Friday, January 31, 2014

When Does The Gulen Mess in Illinois Become A Scandal?

Let's review what we know, shall we?

 A secretive transnational social movement emanating from Turkey, the Gulen Movement, is very busy in the US expanding its network of taxpayer-funded charter schools, including the Concept schools here in Chicago.

Its spiritual leader, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed "exile" in Pennsylvania, is a central figure in the current meltdowm of the Turkish Government, in which systemic corruption is possibly a baseline behavior. The Turkish prime minister has long been in an alliance of convenience with Gulen, but that alliance is now over, and the two sides are evidently trying to eliminate the other. The Gulenists' power base in Turkey appears to flow from the Turkish justice/judicial system and police, a fact you would never guess from the benign, touch-feely, interfaithy outreach arm of the Gulen effort in America. Never guess, that is, until you start looking at some of the people they're trying to cultivate here.

But these things are all very well known outside the US, which as you know has much more critical things to worry about. In Turkey, over half of the population has a negative view of the Gulen Movement, according to this poll. But more importantly, there are very few sentient people in Turkey or Central Asia, or really anywhere with internet access  who aren't aware that the Gulen Movement is a highly organized, secretive, aggressive social movement with a religious, economic, political, and religioius-nationalistic agenda.

For example, secular Turks are widely aware that Gulen and Erdogan (the prime minister) are pretty much two sides of the same coin when it comes to the authoritarianism vexing them.

Please  consult Joshua Hendrick's recent Gulen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam in Turkey for a scholarly ethnographic treatment of the Gulen Movement, but for now let's focus on these things related to what's going on here in the States. (The excerpts below are from Chapter 8.)
As this manuscript goes to press in November of 2012, there is no place where the GM cemaat and arkadas manage more institutions, or go to greater lengths, to simultaneously promote their leader than in the United States....
 Adapting proven strategies to recruit sympathizers... from the ranks of local, regional, and national leadership, among the activities of these organizations is the growing regularity of "award dinners," wherein members of the GM offer Ottoman/Turkish themed awards to specifically targeted recipients....
Collectively, GM activists in the United States spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on events that range from "interfaith dinners," to citywide Turkish cultural festivals, to speaking forums, to lavish overseas tours of Turkey's conservative democratic transformation....
Here in Chicago, the public face of the Gulen Movement is the Niagara Foundation, which has been feverishly cultivating influential people from the business, religious, and political leadership across Illinois, and particularly from the Democratic Party. If you know anyone connected to influence in Illinois Democratic Party, the odds are that this very same person is on a Gulenist project timeline back in Saylorsburg.

Much of this was revealed in the December 2013 Sun Times piece by Dan Mihalopoulos, who should earn a Pulitzer for his work. In that article, you see Speaker Mike Madigan posing with a Turkish mayor who was subsequently arrested by Gulenist prosecutors. The mayor appears to be out of jail now, and his prosecutors? Who knows? They've probably been re-assigned; it's a complete mess over there at the moment.

For me, the most interesting revelation of that story was the number of Niagara-sponsored junkets to Turkey for Illinois legislators. These are the exact trips Josh Hendrick is referring to in his book. 74% of all reported legislator travel involved these influence-cultivating trips to Turkey, according to the Sun Times. The details aren't clear because there's been little disclosure--- we don't know about the nature of these travel gifts, how much of it was "comped," how much of it was paid for by the lawmakers at below-market rates, that sort of thing.

But for me, the truly hypnotic piece in all of this is the annual awards ceremony at the Niagara Foundation. I'm going to post it below. I've watched it over and over; there a lots of familiar faces in this video, and there's a lot to discuss. But what I'd like to skip right to is the Commitment Award given to Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who is certainly committed; while the Justice is giving her (let's face it, mundane) talk, she lets it be known that she too has been to Turkey, with the Niagara guys themselves!   It's at 23 minutes, 42 seconds, so be patient.

Niagara Foundation Peace Awards 2013 Part 1 from Niagara Foundation on Vimeo.

Isn't that special? I wonder if it ever occurs to these honorees to ask themselves why in the hell they're all being festooned by these people. Anyway, so yes, at least one Illinois Supreme Court Justice has been worked on seriously by the Gulenists; she went to Turkey with the chief people of the Niagara Foundation, Sherif Soydan and Melvut "Hilmi" Cinar.

It's impossible to know under Illinois law exactly who paid for what. I'm guessing she paid air fare and Fethullah Gulen picked up the rest, or she paid some very discounted rate for hotels, meals, and indoctrination. Nobody will ever know until someone (the media?) demand to see the receipts. I'm guessing these are very, very valuable travel gifts, and I'm also guessing, based on Dan Mihalopoulos's work, and my growing list here, that we're looking at a behavior pattern that would qualify for a RICO investigation in more honest times. Especially when you start looking at the charter school commission's decisions, and who else was on these trips.

In case you missed my point--- a supreme court justice!

By the way, when you look at the whole tape, and you will, you'll see a Who's Who of people in a position to influence charter school decisions, including Barbara Eason Watkins (12:39) from 2009; Henry Bienen (12:42) also from 2008; Lisa Madigan (13:15) [<--- did she also go to Turkey?]; Sunny Chico is in there somewhere, getting an award. (It's exhausting keeping tabs on the connection between taxpayer money and the Chicos.)  There's even a Roosevelt in there (13:22).  Many, many more.

Really, the school stuff is just one little slice of the agenda; it happens to be what I write about.

Anyway, before I move on, check out the cute little sitcom posings they have the honorees doing in the videos. They're almost my favorite part; there's one at 13:12, for example. Justice Burke's little pose is at 13:50. I love that they can pose these politicians like they're on reality television.

Moving On...

Just for the historical record, Alderman Burke himself re-confirmed the Turkish trip, and that it was in March of 2013, and that he, too, was there. The trip had a profound impact on his understanding of community, according to him. He talks about it right at the start of this clip. Burke's talk takes place at the Niagara Foundation, which of course is another way the Movement builds up the people they're trying to cultivate.

Ald. Ed Burke from Niagara Foundation on Vimeo.

He then goes on to give, to his credit, a much better talk then either of the Tribune guys, who were just dreadful. One detail that strikes me is at the 45 second mark; evidently, he was in Turkey with at least seven other Americans, including his wife, Justice Burke. Who were the other six? Will we ever find out? Will anyone ever ask? Would he answer? Will they show their receipts?

