers, parents and kids — but it’s mostly going to originate with the parents and kids. If there is not a strong parent-driven LSC, then they are not going to attract/demand a strong principal who sets the tone for teachers, and so on. Charters, like magnet schools, have parents who are there by choice, not by default. By definition, they are parents who have taken an active role in their child’s education and they often have means to provide transportation to better schooling options. So, self-selection filtering exists for charters and magnets, and they have an advantage for creating positive learning culture.

    That creates difficulties in trying to assess charter/magnet performance. But i do think the charters are serving a useful purpose in providing choice for people who might otherwise be stuck in negative school environments.

    The downside of major charter proliferation is potentially creating a greater concentration of at-risk kids in the neighborhood schools. But that, too, is an opportunity, if treated properly — it is an opportunity to target a concentration of resources (e.g, wraparound services) targeted to those very kids. It is an opportunity to implement systems like “combat pay” to recruit high quality teachers to those environments. Increased specialization of schools can lead to more efficient use of resources and better overall outcomes for the system as a whole.

  • 80. HS Mom  |  October 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    @78 Patricia – If I can take a stab at this, one significant difference seems to be the programing from what I can discern. Charters are allowed to “experiment” with teaching techniques that are geared toward a specific, identified learning need or goal. They have the ability to implement creative solutions as “greater good” commented:

    ” Some schools are able to do it because of their outside SES factors, some schools do it because they can (yes) force kids out when they don’t adhere to strict policies, some schools do it by accident because they provide basic needs that their kids are lacking and then the test scores inadvertently follow. Some schools are able to achieve high test scores by doing test-prep for 100% of the school day. That’s certainly one way to get high scores, but what skills and tools are being taught? And at what loss? Memorization, maybe a bit of question analysis, some attention to detail, all certainly play a role in test prep. These are good things, but they aren’t all of the things necessary for a rich and comprehensive education. Incredibly strict, rigid discipline is one way to help students study and memorize facts, but it might not be the best way for students to struggle with (and learn how to grapple with) their own abilities to create, experiment, and practice the independent self-control that will be necessary come graduation. We need to look deeper at what we mean by “success.” As one commenter pointed out, some schools have helped their students reach very high test scores in high school, but they might actually be doing their students a disservice because of the discrepancy in skills needed for college. They aren’t just academic skills, or facts on a test — they are life skills and social skills, aspects of “success” that are absent from tests. …While charter schools can be incredibly diverse themselves, and I hesitate to compare them too broadly, one aspect that they do share is the need to state and stay focused on a goal. Some schools choose to focus on the goal of obtaining higher test scores. Those schools might achieve that goal, and I will say again, for better or worse. Other schools have different goals, and there is real diversity to be found, although maybe not to the extent that we need.”

    The other structural difference between the failing CPS school and the charter is the ability to get rid of bad teachers.

    @73 Wendy – are you referring to IEP students that are integrated into standard programming at a school? I think you will find that test-in schools do not admit a high percentage of IEP students either resulting in higher % of IEP students in neighborhood schools. Students requiring special services are referred to particular schools/programs as Angie explains above. I am guessing that a charter admitting students by lottery is dependent upon the pool of IEP students that lottery in. Are you saying that the lottery is rigged to exclude IEP students?

  • 81. Maureen  |  October 5, 2012 at 1:17 pm


    This is good background on the causes of the problems that poor minority children face, in school and elsewhere.

  • 82. Patricia  |  October 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    @ Junior and HS Mom

    Thank you. That helps a lot. Now my question is………why can’t neighborhood school teachers and administration try different techniques such as combat pay, teaching intervention, getting rid of bad teachers and trying a variety of different solutions? It seems trying more of the same in neighborhood schools is not the answer.

    Why aren’t the poor performing schools the genesis of creative ideas to improve the education of these at risk kids? It seems that the most creative solutions should come from the toughest environments. What stops a neighborhood school from trying new things to improve?

  • 83. Sped Mom  |  October 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Please consult Rod Estvan when it comes to IEPs and CPS. Note that many students with disabilities do not have IEPs. Many with IEPs have lousy IEPs. Many IEPs are not implemented. This goes for even the rich suburban school districts.

  • 84. HS Mom  |  October 5, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    @83 – and how! Not to mention that is has become very difficult to even get an IEP so that CPS doesn’t obligate itself to having to provide services.

    That’s why any document citing % of IEP’s at various schools does not come close to telling the complete story.

  • 85. Patricia  |  October 5, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    @83 I have heard nightmare stories from parents with kids on an IEP and it sounds daunting. The terrible thing is that private and parochial can’t afford to provide the services needed, so the only option is the public school……………and it is not providing what it needs to for these students.

  • 86. WendyK  |  October 5, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    @Paul – I think you may have missed my point. I wasn’t saying traditional schools never violate IDEA, I was saying in regards to fines, FAPE may inhibiit charters from fining kids with disabilities and there might be some conflict in discipline methods used at charters, which I was speculating might be connected to low levels of IEPS served at charters.

    I was told by a few people at two different Noble campuses that they regularly violate FERPA and share student grades in front of other students. I am not saying that doesn’t happen at non-charters. I have never heard of it, though. It’s wrong if it happens anywhere.

  • 87. RL Julia  |  October 5, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    No one wants to think of their school as a bad school – I think one reason it might be hard to improve failing schools is that generally the people with the most control – i.e. the community, parents, teachers etc… do not necessarily see the school as failing and really get put on the defensive when told that their school is inadequate. Outside judgement of such -and money for remediation that does not include an inside the school community voice or significant buy-in is not going to be tremendously successful. One of the things that gets me the most in my observations of my neighborhood school was that high expectations of students were not the norm. Some teachers had high expectations (and were willing to get their kids to achieve them) but many teachers really didn’t think out of the box about what the kids in their classrooms might have been capable of – and after a few years of poor or mediocre grades, generally parents don’t either. Yet at the same time, I think that setting the bar high is really crucial in getting kids to where they need to be educationally.

