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Drugs in schools

Most drug violations in CPS involve an ounce or less of marijuana. Schools are quick to call police, yet rarely have the resources to offer education, counseling or other non-punitive help to students.

In push for elected School Board, don't forget local school councils

LSC appointments might be more attractive if council members were offered the opportunity to meet with the school board to discuss important issues such as school closings, which most directly affect schools with higher populations of low-income students - the same schools in which it is most difficult to convince people to join their LSC.

This year, I helped hire my boss. I had the unusual opportunity to play a crucial role in deciding who would evaluate my job performance and ultimately decide whether or not I would keep my job as a teacher in Chicago Public Schools.

The opportunity to be part of the hiring process for my school’s new principal came from my position on the local school council, or what I like to call a “mini school board.”  The autonomy Chicago Public Schools have given individual schools through LSCs has, I believe, been very effective in giving teachers and the community a stronger voice in education policy in Chicago.

LSCs, established in each school, are comprised of six parent representatives, two community members and three school employees (two teachers and one non-teaching representative). This committee has full authority to hire and evaluate the school’s principal, as well as make decisions on curriculum and school-based policies and help develop and approve a school budget.

This is distinct from the common practice of having an elected school board make these decisions. In most school districts, these decisions are made externally, and schools are not offered the same opportunities to make individual choices for themselves.

At the moment, my school, like others in CPS, is at risk of losing its autonomy through the weakening of LSCs, which have been under assault throughout Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s current tenure. Our current city-wide school board is appointed by the mayor, and many Chicagoans believe it’s time for the city to have an elected school board instead.  Earlier this month, the question of creating an elected school board was on the ballot in many precincts, and 90 percent of Chicago voters in those precincts voted yes.

Elected board important, but so are LSCs

I don’t disagree with the importance of an elected board. I believe in the democratic process and think that there are many positives that will come from electing board members - possibly most importantly, pushing the general population to pay more attention to what is going on in public education. I am only concerned that this loud push for an elected school board is undermining the efficacy of LSCs.  If Chicagoans had a better understanding that LSCs were an effective system of managing our individual schools, perhaps we would not be as anxious about a mayoral-appointed school board’s control over our local schools.  The conversation needs to focus not just on electing our district-wide school board, but on how the school board and LSCs can work together more closely.

My experience on my school's LSC has largely been a positive one. Despite the large amount of time the principal selection process demands, I have been impressed with and honored by the opportunity to impact my school and advocate for my students and colleagues. I think that many teachers, parents and community members would be interested in being elected to their LSC if they realized how effective they actually are. As a council member, I have had influence on not just our school’s leadership, but also on our curriculum options, technology offerings and fundraising opportunities.

These may seem like small issues, but when looking at an individual school and its intricacies, is it not much better to rely on the judgment of people who are actually inside the school on a daily basis? Each school has its own personality - different needs, different ways of doing things, and is thus in need of governance not just from a district-wide ruling body, but from people whose lives are entwined with what goes on there.  Being on an LSC may become a more desirable appointment if it meant opportunities to participate in decisions being made by the district school board as well.

LSC appointments might be more attractive if council members were offered the opportunity to meet with the school board to discuss important issues such as school closings, which most directly affect schools with higher populations of low-income students - the same schools in which it is most difficult to convince people to join their LSC.

While I am fully aware of the shortcomings of the current LSC system - the lack of proper training and guidance when it comes to selecting a principal is one of the most glaring problems - I believe that trading or weakening the LSC system for an elected school board would be disenfranchising to schools that are in desperate need of having their own voice in CPS policymaking.  As a city, we will benefit from having both an elected school board and a strong LSC system. 

It would be a step backwards for us to gain a city-wide voice in electing our school board, if at the same time we cut off individual schools’ autonomy and strangle the voices of parents, teachers and community members in schools that are most in need of a platform.

Kylene Young is an LSC teacher representative at Pulaski International School, where she is a middle-grades special education inclusion teacher. She is also a TeachPlus Teaching Policy Fellow.

24 comments

Anonymous wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I have never heard proponents

I have never heard proponents of an elected school board assert that they are willing to trade LSCs for an elected school board.

Never. It would be a terrible deal.