Burke's brother Dan, the legislator and member of the state charter school funding task force  (appointed by the Speaker, and given Madigan's many long sojourns in Turkey, I wouldn't be surprised if he emailed Alderman Burke's brother's appointment directly from Istanbul!)--- also went on a 2012 Niagara-sponsored Gulen junket, so that's comforting. The Lesser Burke later dutifully trudged up to CMSA and performed the ritual video pitch, like they do, except that he does possibly accidentally damn them with a bit of faint praise. You tell me.

I don't know what it's going to take for someone outside of the Sun Times and this blog to detect a pattern. It needs to be looked at, seriously. All of these public figures should go on record about who paid for what on their trips and support those statements with receipts.

Stay tuned.

PS. Many thanks to Sharon Higgins, relentless researcher.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Tribune and the Gulen Movement

You may have noticed the Tribune ran the Reuters piece on Gulen. Actually, it's the Reuters piece on the BBC piece on Gulen.  I can't remember the term for when a paper runs a story about another paper's story. Or, in this case, a paper running a wire service article about another news outlet's exclusive. Is that what a "clip job" is?

Anyway, I know that reading is so last century, but I dare you to read both pieces and then argue that the Reuters piece preserves the BBC's skeptical tone. It doesn't,trust me.  Seriously, read both pieces---- this would be a fun Common Core "close reading" game. Check out some of these tone differences...

"And yet... even during the interview, the cleric proved surprisingly elusive."

"The interview did not make his intentions altogether clear."

"These quotations are culled and distilled from what others tell me is his peculiarly baroque language. One of his disciples explained that 15% of his speech is unlike anything normally heard in Turkish: Shakespearian rather than modern English, he said."

"At one point, in the middle of his answer, he also comes up with the memorable circumlocution: 'I haven't even decided to say anything to that effect.'

"Why, I asked several of his advisers-followers-participants, had Mr Gulen agreed to this interview? "To set the record straight," they answered. Straight, though, may not mean clear."
"More often, as he waited for one of his long answers to be translated, he would close his eyes, and tilt his soft, wide face back in his armchair, with a look not of repose but of pain."
"Gulen, who was eloquent throughout the interview..."
There's a lot more. The BBC piece, for example,  definitely leaves room for the reader to interpret as theatrics the little medical interludes during the interview, but that was evidently lost on the Reuters man. 
It's all very weird. 
But it doesn't surprise me that the Trib ran the Reuters piece. There isn't a media outlet in the country more comprehensively worked on by the Movement than the Trib, so the slant in the Reuters piece seems right in line. 
Here's Trib CEO Tony Hunter accepting on of those Niagara Foundation awards on behalf of the Trib in 2009 (:43 mark). The Movement gives awards out like Jujubes; it's how they cultivate influence, which may indeed be the ultimate goal. If I were trying to cultivate a dishonest editorial board, I'd aim for the Trib.
Lots of familiar faces in that 2009 ceremony. Madigan's in there, so you know the whole thing is related to influence and money the nexus of those two things with legislation. The Trib ran a little article about their award shortly after. I wonder if they would accept this award today, given that it's more publicly known that the guy handing them out is definitely in a political power struggle at home and not a teddy bear.  Who am I kidding? Of course they would! I love how former AG Neil Hartigan got a Lifetime Achievement award from these guys, as well. It's the Gulen Globes.

In an odd note, you see the Turkish Consul in the above video (2:10 ). His name is Kenan Ipek, he's not the Consul any more; he's been re-assigned back home; my Turkish is pretty rudimentary but it looks like he's involved in kiboshing some the wave of prosecutions that appear to be related to Gulenist prosecutors.  There's twenty layers of intrigue to every little thing in Turkish politics, but it appears that at least one guy at Tony Hunter's award ceremony is now working against the Gulenists. Can someone translate that article for me before the man changes jobs again?

More recently, Trib editor Gerould Kern accepted an invitation to speak a Niagara Foundation Luncheon in February 2012. He gave an excruciating talk; I've tried to find a nugget in there worth quoting but there isn't one until around the 27:50 minute mark

The News Revolution: Implications for Journalism and Democracy .

 When Kern mentions that some people warned him against speaking at the forum because of "some anti-free  press trends in Turkey," he's referring to activities the Gulen Movement is implicated in, not just the actual Turkish Government, although he doesn't appear to know that. On the one hand you have a government, and on the other you have sort of a parallel force, and they've been allies for quite some time.  Take for example the case of Ahmed Sik, who was writing about the imam when he was arrested in 2011 along with six other journalists. You can see the man here (at 2:05); he's awaiting trial. Sik was writing a book about Gulen called The Imam's Army (which has been confiscated, I believe) when he got nicked. There's a great moment when Sik shouts out "Whoever who touches it (the Gulen Movement) gets burned!"  The New Yorker did an excellent piece about the situation here (Sik comes in late into the article--- just do a find for his name and you'll get to it.)

Evidently Turkey is the worst place in the word for journalists, and it's clear to me from even cursory research that our charter-school preacher-mogul is behind at least some of it. It isn't clear to me how Mr. Kern explains his decision to disregard the advice to appear at the luncheon. From what I can tell, he says something like I know you must be good folks because you gave our CEO an award a couple years ago. Did I paraphrase incorrectly? He'll probably get a Gulen award for logic.

One of the other writers arrested with Sik was Nedem Sener; the details of his prosecution give you an idea for how trumped-up these mass prosecutions are. Sener was writing about the Movement and its seemingly now destroyed alliance with the Turkish ruling party. To his credit, Mr. Kern does mention the Sener and Sik arrests, but again, there's no indication that he's aware of the Gulen connection to these horrendous arrests. Or maybe he knows and is just being polite. Who knows?

In short, the Tribune's editor would do well to look into those email warnings a bit more. Watch the Turkish gentleman at the end trying to distance Niagara from whatever implications Kern was making. I don't think they have to worry.

They've got their hooks into the man, though; he later dutifully made an appearance at CMSA and went through the propaganda video, which almost never varies. Same questions, very similar answers. Like the Madigan children, he knows just what to say about CMSA.

They're engaged. I get it.

 I'm still looking through the records, but so far there's no evidence that Mr. Kern or anyone from the Trib has clouted his own children into CMSA or any other charter school anywhere. Or even applied for one. I might have that wrong, and I'd love to know about it.

The Trib then  argued in March of last year for the expansion of Concept.  The editorial is sort of a catalogue of the little charter school bromides you always hear: the college acceptance rates, the waiting lists, etc. These things have been debunked to death. If you walked around Concept, or UNO, or really any of the chains, you'd see the same thing: mostly young teachers (who will be gone in about 3 years) doing what they can in classes that look like other classes you've seen. Innovation? Maybe in marketing. It's not something you'd ever confuse with Payton or Northside College Prep, or Lakeview, or Lincoln Park,  or any of the suburban high schools. It is in short, it's someone's idea of what poor people should be happy to get and be quiet about.