  • 88. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Patricia, when it comes to why the poorly performing neighborhood schools continue to not improve, the single biggest reason is that large numbers of kids don’t show up at school ready, willing and able to learn. Also consider the way chronic absenteeism can be understood as rotating absenteeism. If a teacher has 35 kids on her rolls but only 25 or less show up, and it’s a different 25 each time, then little progress can be made. Add in discipline problems and the picture gets clearer and worse. Long story short,if a teacher is not in a position to actually teach effectively, no matter how great they are, no learning can happen. This is also why Arne’s turnarounds failed so badly, they were an answer in search of a question. There is nothing significant that charters can do that regular schools cannot other than discipline and control. Others have noted the parental buy in needed to get into one, and even that has not produced the stellar results charters claim they can deliver. Curriculum is mandated and there are no magic bullets charters can use or that even exist that regular schools cannot, including more time, a thing that actually got worse results in a number of charters! Teaching and learning are teaching and learning. Check out the sad history of Orr HS, the poster child for every failed idea out there. They had every brand of “reform” snake oil out there poured all over them and nothing changed. Even the much vaunted AUSL got turned around there, though they were given another shot at it. CPS tried everything but helping the community get ALL the kids to school ready, willing and able to learn. And, they absolutely can learn as well as anyone if positioned to do so.

  • 89. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    “what is stopping a neighborhood school from implementing/creating a culture where it is “cool and expected/accepted” to be smart?”

    Simple. That culture only exists within the school in an adversarial relationship to the larger, louder message to the contrary that exists outside the school. School is the only place where that culture is consistently rewarded.

    “why can’t neighborhood school teachers and administration try different techniques such as combat pay, teaching intervention, getting rid of bad teachers”

    Pay has to be in the contract, but that is not as big an issue as teachers would choose more and better support over more pay. Being paid more for working in a situation where you can’t succeed is no answer. teacher intervention assumes that intervention is needed, rather than collaboration time to discuss tactics and to share insights on individual kids as a way to enhance differentiated instruction, something you asked about before. Bad teachers can be removed if correctly identified, but a far bigger issue is high teacher turnover in low SES schools. High turnover is a significantly bad thing for the kids. The answer? Attract great, committed teachers to the schools that badly need them by giving them all that they need to do the best they can do, and stop blaming them and punishing them for things beyond their control. one curious thing is that part of this is the so called reformers offering no test based evaluations for 3 – 5 years as part of a proposed incentive package idea. Hmmmm…….

  • 90. cpsobsessed  |  October 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    @chicagoDad, your post makes me wonder if schools could do an “in-school charter” setup where each grade has one class that kids lottery into and if they don’t follow the rules (or other charter-like mandates) then they get moved to regular class.
    Or even why cps can’t try a “charter-type” school – taking some of cps’ best teachers and letting them take over a school.
    If the “what have we got to lose” mentallity applies to charters, I’d like to see some room for experimentation within cps as well.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 91. junior  |  October 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    @86 WendyK
    I can tell you first-hand that it happens in CPS schools.

  • 92. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    @74 Concerning the Parent Tricker at Adelanto, parents wanted change but didn’t want and were promised no charter, a promise that was broken after they signed petitions. When they wanted to revoke their signatures after finding out how they had been used, they were denied. Is this your idea of “choice”? Being deceived into supporting something you don’t want? In Compton a charter opened close to the Tricker targeted school which was not triggered, but only about 16% of students transfered to it. Parent’s there and other places aren’t stupid or anything like that, they just never expected to be deceived they way they were after being promised so much. From the points you make on the issues you chose, it seems you’ve fallen for the same glossy sales pitch. FYI, those trying to end LIFO have repeatedly admitted they can’t tell who is good or not in the context of far too many teachers being laid off (fired) for purely budgetary reasons. One thing we do not need less of is teachers. We do need less, in fact no interference in our schools from those who do misinform and mislead parents in the name of profit. Far too many parents and taxpayers simply don’t have the time and energy to be skeptical and dig deeper when the wolves in sheep’s clothing ride into town claiming to be white knights.
    “Nuclear power – too cheap to meter!” That turned out well, right?

  • 93. cpsobsessed  |  October 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    @chicagodad, I’m not familiar with that school/story. Do you have any links? Is that cps?

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 94. WendyK  |  October 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    @Junior – which part? The FERPA or IDEA? IDEA violations happen all the time, but again, that wasn’t my point about the charters. If you meant FERPA, in which ways is this happening at traditional schools? I heard at some Noble campuses, they use gpa publicly to “encourage” students.

  • 95. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    @93 If you also want the story as presented in the local media, look at the links in the endnotes. http://parentsacrossamerica.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Trigger-just-the-facts.pdf

  • 96. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    @90, Separate materials, schedules and class room? School within a school? Taking the “best teachers”? Charters do not do that, just take teachers willing to work with no due process protections. Charter teachers interview just as other CPS teachers do, principals have always been able to choose their team.
    CHICAGO. In a poorer city school, one English teacher–I won’t use her name–who’d been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn’t do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year. Under Chicago’s new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.

    In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire. No teachers’ union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field – for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.

    You’ve guessed by now: It’s the same teacher.

  • 97. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 6:35 pm

    An analysis of budget documents and employee rosters shows that CPS leaders didn’t make promised cuts in central office, but there has been dramatic turnover in staff.
    By: Sarah Karp / September 8, 2012

  • 98. junior  |  October 5, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    @94 WendyK

    ISAT test results not kept private.

  • 99. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    If you really want to cringe, read the comments. The fish is rotting from the head down. http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2012/09/08/20406/central-office-major-turnover-minimal-savings

  • 100. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    @98 I believe doing so is an actionable offense.

  • 101. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    how to do discipline better. http://www.pbisillinois.org/

  • 102. HS Mom  |  October 5, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    @86 – what about when teachers have students grade each others papers?? To name one of many ways grades are made public. What about posting work on the bulletin board? What about the teacher reading off grades in class?

  • 103. klm  |  October 5, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    @99 chicagodad

    It’s great that you’re making your points, but it;s kinda’, well,… insulting when you assume that I’m ill-informed and just don’t understand The Truth as you see it/understand it. Not everybody that disagrees with you is an uninformed follower of propagandist talking points who’s parroting a few plum talking points they read in an article once. Some of us really do read, keep informed, follow and understand fairly well the details of these issues and simply have come to different conclusions than you. I’ll never drink anybody’s Kool-Aid (God, I hate that tired expression, but I think it’s appropriate here). Yes, I’ve been following what’s been going on in Compton and at Desert Trails. I did point out that what the parents are doing may or may not change things for the better,and I know that the devil is in the details, in many cases. However, I can’t help but feel good when I read about parents taking a stand to do something about their kids’ failing schools. And guess what? I’m not talking out of nowhere when I say that teachers unions, educational professionals. etc. (what some call The Public Educational Industrial Complex) are trying their best to stand in the way of parents trying to do something to improve their kids’ failing schools, especially when they are the only school options that these low-income people have.

  • 104. HS Mom  |  October 5, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Klm – Bravo!

