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: Brizard's job on the line? Some say so

Education and business leaders have told Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard that he'll be blamed by the mayor for the city ending up on the brink of a teachers strike and he may be on his way out, a high-ranking education source told the Tribune.

The Chicago Teachers Union Thursday evening voted to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, the earliest day possible after filing a 10-day strike notice Wednesday but said they would remain at the negotiating table until an agreement is reached.

The Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates voted unanimously on Thursday for a Sept. 10 strike, union leaders said. Cheering was heard seconds before hundreds of delegates began streaming out of the meeting. “We have done everything that has been asked of us,” CTU President Karen Lewis said. “We do not want to strike, but apparently the board does.” (Catalyst)

Chicago Public School officials responded to the strike date by hammering home the impact of the first Chicago teachers strike in 25 years: 350,000 students would be kept from classrooms, 11,000 athletes would be denied varsity sports, and the transcripts and recommendations of 20,000 seniors would be “put on hold,’’ according to the Sun-Times. Also Thursday, CPS officials started reaching out to parents — through letters, text messages, robo-calls and in a “tele-town hall” meeting — to reassure them that their children will be fed, supervised and occupied in the event of a teachers strike.

More than a hundred public schools will stay open if the Chicago Teachers Union decides to go on strike. Chicago public school officials released the details of the backup plan they’ve been working on since June. (WBEZ)

Chicago Public Schools officials are seeking a waiver that would allow students to participate in sports if teachers go on strike. (

About 200 elementary school teachers and support staff from Dist. 124 staged a rally in front of Central Junior High School on Thursday afternoon demanding a fair contract. The Southwest Suburban Federation of Teachers Local 943 is in negotiation for a new three-year contract. The old contract expired on the last day of school in June. (Evergreen Park Patch)

Having lost millions of dollars in state aid to the upstart Southland College Prep Charter High School, Rich Township High School District 227 is pushing legislation that would cut future losses by changing the formula for funding charter schools. (Southtown Star)

Catholic institutions face a complex challenge as the continued growth of charter schools, particularly in urban areas, intensifies the competition for students. (Education Week)

The New York Time is inviting students to submit and share their "back to school" photos.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

It should be with the punishing REACH he allows!
It is time to phase in the process instead of knocking us down and punishing us with it. Don't you REACH people read?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

The crux of this dispute, at least for those teachers who are

confident in their skills and most committed to the work, is not really the policies in themselves, but the incompetence of the leadership in rolling out and representing the policies. There is, therefore, a widespread conviction among the best teachers that the administration is not serious about school reform. That's the message from the unprecedented extra 50% of teachers who voted to authorize a strike.
I'm not exactly sure why, the Mayor has the luxury of not being asked by the media to prove that he's serious. They are happy with the fact that he is demanding things and generally happy to go along with the Mayor's policy of blaming teachers for the failures of Chicago schools.
But the teachers are the canary in the political coalmine. Bluster and mere policy is not going to be enough to get him off the hook when things really go wrong. And they will go wrong in this present state.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

Been saying this for years....

I worked at CPS for over a decade and many of us quasi-administrators (you know, teachers who have the Type 75 and do the principal's job and don't paid administrator money) have been saying for years that leadership skill has been lacking at CPS thought the various levels of administration for years. The problems with J.C. are nothing new. There are individuals who are quite capable and skilled to lead, but nope, CPS continues to hire the same inept types who are all flash in the pan and no substance. Then they scratch their heads and wonder why things aren't working out.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

