What’s New – Me and BBB

June 1, 2015 at 8:54 pm 42 comments

Hi there.  Just a few updates on me and CPS.

Thanks to everyone who asked about my mom or shared their own experiences.  She is back home (after experiencing a cerebral abscess (aka brain infection)) that left her with limited mobility and some limit to mental functioning.  She’s coming back slowing.  I guess older brains take longer to heal, but there are some good signs.  I have a caretaker nearly all the time, and luckily happened upon a good lady who takes care of her during the day, who also is a manic cleaning lady, so my house has never been more immaculate or my bedding as frequently washed.

In tech news, you will no longer see “sent from my Blackberry” at the end of all my comments, as I have now officially switched to an iPhone.  I also officially hate typing on it so I’m trying to get back into the swing of things with commenting and figuring out how best to use WordPress on the iPhone.  I now understand why you have complained about the posts with 1000+ comments.  The scrolling is a major drag, so I will take that into account.   I had been responding to comments via email which was pretty easy.

Some Chicago news, if you didn’t notice, the CPS District 299 blog has been retired, as the host, Alex, has been living outside the city for many years now.

And finally, speaking of “living outside the city,” I figured we can discuss Barbara Byrd Bennet for a bit.

I see in a Trib editorial that the mayor gave only a 2 sentence announcement on Sunday night about her resignation.  The Trib is calling on more accountability on the part of Rahm as to how the SUPES no-bid contract got approved.


“The mayor owes everyone a beginning-to-end explanation of how this contract was cooked up and passed. Because it was his CEO. It is his school board. And it is his scandal.”

Any thoughts?

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

2015 SEES GIFTED and CLASSICAL Elem Thread College Thread – Tuition and Essays

42 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cheryl  |  June 2, 2015 at 6:00 am

    It is no accident that all this mess was released to the press AFTER the mayoral elections.

  • 2. CarolA  |  June 2, 2015 at 6:04 am

    Cheryl: Agreed, however, this whole “scandal” has not been a secret. I remember when this contract was signed and saying to myself….isn’t that a conflict of interest? So it amazes me that there is such an uproar now. This is how CPS works.

  • 3. HydeParkMom  |  June 2, 2015 at 6:52 am

    This madness would all stop if elected board officials would be voted upon by the tax payers of Chicago

  • 4. Chicagoan  |  June 2, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Remember, many schools can’t even fill their LSCs. I suspect an elected school board would quickly be populated by CTU cronies, which would be bad for our children and for taxpayers. This being said, such a scandal in an essentially bankrupt entity is disgusting.

  • 5. mom2  |  June 2, 2015 at 9:19 am

    So glad to hear things are better with your mom!

  • 6. Peter  |  June 2, 2015 at 10:15 am

    I agree with Chicagoan. I can already see all the Karen Lewis and Jesse Sharkey minions. The thought scares the crap out of me.

  • 7. CPS Parent  |  June 2, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Because what they have has been so positive? Umm…they are near bankruptcy, in complete chaos downtown and you think it would be worse. Give me a break.

  • 8. cpsobsessed  |  June 2, 2015 at 10:38 am

    I have mixed feelings about an elected board as well. Of course I believe in it conceptually. but from what I’ve read about other cities, people with big budgets tend to win votes (same as any Chicago election.)

    There is a possibility of CTU candidates “running” the board. Or charter school promoters who could have Bill Gates funding them (hyperbole, but not totally unfounded.)

    I worry that it’s a pipedream that 8 (?) level-headed people will be elected to the board simply because it’s an election.

    On the other hand, the group of yes-men/women we have in place now is ridiculous.


  • 9. cpsobsessed  |  June 2, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Just realized the SunTimes reported this yesterday:

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel is starting to clean house at a Chicago Board of Education that approved and defended the $20.5 million no-bid principal-training contract at the center of a federal investigation with a company that once employed former Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

    It’s not the elected school board that progressives and the Chicago Teachers Union have long demanded. But it might just be the next best thing.

    Emanuel is appointing four new members on a seven-member board he handpicked that, critics contend, is riddled with conflicts of interest.

    ***Joining the board are Rev. Michael Garanzini, retiring president of Loyola University; Mark Furlong, retiring CEO of BMO Harris Bank N.A.; Dominique Jordan Turner, president and CEO of the Chicago Scholars Foundation, and Gail Ward, a 35-year veteran of CPS who served as the first principal of Walter Payton College Prep.***

    They replace board members whose terms will expire June 30.

    Among those leaving the board is Deborah Quazzo. Emanuel once said CPS was “lucky to have” Quazzo even though she has invested in companies that sell millions of dollars in educational software to the district she oversaw and to charter schools she has voted to authorize.