    @90 – CPSO – I would love to see that.

    Another idea. What about a charter or cps school dedicated entirely to 504/IEP mainstream students with ADHD, LD, ASD where teaching is customized to the kids and teachers have an expertise in this area. Just an example of how segmenting kids this way may not be a bad idea. There is a private liberal arts college dedicated to this area alone that is centered on how kids learn differently.

  • 105. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    The “Public educational industrial complex” as you call it is not standing in the way of what parents want and is not against the fact that they want to do something to improve their schools. That alleged status quo has all but completely ceased to exist, and in fact was never as strong as the forces imposing the latest fads on it which are still going strong. What teachers and actual eduction experts oppose today is parents being manipulated into selecting things that have been seen to fail and fail badly while taking money away from schools, that’s all. Parents in CA and elsewhere are not being asked “What do you want?” they are being given a small set of things to choose from that enrich others and being told those things are the only solutions out there, a huge lie. The reason, as you pointed out that ” they are the only school options that these low-income people have.” is as I stated, that’s all they are being offered. Their voices and actual demands are not being listened to, just as the voices of the teachers in their schools are not. The only reason teachers have any place at the table is because of their unions. Parent voices are only acknowledged when they agree to the limited set of options presented to them. There is no real choice, just an illusion. Tons of charters and vouchers making inroads, but where have parents been able to get smaller class sizes to the extent possible by using available money that was to go for charters or more testing? And if the things that you came to your different conclusion about are so good and have so much promise, then why is the extremely competitive private sector of education not lining up to adopt them? Why are these things only appropriate for and targeted at poverty stricken schools? Those pushing these profit driven reforms have repeatedly said that unions and parents are the biggest obstacles to increasing their market share, so it should come as no surprise that their first assault is on those communities with the least political power and other resources that would enable them to resist the takeover of their schools. That’s the profiteers beachhead. How do you explain it when one of the best private schools in the state, the one Rahm sends his own kids to says that the things being inflicted on Chicago’s public schools would never be done there because they simply do not work? Both teachers and administration at the Lab School support the CTU’s positions and efforts. When I look at the situation we are faced with, I see edu-apartheid being perpetrated on people of color, brought to you by people building the school to prison pipeline, aka. the prison industrial complex. Actions speak louder than words, as do results. We are surrounded by the evidence. Getting the most involved parents to send their kids to a charter and leaving the rest in under resourced schools designed to fail and lead to more charters? PRICELESS!

  • 106. chicagodad  |  October 5, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    @104, I think done well that could likely be a good idea, but we have the LRE (least restrictive environment) law. What’s interesting is that gifted schools are supposed to be like that but end up just being accelerated programs for bright kids, many but not all of whom are also gifted. To date, I have not been able to decide if specialized schools are a good thing or not, if letting all types of kids learn together can be done well enough by us to make it be greater than the sum of the parts. From all that I’ve seen, this topic is WAY more complex than “reform”. One part of that puzzle I do know is that the smaller the class size, the better the results for the kids in a school like that, as I know from experience that those kids are more “high maintenance”. Those kids can really drop your jaw as well, it can be really amazingly cool.

  • 107. jillwohl  |  October 7, 2012 at 4:20 am

    Chicago has a parent trigger law. It’s called an LSC, an annual principal review and a 4-year principal contract (and I fully agree with Junior and harbor a grudge regarding the elimination of the parent LSC majority during Marilyn Stewart’s leadership of the CTU when they passed HB6017 under the cover of night). With a strong, inspired and team-building principal, “bad” teaching doesn’t happen. You don’t cure a runny nose by cutting off your nose.

    A wise leader once told me “TTT.” Things Take Time. Especially for change to be sustainable. When you burn down the prairie, you risk scorching the earth.

  • 108. HS Mom  |  October 7, 2012 at 9:37 am



    “In an emotional celebration, Mojave Desert parents Monday hailed a court ruling that found the school board illegally rejected their efforts under the state’s “parent trigger” law to transform their failing elementary school into a charter campus.”

    “Under regulations adopted last fall by the state Board of Education, Malone ruled, the parent trigger law does not allow recisions and explicitly states that parents “shall be free from … being encouraged to revoke their signatures on a petition.”

    The union feels that there is a bait and switch – parents really want improvements, not a charter. Court appeals and delay tactics have disabled parents from getting a chart in place in time for school. Gotta love it!

    Here’s more on parent trigger, if you’re interested. The following excerpt sounds a lot like CPS parent ideals.


    “The strange thing is that the board might have won parents over to its side if it had made its reform proposals earlier and worked with parents instead of behind their backs. Initially, the parents didn’t even want a charter school; they simply wanted the district to address their concerns and meet certain demands. Many of the reforms now being proposed sound good, including a new curriculum, an extended school day and a request that teachers either sign on to the reform program or be assigned to another school.”

  • 109. HS Mom  |  October 7, 2012 at 10:42 am



    “In an emotional celebration, Mojave Desert parents Monday hailed a court ruling that found the school board illegally rejected their efforts under the state’s “parent trigger” law to transform their failing elementary school into a charter campus.”

    “Under regulations adopted last fall by the state Board of Education, Malone ruled, the parent trigger law does not allow recisions and explicitly states that parents “shall be free from … being encouraged to revoke their signatures on a petition.”

    The union feels that there is a bait and switch – parents really want improvements, not a charter. Court appeals and delay tactics have disabled parents from getting a chart in place in time for school. Gotta love it!

  • 110. HS Mom  |  October 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Here’s more on parent trigger, if you’re interested. The following excerpt sounds a lot like CPS parent ideals.


    “The strange thing is that the board might have won parents over to its side if it had made its reform proposals earlier and worked with parents instead of behind their backs. Initially, the parents didn’t even want a charter school; they simply wanted the district to address their concerns and meet certain demands. Many of the reforms now being proposed sound good, including a new curriculum, an extended school day and a request that teachers either sign on to the reform program or be assigned to another school.”

  • 111. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Just a mom? Really? http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2012/10/05/20482/real-parents-have-been-standing#comment-37800

  • 112. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    From the comments at the link above:


    I think you misread my post

    Hi Rebecca- I would be happy to meet with you. I think you misunderstood my piece. I wasn’t saying parents who choose charters or magnets or private schools aren’t real parents. I was saying that hedge fund managers in NY are not real parents with knowledge of the system and I questioned why they are so involved in Chicago education reform. In addition, your Director of Policy informed me that DFER never claimed to be a parent group and I was mistaken in thinking of the group in that way.

