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College and careers

An overhaul of the district’s career education programs seeks to make classes more challenging and put career-track students on the path to higher ed, but many schools have lost programs, and fewer students are participating overall.

Don Moore: reform leader, LSC champion

In reporting for her insightful and engaging account of the birth of local school councils, Mary O’Connell asked her interviewees whom they thought was most responsible for the historic legislation that created them. Don Moore and Designs for Change, the research and advocacy organization he founded in 1977, easily took first place.

Local school councils and their power to select principals and approve budgets and curriculum were the hallmark of a comprehensive set of reforms that decentralized the school system, shifting funds from central office to schools, giving principals authority to fill teacher vacancies themselves, and ending the iron grip that school engineers had on the hours schools could be open.

 “Don was the most persistent, thoughtful, smart advocate I know,” said Anne Hallett, director of the Grow Your Own teacher preparation program. “He would get his teeth into something and not let go.”

Donald R. Moore, 70, died last week of a heart attack.

While there were many streams flowing into the decentralization agenda, including the business community and community-based organizations, Moore, along with the late Fred Hess of the Chicago Panel on Public School Policy and Finance, set the direction with their research – first on the failings of the school system and then on the factors of successful school improvement. (Moore, who held a doctorate from Harvard University, conducted research at the national level before zeroing in on Chicago.)

“He produced really good data over the years,” said Hallett. “His crowning accomplishment was the [1988] Chicago school reform legislation. It was a good example of how Don would have a powerful idea and then include a lot of people in the fray.”

“He was behind the whole business of getting the plan written into law,” recalled Peter Martinez of the educational leadership program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  “He organized the network, raised the money and hired the lobbyists. … He was an unusual mix.”

While Moore was not a classical community organizer, he did form broad-based coalitions. The runners-up in Mary O’Connell’s “most responsible” list are a reflection of that. They included, in order, Chicago United (or business community), the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO), Fred Hess or the Chicago Panel on Public School Policy and Finance, the People’s Coalition for Educational Reform (a social service coalition), PURE, the late Mayor Harold Washington and the Parent/Community Council (a group Washington formed).

Once the legislation was passed, Moore researched its impact, identifying 150 neighborhood schools with effective councils and a path of student achievement that was significant.

“He demonstrated that site-based democracy is a powerful way to run a public school,” said Ray Boyer, former associate vice president for public affairs at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which had made a 10-year, $40 million commitment to reform.

Moore also fought repeated efforts to return authority to central office, tracking unfriendly bills and sending busloads of supporters to Springfield. Eventually, opponents decided local school councils “were the third rail of politics” and they would try to work around them, said Martinez.

In another arena, his findings that CPS was not providing special needs students with services they were entitled to set the stage for the Corey H. lawsuit and ruling that forced reforms at the city and state levels. Less well known, he played an important role in identifying the “five essential supports” for school improvement, Martinez said, recalling a meeting in the mid-1990s in the office of former Schools Supt. Argie Johnson.

The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research subsequently conducted extensive research on the factors, confirming their role, and school systems are adopting them as a guide for improvement.

Don Moore is survived by two sons, Peter and Adam, and a sister, Susan Moore Johnson. The board of Designs for Change is planning a memorial service. Details are not yet available.

12 comments

John Bryant wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Laying guilt on teachers

It is sad that teachers are being blamed for children being out of school if there is a teacher's strike. The children will have a place to be. The same place there are at in the summer; on holidays. These children have parents. The teachers are not their parents. There is a work relation dispute when there is a strike. And this involves the adults. The CTU and the CPS. That old sad song is being sung. The teachers are doing this to these poor children. Not true. The teachers are being mistreated by cps. And this mistreatment has to be corrected. The strike will not last for ever. It's just for a short time. Parents; your children are in crowded classrooms. They do not have textbooks. They are not serviced correctly in special ed. Tenured teachers have lost their jobs because cps told principals to frame them as unsatisfactory and close their positions. Not because they could not teach.
But because of their salaries. Because of their age. Go to your child's schools and look at all those young teachers who took their jobs away from them; when they wanted to continue to work. They were simply thrown out of their jobs. And you wonder why teachers have to strike. Other places strike. And if parents support their teachers; some of these terrible things will halt. Be wise parents. You are being tricked.

Steve Zemelman wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Loss of Don Moore

While some of us may not have agreed withe every one of Don Moore's stances, he was a tireless and savvy campaigner for better education for kids, and for understanding the strategies and conditions that lead to that. He comes from a whole generation of fighters for civil rights and strong social supports in our society -- a struggle needed now more than ever. Let's hope that smart and courageous younger advocates honor him by stepping forward to take his place.