In September of 2014, Bruce Dold himself, from the Trib's editorial board, appeared at Niagara and gave a little talk. You can't swing a dead cat at the Niagara Foundation without hitting a Tribune guy. I haven't seen Dold up at CMSA yet, but the day is young. He talked at length about Illinois corruption, as did Kern. Pensions, corruption. He's Dr. Gloom and Doom--- the video just ends, weirdly-- not sure what that's all about but thank God it does because I was entertaining thoughts of self harm near the end.

Bruce Dold from Niagara Foundation on Vimeo.

See what I mean? Imagine that guy at a holiday party. 

So.... that's that. The Movement has been cultivating the people at the Trib. They do share values, I'll give them that much, and it appears that the Trib sees what it wants to see, and I wouldn't be surprised if another marquee Trib person gets an award at the next Niagara event.

And I defy anyone to point out another situation in the US where such a mysterious network of individuals connected to the protagonist of a hot foreign drama is basically running a school district without anyone knowing what's what. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

About That BBC Gulen Interview...

I hope you've had a chance to review today's BBC piece on Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are running some 150 taxpayer funded American charter schools, including the Concept schools here in Chicago.  Make of it all what you will; I'd like to make it clear that I have very little interest in the internal political/national identity-related drama of Turkey. I wish them peace.

I just think it's weird that a group so inextricably connected to that drama is running American schools on the DL, if you will. It's the DL part that's weird--- very few people can bring themselves to talk about this issue. It's not weird per se that a secretive foreign social movement has latched onto the charter school movement because as I've said before it's the exact industry I would go into if I wanted to escape oversight.

But it needs to be part of the public consciousness. I for one would like to be able to vote on which foreign dramas our kids' per-pupil money is targeting, and to be able to pick which partisan the funding is aligned with.

 Let's take a look at some photos from the BBC article. I'd like to point out one gentleman who appears again and again in photos from the article. He's basically Gulen's right-hand man, and his name is Yuksel Alp Aslandogan, but you may remember him as the man who was in charge of the Gulen charter school proposals in Des Plaines and Oak Park back in 2000, both of which failed.
"We're withdrawing the application for the purpose of revamping it and we'll resubmit it," Yuksel Alp Aslandogan, president of the not-for-profit charter school group, said.  
I'm not sure if they re-submitted anything.

In this video he's seen handling the media in Saylorsburg (at 1:02) when some secular Turks were protesting outside the compound. Secular people--- they're so annoying. Below, you see Mr. Aslandogan in today's BBC piece, in three photos where I can identify him. It's not like he's hiding or anything.

I'm pointing this out because the Concept people, and all of the other Gulen charter people,  are going to continue to deny any affiliation with the Movement and the imam and with each other because "strategic ambiguity" has been a successful strategy for them. It's all been explained to death, and yet the strategy continues to go basically unchallenged. The schools "have nothing to do" with the imam or the Movement; it's just that some of the people involved may or may not have been "inspired" by Mr. Gulen at one time and there's no coordination, no hierarchy. They hardly even know each other!

Yeah. The guy running HQ back at the Compound used to drive around the suburbs here trying to set up charter schools until he got promoted.

Mr. Aslandogan, from the above photos and from the failed charter bids in 2000, was also one of the petitioners for the spectacularly failed Wisconsin Career Academy, which was basically a hot mess of ineptitude. Couldn't make it as a charter or a private voucher school. Incidentally, when that school reinvented itself as a voucher-eligible private school and changed its name to Wisconsin College Prep, it brought in the ever popular Ali Yilmaz, formerly of Concept's CMSA on Clark Street. The voucher-eligible private Wisconsin College Prep lasted a year, and Yilmaz has moved on to a management job at Concept. Evidently it's one of those firms where you can fail up. Yilmaz is the star of a couple hilarious videos from the anti-labor drama three years ago at CMSA, including this fabulously succinct lesson on the whole charter philosopy: love it or find somewhere else to send your kid.

 "It is a school of choice. We have over 1000 on our waiting list and whoever wants to come to CMSA they can come."

The anti-labor stiff-arming has sort of gone down the memory hole. Remember when the progressive alderman of the 49th Ward drew a line in the sand over it? Me neither. Remember when he buried the elected, representative school board ballot initiative? I do. I was there.

I wasn't on his Gulen-sponsored trip to Turkey, though.

But surely I'm not the only person to find the whole ten-layers-of-identity-mystery thing that defines these schools to be a little bit new to the history of the stewardship of American public education. These guys are all connected to each other in very short, easy-to-draw, connect-the-dot diagrams. These little who-worked-with-who posts? I could do them every night of the week. But why is it such a mystery and how did that get to be just the way things are in the charter sector?

So, to summarize.... the charter guy behind Des Plaines and Oak Park in 2000, who is connected in multiple ways to Concept people, is now the imam's right hand man in Saylorsburg. But Concept has NO connection to Gulen or to the Movement. They've only just barely heard of the Movement or this fellow Gulon or however you say it.

Got it?

Again, why is this important? Because we're talking about a unique, hard-to-categorize super-secretive transnational movement with a political agenda in foreign lands. Its members run schools everywhere, including public schools in the US, although that fact has flown under the radar.  To one extent or another, the schools are a source of revenue, employment, and networking for the Movement, and to that same extent the schools can be said to support the Movement's goals. There are people, millions of them,  who oppose the Movement, and it would not be crazy for them to be angry at the US and indeed, at these schools. Think about that for a moment. Overseas, the schools are known to be centers of recruitment for the Movement. Here in the States, you could make an argument that the architecture for a similar type of behavior is in place. Review the tape.

Also overseas, when the Turkish Government indicated it would be shutting down the Movement's schools, it triggered a seismic event in which the future of a nation is suddenly, well, up for grabs. I neither know nor care who's the least or most corrupt of all the Turkish protagonists, I just want some sunlight on the charters here in the States.

Yes, it's legal, what they're doing, as far as I can tell, unless there are visa abuses going on, or testing irregularities. The question is this: does it make sense for all of this to be going on without public scrutiny? Why is there only one reporter in Chicago even willing to take this on?

Tutoring Works, But We Need More Data!

Interesting piece in the NYT today about intensive small group tutoring. Evidently the discovery is that intensive tutoring helps kids raise test scores and meet other indicators of being on track to graduate.

I didn't realize there was still a question about this. But I'm glad it's borne out in research that tutoring, extra time, and extra attention can help the kids who need the most help, just as it can help the kids who already have everything.

