Become a Catalyst member

Celebrating 25 years of Catalyst


Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to by e-mail feeds

Current Issue

The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

In the News: Principal group opposes merit pay

The head of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association said Thursday that her members don’t support merit pay and efforts to reward them with bonuses for student achievement.

“Many principals are uncomfortable with a bonus structure only given to them, when raising student achievement is a team effort,” said Clarice Berry, the group’s president. (Tribune)

As Chicago launches bonus pay for principals, studies show no impact on student achievement. (WBEZ)

Education Week blogger Marilyn Anderson Rhames, a science teacher at a Chicago charter school, talks with  CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard about his time as a teacher, his impressions of the Chicago Teachers Union, his aggressive reform agenda, and his peculiar management style. Here's Part 1 of the Q&A.

Chicago-based Ounce of Prevention Fund is set to receive $3 million in federal Investing in Innovation, or i3, grant funds over the next three years for a pilot project to increase the quality of infant-toddler and preschool programs. (Catalyst)

The District 113 Board of Education approved a plan to levy over $92 million for the 2011 tax year. (Highland Park Patch)

Durham Public Schools, one of North Carolina's largest school districts, has pledged to end discriminatory practices against Hispanics, responding to a federal civil rights complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Fox News)

The Georgia State Board of Education recommended that the governor should not suspend Atlanta School Board members during a meeting on Wednesday afternoon. (

A New York county district attorney’s office has broadened its inquiry into suspected cheating on college admissions exams to at least 35 students in five schools, including students believed to have paid for a stand-in to take the ACT, a standardized test that is growing in popularity in the Northeast, as well as the more common SAT.  (The New York Times)


lobewiper wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

"As Chicago launches bonus

"As Chicago launches bonus pay for principals, studies show no impact on student achievement." (WBEZ)

Facts? We don't need no stinkin' facts. Our highly paid consultants have told us we should do this!!!

Schools do everything wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

Children First Prinicpal

As long as charters continue to kick-out their low scoring and specially talented students to the neighborhood schools, because they can, (our school welcomes them btw,) I am not interested in this merit pay scheme.

Schools do everything wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

checked with principals in 2 networks--not the case---

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. “Our network chiefs have spoken with the majority of principals in their areas and the overall response has been positive and they embrace the goals of this initiative.”
Which principals are they talking to?

Phil wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

A principal might tell the Network Chief one thing....

A principal might tell their Network Chief they agree with this because it's coming from above. They might tell their Network Chief they like it because they want to appear to be a "high performer" who will "get the numbers up" even though they know that this won't benefit the children in their building.

One friend posted on Facebook that any teacher who says they'd work harder than they do now if offered a performance bonus should be fired. Good teachers and principals are already working hard and doing the best they can given their context and resources.

Let's put this money into the classroom so we can spend 22K per student per year like they do at the school where our mayor sends his kids and like they do in suburban schools on the North shore.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

Becky Carroll's statement is

Becky Carroll's statement is technically correct. I 100% support the goals of this initiative: narrow the achievement gap, lower dropout rates, and improve student test scores. I also happen to believe this initiative is a giant load of crap.

90% of the time improvement in these types of metrics in CPS is a direct result of knowing how to work the system and massage the data rather than the result of improved pedagogy or more effective leadership and teaching.

For instance, in order to raise scores at my neighborhood school the most important thing we've done is recruit higher quality incoming students. The time, materials, and money involved in marketing and recruitment is a much better and more effective investment than changing what our very strong staff already do.

We also remove struggling students as quickly as possible after the 20th day to the tune of dozens and dozens per month (though we obviously have far more legal hoops to jump through than charter schools).

We cram test prep in at every possible moment, narrow our curriculum in tested subject areas, implement truly "creative" attendance policies, eliminate popular elective class offerings in favor of double reading and double math, and focus a disproportionate amount of our attention on two very small student groups - our highest performing students and our students who are "on the bubble" and might be able to squeak by on the tests. The rest of the students are largely irrelevant in terms of a school improvement strategy. And yet, according to CPS, these strategies have worked quite well.

Charters and the privatization of publicly funded public education have had a profound effect on our neighborhood school and have radically altered our school's priorities and how it operates. We spend considerable time and money on the types of initiatives mentioned above.

How disappointing for teachers, parents, and most of all, for students.