    Also being replaced are Chicago Urban League President Andrea Zopp; Carlos Azcoitia, a former CPS principal and network chief-turned National Louis University professor, and former Northwestern University President Henry Bienen.

    That leaves Board President David Vitale and board members Mahalia Hines and Jesse Ruiz as the lone holdovers. Ruiz is now serving as acting schools CEO.

    Zopp is poised to join the Democratic race for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican incumbent Mark Kirk.

    Vitale has been a target for criticism because he runs a bank while negotiating CPS financial deals and has longstanding ties to an Academy of Urban School Leadership that has turn-around contracts with the school system.

    “These new board members will bring valuable experience to their new roles that will help us build on our progress and address our challenges to ensure that every child in every community has the education they need for the bright future they deserve,” Emanuel was quoted as saying in a news release.

    Garanzini presided over Loyola during an unprecedented period of growth that saw the Roman Catholic university nearly double its endowment, boost enrollment, expand and transform the university’s four campuses and raise $500 million to bankroll those physical improvements.

    Emanuel campaigned for re-election on a promise to put a “specialty focus” high school within 3 miles of every family, free top-performing schools from burdensome mandates and achieve an 85 percent graduation rate by 2019. He promised to make computer science a graduation requirement for high school students and “reinvent” senior year, with more students taking college courses and holding internships.

    Turner could help drive that high school transformation. She’s an expert in high school strategy whose foundation provides underserved high school students access to quality educational opportunities.

    The four new board members will have to hit the ground running.

    CPS is literally on the brink of bankruptcy with a $1.1 billion shortfall, a $9.5 billion pension crisis that dropped its bond rating to junk status and the threat of Chicago’s second teachers strike in three years.

    The board will also have to preside over a nationwide search for the replacement of Byrd-Bennett, who submitted her resignation Friday.

    Emanuel telegraphed his decision to clean house during a pre-inauguration interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

    On that day, Emanuel was asked, “What about the school board? Didn’t they abrogate their responsibility in approving the no-bid principal training contract? Are you thinking about asking all of them to resign and starting over?”

    The mayor candidly replied, “Of course . . . You’ll be hearing more in short order.”

    Those comments were an about-face from Emanuel’s remarks on the day he returned from a post-election vacation to face the music about the Byrd-Bennett investigation.

    On that day, the mayor stood behind the board members who approved and defended the now-canceled, no-bid principal-training contract — even though there were many companies around the nation that did similar work.

    Only after chronic complaints about the caliber of principal training by the company, SUPES Academy, did the board order the CPS inspector general to investigate the contract, setting the stage for the federal investigation.

    “David [Vitale, board president] does very important work, as does all the board. Look at the whole board and the experience it’s brought there,” Emanuel said in late April.

    “You have, for the first-time ever, school principals that are on the board. You have people like Andrea Zopp, head of the Urban League. You have Henry Bienen, former president of a major university. . . . So you have a wealth of experience and knowledge.”

    Although Chicago voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on the issue, Emanuel has remained adamantly opposed to an elected school board on grounds that it would inject more politics into the school system and impede the educational progress CPS has made under his watch.

    “I don’t think new membership necessarily satisfies their concerns,” said Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), former longtime chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee, now serving as the mayor’s floor leader.

    “But what exactly do they mean by an elected school board? How many members? Do you pay them? Do they have staff? Are they elected at large or from member districts? They owe it to the public to answer those questions. Otherwise, it just foments discontent.”

    As for the school board shake-up, O’Connor said it’s an opportunity to put four fresh pairs of eyes on old, vexing problems.

    But the alderman acknowledged that the housecleaning wouldn’t be happening if the board hadn’t made the mistake of ratifying the no-bid contract at the center of the federal investigation.

    “If this investigation weren’t happening, this wouldn’t stick out as much. You might say we didn’t get our money’s worth. But you wouldn’t say this is terrible decision. In context now, it’s a bad decision,” O’Connor said.

  • 10. Frontrow  |  June 2, 2015 at 11:56 am

    I nominate Sepp Blatter for CEO. He is perfect for the job: arrogant, open to corruption and no experience in education. Can I have a second?

  • 11. mom2  |  June 2, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I think these are great questions: “But what exactly do they mean by an elected school board? How many members? Do you pay them? Do they have staff? Are they elected at large or from member districts? They owe it to the public to answer those questions. Otherwise, it just foments discontent.”

  • 12. Chris  |  June 2, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    “This madness would all stop if elected board officials would be voted upon by the tax payers of Chicago”

    …to be replaced by the madness visited upon us by an elected school board. Do you prefer your Illinois-Corruption with a side of to-may-to, or to-mah-to.