What I like about this study, and about the idea of intense small group tutoring, is that it is taking place inside a neighborhood school with the kids who need it the most; these are kids who are likely to be counseled/pushed/negative-messaged out of charter schools or whose families don't have the time or wherewithal to go through the charter--magnet--selective enrollment gauntlet that the city school system has pretzeled itself into.

The tutoring is expensive, and these kids are presumably part of the 25% that Rahm Emanuel told Karen Lewis "aren't going to amount to anything," so it comes as no surprise to me that the obvious benefits of the program are met with skepticism from our mayor:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has said that if the program continues to generate results, he hopes to extend the tutoring and counseling to more schools. “When you close the achievement gap that significantly you have to pay attention,” he said.
Contrast that hesitation with the zeal for chartering-for-the-sake-of-chartering, a phenomenon that has done nothing but increase the white/black achievement gap in this very city going all the way back to Arne Duncan's first sinecure here. Remember---- the whole Rauner/Emanuel underlying idea is that these kids are someone else's problem and that schools can be successful if they're privatized and free from kids like these.

Anyway,  the guy running the program, Jens Ludwig, from the U of C, makes an observation in this article that I can't say I've observed myself:

“So many people now are convinced that results like this aren’t possible at all for disadvantaged teens,” Professor Ludwig said. “More and more people are of the view that you’ve got to reach poor kids by age 6, or it’s too late and the effects of entrenched poverty are already too profound.”

Unless he's talking about the mayor, I don't know who he's talking about. The people I know that point out the causal relationship between poverty and low academic achievement are all pointing out that the kids who need the most tend to get the least, and that they need more, like this very program, rather than being scattered hither and yon in and out of charter schools or underserved in the destabilized, resource-stripped neighborhood schools. Honestly, I've not seen one person in the mainstream discussion of what works in urban education say that you can't overcome the impacts of poverty.  It's a straw man.  It's something Robin Steans, for example, would say.  Unless I'm just missing a lot of blog posts somewhere.

It's a good article. It's a good study, and a good program.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Latest Findings On Charters In and Out of Chicago

Here are three excellent, short presentations of recent Illinois-based research on charter schools, which are proliferating in Chicago because they're the new patronage plum. And also because the mayor and city council's basic underlying thing is that neighborhood schooling doesn't work where there are lots of poor people who look a certain way.  In these situations, what you want to do  above all else is to make sure the people can't vote for the school board, and then destabilize the neighborhood schools so that there's a general sense of fear and chaos.

Thankfully, people are still looking at actual data and pointing out that truth is still detectable even in the fog of privatization.

Here's Dr. Jean Pierce, of the League of Women Voters, pointing out that mobility, special education, and socioeconomic status are the drivers of academic achievement (as measured by test scores) in Illinois.  Charter, traditional neighborhood school---- it doesn't matter. Test scores tell you who you've got, not what you've done. (<--- that's my interpretation and always has been).

Comparing Charters and Traditional Neighborhood Public Schools Outside of Chicago

Her research is especially start when you look at the graphs one on top of another.

And here's Dr. Federico Waitoller, from UIC, who along with Dr. Josh Radinsky have an excellent letter in today's Tribune, which I am loathe to link to. Their research looks into the types of special ed student served in traditional neighborhood schools versus those in charters and finds that what everyone has been saying over the past few years is true. Waitoller is speaking in English and Spanish, which is in itself more than most people shutting down neighborhood schools can do.

Students Receiving Special Education in Charter Schools in Chicago

And here's Dr. Chris Lubienski,  of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose research points out among other things, that the actual gains achieved by students in public schools outstrip those achieved by students in independent schools, and he places this finding in the context of the existing research on school achievement and the discussion about charter schools. It's pretty fascinating research that I can say fits my understanding of academic achievement after serving in both private and public schools over a career.

Academic Performance in Charter Schools: The Big Picture

Of course, the idea that there's all of this evidence that contradicts the mayor's course of action and that this fact will have any impact on policy--- well, that's rather a quaint notion these days. The main thing is to keep people disenfranchised. That's the golden ring in all of this. If they can't vote, then all of this research is just confetti.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Video Here-- Gulen 101: Session One, With Sharon Higgins

Gulen 101 Session One With Sharon Higgins from Tim Furman on Vimeo.

This is the recording of our recent webinar, Gulen 101: Session One, with Sharon Higgins. Please share widely. It was a good first session, both for people new to the topic and for those already knowledgeable. We're having session two in March.

You'll have to adjust the sound from time to time; my editing time is limited and we were using multiple sound inputs across the country. Also, you'll notice that we've made the decision to cover certain videos and images rather than waste time arguing over fair use. I know from experience that copyright claims will be asserted, even if I'm sharing something freely posted online for the world to see. It's all part and parcel of the culture of secrecy and "strategic ambiguity" that makes it so hard to reconcile this particular social movement with the stewardship of American public schools.

Here is a punchlist of some of the videos that are covered in the web version of this webinar; you should check them out in context. It is likely that these videos will be taken down from Youtube or wherever they're hosted once individuals in the Movement figure out that they are referred to in this webinar. We have hard copies for future reference. I may have missed one or two; check back here for updates.

Portion of Gulen sermon
Portion of scholar Josh Hendricks talk at Rumi Forum 
Portion of Dr. Oz from Faces of America
Portion of Turkish Language Olympiad Missouri Finals
Portion of 4th New York Turkish Olympiads (student "whirling dervishes")
Portion of Actual Sema Ceremony (real "whirling dervishes")
Portion of TMSA Festival Students Dancing Semmame (Greensboro) 
Portion of TMSA Festival Turkish Song "Soyleymedim"(Greensboro)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Batavia Charter Forum A Wealth of Critical Research

U of I Associate Professor Christopher Lubienski and Dr. Jean Pierce, League of Women Voters, in Batavia.    
Just got back from Batavia, which is a lovely town, and yet another example of what a community will do to invest in public libraries when people have access to the political process. What a library! Rahm Emanuel would shut that thing down in ten minutes, or he'd outsource the librarians' jobs to volunteer missionaries.

Anyway, I have lots of video from the latest in research on charter schools, which I'll be getting ready to post on Saturday. It was a really fascinating forum; hopefully there's a bit of momentum behind the drive to get rid of the state charter school commission, which in my mind is the single most egregious affront to democracy that we have here in Illinois.

More tomorrow.

Gulen 101 Webinar: Update

Just letting you know that I've gotten about 40 emails today asking for a link to last night's webinar. I'm working on it; I anticipate that the video will be ready on Friday midday, and that I will post it here and email everyone who attended.

It's a long video, and I'm trying to do it justice with the sound, which as you know, is tricky. A truly eye-opening webinar; I'm thrilled so many people were able to attend.

