By George N. Schmidt
Report Cards Spell Closings -- Welcome to Chicago
Colleagues and friends:
After reading the Sun story about the future fate of the "D" and "F" public
schools in New York City, my first thought was "Welcome to Chicago." We'll be
publishing a seven-part series on how Chicago has pioneered many of the most
odious aspects of No Child Left Behind since the imposition of the mayoral
dictatorship model of corporate "school reform" here in 1995. I'm starting the
series with a story about how many schools were closed, how many teachers were driven out of their professions, and how many kids (almost all black, here) were destroyed by that process, which began here in a big way in early 2002.
If you were to ask for two suggestions, here they are:
1. Fight like hell against any closings based on these rankings and sorting,
and fight like double hell against the system that is now in place to rank and
sort schools, but not capitalist exploitation in the community, as a way of
doing "accountability." Ultimately, our ruling class holds everyone but itself
2. Get all of the names, addresses, and other contact information of everyone
in every school before everyone is dispersed. Do not rely on professors or
other professional studiers of such things. In Chicago, a key component of the
destruction of more than 20 all-black schools (and their staffs, the majority
of whom in each case were black) required that the university people claim in
the press that they were going to "track" every child to make sure no one was
That was a lie, and I personally heard Tony Bryk (then at the University of
Chicago; now at Stanford) tell it to a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times
during the press briefing that launched the school closings (for "failure")
iteration of corporation school reform here in 2002. Bryk, along with Melissa
Roderick and John Easton (all of the University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research) was a key player in covering up the destruction of so many children's lives in that process. The conflicts of interest for the three of them (at the time, Roderick and Easton were working for Chicago's Board of Education as well as for the Consortium, and Bryk's wife was head of a group that was getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts) was a small scale version of the contracting and corruption scandals elsewhere (like Reading First) in the current education world.
I would expect that BloomKlein will roll out some professors to assuage any
guilt about how they results will impact kids, and unless you are constantly
ready to challenge those professors (even the ones who talk sweetly and come
with a "progressive" pedigree) you will be weaker in this horrifying process.
I know you've already challenged some of the nonsense that's come with school semi-closings, like John Lawhead's work around the "small schoolsization" of Bushwick. There, too, you have to challenge the professors. Here in Chicago, Billy Ayers and Mike Klonsky's "Small Schools Network" got more than a half million in CPS contracts in the late 1990s to dismantle minority schools and often attack the local union leadership -- as at Bowen High School where I was union delegate. If you are mesmerized by people who write books and prance around in front of university seminars as "progressives", you're in for a terrible shock. But it will be the children who suffer most from this next and ugliest iteration of "school reform."
George N. Schmidt