    I understand school choice. We have many parents in our group who exercise school choice. My group has been fighting for basic standards for all schools. We are in a district that hasn’t provided art, music, technology, library, PE, recess to all students for years. Let’s not even start with wraparound services. On a personal note, I personally know what it’s like to have to go to bat to get something as simple as a proper 504 plan in this district.

    In looking at funding on a school-by-school basis, we see how neighborhood schools often get short shrift. But we completely respect and understand decisions that parents make for the right here, right now.

    Perhaps our main difference is we don’t see school closings as an answer for under-performing schools, especially when they have been underfunded and neglected for so long. We are not against school choice but we believe having a choice means having a well-resourced neighborhood school. I don’t understand how opening more charters and not addressing the basic unmet needs helps the system as a whole.

    I am planning to work on a graduated income tax campaign for the next two years. Perhaps DFER can get on board.

    Again, happy to meet with you to talk.

  • 113. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Heard this interview today. I kept thinking about big city public education. Chicagoans should review this information.


    The House I Live In

    by Chad Campbell, senior producer

    Filmmaker Eugene Jarecki gave us a fascinating interview about America’s “War on Drugs” – and his documentary on the subject is even more brilliant and powerful. It’s called The House I Live In and it opens in limited release in New York City this weekend. Over the past 40 years, the US has spent more than a trillion dollars and arrested more than 45 million people on drug charges. Despite that, drugs today are purer, cheaper and easier to obtain and use. Jarecki talks with dealers on the street, those going through trials, inmates, with a federal judge about mandatory minimum sentences and three strikes laws, narcotics police officers, a prison guard and many others to give a full picture of our criminal justice system. In building the case, his star witness is David Simon, who Jarecki calls a “national treasure.” Before creating the hit cable TV shows The Wire and Treme, Simon was a police reporter for the Baltimore Sun so he is intimately familiar with the drug war and how it affects everyone involved. I mixed in so many clips from the movie during our discussion but I also had to leave out so much – I feel like we barely scratched the surface. When you have the chance, please see this film for yourself. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Until then, here is the trailer…

    In 2005, Jarecki made a film about the dangers of the military-industrial complex called Why We Fight. Like his new movie, that one also won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. He gave us a great interview back then too. Later, he wrote a book called The American Way of War. Click here to read our blog entry from Jarecki’s previous appearance.

  • 114. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    another comment from Rebeca’s post at Catalyst. I must say I agree with this comment.

    “DFER diversions

    “After re reading Wendy’s piece, the only rational conclusion I can come to is that Rebecca deliberately responded to an article that was never written, to positions Wendy Katten never took. This is one of many reasons why I oppose the influence, indeed the very existence of groups like DFER: they consistently misrepresent the positions, beliefs and goals of those who oppose the profit driven, hostile takeover of public education. It is illustrative that those who oppose this privatization base their positions on facts while groups like DFER must default to an appeal to emotion in the absence of any solid basis for their policies.”

  • 115. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    You know, I think I learn more from comments than from posts on Catalyst’s blog:

    “Ed Dziedzic
    “Which school did Nieves-Huffman’s children apply to?

    “To which public school did Ms. Nieves-Huffman try to send her two children? They are ages 3 and 2, so a little young for most schools. She makes it seem in her article that they are school age. They are not. Why the deception?”

  • 116. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I could be boring you, but it keeps getting more interesting to me! More comment on Rebeca’s post:

    The style and the substance

    Previous posters have already detected the deceptions cloaked in a tone of false humility. But I’ll recap to make it easier for both employees of Education Reform Now to reply:

    1.) What school in Beverly did Huffman’s 2- and 3-year-old children apply to?

    Barbara Vick is an excellent CPS preschool for at-risk children. If your child isn’t at risk, the chances of him/her getting in are low, as priority is reserved for children who need more attention.

    2.) What charter pre-school is your 3-year-old number 214 on the waiting list?

    3.) Beverly has many high-quality preschool options. I’ll name just a few here. The Catholic schools and Little Hands, Beverly Montesori, and The Castle. The well-run Park District has preschool programs, too; the preschoolers can take tumbling and swimming in the mornings. And there are storytimes at the local libraries. Did you honestly feel you — a middle class parent — had no other options after Vick?

    4.) Did you honestly never stop to ask Power of Parents how they got the CPS parents’ phone numbers? Please do so now.

    5.) You must delete all names that Power of Parents “gave” to ERN.
    It should not b up to us to Opt Out of something we never gave permission to and didn’t know was going on. Stand up and stop the deception by doing this now.

    6.) We know DFER and ERN and Whitney Tilson. But who is Power of Parents — tell everyone who they are and who works for them.

  • 117. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Oh, man. Even more:

    Power of Parents = CPS, not a “group”

    The Power of Parents _is_ CPS. It is not a “group.”

    The Power of Parents was annual CPS conference which ran from 2003 until 2010 when it was abruptly cancelled. Bill Cosby came one year. Most years there were no sessions or materials in any other language but English (much to the dismay of the district’s 65,000 families of English language learners, 85% of whom speak Spanish at home).

    I originally wrote about the Power of Parents here:

    The Power of Parents is a brand identity that CPS started, funded and put on the shelf. So now, in essence, CPS resurrected the brand, ran a “Power of Parents” rally and outsourced the work (and bill?) to DFER/ERN. If this is the case, why the insistence of CPS to disavow that they are behind Power of Parents, and gloss over the fact that they are partnering with a group with millions of hedge fund manager dollars — not to bring books or resources to underserved children — but to merely to amplify a talking points agenda, which like the Emperor’s Clothes, is being challenged by parents, teachers and community members across the city.

    For Angela and Rebecca to state and restate that the Power of Parents is “a group that for many years has worked with CPS” is wholly disingenuous. If they can’t see the distinction, sadly, they’ve drunk their own Kool-Aid.

  • 118. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    Barnard not so “bad”? (one more comment for Rebeca):

    Barnard Computer, Math and Science Center

    Barnard Computer, Math and Science Center, 10354 S. Charles St.
    This is an award-winning school in excellent standing. (Illinois Academic Improved Award, 2004) It is not on probation. It earned 78.6% of available points on the Performance Policy. It has long had a very well-regarded preschool; my nephew attended it.

    3rd Grade
    69% meet/exceed in 2011, up from 64%
    Math: 94% meet/exceed in 2011, up from 68%

    8th Grade
    Reading: 94% meet/exceed in 2011, up from 84%
    Math: 94% meet/exceed up from 62%

    It has 266 students, 80.5% are low income, 10.5 % are Special Ed and 97% are black.