And now, it's off to Batavia.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Week In Disaster Management

Busy week coming up. There's a vigil for public schools in Chicago on Tuesday night at the Chicago Temple.

The following night, the appointed CPS Board is going to vote on the new charter schools, less than a year after closing fifty neighborhood schools because of a manufactured "utilization" crisis. We really have no way to vote for the board, in spite of the fact that it is a taxing body, so we're sort of reduced to vigils, but vigils are important so I'm going.

Also on Wednesday night there's Gulen 101 Session One, With Sharon Higgins, the webinar series that will begin to explain to people the connection between a number of Chicago charter schools and a secretive transnational Turkish social movement led by a self-styled, self-exiled imam--who incidentally is also one of protagonists of the current meltdown in the Turkish government and civil society. The webinar is booked to capacity with people from all over the world, but we hope to make some video available after the event. I will personally send copies to all of the legislators and alderpeople who have been on the receiving end of awards and junkets and donations and grooming from this highly organized group. As I mentioned above, the CPS Board meeting will be going on at the same time.

ISBE is having a two-day meeting this week as well, and we're asking for people to go if they can. The state board is going to vote on an invisible proposal to raise the class size limits in special education, which as you know, will work out nicely for Chicago, having moved thousands of special ed students hither and yon and God only knows who's keeping track of what.  As you know, one of the current bedrocks of ed reform is that class size doesn't matter, and it therefore must be especially true that special ed class size doesn't matter, and that the optimum school setting is one where there is one teacher (on screen) and thousands of the low-incidence special needs kids that the charter schools basically don't serve, as well as the high-incidence ones they don't serve well.

Then on Thursday night, we'll be out in lovely suburban Batavia to co-sponsor the Charter Expansion Forum. We'll be hearing about the latest research in charter schools and talking about what to do moving forward with the highly undemocratic, ALEC-inspired, almost invisible State Charter School Commission, the one that installed a Gulen school into the city last year over the protests of community members and even the appointed CPS Board, which usually hands out the patronage in this town by order of the Mayor, not some committee. The suburbs, with their elected school boards, have not been subject to as great an assault by privatizers as we have here in the fertile fields of Chicago, but it's all coming. They also had to deal with that plainly grift-based virtual charter chain just a few months ago, so they understand the stakes.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Movement, As Seen By Our Own Foreign Service

Over the past few months, I've been studying (yes this is an edit) all things Gulen, in preparation for some of the events we've been hosting including the above-advertised webinar on January 22.  It's the sort of reading that you wouldn't expect a member of the Legislature to do, obviously, because clearly none of them do it. It's easier just to go on a guided junket and have your thoughts formed for you.

Gulen-affiliated Concept Schools has charter proposals before the Chicago Board of Education, which is going to rule on these very same proposals next week. If they fail at CPS, it appears they have influence with the unelected, under-the-radar State Charter School Commission, which already authorized a Concept school in the past.

It's all so fascinating. But what really slays me are these Wikileaks documents: cables from the State Department about Gulen and the Movement.  There are a lot of State Department cables: this is just one from 2006, classified by Deborah K. Jones, who I believe is still a very senior Foreign Service person in Istanbul. Read the whole thing.

These observations all ring a bell.

As (visa)applicants, Gulenists are almost uniformly evasive about their purpose of travel and their relationships to Gulen, raising questions among Consular officers. Our unease is also shared by secular segments of Turkish society.


Applicants who we think may be affiliated with his movement come from a variety of backgrounds and apply across the full spectrum of visa classes as tourists, students and exchange visitors.

After interviewing hundreds of applicants whom we suspect are affiliated with Gulen,s movement, Consular officers have noticed that most of these applicants share a common characteristic: they are generally evasive about their purpose of travel to the United States and usually deny knowing or wanting to visit Gulen when questioned directly.


Consular officers in Ankara and Istanbul have noticed what appears to a purposeful "shifting" of applicant profiles appearing for visa interviews in what may be an effort by Gulenists to identify "successful" profiles. The most common profiles we have recognized over the past several years include: -- The young exchange visitor: Noted above as the first group that gained Consular officers, attention, these were predominately young, male college graduates applying for J-1 exchange visas to teach in science academies in the U.S. Most had some prior education or teaching experience in the Central Asian republics. We refused visas to the majority of these single males with limited work experience. One year later, in 2004, many of these applicants returned with H1-B petitions sponsored by Gulen-affiliated science academies. Interestingly, taking into account the processing time for H1-B visa petitions, it appears that the H1-B petition paperwork for these applicants may have been filed even before their J-1 visa interviews.


(C) In Turkey, Gulenist applicants, the majority with travel and work connections to these regions, have become a regular and growing part of the nonimmigrant visa applicant pool. We estimate that they comprise three to five percent of Mission Turkey,s annual NIV caseload of approximately 75,000 applicants. While on the surface a benign humanitarian movement, the ubiquitous evasiveness of Gulenist applicants -- coupled with what appears to be a deliberate management of applicant profiles over the past several years -- leaves Consular officers uneasy, an uneasiness echoed within Turkey by those familiar with the Gulenists.

A Note About The Coming Special Ed Class Size Changes

UPDATE: As of 3:30 PM on Monday, the board packet still had a placeholder where the special ed plan should be.

This from Bev Johns:

The ISBE Board Agenda for January 22 and 23, 2014
was placed on the ISBE website Friday night. 

In the attached Board Packet there is a BLANK PAGE
labeled PLACEHOLDER, Part 226,
where the proposed new wording of 226.730 should be.

This is exactly what ISBE did in February, 2013, when
State Supt. Chris Koch first proposed the elimination
of State special education class size limits.

The afternoon before the February Board meeting the proposal
was finally put on the ISBE website.

This is an unacceptable way to attempt to change a State rule
that would affect every student, every teacher and every parent.

Here's the agenda. Note that they're going to talk about special ed class sizes in Section VIII "Rules For Adoption," Subsection C. Part 226 (Special Education) (class size/composition)

Then when you flip through the board packet,  you find the placeholder on p. 338.

It looks like something out of Mike Madigan's statement of deeply held beliefs!

Anyway, Bev is saying that the thing they're voting on adopting next week-- whether it's written yet or not--- isn't being made available to the public. It's hard to feel outraged over a blank page, and I imagine that's the strategy.

We're a banana republic state. People need to keep making calls until it's over.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fellowship Joins With The Movement

It's a patronage swamp.

They're not even trying to hide it anymore. The public school system is there to be carved up by Rahm to reward political soldiers. It's a faith-based festival of tax money diverted into rents paid to "nonprofits."