LSCs are necessary, and an elected school board is necessary, to preserve parents' and teachers' voices in the education of our children. We need both.

Kylene Young wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Thank you for your comment. I

Thank you for your comment. I unfortunately have heard some people say that they think LSCs should be traded for the elected board. My point in writing this piece was to argue what you just said: "We need both". I wanted to remind people of the importance of LSCs so as not to forget the good we have while we are fighting for the elected school board.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

I wonder if the people

I wonder if the people looking for this kind of horse trade are at CPS? B/c it is no secret that CPS doesn't care to provide much support to LSCs.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Thanks for this op-ed, and

Thanks for this op-ed, and the heads-up, Kylene.

c.l. ball wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

No Trade

I don't think CODE members would support legislation that eliminated LSCs. I wouldn't.

CPS parent wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

LSCs

Agree that LSCs are important if they're done properly. I'm of two minds about elected school boards but the problem with appointed is there's no controls. What if appointed had to include X number of parents on the board?
The real issue, elected or appointed is getting a board that will be independent, and will understand that schools cannot be run like banks or multinational corporations because the goals are different.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

By definition, a board

By definition, a board appointed by the mayor cannot be independent.

A hybrid elected and appointed board would not work either, b/c there would always be a way for the mayor to maintain control.

An elected board -- with campaign financing limits on the election -- is the best solution. Candidates will have to talk with Chicagoans and the media if they want our vote. We can learn their positions on privatization, etc.

Susan Volbrecht wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

Yes!

Thank you for highlighting the need for school autonomy! You are correct--what a school board determines to be beneficial for one school may not be for another! In many situations, only the people in the school can say for sure what is right for them!

lobewiper wrote 1 year 41 weeks ago

The value of LSCs

Kylene,
I respectfully disagree with your general endorsement of LSCs. Most non-teacher members know very little about the business of running an effective school, and must rely upon the opinions of others (e.g, principals, principal candidates, and teachers). I know of several instances in which teacher's input into the hiring or retention process was never adequately solicited, and in one case, where the pro-principal LSC chair threw out anonymous teacher feedback and forced anyone opposed to that principal's retention to voice their opposition in an open forum. In addition, the chair also permitted the kitchen and custodial staff to vote on retention at the principal's suggestion. (The principal had somehow beforehand learned that the teaching staff opposed her retention by a 3 to 1 margin.) I can assure you that this abuse of LSC power is no rarity, unfortunately.
I totally agree with you that teachers should have input into the hiring and retention process, but as of now, there is no systematic procedure for this to occur (so far as I know). What may be needed here is a totally confidential evaluation process handled by the CTU rather than CPS, due to fears one's ratings could be traced back to oneself. In contrast to your enthusiasm at being an LSC member, most teachers I know want nothing to do with it largely because they could be punished for serious disagreement with their principal--and who can blame them?
One LSC chair I know told me that "The LSC process is broken" at many schools for various reasons, and I think that person is correct.
Most principals are especially nice to their LSC chairs, have new computers in the parent room, etc. The LSC chairs return the favors by in many cases bullying dissenters on the LSC and rubber-stamping all principal requests.
Here's what I propose: A truly independent and scholarly evaluation of whether LSCs accomplish anything more than hire principals of their ethnic preference (which I think was one of the central reasons LSCs were instituted). The essential ingredients of running an effective school involve at the very least adequate levels of safety and order. Ask yourself, how many schools have rehired principals in schools where safety and order have obviously been inadequate? Then, tell us again, please, what you think of the LSC's importance.

Mayfair Dad wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Democracy - an idea worth defending

Dear lobewiper:

I respectfully challenge your devaluation of Local School Councils and by extension, democracy.

While I am certain there are some LSC members with less-than-noble intentions, the vast majority are honest citizens (mostly parents) who volunteer their time to take an active role in the management of their children's school. LSC members are elected by their peers and are accountable to their constituents - the school community who elected them. All LSC members are required to receive training to better prepare them for the requirements of their job.

To cite your example: why was it a bad idea to solicit feedback from non-teaching school personnel re: a principal's job performance? After all, they have daily contact with and report to the principal. All viewpoints must be considered, including parents and paraprofessionals. Teachers are not the only stakeholders who have insight into a principal's job performance.

