Mayor’s Kids Private School is What Public Schools Should Be September 12, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Chicago, Education, Labor.
Tags: arne duncan, chicago, chicago strike, ctu, education, karen lewis, labor, labour, mike elk, private schools, public education, Rahm Emanuel, roger hollander, standarized tests, teacher evaluations, teacher's strike, unions
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Director of Private School Where Rahm Sends His Kids Opposes Using Testing for Teacher Evaluations
CTU President Karen Lewis says she would love to use University of Chicago Lab School as model for public schools
Unlike occasional teacher union opponent Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel does not send his kids to public schools. Instead, Emanuel’s children attend one of the most elite prep schools in Chicago, the University of Chicago Lab School, where the annual tuition is more than $20,000. (Emanuel has repeatedly refused to answer questions about why he eschews public schools for his children, telling reporters that it is a private family decision.)
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel eschews the city’s public schools in favor of the University of Chicago Lab School, who director eschews Emanuel’s idea of “reform.” (Zol87/Flickr/Creative Commons)
The conditions at the University of Chicago Lab Schools are dramatically different than those at Chicago Public Schools, which are currently closed with teachers engaged in a high-profile strike. The Lab School has seven full-time art teachers to serve a student population of 1,700. By contrast, only 25% of Chicago’s “neighborhood elementary schools” have both a full-time art and music instructor. The Lab School has three different libraries, while 160 Chicago public elementary schools do not have a library.
“Physical education, world languages, libraries and the arts are not frills. They are an essential piece of a well-rounded education,” wrote University of Chicago Lab School Director David Magill on the school’s website in February 2009.
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis agrees with Magill, and believes what works for Mayor Emanuel’s kids should be a prescription for the rest of the city.
“I’m actually glad that he did [send his kids to Lab School] because it gave me an opportunity to look at how the Lab school functions,” Lewis told Chicago magazine in November 2011. “I thought he gave us a wonderful pathway to seeing what a good education looks like, and I think he’s absolutely right, and so we love that model. We would love to see that model throughout.”
One of the key sticking points in union negotiations is that Emanuel wants to use standardized tests scores to count for 40 percent of the basis of teacher evaluations. Earlier this year, more than 80 researchers from 16 Chicago-area universities signed an open letter to Emanuel, criticizing the use of standardized test scores for this purpose. “The new evaluation system for teachers and principals centers on misconceptions about student growth, with potentially negative impact on the education of Chicago’s children,” they wrote.
CTU claims that nearly 30% of its members could be dismissed within one to two years if the proposed evaluation process is put into effect and has opposed using tests scores as the basis of evaluation. They’re joined in their opposition to using testing in evaulations by Magill.
Writing on the University of Chicago’s Lab School website two years ago, Magill noted, “Measuring outcomes through standardized testing and referring to those results as the evidence of learning and the bottom line is, in my opinion, misguided and, unfortunately, continues to be advocated under a new name and supported by the current [Obama] administration.”
While Magill could not be reached for direct comment on the specifics of the Chicago Teachers’ strike, his past writings on the school’s site suggest he might be supportive.
“I shudder to think of who would be attracted to teach in our public schools without unions,” Magill wrote on the school’s website in February 2009, adding that, even with unions, many teachers “have had no choice but to take on second jobs to make ends meet.“
But Magill’s writings also note just how fine a line CTU will have to walk to keep public sentiment, which currently supports the strike 47% to 39%, on its side according to one recent poll. Acknowledging the “distressing…generational change in the public’s attitude toward teachers,” Magill writes, “Some would say that teachers are responsible for this change by publicly participating in actions designed to bring attention to sub-standard working conditions and compensation. These actions often cause unintended collateral damage to students. Parents and the public at large have long memories when the education of their children is interrupted. We must find a way to conclude collective bargaining without raising doubts about the professionalism of those whose work should be valued the most.”
Tags: charter schools, chris christie, david sirota, de-funding education, education, high-stakes testing, private schools, public education, rahm emmanuel, roger hollander, sidwell friends, tom boasberg
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America’s Dangerously Removed Elite
Last week, my local Twittersphere momentarily erupted with allegations that Denver’s public school superintendent, Tom Boasberg, is sending his kids to a private school that eschews high-stakes testing. Boasberg, an icon of the national movement pushing high-stakes testing and undermining traditional public education, eventually defended himself by insisting that his kids attended that special school only during preschool and that they now attend a public school. Yet his spokesman admitted that the school is not in Denver but in Boulder, Colo., one of America’s wealthiest enclaves.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel (Photo: AP/Reuters)
Boasberg, you see, refuses to live in the district that he governs. Though having no background in education administration, this longtime telecom executive used his connections to get appointed Denver superintendent, and he now acts like a king. From the confines of his distant castle in Boulder, he issues edicts to his low-income fiefdom — decrees demonizing teachers, shutting down neighborhood schools over community objections and promoting privately administered charter schools. Meanwhile, he makes sure his own royal family is insulated in a wealthy district that doesn’t experience his destructive policies.
No doubt this is but a microcosmic story in a country whose patrician overlords are regularly conjuring the feudalism of Europe circa the Middle Ages. Today, our mayors deploy police against homeless people and protesters; our governors demand crushing budget cuts from the confines of their taxpayer-funded mansions; our Congress exempts itself from insider-trading laws and provides itself healthcare benefits denied to others; and our nation’s capital has become one of the world’s wealthiest cities, despite the recession.
Taken together, we see that there really are “Two Americas,” as the saying goes — and that’s no accident. It’s the result of a permanent elite that is removing itself from the rest of the nation. Nowhere is this more obvious than in education — a realm in which this elite physically separates itself from us mere serfs. As the head of one of the country’s largest urban school districts, Boasberg is a perfect example of this — but he is only one example.
The Washington Post, for instance, notes that it has become an unquestioned “tradition among Washington’s power elite” — read: elected officials — to send their kids to the ultra-expensive private school Sidwell Friends. At the same time, many of these officials have backed budget policies that weaken public education.
Outside of Washington, it’s often the same story; as just two recent examples, both Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have championed massive cuts to public education while sending their kids to private school.
In many cases, these aristocrats aren’t even required to publicly explain themselves. (Boasberg, for example, is never hounded by local media about why he refuses to live in Denver.) Worse, on the rare occasions that questions are posed, privacy is the oft-used excuse to not answer, whether it’s Obama defenders dismissing queries about their Sidwell decision, Christie telling a voter his school choices are “none of your business” or Emanuel storming out of a television interview and then citing his “private life” when asked about the issue.
This might be a convincing argument about ordinary citizens’ personal education choices, but it’s an insult coming from public officials. When they remove themselves and their families from a community — but still retain power over that community — they end up acting as foreign occupiers, subjecting us to policies they would never subject their own kin to.
Pretending this is acceptable or just a “private” decision, then, is to tolerate ancient, ruling-class notions that are no longer sustainable in the 21st century. Indeed, if this nation is going to remain a modern republic, it can’t also be a Medieval oligarchy — no matter how much America’s elite wants to keep governing from behind the palace walls.