So opaque. So expensive.

Weird that the pastor of Fellowship can't Google the term "Gulen." I bet some people in his flock can. We'll see..

(Hint: when you use Google, you can select "News" to focus your search.)

A Heck Of A Rauner Story

From Diane Ravitch.

This pretty much sums up the underlying mindset among the elites here in Chicago

I had a personal encounter with Bruce Rauner. Two years ago, I received the Kohl Education Award from Dolores Kohl, the woman who created it, a great philanthropist who cares deeply about the forgotten children and annually honors outstanding teachers. After the awards ceremony, Ms. Kohl held a small dinner at the exclusive Chicago Club. There were two tables, 8 people at each table. I sat across from Bruce and of course, we got into a lively discussion about charter schools, a subject on which he is passionate.
As might be expected, he celebrated their high test scores, and I responded that they get those scores by excluding students with serious disabilities and English language learners, as well as pushing out those whose scores are not good enough. Surprisingly, he didn’t disagree. His reaction: so what? “They are not my problem. Charters exist to save those few who can be saved, not to serve all kinds of kids.” My response: What should our society do about the kids your charters don’t want? His response: I don’t know and I don’t care. They are not my problem.
This was not a taped conversation. I am paraphrasing. But the gist and the meaning are accurate.

The guy's entitled to that kind of attitude, but in my opinion, he's just gross. The only chance Quinn has of being re-elected is if the Republicans run Rauner. He's so repellent, people will go vote against him.

His attitude is also Rahm's, if you will recall Rahm's conversation with Karen Lewis. What was Rham's number of kids worth bothering over? Was it 25%? I can't remember. It's an underlying principal of this charter movement: that black kids raised in city poverty can't be educated in neighborhood schools--- they need to be separated and set against each other, and that everyone in the city needs to find little storefront schools where these kids aren't.

And it's that simple. And it's based on race.

Here in the 49th ward we have two of the really sketchy charter chains. Someone should ask our alderman if he finds it ironic for a Democratic alderman to have the same basic ed policy as Bruce Rauner and Eric Cantor.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Two Terrific Presentations About Chicago Charter Schools

Last night at the standing-room-only forum in Brighton Park, we heard from a number of scholars about our city's charter schools. I'll have more later, but for now, have a look at these two excellent presentations.

First is UIC's Federico Waitoller, who along with Josh Radinsky, has been studying the nature of special education services in Chicago's charter schools. Watch the whole thing--- it's in Spanish and English. Interesting stuff--- it turns out that when you dig into the kinds of IEPs that kids have in charter schools, and you compare that to who's being served in the traditional schools, you start to see two different universes emerge.  In short, you can't just count IEPs. Enjoy it in full-screen mode.

Students Receiving Special Education in Charter Schools in Chicago from Tim Furman on Vimeo.

And we've also posted the full Byron Sigcho webinar, UNO: Politics and Corruption. Byron spoke last night and rallied the crowd, but by they time we got to him, there were only a few minutes left. What's below is the full presentation that he's been doing around the city. It's two hours long, mainly because I kept interrupting, but Byron covers the full range of issues and implications.

UNO Politics and Corruption: A Webinar With Byron Sigcho from Tim Furman on Vimeo.

A Word About The Forum:  Because I am a neurotic German person, I was the first person at Shields Middle School last night; indeed I was an hour early, which back home we refer to as, "cutting it close."  And by the way, there were arctic, gale-force winds blowing in from the west last night,  and the hike from the Orange Line to the school was bracing, to say the least.

A documentary crew showed up next-- this group has been covering the school closings, and they heard about the forum. Shortly after they walked in, the building's excellent, watchful security man came to say that no media would be allowed. No media. CPS policy.

I believe he was instructed by the principal to say so, and I don't doubt that this is a CPS policy.

However, the whole "public forum" thing is what it is. Public. Public issue, public building, public invited. Not a school event.

We wrangled with the security man over the meaning of media, stressing how documentarians are actually not part of the media, a distinction I thought clever. Whoever these documentarians are, they're quick on their feet.

The security man had his orders, however. No media. So I did what any normal person does in this day and age: I went out on Twitter and let the world know that media was going to be barred from a public forum.  In the meantime, Labor Beat, the crafty devils, got past security with a camera, and a number of print media people walked right in as if it were America or something.  The whole "no media" thing was in peril. Can people without cameras possibly be in the media? The Sun-Times doesn't even have photographers any more.

Fox News showed up, and they were indeed stopped. The security staff took their credentials and walked away with them, presumably to be examined by the Commissar or something. It was all very Argo.  Yadda yadda yadda, fifteen minutes pass and then suddenly the "no media" thing is over. And I'm grateful, because Fox News did a pretty good job, although I wish they would bother to ask an intelligent person about the whole "waiting list" malarky.

So that was that.  I will say this much: the security man was courteous and professional and doing what he was told to do. I'm glad the principal rethought the media ban, and I'm grateful to everyone at Shields Middle School, which seems like a great place for kids.

Today Is Call-In Day

This from Raise Your Hand:

Make some calls today
Thanks to everyone who came out to the forum on charter expansion and impact to district schools last night. Thanks to Brighton Park Neighborhood Council for hosting and all the other partner organizations for collaborating. We had over 300 people at the forum. Here is some coverage:
Fox news:
Today we are asking you to make 3 important phone calls. CPS will vote on 21 new charter schools next week in addition to the 10 that have already been approved for next year. The district simply cannot afford this expansion without furthing harming existing schools. This is not about demonizing charter schools or asking anyone to take money away from existing charters. It’s about protecting and preserving our current system and investing and strengthening our schools rather than continuing to open new schools in deficit times.
  1. Call your Alderman today. Ask for support in halting charter expansion
  2. Call CPS Board President David Vitale – 773-553-1600 - strengthen existing schoools, stop charter expansion during broke times
  3. Call Mayor Emanuel: Stop Charter Expansion, Invest in District Schools - protect existing schools. Stop charter expansion during deficit times. 
The message that the district needs to expand charters because of waitlists has already been debunked. There are wait lists for all types of schools in CPS.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Some Pretty Important Meetings Coming Up

The Charter Funding Task Force has a meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon. It runs from 1-5 PM,  a Wagnerian length, and it needs the eyes an ears of the public on it. I hope some of you can go and report back.

Some members of this task force might want to make a little cameo at either of the two forums that are happening in the coming weeks. January 14 in Chicago; January 23 in Batavia. I know it's not as glamorous or compelling as a room half-filled with bused-in confused fake protestors, but these two forums will be crowded with actual voters who are kind of sick of the reckless dismantling of public education.