At times, LSC meetings can be loud and messy affairs. The same can be said of democracy. The voice of the LSC is the single most important tool we have to enact meaningful reform at the school level. It will be a very dark day in Chicago if that voice is ever silenced.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I also disagree with your

I also disagree with your views, lobe wiper. Although many LSCs have done excellent work to improve schooling, I am aware that some may not have. Certainly CPS could do more to support LSCs.

Without LSCs there is no hope of any oversight and no way parents can influence how a school is run.

Ed Dziedzic wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Stop This

Stop this false,straw-man argument. Can you name one person who has actually advocated trading LSCs for an elected school board? Neither have I. "I have heard some people say..." is not adequate evidence. TeachPlus is another billionaire-backed, pro-Emanuel group trying to keep parents from having any real say in the schools. Look them up.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Thanks Ed. You're a big, big help. And Kylene, I imagine you

are aware of the history of your organization. Now we all are.

Teach Plus: Astroturf In Indiana?

By Anthony Cody on July 16, 2011 11:50 AM

On Thursday I shared an interview with education historian Diane Ravitch on the controversy surrounding the video of Jonah Edelman, CEO of the non-profit advocacy group Stand For Children. She discussed how a number of supposedly grassroots groups like this have cropped up and had a significant impact on education policy. She listed several groups, including one called Teach Plus.

I did a bit of digging to find out more about the role Teach Plus played supporting Senate Bill 1, passed this spring in Indiana. I found out that Stand For Children was responsible for active support of the law, including sponsoring polls that showed public support for the idea of basing teacher pay and layoffs primarily on "student academic growth."

So there is the big footprint of Jonah Edelman's Stand For Children. But what was the role of Teach Plus? In this New York Times article in May, Behind Grass-Roots (sic) Advocacy, Bill Gates the story leads off by describing how teachers were organized by Teach Plus to testify before the Indiana state legislature in favor of Senate Bill 1.

I want to take a close look at the role of Teach Plus, which was influential in changing state laws regarding the way teachers are evaluated and the way they are laid off. An April press release from Teach Plus states,

We are pleased to announce that SB 1, an omnibus teacher quality reform package, has become law in Indiana. It transforms teacher evaluation and licensure, adds new teacher leadership roles in the evaluation process, and requires performance--rather than seniority--as the basis of teacher layoff decisions.
The release goes on to say:

Teach Plus Policy Fellows were first to draw attention to the problem of seniority-based layoffs more than a year ago. Their advocacy led to the formation of a task force on layoffs and, ultimately, a change to the Indianapolis Public Schools teachers' contract. The contract provision--adopted in spring, 2010--introduced performance into the decision-making process when staff reductions take place. The new provision has saved the jobs of large numbers of high-performing young teachers this spring, but it only applied to teachers in the first five years of their careers. The new law requires that all layoff decisions will be made in the best interest of students.
So this was the impact of Teach Plus. Let's take a closer look at the policy brief the group prepared, The Domino Effect, which was the basis for this lobbying.

The brief begins by laying out the problem. State policy calls for the "transformation" of schools that have been designated as failures, and this means the dismissal of up to half of the teachers at these schools. Teach Plus is generally supportive of this approach, stating:

The focus of this policy is right: ensuring that the best teachers are in the schools that need them the most. Implicit in the strategy of changing the staff is the assumption that teachers bear some--though not all--responsibility for the learning that occurs or does not occur in a building. Indeed, research shows that teachers are the most important school-based variable in student achievement
But this means LOTS of teachers will be fired.

New management in a takeover has the option to dismiss many more teachers--as many as the entire staff. Simple math reveals a stunning picture: A quarter of all IPS (Indianapolis Public Schools) secondary teachers will likely lose their current jobs as state intervention takes effect.
Teach Plus does not question the wisdom of such a disruptive and draconian approach to school reform. The policy brief does not point out the lack of success this approach has had in Chicago, or anywhere else in the country. The key recommendation of the policy brief is this:

Teachers dismissed from takeover schools should not have guaranteed jobs in schools that remain a part of IPS. Teachers who have been displaced should be required to apply for vacant positions in other schools. Displaced teachers should only be able to apply for vacant positions and not positions currently held by other teachers. Teachers with more seniority should not have the right to bump less senior teachers out of their positions. Without a change to the current state laws, IPS will be required to keep the most senior teachers, regardless of their performance.
The intent of this is made clear in the brief's conclusion:

The domino effect that stands to push hundreds of promising young teachers out of their current positions will inevitably spiral to negatively impact students and their communities.