Barbara Byrd Bennett: Paid for by Corporate Club

The real problem with the high spending from a special fund by Cleveland CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett wasn’t totally about what she extravagantly spent. More important was where she got the dough. Although distasteful, the fancy dinners and trips to London and Hawaii were peanuts in comparison with the cost incurred by Cleveland schoolchildren by Byrd Bennett’s co-opting by Cleveland’s Corporate Club. She’s being pampered (fed money to entertain herself and others) by the Cleveland Foundation, Gund Foundation and Cleveland Tomorrow (so discredited that it recently changed its name to Greater Cleveland Partnership). They give her dough to do this fancy stuff so that it wouldn’t come from public funds, thus likely not be revealed in a school system now run essentially as a private club for its hierarchy, including its mayoral-named school board.
Byrd Bennett, the $300,000 wonder, complains she wasn't cavorting on the taxpayers' dime. Actually, worse - the money she’s taking came from those who siphon off gobs of taxpayer’s money – particularly from Cleveland schools - every chance they get to pocket it. Tax abatements, exemptions and reductions on property taxes are their game. The spending became public because of statements in a document of State Auditor Betty Montgomery. Pumped up TV news outlets had their own orgy with the revelations that startled Byrd Bennett, not accustomed to being treated as a mere mortal. What does this funding by private sources mean? It means that she becomes indebted to their leaders. Who are their leaders? The people who run the town and the people hired to do their bidding. This control of the public agenda by these experts in manipulation and subtle propaganda is old stuff, though. Walter Lippmann, in one of his treatise on public decision making, divided decision making into two segments: the “responsible men” – the Corporates - who make the decisions – and the “bewildered herd” - the rest of us who have to live with the verdicts of our betters.

So, when you think of the 600 or so teachers and 300 others ready to be laid off, when you think of the school children who won’t have proper text books, and when you think of the kids who won’t have sports and extra curricular activities, think Cleveland Foundation, Gund Foundation and Cleveland Tomorrow. Why? Because the schools should have asked for a levy last year. Why didn’t they? Because the people who run the town,i.e., the people of the institutions mentioned above, intent upon getting Cleveland and Cuyahoga County to buy them a new Convention Center.
Everything else on this ill city’s community agenda be damned. In the end, nothing happened except the schools falling more in debt – now reportedly at $100 million. Nice going, Joe Roman. And guess what? The person who should have been most vigorously saying, “Hey, the kids should come first. We need a levy. That’s the priority." That person – Barbara Byrd Bennett - was silent. Do we wonder why? Because she’s indebted to the powers that be and they care very little about the schoolchildren of Cleveland in the total scheme of things. She became part of the Corporate Club. The enticements are captivating. We already know that because these same people and institutions helped tax exempt (that means never pay any taxes) Jacobs Field, Gund (not the foundation, the family) Arena, Browns stadium, tax abate and tax increment finance numerous other projects, all to the detriment of the Cleveland schools.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

Byrd-Bennett at former location about the tons of testing

Dear Dr. Byrd-Bennett: We are getting a lot of feedback from teachers concerning the overwhelming amount of testing and progress monitoring they are required to do. While each of the assessments may have merit, taken as a whole they leave too little time for instruction. Teachers throughout the district are asking "When do we have time to teach?" In addition to the regular curriculum, students are assessed using the Star Math and Star Reading programs. They work on individualized lessons and assessments through Accelerated Math and Accelerated Reading. Three times per year students take a battery of benchmark assessments including up to five Dibels assessments, Burst, and TRC. Throw in quarterly Q tests that take two class periods per day for four days each quarter, and two to three weeks of MEAP testing, and it's no wonder teachers want more time to teach. In between benchmarks, teachers are asked to print up to 80 pages of Burst lessons every two weeks. These lessons are to be taught to the lowest achieving four to five students in each class for a half hour per day. Some schools don't have enough toner to print these lessons, others don't have enough copiers, and nobody seems to have enough time. One teacher estimates that a quarter of her instructional time is devoted to these assessments and progress monitoring. On a weekly basis, teachers also are asked to do time-consuming progress monitoring for Dibels and TRC. Much if this work is done with one student at a time. While our teachers are doing their best to keep the rest of the class doing meaningful work, it is not possible to p
Two common themes emerge from discussions with teachers throughout the district. First, these assessments all have some merit individually, but together, they are too much. Second, we as teachers can handle all this, but our students are suffering. One teacher told me that for one day, she ignored Burst, Dibels, TRC, Accelerated Math and Reading, and all she did was teach. It was the best day the class had all year! The saddest thing is, this didn't happen until the third week of October, and she had to ignore directives to make it happen at all. To bring more balance to the classroom, we suggest that the district strongly consider the following changes. 1. Eliminate the Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4 benchmark tests. These tests are not aligned with the district's scope and sequence charts. Students are taking tests in November on material that won't be covered until March. As a result, there is no validity to these tests.Our teachers have seen tests designed by and for DPS every few years. From Exit Skills, to ESAT, to MIP, to Q tests, the tests come and go and you would be hard pressed to find a teacher who will claim instruction has improved as a result of any one of these.
2. Allow teachers to use their professional judgment to determine the amount of progress monitoring to do. Progress monitoring in TRC is particularly difficult, since the text in the Palm devices frequently does not match the text in the books students are reading.
3. Discontinue Burst groups. The lower achieving students can be helped in the regular classroom setting. 4. Provide additional personnel to help with assessments. Whether the district allows literacy coaches to do some of the assessments or provides classroom aides to assist with class management, more help is needed to keep all children learning. We know that standardized testing is here to stay. To improve our scores, we need more instructional time, not more tests. Sincerely, Mark O'Keefe, DFT Executive Vice President