I haven't seen any reports on what happened at the Orwellian state charter commission meeting on the 12th, but this was their agenda (the public one, not the hidden one).  They're meeting again at the Concept charter school on West Belmont on the 21st. By the way, I've been looking at a spreadsheet of all the H-1B visa requests that Concept and its archipelago of charter schools have filed for individuals residing in Turkey over time. It's interesting work. Did you know that you have to go overseas for accountants? What is it that accountants do again?

  Anyway, lots of states have these appointed charter-czar commissions because of its popularity with ALEC. As I mentioned earlier, the task force that studied the "need" for Illinois' own state charter commission got started in a bill sponsored by Susana Mendoza, who as a legislator accepted travel gifts from local Gulenist organizations and later sponsored HR 0173, which praised Gulen and the Gulen Movement, which is weird because I heard the Movement doesn't even exist. She also co-sponsored the charter-cap removal and most recent voucher bill. The state charter commission is probably the most egregious public panel because it can overrule locally elected school boards. We may as well give up on democracy if this sort of panel continues to be countenanced by the Legislature.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

About The STEM Crisis...

Did you see Stephen Krashen's letter in the WSJ? I saw it over at Ohanian's, which sounds like a pub, doesn't it?

Ms. Stotsky thinks that all high-school students should be required to take trigonometry and precalculus to be ready for the brave new world of science, technology, engineering and math.

Even if the STEM crisis were real, this is not a good idea. Of course, advanced math classes should be offered, but there is no reason to require them of everybody. Michael Handel of Northeastern University has concluded that only about 10% of the workforce uses math beyond algebra II.

Also, it is not clear that the crisis is real. It is not clear that there is a compelling need for more STEM workers. Some studies conclude that there are too many qualified candidates. Rutgers University professor Hal Salzman has reported that there are approximately three qualified graduates annually for each science or technology opening, and recent studies have also shown that the U.S. is producing more Ph.D.s in science than the market can absorb. 
— Stephen Krashen

I couldn't agree more on the one-size-fits-all thing. Illinois recently ratcheted up the minutes-spent-enduring math classes for EVERYONE, which sounds like a great idea if you're angry at young people. But if you're interested in developing everyone's skills in the fields they're interested in, it's actually just a huge waste. 17 year-olds sitting through another mandatory math class instead of pursuing an actual interest probably aren't really learning math with any sincerity.

My impression was that the community college groups were complaining about all the math remediation they have to do, so now everyone has to take another year of math, which in fact won't reduce the "remediation" one iota. It possibly might not have occurred to the community colleges, and all colleges, that they're allowed to set a minimum standard for admission rather than accepting people that bother them so much.

But the mindset now is that you just keep increasing the enrollment no matter what that means.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"No One In The Room Who Has Any Power"

Wendy Katten talked last night about the charter school "hearings" that were held at CPS this past Tuesday. Remember, CPS just closed 50 neighborhood school due to a "utilization" crisis. The schools were "half empty, " according to CPS.

The whole thing was shown to have been a strategy developed by the Broad Institute.

Nevertheless, the schools were closed.

Now CPS has already approved 10 new charter schools for next year and is considering as many as 21 more. And these "hearings" are the public's chance to say something on the record. But there's nobody at these hearings who is remotely connected to the decision-makers. No board members, for example.

It's all Potemkin. It's pretty much a measure of Rahm Emanuel's position on democratic governance.

What they've done is destabilize public education to the point where people in the city no longer view a neighborhood school as a first choice, like people do all over the country. And they've done so in the name of "choice," but in reality, it's actually been done in the name of zealotry.

Here's the show.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

UNO Webinar Thursday Night!

Don't forget, we're doing our online forum on UNO: Politics and Corruption tomorrow (January 9) night at 7 PM. Sign up here! It's a terrific webinar that takes in the whole scope to Chicago's "UNO problem" as it relates to the charter school sector.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We Are The Tests...

...and we are going to work with your union leadership to give you a "central role" in prepping kids for us. Nevermind that you used to design your own resources without our permission. You work for us now.  Backward-design that. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Please Stop Saying There Are Fewer Standards

I wish I could just watch TV and stop reading. Life would be so much easier.

I've been looking through this December 10 statement from the state superintendent of public instruction, basically to see if there's anything in there that's true.

And I can't find anything worth mentioning.

It's about the Common Core, so it's bound to be full of nonsense, and it is, but I'd like to focus in on just a couple of things that I hear frequently and that I've never been able to clarify. So if you're out there, and you're a reformist believer, or if you're just an in-the-know reality-based person, can you possibly clear these things up for me?

Ok, first there's this, from whoever writes Chris Koch's material:

The recently named Illinois Teacher of the Year, Pam Reilly, a second grade teacher in Sandwich Community Unit School District 430, conceded that she often found it difficult to teach to the previous Illinois Standards, adopted in 1997, but she said the new standards provide the clarity and depth necessary for her and her students to succeed.

“I am excited about the collaboration that I now have with teachers in our district as well as teachers across the nation because of our common language and goals through Common Core,” Reilly said. ”We will be able to have meaningful conversations about what is working and what isn’t, and share our ideas for teaching to the Common Core with each other.”

Because there are actually fewer standards, students may cover less material within a single grade, but delve deeper into the most important concepts. For younger students, covering less material will mean that they have a solid foundation in math and ELA before they move on to more advanced topics in middle and high school.

Poor Ms. Reilly, suffering all these years... (the Teacher of the Year is rarely a dissident-- and is it weird that the teachers in her district couldn't collaborate with the old standards? Am I reading into it?)  I'm glad the future is looking brighter for her and for our great nation, but let me just have another look at the number of standards before and after the whole Arne Duncan era, and yes, I realize the number claim is coming from Koch, not from her.

In the 1997 standards, and I'm counting the ELA and math standards here, I find a total of 66 separate standards at second grade (I'm using the Early Elementary category.)

In the Common Core Standards, when I count the ELA and math standards, I find a total of 67 separate standards at second grade.

In other words, there are actually more standards now for a second grade teacher who is dealing with ELA and math. I could do each grade level if you like. It's a pattern, but I haven't proved it at each level yet because I'm busy with two webinars, a forum, and two large, ravenous dogs.

So how is it that people like Chris Koch keep saying that there are fewer standards?

Is it possible that this "fewer standards" meme is based on the idea that the 1997 standards also included standards in fine arts, physical development and health, foreign languages, science, and social science (fields that are not yet in the Common Core)? If so, it's strange that I haven't heard any superintendent come out and say, "We're not doing those things any more." If school districts want to come out and say, "You know, EFF those other things--- we're ONLY DOING THE COMMON CORE THINGS," then there's possibly room for the "fewer standards" meme to be true.