George N. Schmidt wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Hypocrisy of the 'defunders' who helped kill Designs for Change

Somehow I'm not surprised that Linda Lenz got virtually all of her quotes from the people who helped kill Designs for Change — and therefore, in a way, Don Moore.

Let's be clear. Once Chicago's so-called "philanthropic community" became an arm of the city's plutocracy and City Hall (by the halfway point in the Vallas years, 1995 - 2001, by my history), the independent voices that are now praised in full-throated hypocrisy by the defunders were being strangled. Designs for Change, like PURE (which still breathes) and the Cross City Campaign, Neighborhood Capital Budget Group and a dozen others were "defunded" by the rich people who sought absolute control over not only the schools but the narrative of so-called "school reform."

The result? The money that Designs for Change and the other groups believed would always be there behind accurate reporting and analysis was dried up. That's active voice. The MacArthur Foundation and others, with the Chicago Community Trust as a funnel, strangled these groups of dollars unless, like UNO, they simple adapted slavishly to the new party line: teacher bashing, charter schools, union busting, and the ruthless school closings that have been the hallmark of 21st Century School Reform in Chicago.

It's appropriate that the sources quoted mourning Don Moore in Catalyst are all those kinds of people: the loyal servants and sychophants of the rich and powerful. After all, Catalyst is one of the most lucrative of those groups. So Don Moore and Designs for Change are murdered — like so many before them — and the murderers are the lead mourners.

Carl D. wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Nasty comment

Poor Don. His grave is still warm and already the factionalists are fighting over who owns his legacy. As I recall, George Schmidt was the number-one opponent of the school reform championed by Don Moore. Am I right, George?

Anne Sullivan wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Don Moore

It's sad that the writer missed entirely one of the more important accomplishments of Don's life in my opinion: Metro High School, Chicago's visionary "School Without Walls" of which Don was a founder. The school changed the lives of thousands of kids thru the years. It was an incredible achievement. Don will be sorely missed.

Diana Nelson wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Don Moore

Dr. Donald Moore was not an easy man to become close to. He was a perfectionist who did not suffer fools gladly, and who had trouble finishing the data driven reports for which Designs for Change was justly famed such as “What Makes These Schools Stand Out,” because he always had to tweak just one more phrase or illustration.

Nevertheless, he was a dear friend for many years. I miss him from the distance of years and miles. Those of us who recall fondly the heyday of Chicago school reform from the years before passage of the 1988 Chicago School Reform Act until the turn of the century, knew Don as our chief intellectual leader. Along with Diana Lauber, he taught me everything that I know about schools that work for young people and good urban school systems.

I served on the DFC Board, and Don served on the LQE board at the time I headed that organization. And yes, it was a different time, when better schools were synonymous with children’s civil rights and the Chicago business community urged its employees to run for Local School Councils and make a difference. Don loved to laugh, but the changes in attitude toward school reform are no laughing matter.

To honor Don’s memory, we all should renew his commitment to children.

Peter Moore wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

My Father, Donald R. Moore

I strongly agree with George Schmidt's comments above-

"It's appropriate that the sources quoted mourning Don Moore in Catalyst are all those kinds of people: the loyal servants and sychophants of the rich and powerful. After all, Catalyst is one of the most lucrative of those groups. So Don Moore and Designs for Change are murdered — like so many before them — and the murderers are the lead mourners."

When sources of funding from the large foundations stopped, my Father was forced to use his entire retirement fund and all the equity in his property to keep Designs For Change operating for as long as he could. I am tremendously proud of him for that. He was a true soldier in a war that is so important to the future of this city. He cared more for the children of this city than his own comfort and financial security. He literally gave the fight his own life.

I hope my Father did not die in vain. I hope that one day soon the people that "run" this city and Mayor Rahm Emanuel realize that the dismal graduate rate of Chicago Public Schools is a crime for which the city pays and pays and pays.

When children have lost hope in school and dropout, they have few options. I think we all should see a link between the failure of the Chicago Public School system and the gruesome murder rate in this city.

I had often hoped that my Father had picked a more progressive city to devote his life. But, today I know that he picked the right city, because the city of Chicago is in desperate need of more people like my Father.

I was in the U.S. Coast Guard and now I am a boat captain. I don't have the knowledge or resources to continue my Father's fight. My only hope is that the people who can will continue to fight for the children of this city and all cities. We need them to graduate high school and hopefully go on to college, and not end up a statistic of murder or the crime of poverty.

I hope that one day the people of this city finally wake up and realize that poverty and poor education is a true crime against our children, that has absolutely no place in the great city of Chicago.