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 19 weeks ago

Outing Rahm's back stabbing news sourcings and previous work...

There are few people in Chicago who dislike Jean-Claude Brizard more than I do. His hypocrisy and greed were legendary in Rochester even before he became Rahm's pick to be "Chief Executive Officer" here. But the people from City Hall who provided our brother and sister at the Tribune with the facts about Rahm's Borgia plans for "J.C." need to be outed, too. Rahm's versions of reality are carefully scripted, like Hollywood fictions. The sourcings, most of the time, are kept secret.

But Beth Swanson isn't just another bright person doing a hard job. Back in the day when she was a budget honcho at CPS (despite her lack of fiduciary training, or perhaps because of it), she presided over some of the bigger lies that CPS told about its finances. My favorite was when, in July 2008, she stood with Arne Duncan, Mayor Daley, and the soon-to-depart Pedro Martinez at City Hall to announced that CPS finances were in such good shape that CPS didn't have to raise property taxes that year! Two months before the Wall Street collapse that everyone paying attention could see (Bear Sterns was already teetering; AIG and Lehman Brothers were already scrambling in their final death throes — although AIG would wind up "too big to fail").

Well, when that all collapsed, there was always work to be done for Penny Pritzker.

Until Rahm returned to save Chicago.

Reporters covering the education beat the next few months are going to have a major historical responsibility to get the stories straight. One of those responsibilities will be to shine a light into the shadows where Rahm's myrmidons lurk, trying to feed disinformation and misinformation into the new cycle, like Rahm was trained to do while at the White House.

Very few sources should be allowed to drop the poison into the chalice from behind the drapes.

The front page Tribune story about Rahm getting ready to dump "J.C." was accurate, but the behind the scenes sourcing should have been lighted. It was then funny when Rahm rushed to hug "J.C." and the Tribune's Board rushed to stab their own reporters in the back (sort of).

And this is only the latest iteration of "As the Rahm spins..."

Charles wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago


, he speaks for all Americans when he says he doesn't mind if Obama sartts early. (Like now).It's a good sign to all of us he's doing a press conference so quickly. We need to know he's working on it (because Bush sure ain't). And it's important to continually communicate to the American people. Bush rarely held press conferences and hated them. Expect Obama to be a much better communicator to the American people.And no matter if someone voted for him or not, we need to get behind him and give him a chance. Give Obama our support. The problems we face are monumental. We all need to get behind him right now. Enough with politics and the partisanship. Even if McCain had won I would have at least given him a chance. The Republicans are already on it with the attack and their divisive talk.

Add your comment

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