    If this is Ms. Huffman’s local neighborhood school, I wonder why she is complaining that she needs more choice?

    How many charter schools can show this kind of achievement, Ms. Huffman?

  • 119. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Note: Barnard just had a massive number of experienced teachers retire last June.

  • 120. local  |  October 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    See Catalyst. I’ll stop now.

  • 121. chicagodad  |  October 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    just to clarify the primary cause of the parent desire to recind their signatures. “But a petition opponent and Adelanto union representative both vehemently denied that they ever encouraged parents to revoke their signatures. Lori Yuan, the Desert Trails PTA vice president, said several parents told her they signed what they thought was a petition for school improvements and did not want a charter school.

    Mendoza blamed the confusion on Parent Revolution’s tactics to present two petitions — one for district reforms and another for a charter school. Organizers told parents that the preferred option was district changes and that, as leverage to get them, the charter school petition was also being circulated.

    “We are concerned about bait and switch — that they can do it and get away with it,” Mendoza said.”
    Lying to parents as a way of pretending to have obtained their support is a common tactic of charter pushers, and when discovered it has the predictable result: outrage. Hiding behind the fine print does not help.

  • 122. klm  |  October 8, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Has anybody actually seen the movie?

  • 123. HS Mom  |  October 8, 2012 at 8:58 am

    @121 – regarding signature rescission from the article above

    “The court ruled that the district could not discount the signatures of parents even if they later changed their minds. That makes sense. A signature on a parent trigger petition is tantamount to a vote. We don’t allow voters to redo their ballots once they leave the polling station.”

    Voters were not coerced into voting. If anything, the union attempted to block voters by requiring ID at the vote essentially scaring off immigrant families.

    @122 – haven’t seen it yet. I’ll wait until it’s out of the theaters and watch it with my child. Must concentrate on the homework and test prep 🙂 Sounds like it’s worthwhile and has a positive message of empowerment and value of education.

  • 124. WendyK  |  October 8, 2012 at 9:56 am

    @121 – I saw the movie. Well, half of it. I left midway through because it was so poorly done. Despite the politics, I have a low tolerance for really bad art. There was no character development whatsoever and the dialogue read like something out of a brochure for corp ed reform. The stereotypes were so overly pronounced, it was embarrassing. We were the only ones in the theater. I really don’t know why any actor would have taken that script. The writers could have at least added some dimension to the characters and made them interesting.

  • 125. HS Mom  |  October 8, 2012 at 10:02 am

    @124 that’s good to know – agree with you there.

  • 126. SutherlandParent  |  October 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    I was surprised to read this in Nieves Huffman’s column: “Within months of moving, the attendance boundaries were redrawn and I no longer was zoned to a high-performing public school.”

    That’s the first I’ve heard about a change in 19th Ward neighborhood school boundaries in the last 10 years. About half of Barnard’s district borders Sutherland’s, and we live near that border. I’d be curious to see a cite for that. A few years ago, Sutherland’s principal cracked down on out-of-district attendees because of space considerations, but those families were always in Barnard and were never assured of a seat in Sutherland.

    Of course, maybe I’m arrogant to assume she’s referring to our school 🙂 Esmond lies to the south, and the schools to the east are not in the 19th Ward.

    @115 local–we loved Beverly Montessori!

  • 127. SutherlandParent  |  October 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Now I wish we had a delete option! I may need to scratch my earlier post. I heard that about seven years ago, CPS was considering switching to a new computer system that couldn’t divide school boundaries in the middle of a block. This is an older neighborhood that isn’t entirely set up on a grid, so perhaps it’s possible her house shifted schools.

  • 128. local  |  October 9, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I like Rod Estvan’s take on the dust-up over at Catalyst.

    His comment at the District 299 Blog:

    Rodestvan said 23 hours, 45 minutes ago

    Rebeca Nieves Huffman, opinion piece in Catalyst clearly set off a storm. The last count was 93 posts and I suspect more to come. Many of the posts are very factual and are nowhere near what Alexander calls “basically an attempt to shout down the opposition.” My impression is that what set off the rage was Ms. Huffman’s full court press against Wendy Katten’s October 1, 2012 commentary on Catalyst that included Ms. Huffman’s attempt to establish herself as a legitimate CPS parent.

    Wendy didn’t hold back too many punches in her commentary and there is nothing in Ms. Huffman’s response piece that discredited Wendy’s original claims made against DFER as being heavily funded by hedge-fund managers and charter school operators in New York City. Nor for that matter does Alexander dispute that claim.

    Some of the statements made by Ms. Huffman in relation to the unnamed Beverly elementary school her children would be required to attend based on attendance boundaries also set off a firestorm, especially the comment from a neighbor who taught at the school and did not recommend Ms. Huffman send her children there.

    I don’t doubt that Ms. Huffman did get such a comment from a teacher, in fact I experienced exactly the same thing many years ago when my youngest disabled daughter was going to kindergarten. Unlike Ms. Huffman I will disclose the name of the school, because we are now talking about 20 years ago, it was Trumbull Elementary School. At that time I was still a CPS teacher and two members of my daughter’s team that evaluated her strongly recommended privately to me that she not attend because the school because it was simply overwhelmed and overcrowded.

    Back then the school had more than 700 students today it has around 460 students or about 34% fewer students than back then. The ELL percentage has also dropped since then. Trumbull was so overcrowded that when my daughter was just 5 years old her initial CPS psychological evaluation was conducted in a third floor teachers bathroom, because there were no other quiet places in the building. My daughter ended up at Hanson Park many miles away. So I think some of the rage and unbelief expressed by commenter’s in relation to a CPS teacher advising a parent not to send her child to a school they work at really seems disingenuous.

    But the real rage against Ms. Huffman comes in relationship to the funders and the interrelationships that DFER has with educational reform groups that are pushing a market driven strategy for transforming public education. The money and power behind this movement especially its dynamic relationship with Mayor Emanuel and links to some charter schools along with market driven reform groups (Ms. Huffman was at one point the Associate Director of Recruitment and Selection for the KIPP Foundation, and her husband Craig Huffman serves on the boards of the Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) and the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship) really set off this posting rage.

    As a current member of the Catalyst Editorial Board I totally support the idea that Catalyst provided space for Ms. Huffman to express her perspectives. I do not agree that her comments should have been editorially reviewed or fact checked by Catalyst as some the 90 plus posters over at the Catalyst site stated. Clearly the posters in opposition to Ms. Huffman’s opinion piece sufficiently examined all of those issues.