Schools do everything wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

to get this money CPS schools should...

push out the kids with low scores as well as those with disabilities, get a few more tested for disabilities, not test lower performing children, transfer a few out for a few days, keep students longer in the bilingual programs, or send themt o the charter schools, make sure there are some 'ideas' on the board during the tests, and...any more anyone can add?
Thanks Rahm--you will stop at nothing. And your robo call today about you vs Karen Lewis of CTU was crass and distastedful. Anyone who gets these calls--please answer in favor of the teachers, not Rahm.

new report card for schools wrote 3 years 9 weeks ago

new report card and the NWEA test

This test was given to CPS a few years ago as a "low stakes" test that was only meant to guide our curriculum. Suddenly, it is showing up on a report card that is judging our schools. However, the NWEA in my opinion has its own set of problems and contridictions. Here are a few I have observed in myThese are just my obeservations elementary grade room in a CPS School. In no way am I blaming my admin or teachers, I am blaming the TEST and those who put so much stake in a "low stakes" test. Once again CPS Lied about this too! I can't speak for the Scantron . I would be interested. Ok here are my obervations.

1) I have seen students retake the test in a matter of days and had their scores jump 20%. Meaning they are 20% more skilled in 1 week?

2) I have had children whose scores drop 20% in 2 months? Meaning that they were "untaught"

3) Children taking the test often experience frozen computers and they need to retake the test.

4) NWEA's questions appear to have been written about 20 years ago.

5) Our students are forced to read online and are unable to return to a question of they feel like they made an input mistake/

6) I have seen classroom interupted by fire arlams while they were taking the test.

7) Studens sit right next to each other...which as we all know can lead to CHEATING. 30 plus kids...sitting behind a impossible to monitor all

8) (question) there is NO PROOF who is taking the test?

9) As stated, this test was given to us a low stakes test. Yet now it is how we are judged????

10) NWEA spits out scores, but yet we are still asked to keep doing the same things the school admin wants us to do, despite what NWEA tellls us we show as a weakness or strength.

11) NWEA has a "system" of remediation..but it is like 50 pages long and really serves no one!

12) Some years our principal told us to only give 1 hour per test.....other years we were told to let them take it as long as they needed? THere are no standard test procedures like the ISAT

These are just my obeservations from a CPS school.

Rod Estvan wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

re: NWEA

Some the issues raised relating to the NWEA test security are concerning. It is important that these issues be addressed because the Performance Evaluation Reform Act of 2010 (PERA) draft rules currently being sent to ISBE cite the NWEA as a type of test that can be used to shown academic growth in students. If it is true that there is no way to prove any one particular student took the test that is a problem.

I know people will not like it but finger prints can be scanned for ID verification as can test takers eyes. As I have told ISBE in written comments last week I have very real concerns about special education teachers administering tests individually to students who require modifications because the gains or lack of gains will be used as part of their evaluations. These issues are very complex and based on the PERA timetable the implementation of the new evaluation system is not effectively taking the time to address these issues.

Rod Estvan

Been there done that wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago

we did this before

About three years ago, principal bonuses were tried in my region. At stake was about 10K. There were various targets to achieve to get that money. The bar was set so high, hardly anyone could cash in. It was a waste of time and paper. Also, on a local level, a private funder offered students cash for good grades. It didn't work.

A Rod admirer wrote 3 years 8 weeks ago



Sorry for this confusing quick letter. However, this is my opinion on the subject!!

I just dont understand WHY these tests are given so MUCH credence. Even if these children took them in a phone booth, we still cant control the thoughts and problems that fill a child's mind. I WOULD love to know how we could get a TRUE non biased statistician or mathmatician to actually evaluate these scores and test expectaions. See if they really are reliable. Has there every been 100percent in human history? they say death and taxes..but how many people dont pay thier taxes. or stop at a stop sign. Arent these children human. Some are lazy (yes i said it), confused, some inspired. Some adults dont even pass the drivers test?

I would love to have NWEA or the ISAT makers to be willing to give over their testing methods and caluclations to a TRUE statistician. In additon, get feed back from teachers and even children. I think this needs to be done for the ISAT too...once again...the ISAT is all the same test. Obvioulsy, teacher are supposed to prevent cheating....but lets face it...children cheating is as common as teasing. They are children. I will just assume the adults are honest. However, how do we control the emotions children experience the DAY of the test. What happens if a kid has a bad cold. What happens if a tragedy occured in the neighborhood..or the heating isnt working ...there are so MANY outside factor and human weaknesses that can affect a test....I just dont think these issues have been addressed. Instead someone litterally took a ruler ...a drew a line at 60 degree angle and said that in the year 2014 ALL students will be at on or above grade level..and congress, and the president, and CPS all took it as gods given truth. I have attached this graph. What mathmatical or pedagogical theory greating this slope? I am not a mathmatical genius but know when a straight line is drawn from point A to point B! Look!! I know Dunca is supposedly offering "an out" ....but he is using this graph as leverage!! See below!! NCLB goals for state testing!!

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more