    Pat O’Connor is a Chicago hack in the spirit of all the (un-indicted) hack Aldermen in Chicago history, but he does pose all of the most relevant questions to the Pro-Elected-Board contingent. Without answering those questions, it’s a complaint, rather than a proposal.

  • 13. Chicagoan  |  June 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm

    All this being said, we need people who have turnaround experience including bankruptcy. One would be completely naive to think we aren’t there. It is what it is and I would love to hear with others that have been in the same situation, in terms of debt ratios, that are school districts. Please, educate me on another path.

  • 14. klm  |  June 3, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Let’s not forget that CPS has been down this road before…..

    Anybody around during the late 70’s will recall all the stuff happening then. CPS more or less went bankrupt.

    Then, there were other times when CPS had its financial back against the wall —times when it literally couldn’t meet payroll, etc.

    Thing is, as bad as things are now, the issues are more about current mismanagement, rather than long-term decline with CPS, people leaving, en mass, for the ‘burbs, things going Detroit-like (a genuine concern in the past), etc.

    I’m not saying things are fine, just that the long-term prospects are better, even if things now seem dire, than in the past.

    Worry, yes, but total ape-sh** panic? No.

    This too shall pass……..eventually. The trajectory of things that have happened in the last 10-20 years are just too monumental to throw in the towel. Public education in Chicago is not the same as it was in the past —-it’s so, so ,so much better, IMHO.

    And I get that my “Northside bubble” point of view does not take into account certain parts of the South and West -sides, but still. There are so many stay-in-the-city-instead-of-move-to-Northbrook-and-still-go-public-school families, as opposed to 20 or 30 years ago. The momentum is there.

    It’s not just that it’s “happening,” it’s by now “happened.”

  • 15. momofmany  |  June 4, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    I have a friend that is very active in her children’s PTO in Colorado. The elected school board members’ campaigns are financed by the Koch brothers and there has been massive turmoil and charter expansion. I felt any desire for an elected school board drop off when I heard that.

  • 16. liza  |  June 4, 2015 at 8:09 pm

    These are valid concerns brought up by O’Connor. I have always thought that maybe the board could consist of mayoral appointees, parents, and educators (specifically teachers and school administrators). I don’t know if it would be possible, but at least in that way, everyone has a say in what happens to our schools. It would seem a fair division of power.

  • 17. Urban Mommy  |  June 5, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    “I’m not saying things are fine, just that the long-term prospects are better, even if things now seem dire, than in the past.
    Worry, yes, but total ape-sh** panic? No.
    This too shall pass……..eventually. The trajectory of things that have happened in the last 10-20 years are just too monumental to throw in the towel.”

    Long-term prospects are irrelevant if you have school-age children now. We threw in the towel, and moved to the burbs, because a few years of inadequate resources and overcrowded classes equal disadvantage for my child. Even as a Northsider, I’m unwilling to risk it for the sake of being closer to more restaurants and museums, which we can still visit on weekends. I think Rahm plans to use this financial crisis to clean house, get rid of underperforming teachers/schools, and to reorganize the system (even if through bankruptcy if necessary). Long-term CPS will be for the better, but I need it better right NOW. We are D.O.N.E.

  • 18. klm  |  June 6, 2015 at 10:43 am


    I totally get that. We’ve considered making the move many times.

    That said, if one does one’s research (for neighborhood schools) and/or is lucky (SE’s, certain magnets, etc.), CPS is not only a decent option, but an excellent one, even now. This is especially true when one makes apple-to-apples comparisons in terms of achievement for race/ethnicity and income. For example, white kids in CPS, overall, do better than their white peers in places like Niles, Skokie, Park Ridge, …, etc. on the ISAT. At many non-SE CPS schools the white kids do better than the white kids in Glencoe and Lake Forest. Sadly, there’s a huge achievement gap in CPS, but it’s just as big or bigger in most suburbs, from what I can tell from looking at ISBE online.

    Not all CPS schools are mostly low-income, either. My kids’ CPS schools have fewer low-income kids, percentage-wise,
    than some of my friends’ kids public schools in places like Barrington, Highland Park, and Naperville (I checked on ISBE), not to mention much higher ISATs to boot. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have low-income kids, just that it’s not true that only people too ill-informed or lacking of financial options get stuck in CPS schools.

    And while I’m on the subject, my kids are in class with peers that have parents that went to Ivy colleges (Caltech, Yale, Princeton, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, Dartmouth, etc.) and that have good jobs —but also sit next to working-class and low-income kids whose families live in CHA housing. I love that. There are enough educated people that know what a “good” education is, but that still choose CPS over going private or moving to Glencoe. I don’t really care about “rankism” or status, but if people like that (ones that could easily afford to live in Winnetka or Hinsdale) send their kids to my kids’ CPS schools, it’s kinda’ reassuring.