The problem they are attempting to solve is that many young teachers will likely be swept away as these draconian school "transformations" occur.

The law, Senate Bill 1, eliminates an advisory board of the division of professional standards, and states the following:

A school corporation shall implement the plan beginning with the 2012-2013 school year.
(b) A plan must include the following components:
(1) Performance evaluations for all certificated employees, conducted at least annually.
(2) Objective measures of student achievement and growth to significantly inform the evaluation. The objective measures must include:
(A) student assessment results for certificated employees whose responsibilities include instruction in subjects measured in statewide assessments; and
(B) methods for assessing student growth for certificated employees who do not teach in areas measured by statewide assessments.
I have several problems with this. First, we have a heavily funded group bringing forward teachers to reinforce their policy perspective. This creates the appearance of widespread support for practices which are highly controversial within our profession.

Second, Teach Plus has embraced the practice of widespread staff firings as a wise strategy for school improvement. Experience and research do not show this to be effective. On the contrary, this takes our most challenged schools and subjects them to further trauma and disruption, to no good end.

Third, Teach Plus has attempted to create policy that would shield "promising young teachers" from the brunt of these firings. There is a great deal of evidence that teacher effectiveness, on a wide range of indicators - not just test scores - increases as teachers gain experience. Why should we embrace policies that favor "promising young teachers," many of whom may be interns who have only a two-year long commitment to the classroom, over more experienced teachers?

Fourth, the law that resulted from this lobbying by Stand For Children and Teach Plus mandates that test scores be a significant part of teacher evaluation, and does away with the professional advisory board that informs the legislature about these issues.

This is what has been done by these groups in the state of Indiana. I do not believe this serves the interests of the children of Indiana, or has the effect of improving the teaching profession. I think teachers and parents need to organize OURSELVES to speak up on these issues, because otherwise we have groups such as these representing themselves as our voice in the policy arena.

What do you think of Senate Bill 1 in Indiana, and the role of Stand For Children and Teach Plus?

Categories: astroturf , education reform
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Kylene Young wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Principal problem?

Lobewiper -

Thank you for your respectful comment. Just a quick thought/question. The problems you are describing sound much more like principal problems than LSC problems. Do you think better principal accountability may be what LSCs need to be able to function well? There has to be a way to discourage spiteful principals from taking out their angst on their LSC teacher reps.

-Kylene

Anonymous wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

If you have worked at CPS for

If you have worked at CPS for a few years, you would have noticed that CPS CO ignores principals who target teachers. The problem is better addressed there. Do you know why it hasn't been?

Chicago dad wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Spot on.

Totally agree.

Chicago dad wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

clarification:

Totally agree with Mayfairdad. Looking into teach plus. I too have heard nothing at all about any horse trade for LSC's vs elected board. That would have definitely shown up on my radar and every one else's as an extremely unpopular idea. Is the author of the article running something up the flag pole to see if it flies? Better not be!

Chicago dad wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Another shill shows up on Catalyst? Thanks for the heads up Ed!

Kylene Young, where did the idea of trading LSC's for an elected board come from? This is the first anyone has heard of it. Please be specific as to who presented this idea to you. It is not, as you seem to fear, an either or situation. The push for an elected board is being advocated for by those who are also strong supporters of LSC's. In terms of individual school governance, LSC's and an elected board would have little if any overlap at all, and be far more likely to be an effective compliment to each other. BTW, your association with Teach Plus is a red flag.

lobewiper wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hi Kylene,

Not to worry. I wasn't suggesting principals persecute teachers on their LSCs--unless of course they continuously oppose them. Moreover, any teacher who felt unable to tactfully express his/her honest feelings at LSC meetings would immediately resign.