George N. Schmidt wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

You're wrong, "Carl D..." But that's typical

Thanks for asking, "Carl D..." Next time, use your full name and we can really enjoy this debate.

As everyone knows, I opposed the part of the LSC law which discriminated against teachers, giving us a severe minority of votes on the LSC. Not only did I support the LSCs, but I served as one of the two first teacher delegates on the Amundsen High School LSC until 1993. I signed the first LSC principal contract as secretary of the Amundsen LSC.

When we agreed, Don Moore and I were on the same side, more often than not. When he was kicked out by Paul Vallas and made his press conference stand in the cold on Clark St., we were there. When he presented the evidence that LSC schools had done better than "turnaround" schools, we were there. When Designs for Change and others fought against the cuts in special education, we were there.

Being wrong based on ideological abstractions is one of the weaker points of some people. But I don't know if you are one of them, "Carl D..." until you drop that fig leaf and we get a look at your full transparencies. A lot of so-called "progressives" in Chicago were union-busting promoters of privatization and other toxic attacks on teachers and those of us who were members of unions.

And there were few of us (fewer still with the loss of Don Moore) who were in every struggle from the days of the 1987 CTU strike through today. Don Moore was one of those. And so is Substance. But it's hard to know if others have been around when they are cowards who don't use their full names, even at times like this.

Valencia Rias-Winstead wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Dr.Don Moore-Beloved&Respected Mentor,Friend,&Fellow Advocate

As I recover from the deep throes of grief that overtook me upon learning about the passing of a man who believed in me, guided, challenged, taught, & supported me, I too ask through tear-stained eyes "Where were YOU when Don & Designs for Change NEEDED help?

Until the end, since 1997,through illness, loss, & family challenges, I saw him remain committed to establishing a quality public education for the children of Chicago via the LSCs, City, State, & Federal officials. He may not have had the most agreed upon position, but, his position was ALWAYS based on the respect of average, sometimes poor, voiceless people who had no one to speak for them. Sometimes they didn't know their rights were violated eg. Corey H., High School Drop Out Rates, Schools on Probation. He wanted them (Parents, Teachers, Students, & Community Members) to know that they HAD a VOICE & A RIGHT TO A SEAT AT THE DECISION MAKING TABLE!!
I have not met nor expect to meet another man who so willingly sacrificed his life to improve the lives of others. He as did I & others too often worked 7 days a week as we transitioned into doing at LEAST the same or more for LSCs on-site, at CPS, and in Springfield with LESS! Its because of Don Moore's dedication & his uncanny ability to hire those who shared his philosophical vision, even if they may not have shared the pathway to reach it, gave of themselves the best they had to offer. Over the last 25 - 30 years some very special people have worked, volunteered, and supported Designs for Change. I am grateful to have seen, met, and shared with many of them.
Yes, funding played a principal role in achieving Don's vision. He did sacrifice much of his own personal funds when Chicago funding became scarce and ended. He did so in an effort to fulfill his vision and keep his dream alive! Yet it is a vision he planted in many and that I WILL, as I hope others will commit to bring to pass. As we respect, honor, and appreciate ALL the SIGNIFICANT ACCOMPLISHMENTS achieved by the late Dr. Donald L. Moore, know that in his final weeks
he was looking better, feeling better, and OPTIMISTIC how he could create the NEXT PHASE of Designs for Change - still committed to
LSCs, Research, Public Policy & Most of ALL Chicago's Children! Rest in Peace Don. Love, Valencia
There is not enough space here nor is it appropriate to lay blame, point fingers, or claim victimization. Don deserves so much more. We all have some shortcomings

Valencia Rias-Winstead wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

My post got cut off. In

My post got cut off.
In closing, to Adam & Peter, Your father did not die in vain! There are hundreds even thousands of lives touched directly and indirectly by his unselfish actions. I am proud of him as well. Be encouraged and inspired that many people in this city of Chicago and the nation are grieving with you. Peace & Blessings!

Regina McGraw wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Diana's remarks

Diana,

I completely agree with your remarks about Don and simply say "Ditto".

Thank you for your informed and compassionate remarks.

Andy Wade wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

Sad news about Don

As part of a legion who toiled in the cause Don did so much to create, it is sad but not surprising that Don gave literally everything he had to Chicago's schools and especially its LSCs

This happened far too soon, but if even times were flush and quality and equity the norms, could anyone really imagine Don quitting? Ever? He was uncomprimising, smart, as challenging to his allies as his foes, and above all committed. Those qualities earned him both enmity and respect -- often from the same people

Chicago school reform ain't beanbag, to adapt a phrase. Virtually everyone on this thread has scars -- none of us more than Don. He gave a lot, and this is a loss. My condolences and respects to his family, colleagues and friends.

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