    I’m not talking just test scores (which some CPS schools totally rock, even compared to schools in the highest spending, most crime-free, low-student-teacher ratio schools in the North Shore), but other things as well, believe it or not. Edgebrook is famous for its SPED program and awesome SPED teachers, for example (which is why so many families with kids that have IEPs try to get in through the lottery, or they move into the big apartment complex nearby if they can’t/don’t want to buy). I know of somebody who moved to Northbrook for the schools (after a divorce) from Edgebrook, but switched back to Edgebrook a few years later, since it was a better school than the bigger ones in Northbrook for her kid with an IEP. I know that could be an isolated example, but still —somebody actually moved back to Chicago from Northbrook for reasons of access to a good public school –it happens.

    Yes, HS can be an issue. But for K-8, all one has to do is a little research, then one has a guaranteed good education, comparable to suburbs with “good” schools.

    BTW, I was always a no-way-in-heck-are-my-kids-going-to-CPS- schools person years ago, when I first moved here. When people I knew sent their kids to a CPS school or real estate agents told me they were “good,” I’d think “Oh, that’s so sad, obviously they don’t realize how much their kids’ schools are almost certainly mediocre, at best –not to mention the Chicago-style union wants-over-kids’-needs, awful financial management, the frightening kids I’ve seen walking to/from some CPS schools (‘My little boy would be eaten alive,’ I remember thinking)–what are they thinking?!” Then, I did some research and was stunned how many of the best schoosl in the state are CPS ones (even open-enrollment ones), did some school tours in both CPS and suburban ones in places like Oakbrook, Northbrook, Wilmette and Lake Forest (places we considered moving to, at one point or the other), and guess what? I was impressed by some CPS ones. Dare I say I liked some CPS ones even more? Yes, I did. Then, I’d talk to parents with kids at these schools, and many CPS families were delighted and many suburban school ones were not all that thrilled –anecdotal and totally unscientific, but helpful when it came time to decide where to buy for a growing family.

    BTW, suburban districts have financial issues, strikes (remember when LFHS teachers were striking for quite a long period?), have issues that create concerns for parents (that one teacher everybody can’t stand)d, etc.

    Everybody needs to do what they feel is best for their kids –no judgement, there. However, CPS can be just as good an option as moving to Lincolnshire or Lake Bluff, at least for K-8 (and HS if one’s lucky), I honestly believe –even in 2015. Test scores, attitudes of parents and what I’ve actually seen in terms of pedagogy and learning (and I know I’m looking at things with rose-colored glasses, since my kids go the some of the ‘great’ CPS schools) seem to point this out, IMO.

    Also, for what it’s worth, has anybody seen what the taxes are on a same-priced house in Chicago vs. Evanston, Oak Park or Glencoe? I have. For what we’re paying in taxes (a lot, but often much less than in those places), I’m pretty happy. I know I’m lucky –but, hey, I did the research and checked out schools, so luck is only a part of it.

  • 19. Christopher Ball (@skepticismwins)  |  June 6, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    All the alleged benefits of sole mayoral control of education have failed here. We have a fiscally embattled system, a lack of consistent leadership, and labor unrest.

  • 20. Gone  |  June 6, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Yes, it’s wonderful when you can afford to buy in the Lincoln, Bell, etc. districts or when you lottery in to a Magnet or test into a SE school. Life in Chicago with kids looks really do-able and you feel really lucky. Because you are. Hundreds upon hundreds are not so lucky, and there is not much they can do about it. But thanks for reminding us that when you’re lucky, things are pretty good in the city

  • 21. Tier4Mom  |  June 6, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    Could you please begin a thread about school cleanliness and Aramark. My child’s school is awful and have heard similar stories from other schools. Did a little research and it seems like a serious problem! Anyones else???????

  • 22. Tier4Mom  |  June 6, 2015 at 11:36 pm

    *** Anyone… sorry no “s”

  • 23. Patricia  |  June 7, 2015 at 9:02 am

    My kids schools appear to be clean and fine. Three different schools of varying sizes. It hasn’t been the topic of conversation with parents I run into either. The topic of concern seems to center on pensions and the inept Illinois legislature……..with many wondering if it is time to move out of state before Illinois sinks.

  • 24. klm  |  June 7, 2015 at 3:35 pm


    Same here. I know floors in some classrooms can get kinda’ gross, since they’re now swept, instead of mopped regularly, etc.

    I’m not worried about the floors in schools, as much as (like you) how Illinois and Chicago are becoming financial basket cases, notwithstanding the fact that Chicago’s economy is fairly healthy and resilient, compared to many cities/regions. It’s like we’re living in Greece circa 2009, at least in terms of public finances (meaning it’ll get even more bleak in another year or 2).