What I was trying to suggest is, that some LSCs are not all that functional and pretty much do whatever the principal wants. Moreover, some principals who should not be retained are because they curry favor with their LSCs (especially the LSC chair). As I noted previously, in one extreme case, the LSC chair who had been cultivated by the principal deliberately disregarded teacher input and instead pushed inappropriately to retain a principal who had lost the support of most teachers. As I mentioned previously, requiring teachers to voice their position in an open meeting of all staff with respect to whether the principal seems like loading the dice in favor of the incumbent principal.
Hence, my point that a clear and totally confidential process must exist for teachers to indicate whether they favor retention.

Teacher ratings are certainly not infallible. Sometimes, teachers prefer principals who make minimal demands upon them and fail to institute needed but unpopular-with-teachers reforms.

Someone suggested it was undemocratic of me to criticize permitting kitchen and custodial staff to vote on principal retention. I'm not so sure. I wonder what schools have typically done regarding this. I suspect most schools depend upon the LSC alone for hiring and retention.

Let me say that IMO, being an effective principal requires several important personal characteristics that are often hard to find together in the same person. A few on my list: leadership for needed but (at least, initially) unwelcome reforms, good emotional intelligence/mental health, energy, vision/planning, time management, and the ability to foster teacher leadership (because no principal can do it all alone). Sometimes, principals have to dismiss people they like and respect because they're not getting the job done. It's definitely not a job for the faint of heart!

Kylene, your dedication and enthusiam show through very clearly in your remarks here. We are very fortunate to have you at CPS and I'm sure you will serve your LSC well. Good luck to you!

Susan Volbrecht wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I'd like to respond to

I'd like to respond to comments about the author's purpose in writing this article! First, Teach Plus (along with most effective teachers) does not advocate for layoffs, but rather for retention of effective teachers. The policy change in Indianapolis Public Schools did not sacrifice the tenure system, but rather impacted teachers in years 1-3 to make sure the most effective would earn job security as a result of their hard work. This works in tandem with the tenure system, it does NOT uproot established educators. In addition, I didn't see any indication that Ms. Young was against an elected school board, in fact she suggests that LSC members meet with the board, and agreed that "we need both."

Kylene Young wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

I'd like to reiterate that my

I'd like to reiterate that my point in writing this piece was to argue that we need both LSCs and an elected school board. The trade off of LSCs for an elected board is not a substantiated claim, just comments that I have read and heard from people in the blogosphere. I'm sorry that this one line in my piece has derailed my original intent. It is not just that claim that spurred me to write this piece, there are many politicos out there who wish to weaken LSCs and individual school voice. I only wanted to remind people that much good could come from a renewed interest in LSCs and trying to make them better and more effective than they already are.

xian barrett wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Teach Plus Indiana

I just wanted to follow up to Susan's comments. There were a number of issues raised in Anthony Cody's article.

Anthony cites the policy brief supporting turnaround policy which includes firing at least 50% of current educators at a school regardless of tenure status.

The two accounts of the Indiana scenario don't necessarily conflict, but if Teach Plus supported the turnaround policy, it would seem to negatively impact schools' ability to retain educators. We can talk about teacher quality, but it's very clear from turnaround's applications both in Chicago and elsewhere that it leads to a much higher rate of attrition at schools of highest need where students need consistency at a higher rate and seem to get the opposite.

At turnaround schools in Chicago, the initial teacher turnover rate was in most cases over 90% and then was followed by a first year turnover rate well above system average.

That calls into question turnaround operators ability to assess teaching quality and implies that students are suffering the consequences of that inability through repeated loss of relationship they build with educators in their school.

Anonymous wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

lsc. principals. cps

I just think, if a teacher is like me, i have seen so much shenanigans from cps lsc and principals . Teacher evaluations are obviously a good thing. However, principals use them to create personality cults. Lsc feed into this personality cult. Principals not only have to appease lscs now...they also have to appease area networks that do zerrrrrooooo for teachers principals and schools. They only serve as a place to serve and protect the almighty rahm. I find my principal is becoming a rahm junior. Even though she is a woman. I just wish someone would put sb7 limits on cps......i know know how a dictatorship works....and it is scary

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