    I do wish that Ms. Huffman and for that matter Alexander would be more forthcoming about the ideological underpinnings for market driven school reform. As I have stated several times I have found Mr. Rauner’s openness in relation to stating his deep belief in market driven reform to be refreshing. I don’t share those perspectives at all, but with Mr. Rauner you have no doubt where he is coming from, Ms Huffman is clearly more slippery in that regard. By the way you don’t have to be an anti-capitalist Marxist to be opposed to market based educational reform, you just have to accept that the public sector does not operate in the same world as do competitive companies and making endless analogies to those companies is in many ways both silly and dangerous.

    Richard A. D’Aveni who is Professor of Strategy at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College is the author of “Strategic Capitalism: The New Economic Strategy for Winning the Capitalist Cold War” where he questions whether the current US ideological obsession with laissez-faire capitalism can survive our growing conflict with the Chinese state capitalist system.

    He calls for a dynamic reformulation of the capitalist system and that the public sector remain public. Public education will not be fixed, where it needs to be fixed which is not for middle class and higher income students who are doing just fine academically, by having every school fight within a market structure for students. It’s a charade because the schools in poverty stricken communities simply will not be given the resources middle class public schools will have over the long run unless we begin the think the way Ms. Katten is currently. Ms. Katten asks that Ms. Huffman and DFER work to rid our state of our flat income tax which is so directly associated with our huge dependence on property taxes to fund our public schools.

    I would be shocked if Ms. Huffman will accept her offer, but stranger things have happened.

    Rod Estvan
    (source: District 299 blog comments)

  • 129. Patricia  |  October 9, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Are you saying that we should give up on kids who do not have parents who make education a priority and get them to school? I am not being sarcastic. It seems like your responses indicate that these kids are a lost cause in cps neighborhood schools and charters are the only ones who can help because they can implement discipline.

    I still do not understand why cps neighborhood schools can’t do the same things that successful charters or parochial schools do.

    I do like CPSO and HS Mom ideas about having some CPS schools try new and/or innovative things to help these students. Maybe mirror charter success stories and/or have specialized schools to address high risk student needs. I believe there are already some that are similar to boarding schools or same sex schools, right?

  • 130. chicagodad  |  October 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    @128 For the record. The permanent record. Poverty is not and can never be an excuse. It absolutely is a diagnosis that cannot be ignored or minimized. I am not saying we should give up on any kid, and no one familiar with the actual problems in low performing schools is either. Charter schools are not the answer because among other things, they do not address the root problems faced by the communities they are foisted upon. The problem is not what type of school the kids go to or unions or their teachers or choice or any other lie being told, the problem is that the community feeding the schools is broken. This is why the vast majority of charters do worse than the schools they replace in spite of cherry picking kids: They are not as good an educational environment as the schools they replace due to the disconnect between the “no excuses” philosophy of charters as currently manifested and the realities of the students they serve so poorly.Their discipline is a poor substitute for broad based solutions that take place in the community and therefore empower the schools from the outside. Do you really think that prison like discipline is all those kids need to just shape up? REALLY? Just like it’s all the bad teachers who just need to be fired, that’s the only problem, right? The draconian policies of charters could only have come from people who have no understanding at all of the problem and think ideology is the same as fact based policy, that the poor are just lazy and want a handout. This is exactly the kind of thinking the whole charter idea has been burdened with since it was co-opted by wall street, Solving the actual problem is harder, takes longer and doesn’t lend itself to making a quick buck. The thanks of the once poor and of a grateful nation don’t hold a candle to a fat bottom line and praise from uninformed peers who have corrupted the already damnable “White Man’s Burden” by reducing it to a question of ROI. Wall St. has cherry picked it’s market the way charters cherry pick kids. New Trier a charter? Glen Bard? Northside or Payton? Until we address the poverty issue in a broad based way it will never end and remain a commodity to be exploited. Yes, poverty is a commodity to Wall St. War on drugs, prison industrial complex, charters for the poor, student loan debt for useless degrees, the list is pervasive. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/magazine/reforming-the-school-reformers.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&ref=education

  • 133. chicagodad  |  October 9, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Last link of a huge number, the above few being only the tip of the iceberg. If you really want to know why so many charters fail to live up to the hype let alone do as well as regular schools, if you really want to know why test based evaluations for teachers in low performing schools are just a smoke screen, if you really want to know why the children in our richest communities out perform every one else in the world then spend a little time reading. Until you understand poverty/socioeconomic status and it’s relationship to education outcomes you will not be able to understand what’s going on in education reform, both true and false. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/apr08/vol65/num07/Whose-Problem-Is-Poverty%C2%A2.aspx

  • 134. chicagodad  |  October 9, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    From the ASCD article:
    Seeing Through “No Excuses”

    The commonplace “no excuses” ideology implies that educators—were they to realize that their efforts alone were insufficient to raise student achievement—would be too simple-minded then to bring themselves to exert their full effort. The ideology presumes that policymakers with an Olympian perspective can trick teachers into performing at a higher level by making them believe that unrealistically high degrees of success are within reach.

    There’s a lack of moral, political, and intellectual integrity in this suppression of awareness of how social and economic disadvantage lowers achievement. Our first obligation should be to analyze social problems accurately; only then can we design effective solutions. Presenting a deliberately flawed version of reality, fearing that the truth will lead to excuses, is not only corrupt but also self-defeating.

    Mythology cannot, in the long run, inspire better instruction. Teachers see for themselves how poor health or family economic stress impedes students’ learning. Teachers may nowadays be intimidated from acknowledging these realities aloud and may, in groupthink obedience, repeat the mantra that “all children can learn.” But nobody is fooled. Teachers still know that although all children can learn, some learn less well because of poorer health or less-secure homes. Suppressing such truths leads only to teacher cynicism and disillusion. Talented teachers abandon the profession, willing to shoulder responsibility for their own instructional competence but not for failures beyond their control.

  • 135. cpsobsessed  |  October 9, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    C-Dad, I get all that, buy in to the poverty impact.
    But where are the links about the charters doing worse and the prison-like punishments? Need some solid info there…
    It sounds a little exaggerated, me thinks.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 139. chicagodad  |  October 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm


  • 143. chicagodad  |  October 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Then there’s the Noble story, it’s more than just the fines. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-02-23/news/ct-perspec-2223-discipline-20120223_1_poorest-students-discipline-charter-school-network

  • 144. cpsobsessed  |  October 9, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    Gracias! Do you have these all bookmarked??