All public schools [with elected boards] are still doing fine arts, physical development and health, foreign languages, science, and social sciences. What isn't clear is whether or not those fields have any official standards in Illinois any more. Or if they have a future, frankly, given the standardized testing universe we're creating. I suppose districts could come out and say, "Yes, we're still doing all these other things but we're dumping their standards and just sort of winging it!" and in that way the "fewer standards in the Core" meme could become true.

It may also be that the "fewer standards" meme is based on the fact that the 1997 standards were later supplemented with extensive performance descriptors for each standard, to be used by districts on a voluntary basis only, and designed to give teachers a rubric for determining how well kids were doing vis a vis each standard. It may have looked to teachers like these were new standards but alas, they weren't. They were a tool for people developing material.

The performance descriptors are insanely comprehensive, and I'm guessing that's what frustrated people, including, I'm guessing, a certain Teacher of the Year. But they were basically a rubric for curriculum development and for talking intelligently about how kids were doing when measured against the learning standard. Personally, while I hated wading through all the verbiage as a busy young teacher, what I liked about them over time was that they recognized that there's going to be a range of achievement at every age and grade level. The 1997 learning standards themselves also recognized that there's going to be a range of achievement.

The Common Core standards don't recognize a range. They have a behavior listed for each grade level and presumably kids will be either be able to do this behavior or will be FAILING and their teachers will need to be crucified because they aren't "adding value"based on the "local growth model" or whatever they're calling it.*

So, to clarify and summarize, the truth of the matter is that at second grade, no matter what the state superintendent says, there is now actually one more standard to cover when you look at ELA and math combined.  This statement is probably also true at whatever grade you're interested in.

More standards, not fewer, if you're comparing ELA and math, 1997 versus Common Core.

The other thing that's bugging me about the superintendent's statement on January 10 (it's a statement full of untruths) is this one:

The Illinois Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Math, adopted in 2010 and based on the Common Core, establish clear, consistent and high expectations for what students should know in these two core subjects at each grade level, from kindergarten through grade 12, throughout Illinois, one of 45 states that has voluntarily adopted the standards.

Based on the Common Core? Like we tweaked the Common Core or something? It's misleading. The "Illinois Learning Standards for English Language Arts and Math" are the Common Core Standards. They aren't based on the Common Core Standards. The only thing Illinois did was change the name and wait in vain for the RttT money to roll in because federal ed policy is now based on a lottery mentality.

I don't blame him for renaming the standards, given the press the Common Core has been getting, but let's not mislead people. He and the governor signed up for the Common Core standards as is because that's what the deal was to compete in Race To The Top. The whole "voluntary" thing should make you snort with disdain, if you're given to snorting.

This post is getting way longish. I have a ton more to say about the 1997 ELA standards being better than the store-bought Common Core standards, because they were (and still are) better in every single respect, although they're way, way less uptight.  The Common Core ELA standards are better if you A) have a pole stuck somewhere and B) expect all kids to be these little pre-packaged, highly similar, compliant, verbally gifted automatons on the same learning timeline.

[NB. Just counted 8th grade ELA standards:

Common Core 8th Grade Standards: 68 separate standards, but really, an ELA teacher would be looking at only 38 separate standards because 30 of the total would be for other teachers, probably. So let's say 38. Except that within the 38, I count 19 seriously differentiated bullet points. But let's keep it at 38 just so it's clean. 

The 1997 ELA Standards for 8th Grade: (I'm using Middle/Junior High School): 39 Total. 

So, there is precisely one fewer standard in the Common Core ELA when compared to the 1997 ELA standards, and that's overlooking 19 seriously differentiated bullets. So, I'm declaring the "fewer standards" thing to be officially bullshit, at least in the ELA standards. Because one fewer standard does not merit a robotically repeated meme. Of course, if you were just blindly counting standards by grade level, the Common Core would have 30 more standards than the 1997 standards but that would be dishonest.]

*Weirdly, the almost-tacked-on Standards For Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (beginning on p. 59) are banded into multiple grade levels (recognizing a range), in contrast with the rest of the standards. It gives me the impression that they just sort of gave up when it came to writing fussy language arts standards into other subject matters; maybe it was taking too long. In other words, in English Language Arts classes, there's a very specific little behavior kids are supposed to evidence at that grade level, but in, say, history class, you can evidence that behavior over 2-3 years. Whatever. I'm glad it provides clarity to someone, somewhere, regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

What's Happening With The Charter Funding Task Force? UPDATE

Update: Canceled.  Good, because they didn't have an agenda or a venue published, and they still don't.  The rescheduled date is January 13, and it will be somewhere-ish. 

This is a useful page! I see that the rogue, undemocratic, highly sketchy state charter commission is meeting on January 10 at Thompson Center at noon. Can anyone go? This commission needs sunlight and eyeballs. Video cameras, if you have 'em.  It's an appointed board that can overrule elected people all over the state and basically decide how taxpayer money is spent. 

Original Post

Just pointing out that tomorrow is January 6, 2014, and as of this post (1 PM, January 5) there's still no agenda posted for the Charter Funding Task Force meeting, which has been scheduled for months. No agenda, no location.  I check every day.

Maybe it will be virtual. Maybe they'll co-locate the meeting inside a neighborhood school. Who knows? If they have an ounce of sense they'll just cancel it, given the forecast. 

My sense is that this task force is basically a cluster--- and that whatever recommendations it's going to make are already written somewhere, or will be assembled in haste right at the end. It's hard to find out who's on this commission, but here's the best I can do.   Naturally Robin Steans is there, along with Jessica Handy, two of my favorite all-encompassing experts in all things reformy.

Maybe they've filled the vacancies already and simply haven't updated the list, but I find this vacancy to be strange:

      one member representing a currently operating, Commission-approved charter school in this State

After all, they've got the Concept people available. Why don't they appoint someone from Concept? You would think the path would be clear, given that contact person for this commission appears to be Jeanne L. Nowaczeski, whose devotion to critical thinking is occasionally evidenced in the press:

We'll be connecting the dots for her later in January.

In any case, in my own research of charter funding, I came across this letter from the associate superintendent of Woodland School District 50. It's in the public record, and it's a good letter. I have no idea where this district is, and to my knowledge I've never met anyone from there.  If you want to read about how these state commission-approved charter schools are basically just a very, very expensive unfunded mandate, read the letter. In the letter, he argues on behalf of HB 2660, which I have no opinion on yet, but you should read it

If you want to learn more about the impact of charter expansion on local budgets here in Chicago, please come out on January 14 to this forum.