    The Aramark contract is an issue, but about 1/1 millionth as important as the depressingly large and growing fiscal disaster in state and local gov’t. Accordingly, it’s a non-issue for me, frankly.

    Why worry about floor polish when the house is burning?

  • 25. CarolA  |  June 7, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Tier4Mom: Cleanliness is a problem. I get it’s “nothing” in comparison to the financial problem, but if you had to “live” in it every day like your child, you might move it up a notch or two on the concern list. They do a quick sweep with a dry mop that’s been used all year and by now is gross, gross, gross and stinks! The room smells worse AFTER it has been swept. Thank goodness it can air out overnight. I have to do my own dusting of computers, tabletops, etc. with dusters from home or it would be an inch thick by now. I can’t see it getting any better. Parents have to send in paper towels, Kleenex, etc or we wouldn’t have it. What’s next??? Toilet paper on the supply list?

  • 26. Urban Mommy  |  June 7, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    To 18. klm —

    Thank you for your analysis. I have read some of our prior entries and they are some of the better ones on the blog. Your understanding of test scores and the gap is very informative and accurate.

    I agree that there are some city schools that have higher test scores than suburban schools. I don’t include SES in my analysis. Sadly my kiddo only scored in the 90 percentile on the gifted test which was not high enough for an offer at any of the north side schools we ranked. I agree you can get a school with high test scores if you test in to an SES. But remember those scores are also higher than Hinsdale, Winnetka, Wilmette, Park RidgeGlencoe, et. al because they are skimming the brightest kids. These schools are not making them bright, these kids already were. Moreover, test scores are so high because they don’t include kids with most disabilities. There may be a couple high IQ kids with physical disabilities or mild learning disabilities (ADHD/SLD) but they do not include as many disabled kids as suburban schools and are far less diverse in terms of innate ability. Again, this is only an option for a lucky few, and by its design (test in, fewer disabilities) cannot be compared to good suburban schools that must accept all kids within its boarders and often attract students with disabilities because they are resource rich. (Again, I appreciate the school you mentioned for special education students, but this is not typical for CPS and a great proportion of parents who have disabled children leave CPS for this reason.)

    As for the neighborhood schools, a few have higher test scores and you are correct that many of the schools with scores lower than the burbs have lower test scores because of the achievement gap. I would have no problem sending my child to a school with decent score, knowing its the gap, and my kid would be fine if these schools offered the same quality of resources (art, pe, foreign language, extracurriculars etc…), but they don’t. Here is what many of the good CPS neighborhood schools lack: i

    — small class sizes. Suburban class sizes are around 20, sometimes with two teachers (some suburban schools have 2 teachers in K and 1st grade and class sizes of 20 thereafter). This may have not have a direct impact on test scores, but it does impact a child’s experience. A teacher who has time to spend with each individual kid makes the experience so much more enjoyable.
    lower teacher attrition
    — foreign language starting in K (only a few magnets and neighborhoods do)
    — music (including an instrument for each kid)
    — art (fully certified art teacher who has been employed by the district for years — not an outsourced program or art on a cart which is not the same)
    — aftercare that offers a wide range of activities (not constantly changing, underfunded etc…)

    In short, I think some CPS schools have strong outputs, but I question the inputs. Even if some of the above presently exist, I am deeply concerned about whether they will in the next few years after all the budget cuts.

    I wish I could send my children to a school with a wider range of diversity — low income, more racial minorities etc… And your analysis of test scores is correct — middle class white kids do just fine even with lower income kids. Sadly, however, it just seems that we live in such an economically and racially segregated society that schools with significant numbers of poor kids are lacking one or more of the above. These things are important for a well rounded education and the lack thereof may not be reflected in test scores but they are nonetheless important to me. Inputs matter to me as much as outputs. I don’t want to sacrifice my child’s love of learning and I think the result should measure more than test scores. Test scores only measure one type of outcome (and often not in other valuable subjects — music, art, science, etc…). I think kids should also be inspired to learn and enjoy their experience. Being one of 30 in a class with decreasing resources and increasing test pressure, doesn’t sound like a great environment to me.

    We will reconsider the city, and it large class sizes, when our child reaches high school and is more independent (class size matters less) and fully appreciates diversity. Hopefully, by then, the state and city will have figured out its budget/pension problems and the city will be back on track. I think we just entered the system at the wrong time — when its under increasing financial pressure — and it will get worse before it gets better. Sigh.

  • 27. staggering  |  June 8, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Even by Chicago standards this corruption is staggering.

  • 28. Chris  |  June 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    “Even by Chicago standards this corruption is staggering.”