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 145. chicagodad  |  October 9, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    And from the kids. there’s a ton of stories out there about what happens when the children in charters who DO NOT have the same constitutional rights as public school students run afoul of discipline codes.http://www.chicagolawnportal.org/news/3644

  • 146. chicagodad  |  October 10, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Some are bookmarked, some are from searches done 4 U, some are from links withing the articles/bookmarks.

  • 147. cpsobsessed  |  October 10, 2012 at 1:22 am

    Didn’t have a chance to read any tonight… But I plan to take a look.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 148. Patricia  |  October 10, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Thanks for all the links chicagodad. Will take a while to sift through them and hope there are some objective counter points in some of the articles 😉

    You asked (and I assume it was in response to my questions.) “Do you really think that prison like discipline is all those kids need to just shape up?”

    I never indicated that I believe this and got it from your reference that charters are able to instill discipline. (and I still to not understand what prohibits neighborhood schools from discipline efforts) I completely get the impact of poverty and that it is critical. You don’t need to sell me on poverty, I understand. BTW, I never said anything about the teachers, that was your addition. In fact, I have often posted that some of the best teachers in cps are the ones successful at the toughest schools and have praised their infinite patience and perseverance.

    Aren’t there many charters that conduct discipline well? All are not like a prison. Chicago specific is what matters most for cps students.

    Regardless if one believes (or not) that anyone with money investing to improve education is the devil, I still to not understand why cps neighborhood schools can’t try some innovative “out of the box” type of reforms in high risk areas. What exactly is stopping innovation and thoughtful ideas to improve education in the toughest areas to educate?

  • 149. RL Julia  |  October 10, 2012 at 10:24 am

    These are great articles. Thanks for posting them.

  • 150. RL Julia  |  October 10, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    You might enjoy this one as well. I both find the practice both horrific and totally believable…


  • 151. OutsideLookingIn  |  October 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    @149 RL Julia – That article gave me the creeps. Parents gave their daughter Adderall because she was “a little blah”?! And now the child (on speed) has a nice bubbly personality. How wonderful! When I was a kid we had recess every day and no homework until 6th grade. Nowadays kids get two hours of homework a night and ten minutes of recess, unless recess was taken away as a punishment for being fidgety. No wonder they need Adderall.

  • 152. NotsoFast2  |  October 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    150…I’m a little “blah” and so are most people I know. That article is really creepy. In my world we don’t give drugs to people just because…..especially kids. It will be interesting as they grow older to see the long term effects of this type of drug abuse.

  • 153. chicagodad  |  October 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Concerning the whole “out of the box” idea, what makes you think that teachers can’t adjust for their students needs now? What would you have schools try? It sounds like you are saying “Just try something!’ in response to some immediate issue. I suggest you talk to some teachers and ask them how constrained they feel by being told what to teach, and in some cases how. I would also look into what control CPS has over schools and what the legislative constraints are on discipline, LRE etc. My sense is that schools and teachers could be doing a lot more/different than they are allowed to, so I would ask why charters get special privileges that regular schools are denied, and who defines what to do. Weren’t charters supposed to find “new” solutions that could/would be applied to other schools? But I default back to my basic point that it’s not the schools or teaching itself that need to make a major adjustment. It’s us as a nation. Here’s a link on the DOD schools that serve a demographic similar to urban schools but with much greater success. The DOD schools strategy is easily scalable, but we don’t see anyone from Wall St. advocating for this proven model of success. My guess is that Wall St. does not want us to know that the DOD model (copy of FINLAND!!!!) is efficient and effective. No profit there. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/education/military-children-outdo-public-school-students-on-naep-tests.html?pagewanted=all
    Charters were originally imagined as being VERY different from what they are now. The guy who started the idea walked away from it once the corporate folks took it over.

  • 154. mom  |  October 10, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Why is it drug abuse? Most of us drink caffeine during the work day – is that drug abuse?

  • 155. Paul  |  October 10, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    @152 chicagodad. DOD schools have some significant advantages over urban schools, although their demographics may be similar. My understanding is that at least one of the parents meets all the requirements to be employed by DOD as a civilian or in the military. So, that typically means that they have at least graduated high school. All of these parents are employed. In addition, if a teacher or principal has a problem with a parent (like not showing up for a parent/teacher conference), they can contact the base commander who can order the parent to show up. Discipline is also usually not as much of a problem in a military culture as it is in urban public schools. These schools have other problems, like dealing with kids whose father was just killed in Afghanistan, multiple deployments, and frequent movement from one school to another. But, I don’t think Wall street is keeping this model a secret for a profit. Information on these schools is publicly available, and they’ve been studied.

  • 156. RL Julia  |  October 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    I think it might be considered drug abuse because it prescription drugs (not caffeine) are being given to children who in theory are not exercising their free will to take such drugs. I don’t think that @151 was saying drug abuse in that the kids were “addicted” to drug per se – as much as the drugs being prescribed were being abused in that they were being used to manipulate children’s personalities (however trying) as a way of remedying structural environmental problems present in either the kid’s lives or schools. i.e. It is too expensive and complicated to get my kid tutored regularly or change the school system’s pathologizing of developmentally appropriate (although hard to manage/disruptive) behaviors – easier to blame the child and medicate.

  • 157. Living with ADHD  |  October 10, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    RLJulia – your link is disturbing for other reasons. This slanted writing demonizing ADHD medication as being used as a pacifier for problem low income children distorts the true benefits and real need. Benefits that these children fortunately now have access to. Here are a few facts on ADHD
    • There is no drug that will increase IQ or make people smarter. Meds provide focus so that kids can concentrate on the task at hand
    • ADHD children experience more abuse and lower scholastic outcomes because of their condition. Some universal problems: constant and continual prodding and reminding, repeating the same instruction or request over and over because the child seemingly doesn’t hear, limited focus, not being able to remember, unable to perform multiple steps, impulsiveness (physically, hitting, crying). All of these issues have nothing to do with IQ and everything to do with how parents, teachers and their peers view and interact with these kids.
    • A child with ADHD will very likely not be able to keep pace with classmates and begin to fall behind. Over time, they get further and further behind. Once they get to high school it’s not just a matter of being “college ready” but will they even be able to get into and beyond community college.
    Medicating a child to have success in school can be critical to their future and not a decision that is typically taken lightly. Medication is not magic. It doesn’t always work and there are typically many adjustments involved in managing ADHD effectively – after all, you wouldn’t want to medicate your child if it was not working. Your reaction to the article demonstrates a common misconception and is one of the reasons that medication carries a stigma along with it. We should be happy that low income kids now have access to this type of treatment. I can completely relate to the mother who profusely thanked the doctor for helping her daughter finally have success in school. The cases discussed in the article seem, from the information given, to genuinely be helping kids with medication. In the case of poor parental judgment medicating kids to tweak their behavior, the only effect meds will have is, as stated above, like a cup of coffee. The better question to ask is what does this do to the insurance industry.
    Walk a mile in my shoes. I assure you that one logical choice would be to not allow your child to live in a fog and go with the medication. I certainly do not fault those who chose not to medicate.

