Tag Archives: Chicago

CICS CQ4U UPDATE: Action Tonight!

The staff of CICS ChicagoQuest, who announced in December their decision to unionize  is holding a public meeting for all stakeholders in CICS to speak about the lack of accountability from the CICS Board and the failure of school management to recognize their union and address school issues impacting their students.
Today they will start with an action outside their school because they had their approved space in the school abruptly cancelled by their CEO, even though the school is a CPS building. The meeting will then be held nearby at Seward Park.
Below is a media advisory, and if you’d like to get the day-of press release, please let me know. Here are some links that might be useful. 
Media Advisory

April 25, 2014
Carlos Fernandez, Chicago ACTS 773-450-4176
Kenzo Shibata, IFT 312-296-0124
Teachers at CICS Chicago Quest Charter Schools Demand Accountability from Out-of-touch Board of Directors
Teachers, parents, and students organize to speak out against the Chicago International Charter Schools’ unaccountable bureaucracy
CHICAGO MONDAY – After months of school management holding meetings at times when most teachers or parents couldn’t possibly attend, teachers from ChicagoQuest and other CICS schools will be holding their own public meetingon Monday night. They invited the CICS board to hear concerns over the lack of accountability to parents and students and to demand respect for teachers’ right to unionize. After agreeing to provide space in the school, the CEO suddenly retracted the offer. Now, teachers will be joined outside the school by parents and community members to express concerns over how CICS practices such as its management fees and subcontracting negatively impact students learning and well-being. Planned meeting to be held after at alternative site.
Who: Teachers, parents, students from CICS ChicagoQuest School
When: Monday, April 28th at 6:00 PM
Where: Outside ChicagoQuest Charter School, intersection of Clybourn and Ogden Avenues, Chicago, IL 60610
The CICS network includes 15 schools governed under a Board that does not include a CICS teacher, staff, parent, or student. CICS board meetings are at 3:30 PM during the workday downtown, making access nearly impossible for teachers and the community. Teachers organized this event in the neighborhood at a time more convenient to working families. They will be joined by community members to speak out about the lack of accountability to parents and students and to demand respect for teachers’ right to unionize. In December, more than 97% of the staff at ChicagoQuest signed union cards, the fourth CICS school to do so, motivated by their wish to address issues that impact their careers and the students they serve. 
To address issues impacting the staff and students of CICS ChicagoQuest, the school staff decided almost unanimously to unionize in December 2013, the fourth CICS school to do so. They seek the kinds of voice and support the teachers at the 3 other schools have won, but their CEO will not recognize their decision or reach agreements to assure a first contract. The CICS Board of Directors has rebuffed the staff’s requests to get involved and to make its decision-making more accessible. The ChicagoQuest staff call on their CEO and the CICS Board to reach agreements with its union and include staff, parents, and students in its decision-making.

“When you assume, you make a CCSS of you and me”

The Common Core is laden with serious problems, and it makes me want to vomit, but not until after I school some folks, out of the loop.  I won’t even bring up the fact -as TeacherX likes to point out- that it’s “a $14 billion Trojan horse for more testing.”

A week before school started and I had to sit through a horrible professional development that was put together by our “network literacy specialist” who, when I asked her where she got the document she responded that ” it was something I got from a friend.”  As if that’s good enough.  Thank you for your honesty in describing how you waste my time with such little forethought.

I was so livid about the content and methods, I posted pics to these to social media with the comment below.  Please note the description for the “close reading” strategy:

The text below (Dees) was given to teachers as professional development on literacy strategies for CCSS. The disposition we take is that this should be text-dependent reading, un-contextualized (second pic). This document expounding the virtues of vulture capitalism and philanthropic colonialism is meant to be read w/o understanding all the grief those two practices have caused in the world and more intimately in our Chicago communities. This is why educators must fight the common core animal head on. No text is without CONtext.
In the margin, I wrote, “If background knowledge is secondary, then why pay for certified educators?  Why not do everything via virtual school?  (Adressing the “close reading strategy) Very problematic: [this reading is] disengaging, individualistic, [encourages to students to] develop[ing] false conclusions.  This is the centerpiece of the CCSS problem.”
Today the Examiner published a poorly-researched op-ed extolling the virtues of Common Core, missed the boat completely and declared that professors -the one he interviewed- think that the CCSS will improve “teachers expectations of learning for young black and brown men in Chicago and nationally,” even while admitting they probably won’t be implemented well in Chicago.  Which is true.
Below is my challenge to the ideas he put forth:
I call into question a serious assumption that he makes: It is extremely problematic to call reading the “most basic of skills…” To be sure, there is NOTHING basic about reading. As literate adults, we take for granted and forget that, but the reading process is extremely complex to both learn, and to teach, and only more so under threat of high stakes (testing, school closures, merit pay), and the conditions of our schools (rising class sizes, no AC, students experiencing trauma).

I am a social studies teacher in CPS, but because there are no Social Studies Standards, I “officially” teach “Literacy.” This is because in the 1980s’ standards implementation set off the “Culture Wars,” and so a strategic decision was made by the (non-teacher) “experts” from the Governor’s Association and Achieve, Inc. to replace social studies with literacy in order to pass a “common” set of standards across the US, and in doing so bypass the inherent bias in social studies education: “the question of “which/whose history is the subject of study, and therefore the “official history?”

The CCSS are written in a way to declare that if any given young person is meeting standards, they should be able to “analyze context given a piece of text” via critical thinking. But without context a reader cannot place importance or relevance into a given document, and therefore critical thinking DOES NOT take place at all, and the standards ultimately feign neutrality in the face of “bipartisanship.” Real neutrality means analyzing text and contexts. As I say to my students, “we must read the word AND read the world.” CCSS does not ask this of young people.

It does not matter what kind of standards are developed or aligned to what kind of tests. The only way to make learning valuable for young people is to make sure they have context for learning. No set of standards can provide context. Only when we recognize to invest in the people who engage in both teaching and learning will we start to value the process as a whole.

Here’s what needs to happen to improve the rate of success for young people:

1) Invest in humane and developmentally appropriate facilities and conditions for teaching and learning.

2) The job of Principal should not be “building manager,” but “teacher-leader” as they were 50 yr ago focusing on staff development.

3) Individualized Professional Development Plans: Support for educators to work on what they want to work on that directly translates to improved curriculum and instruction for students.

4) A rich and varied curriculum of not only STEM, but the arts, humanities, health, civics, and vocational experiences.

All of this is not cheap. But I am convinced that if the United States can afford 4 wars in 10 years, or money to bail out major banks we can afford a dignified education system for all children.

The need for standards is a myth, but a lucrative one at that, and pervasive in the education reform world.  As educators we roll our eyes, but we need to speak up and expose what it actually does to curriculum and instruction – and ultimately students- is harm.


David is a teacher-organizer on the south side of Chicago.  He is a member of the Caucus of Rank-and File Educators (CORE) and I met him in 2009 fighting against school actions that destabilize students’ teaching and learning conditions and ultimately lead … Continue reading

The Strength of our CTU Leaders comes from our Members, Parents, and Students of Chicago Public Schools

Educators across the country are following  what’s happening in Chicago to see how we are leading the way against corporate-style education reform that hurts and disempowers the students and teachers in the classroom, the curriculum of our neighborhood schools, and the local leadership of parents and taxpayers for a rich public education system.

We are Ground Zero for the national fight on a dignified public education system  for the United States of America.  I am proud to be a member of the Chicago Teachers Union, and am committed to doing whatever is necessary: bargaining, negotiating, door-knocking, and yes, striking, if it means we have better teaching conditions, and better learning conditions for the city of Chicago.

A NATO Question for Mayor Emanuel and President Obama from My Students.

My freshmen world studies class today did a quick media study of the NATO experience in Chicago, particularly looking at these photos from the Chicago Tribune, and came to the conclusion that perhaps the NATO summits shouldn’t be held in a major urban area.  

“If people new the protesters were going to be violent, why not just hold the meeting elsewhere?” 

Profoundly simple question, @ChicagosMayor and @POTUS.