    A $20m no-bid contract to a former employer is ‘staggering’? You don’t seem to have a clear idea of the cesspool-level standard of Chicago corruption. Absurd and indefensible, of course, especially given the many reports of the program not being very good, but hardly staggering.

  • 29. HS Mom  |  June 8, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    @20 “But thanks for reminding us that when you’re lucky, things are pretty good in the city”

    To KLM’s point and speaking as a parent of a CPS grad having gone through the K and HS admissions process – options have gotten and continue to get better. There are a whole host of options now at elem. and HS levels that did not exist years ago.

    Here’s the formula that’s been in place since the 70’s – get into a “decent” public school, go private or move. I don’t believe in luck when it comes to my kids education.

    Take a look at the multiple threads of parents discussing school admissions. It never fails that you have people posting throughout the summer about getting into schools up until and even after class starts. Undoubtedly one poster will chime in with “hey looks like everyone is getting something….is anyone stuck?” The Chicago School GPS will put out a post and offer information on the “Hidden Gems” schools, public and private.

    Does this mean that there aren’t some people out there who are truly “stuck”……I’m sure there are….but it sure beats the attitude prevalent in the not too distant past that you needed to sell your house once your kid turned 3 or 4.

    Yes, I agree with KLN, the city is a pretty good place to live in and raise a family.

    Also agree with Patricia…big picture time….the state of Illinois may be getting way too expensive to live in.

  • 30. parent  |  June 9, 2015 at 9:14 am

    @26 –
    Some suburban schools lack a number of the things you list as lacking at CPS neighborhood schools (foreign language, for example). Should you then decide not to consider ANY suburban school? Obviously not. Why not find one or more CPS schools that DO offer the things you want? Why does EVERY CPS school need to offer the same things for you to stay in the city?

    My kids attend 2 different CPS elementary schools which offer everything you’ve listed, except small class sizes. The idea that I’ve stifled their “love of learning” is not only silly, it’s pretty insulting.

    Also, for some of us, diversity is really important — perhaps more important than class size. To say that your kid will “fully appreciate diversity” in high school, rather than elementary school, is a bit odd — it’s at young ages when open-mindedness is developed.

    Of course, if you don’t want in the city, don’t live here. The parents on this site have made a different decision. Please don’t tell us that we’ve somehow short-changed our kids.

  • 31. Urban Mommy  |  June 9, 2015 at 9:31 am

    30 — your correct some suburban schools lack these things too, but there are some that have it all, and you don’t have to rely on a lottery or test in to get it. All you have to move within the school’s boundaries. I was not saying move to just any suburban school, please. Tell me what CPS school has foreign language, full art program, music program, after school program and low class sizes? Perhaps I missed it in the decade that I lived in Chicago and worked in an education related field.

    I’m not saying you have stifled their love of learning. But you can’t seriously suggest that, all things being equal, it is better to have large class sizes over small ones. Like everything in life, unless you are incredibly lucky (or exceedingly rich), there are trade offs with every decision.

    I’m not saying that diversity doesn’t matter. What I am saying is that for us, and perhaps many other families, the added diversity of CPS (and let’s be frank the city schools are still pretty segregated), is not worth the trade off of smaller class sizes and broader educational programing. We already have diverse friends (actually and family members too). I don’t have to rely on school to create diversity for my child. There are many routes to appreciating diversity.

    As for my comment about fully appreciating diversity. I meant that he can fully comprehend the social-poiltical impacts of racism (e.g., redlining, segregation etc…), different religious beliefs, etc…. Yes, young children are open and make friends easily with kids of all backgrounds. But, they don’t understand their privilege as white people (we can’t expect this of young elementary age children) and the complex topics of redlining, segregation, etc…. So, for us, because we are in place that my child has friends of diverse backgrounds, the broader education program trumps diversity at this stage of their development. When our children are older, I think they will be more independent and will do better in larger class sizes. At this point, however, I think diversity outside of our circle of friends will matter more because our children will be able to intellectually benefit from classroom discussions of topics in politics, race, history, from kids with a different history or perspective.

  • 32. parent  |  June 9, 2015 at 10:10 am

    31 – I agree, there is often a trade-off. As I said, the only thing on your list missing from the schools my kids attend is small class size — and they are both in classes of 29or 30, which I’m not upset about. But, they both attend diverse schools (not just racially, but economically — which I think is very important too).

    There are some neighborhood schools that have small class sizes, but of course they vary from year to year since these schools must take everyone in the attendance boundaries. Off the top of my head (based on what I’ve heard from other parents), I believe Norwood Park keeps classes under 25, there have been classes at Blaine around 25, and at Lincoln as well. I’m sure there are others.