  • 158. OutsideLookingIn  |  October 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Adderall is a valid medication for some kids but it is way over prescribed. Parents forcing a child to take Adderall because she is a “little blah” is, in my opinion, child abuse. For a doctor to prescribe it for that child would seem to be malpractice. Yes, this is drug abuse. A cup of coffee in the morning taken willingly by an adult….not drug abuse.

  • 159. CarolA  |  October 10, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    The article is disturbing. I do not agree with its message. However, my years of experience in the classroom have taught me that sometimes…..just sometimes….medicine does make a difference for children. I believe it should be a last ditch effort to help the child. I don’t like altering a child’s behavior with medicine unless it’s the only choice. That being said, I have seen dramatic changes for some children on medicine for ADHD. It needs to be monitored by doctor, parent, and teacher. It’s a fine balance and should be taken seriously. But the changes I have seen are dramatic and worth being on the medicine. The boost in self-esteem and academic progress are huge. I currently have a child in my classroom who IMO has ADHD. It’s difficult to deal with in a classroom of 30, but I have made several adjustments (desk in an area with less distractions, use of folders for a private work area, allowing the child to move from chair to floor to work when he feels the need to move, etc.). We will see how this school year progresses and continue to make changes as needed.

  • 160. RL Julia  |  October 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Living – I am sorry if I seemed unsympathetic. I do think that ADHD exists – I just think that there are some children who might end up being medicated for ADHD for reasons (being impulsive, physically active, easily distractable) that might have equally valid non-medication solutions (recess, smaller class size)

    Increasingly, we seem to demand students fit a narrower and narrower mold of acceptable behaviors in order to achieve. This worries me.

  • 161. mom  |  October 11, 2012 at 11:13 am

    “Increasingly, we seem to demand students fit a narrower and narrower mold of acceptable behaviors in order to achieve” – you’re kidding right? Compared to going to elementary school 30 years ago acceptable behaviors are insane now.

  • 162. local  |  October 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Depending. See Noble schools.

  • 163. RL Julia  |  October 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I guess it depends where you went to elementary school – in retrospect – as a (really anxious) kid who was practically selectively mute in school until about 6th grade, I would definitely had an IEP if I had gone to kindergarten with my son or daughter. Instead I just got a couple of notes sent home to my mom and that was that.

  • 164. adhd dilemma  |  October 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    @160 “I just think that there are some children who might end up being medicated for ADHD for reasons (being impulsive, physically active, easily distractable) that might have equally valid non-medication solutions (recess, smaller class size)”

    And there are those that suffer from going untreated – see the latest study


    “When it is misdiagnosed, not diagnosed or not treated, the consequences to the child and whole family can be catastrophic,” he said.

    People who don’t know ADHD don’t understand it (this can include teachers too). You cannot compensate for ADHD by providing recess and smaller class size. You could be one on one with a child and their mind is elsewhere. You are kidding yourself if you think that medication is not about doing well in school and having better prospects for life.

  • 165. Sped Mom  |  October 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    So true.

  • 166. RL Julia  |  October 16, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    are there gradations of severity of ADHD or is it more you either are or you aren’t kind of things?

  • 167. adhd  |  October 16, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    symptoms vary. There is a list of criteria. Diagnosis is based upon the child meeting a majority of these criteria along with family history and possibility of physical trauma. Some kids are so intellectually advanced that they pass over the radar and succeed in school sufficiently enough to avoid outside intervention. Treatment can be challenging and many times involves a “hit or miss” approach of trying something to see if it works. In the meantime, time marches on while best treatment and dosages etc is determined and kids are taking tests and doing all the things necessary in an attempt to progress in school.

  • 168. cpsobsessed  |  October 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    Just found an interesting article on the school that the movie is based on. It sounds like a mess out there and certainly wasn’t as neat and tidy as the movie. Parents feel tricked into signing petitions, parents can’t agree on charter or not, seemingly lots of confusion and possibly manipulation to get the effort going.

    I started article thinking “hey, at least good for these parents for standing up and saying they want something better..” But having a big community group all come together in happy agreement is a rarity, as we all know. A reform group was there with financial backing to help the parents win their case. Oddly, it sounds like a state sets up a parent trigger law, but then ends up fighting the parents when they want it to happen so they need lawyers? Weird. Or maybe I’m misunderstanding. It’s hard to follow.

    In any case, I REALLY hope someone is making a documentary of this because it sounds fascinating.

    The parents wanted small classes, a counselor, a nurse, a librarian. Of course the state said no. Parent trigger doesn’t mean you get money, silly!


  • 169. cpsobsessed  |  October 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    And an article from today announcing that the district has finally chosen a charter school operator. The school teaches a classical curriculum with Latin and apparently they like the school’s offer for parent involvement.

    Hopefully the media will continue to report on this school over the next few years so we can see how it plays out…


  • 170. HS Mom  |  October 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    @168 – CPSO – yes, these issues were touched on in some of the above articles. It seems that parents want change, not necessarily a charter, but a charter if that’s what it takes. Parents petitions and demands for reform met with “no” leads to the next step of pulling or threatening to pull the trigger. I don’t think in either situation, there are any easy answers. I think that any concerned parent with a child in a failing school will try to do anything they can to effect change timely enough to benefit their children. This will be interesting to watch to see if there are any fast moving solutions to a nation wide tragedy.

  • 171. another CPS mom  |  October 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    @168 – “The parents wanted small classes, a counselor, a nurse, a librarian. Of course the state said no.”

    Why would the state say no? Don’t all schools deserve this, especially one with many poor students?

  • 172. ***  |  January 12, 2013 at 3:20 am


  • 173. ***  |  January 12, 2013 at 3:30 am


  • 174. chicagodad  |  January 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Just to point out again that the “Parent Tricker” Laws are not about choice, only the illusion of it. Parents can only “choose” from the things presented to them, they cannot in any way define what the choices are, as has been pointed out above. Parent Tricker is designed to manufacture the illusion of support for the charter school component of the hostile takeover of public education, nothing more. That is why smaller class sizes etc. were rejected, it’s not what the vulture edupreneurs want the money spent on.

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