    There is nothing wrong with moving to the suburbs. But there is no reason to dismiss CPS on your way out, unless you need to make yourself feel better for some reason. Some of us love it here, and have made informed, careful decisions about our kids’ educations.

  • 33. klm  |  June 9, 2015 at 11:23 am


    Good point about class size. My kid had the max # for 1st (30?) per the CTU contract, then for 2nd only 23 –at the same school. It all depends on enrollment that year and how many classes are required to accommodate that year’s grade enrollment (e.g., 59=30+29, but 69=23+23+23).

    Also, for all those that think smaller usually always s means better, I know that in a perfect world, a smaller classroom seems 100% logically connected to better teaching and learning.

    However, many studies have done related to this. They pretty much all come to the same conclusion: learning has to do more with the effectiveness of the teacher, not class size. In the 90’s, California passed a mandate for lower class size in the lower grades, since it seemed so logical, as in a no-brainer, that this would enhance learning and overall achievement among younger learners. However, when people studied its effect years later, they found no improvement in achievement. In fact, there was a need to hire so many teachers to teach to teach the smaller classes, that a bunch of newbies were hired to fill teaching slots. Novice teachers often are not the most effective ones.

    Globally, countries with good schools (S. Korea, Singapore, Finland, Canada, …etc.) don’t have smaller classes than the U.S., often they are larger –on average. In Asia, they tend to be MUCH larger. Yes, i know people point out all the disparities and dysfunctional family lives that are more prevalent in CPS, so it’s not a fair comparison, etc….but still.

    I recall reading that in Finland classroom sizes tend to be larger, and in Greece student:teacher ratios are much, much lower than in Finland. However, Greek public schools are widely viewed as really lousy (test score seem to show this, in international PISA -type comparisons)–people with any money in Greece usually go private.

    Sure, “size matters,” but effective teaching is so much more important.

    Bottom line: Kids learn more in a classroom of 30 kids and an effective teacher than in a classroom of 15 kids and an ineffective teacher.

    Ten years ago, I’d have always looked for schools with small class sizes as a requisite for a “good” education, since it just seemed so logical. Now? Sure it would be nice, but I’m more concerned about levels of learning than numbers of kids in a classroom. If there are 30 kids, as opposed to 25, I’m not so sure it makes much difference, after reading all the things that I have over the past decade. They most often seem to refute the connection between small class size and improved learning, as a sure-fire means for improved learning within a classroom.

    Yes, small class sizes would be nice, but they’re not a requirement for an excellent education –not at all.. I know we need to keep things in context and not depend too much on test scores, etc., However, tests go give a decent picture of levels of learning and some measure of the eventual “output.” Tons of schools with “big” classes produce high-achieving kids (and not just SE ones, either).

  • 34. Parent  |  June 9, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    I think @26 raises very good points, and that post was very well put. Many of the studies about whether a particular system is better or worse, likely including those referenced in @33, judge based on who does better on reading and math or other standardized tests. But, as @26 points out, there are many other things that are crucial to a good education for a lot of people.

    @26 said: Things like art, music, foreign language “are important for a well rounded education and the lack thereof may not be reflected in test scores but they are nonetheless important to me. Inputs matter to me as much as outputs. I don’t want to sacrifice my child’s love of learning and I think the result should measure more than test scores. Test scores only measure one type of outcome (and often not in other valuable subjects — music, art, science, etc…). I think kids should also be inspired to learn and enjoy their experience. Being one of 30 in a class with decreasing resources and increasing test pressure, doesn’t sound like a great environment to me.”

    Also, studies about class size, etc., that generalize based on studying many kids over time do not seem relevant when the question is what to do with your own kid, right now. Maybe, generally speaking, the median kids do “fine” in a class of 30, at least on the reading and math tests (can’t really say how they do developing skills in music, art, foreign language, etc., because the tests don’t study that). Even so, many of us know that our individual child, based on his/her nature, is not likely to reach his/her fullest potential in that environment of 30+. And many of us are also not willing to gamble that we will be the lucky ones who get the “effective” teacher in our kid’s classroom who is able to knock it out of the park with 30 students. It be great if every CPS teacher was one of the “effective” ones, but we know this is not the case. This is not to say that anyone else is doing it wrong — just that there are many for whom different priorities besides test scores are just as if not more important.

  • 35. karet  |  June 9, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    The biggest complaint I’ve heard about suburban elementary schools (Wilmette, etc) from friends is that there tends to be an assumption that the moms don’t work. So there is 1/2 day K, and maybe one or two after school activities a week, but it’s kind of weird if your child stays for the after school program every day. You have to hire a nanny if your want your children to participate in all the activities their friends are doing after school (driving them around to dance or whatever, since these classes are offered in the afternoon). It’s a pretty different culture than what most of us in the city are used to.

  • 36. Urban Mommy  |  June 9, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    32 & 33 —

    Bottom line: Kids learn more in a classroom of 30 kids and an effective teacher than in a classroom of 15 kids and an ineffective teacher.

    I agree with this statement but many of the studies cited did not really control well for teacher ability. In California, they hired a lot of teachers quickly and that meant many kids had novice or ineffective teachers. Moreover, the research focuses on output (achievement) but doesn’t actually consider how it actually feels to be a kid in a big class.

    As 34 put it, I’m not willing to risk it because I don’t think my DC falls into that category of being ok in a large class, especially if that teacher is not highly qualified. I have a very busy boy (as grandma’s say “he’s all boy”) and I think his experience would be more negative in a large class where there is less tolerance for noise and movement. So, while his achievement might not suffer, his happiness might, and that matter too. In some of these suburbs you can have both effective teachers and small class sizes.

    You can’t really compare Finland to the US. It is a socialized country where teachers are well respected for their profession and are not asked to address student’s financial, medical, and familial issues. Students in Finland who have stressors (i.e, low SES) have a better social safety net. They have a public health system that provides counseling, medical, etc…for students with medical, learning, psychological issues. Our CPS teachers are expected to teach students with significant issues without this kind of support. They have to deal with so much more in the classroom than teaching.

    The city cannot control for class size or teacher attrition as well. Some years you may have a small class and others large. When we moved to our burb, the first thing the real estate agent did was to inform the school we are coming. There are 18 new kids my child’s year so they hired an additional teacher….. 6 months out. CPS does not plan this far ahead so some years can be good and others not so much.

    I’m not bashing CPS. I want nothing more than for it to succeed. I think it is sad that lack of high quality schools for all in the city causes people to leave. However, I can’t ignore what is going on with the budget and pension issues, and I worry that some parents are. It seems the budget will be cut severely soon, or Rahm will try to extend the terms (not pay the full amount due to the pension fund and kick the can down the road), but either way the debt will come due at some point and I don’t want to in the system when it happens. This summer will be nothing but fighting between Rauner, Madigan, and Rahm’s attempts to avoid paying the pensions, and children will be totally lost in the discussion. Frankly, our politicians have failed us. We are not failing as parents — your not making the wrong choice to stay in CPS if it is working for your kids and I’m not making a wrong choice for leaving — what is wrong is that we have to spend so much time and effort making these decisions because find a good school is much harder now than ever.

  • 37. jen  |  June 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Large class size+effective teacher < Small class size+ effective teacher
    Suburban doesn't mean not diverse just like a city school doesn't mean diverse. We loved our high income, high performing, only slightly diverse city school even with its large class sizes and great teachers. We also love our diverse suburb, middle income, high performing, small class size and more too. We did our research AND we got very lucky in BOTH scenarios.

  • 38. GenerallySatisfiedCPSDad  |  June 9, 2015 at 5:36 pm


    OK, I know the US isn’t perfect, but it’s simply not true that kids don’t have access to health care, counseling for those with psychological issues, dental care, etc.

    I’m talking from the perspective of somebody who has worked for CPS schools in the area of special education. All kids in Illinois are effectively guaranteed comprehensive health care –even kids with “All Kids” -type health insurance (for kids from lower-income households) have access to counseling for ADHD, anger management issues, etc. The social worker and school counselor at the CPS school where I worked arranged this all the time for my kids with IEPs. They got kids working with psychiatrists, even, to get them the right care if things were serious enough. There was a hotline for parents (when there was reason to believe things at home were not OK, food-wise) to call if there was no food in the house and volunteers from food banks (subsidized with state funds) would deliver milk, cereal, rice, legumes, etc. –not fancy food, but adequate nutrition.

    I get the CPS robocalls in both English and Spanish reminding me about the health insurance, food assistance, dental care, etc. –don’t you?

    I know some kids may not be eating well, don’t go to the dentist like they should, don’t get the health care they need, etc., but it’s generally not for lack of access, but parental or custodial neglect or lack of knowledge.

  • 40. Fam  |  June 26, 2015 at 5:34 pm

    Catalyst Chicago is reporting that negotiations between CTU and the Mayor have broken down. Impasse.

  • 41. Urban Mommy  |  June 30, 2015 at 8:30 am

    CPS is probably not making it’s payment today. Wise of Rahm to not accept Rauner’s deal as it’s just kicking the can. The problem is that the can has been kicked down the road too far already. Even if the state picks up the CPS pension payment or merges the system with TRS, can the system continue without layoffs or class sizes increasing. The teacher’s union even admits that layoffs are coming….and this is just after big layoffs a few years ago. Where is the story about this….CPS obsessed, I know it’s summer but these are big issues.

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