Monday, August 29, 2005

Corporate School Reform

Thanks George, also on this list, for this helpful analysis of Chicago inner-city schools. It sheds light on the limits and harmful effects of high-stakes, corporate-based reform. If you are not a Substance subscriber, you can join the fun by sending $16 for a one year (ten issues) subscription to

5132 W. Berteau
Chicago, IL 60641



August 28, 2005
>One of the reasons we can speak with such clarity here from Chicago
>is that every ploy of "standards and accountability" based on
>high-stakes uses of multiple choice tests has already been tried
>here since Mayor Daley took over the schools in 1995, and every one
>of them has failed.
>These ploys have not "failed" in the eyes of my colleagues in the
>Chicago media or the corporate apologists who dominate discourse in
>our town, but they have failed if the interests of the majority of
>the children (especially the poorest children in our more than 300
>racially segregated all-black schools) and improving schools are
>concerned. We've just wasted a prosperous decade and the lives of
>thousands here in a wretched orgy of propaganda, deception, and hypocrisy.
>But let me try to be specific, since a lot of people want to just
>parrot the corporate propaganda script. Let's just take one high
>schhool located in a community so poor and gang infested that the
>only justice for those who preach "school reform" would be if they
>(the people here who prattle in defense of "school reform"; the
>leaders of Achieve and the Education Trust, etc) had to live for
>years in that community and raise their own children in that
>community on the income available to residents of that community
>under the conditions of the people of that community. Englewood.
>Chicago. Since 1990. Savage Inequalities, USA-style.
>In the summer of 1997, Chicago's Englewood High School, in the heart
>of one of the city's poorest communities, was "reconstituted". The
>principal and many of the teachers were replaced, and the world was
>assured in the pages of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times
>that the school had "failed" and that this massive overhaul (done
>because Englewood had "failed" the "standard" -- in those days, the
>scores on the TAP tests, the high school version of the Iowa Tests
>of Basic Skills) would solve the problems and improve Englewood.
>There was a slight nod to the fact that the USA had failed to solve
>the problems of housing, crime, health care, and poverty in the area
>surrouding Englewood, but only a brief nod. Teachers, principals and
>kids were going to be sanctioned. An extreme makeover before "reality" TV.
>The Gangster Disciples is one of the largest drug gangs in the USA.
>Don't take my word for it, Google them or Google "Larry Hoover". The
>GD gang was selling drugs nearby in the community. The poverty
>continued unabated. The housing continued to rot and crumble. But
>Chicago was doing "School Reform" by ranking and sorting children
>and teachers based on multiple-choice "standardized" tests and
>getting rid of the "bad" teachers from the "failing" schools
>according to "the bottom line".
>Since "reconstitution", over the next eight years, Englewood has
>been "reengineered" and otherwise overhauled several additional
>times. Last year, the administration of "CEO" Arne Duncan (likewise
>appointed, like the administration of Paul Vallas, by Richard M.
>Daley, our mayor) announced that Englewood High School would again
>be reorganized, this time under the name "Renaissance." (We in
>Chicago don't know why the ruling class keeps using these "RE" words
>every time it does this, but maybe it's just lack of imagination).
>So here is the way it looked from bottom up:
>If a child -- let's call her "RE" -- entered Englewood High School
>in September 1997 as a 9th grader, in 1998 she was in 10th grade; in
>1999 11th grade; and in 2000 12th grade. In June 2000, she
>graduated, having been part of the first wave of "RE"
>(reconstitution and reengineering) under Richard M. Daley's
>dictatorial rule over the Chicago Public Schools and evaluations
>based on ranking and sorting kids and teachers based on standardized
>test scores.
>But in 2000, when "RE" graduated, Englewood was still at the
>"bottom" on standardized tests. By then, however, Chicago had
>changed tests. Another trick of the testocracy is changing tests
>every so often, then announcing that the scores kept going "up"
>counting on the fact that your media friends wouldn't notice. If you
>change the tests, it's harder for an inattentiive public to follow
>the track of scores, and if you lie about the results of those tests
>-- as the public relations teams of our mayor do every year -- you
>can get away with a lot of trickery for a long time.
>Anyway, in June 2000 "RE" graduated (although her two brothers both
>dropped out, because of the problems in the community around
>Englewood, not because of the teachers, who, by the way, had all
>been replaced --- "RECYCLED"? -- at least once).
>And the Gangster Disciples continued to sell drugs nearby in the
>community, and the poverty continued unabated. And the housing
>continued to rot and crumble. But Chicago was doing "School Reform"
>by ranking and sorting children and teachers and getting rid of the
>"bad" teachers from the "failing" schools.
>In September 2000, "RE-RE" -- RE's play cousin -- entered the
>Reconstituted Reengineered Englewood High School as a 9th grader. In
>September 2001, RE-RE entered 10th grade. Every year, Englewood High
>School continued to score at the "bottom" on the ranking and sorting
>machine (the high-stakes tests), even though every year the Board of
>Education was doing another "RE" something to another low scoring
>high school somewhere. In September 2002, RE-RE was entering 11th
>grade. And in September 2003, RE-RE entered 12th grade, graduating
>in June 2004 (while, like RE, she watched her two brothers become dropouts).
>By the time of RE's graduation, Englewood had been reconstituted and
>reengineered. By the time of RE-RE's graduation, Englewood had also
>been Small Schooled once or twice.
>And the Gangster Disciples continued to sell drugs nearby in the
>community, and the poverty continued unabated. And the housing
>continued to rot and crumble. But Chicago was doing "School Reform"
>by ranking and sorting children and teachers and getting rid of the
>"bad" teachers from the "failing" schools.
>One of the things they teach you in AA and other "12-step" programs
>is that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting
>the results to be different.
>If we want to make schools better for kids, we have to do a lot more
>than rank and sort kids and schools based on standardized test
>scores. We have to have some idea of what schools can (and can't) do
>and promote rather than denigrate our public schools and their
>teachers. Continually "RE-ing" the public schools that serve poor
>children in the nation's poorest and most segregated communities is
>like prescribing Jack Daniels for the treatment of alcoholism. Only
>someone so ignorant as to be undeserving of any attention or so
>vicious as to want to destroy the "patient" would do so.
>And that's why I've concluded that those promoting corporate "school
>reform" here in Chicago are actually the heirs of all those who
>segregated and miseducated our poorest (usually minority) children
>for generations. I think they know exactly what they are trying to
>do and credit them with having had an ingenrious plan to do it over
>the past ten years.
>A small flicker of hope might have arrived yesterday. On page one of
>both daily newspapers, it was reported that our mayor, one of the
>most corrupt politicians ever to run a major city, has been
>inverviewed by representatives of the U.S. Attorney's Office. I'm
>not going to hope that justice will be done after all the racism and
>injustice Chicago has seen under two mayors named Daley, but who
>knows? I was surprised when so many corporate CEOs got caught and
>brought to justice for their crimes, so maybe within the next few
>years, Richard M. Daley will be tried for his.
>Sadly, from the point of view of all those teachers and children his
>version of "school reform" has destroyed, it will have been too
>late. But at least the hypocritical historical record will have been
>(partly) corrected.
>Meanwhile, though, the Daley administration continues to prescribe
>Jack Daniel to treat the ciirrosis our poor communities are
>suffering from, and since the passage of "No Child Left Behind" the
>whole country has begun to get a taste of what we've suffered here
>in Chicago since 1995.
>George N. Schmidt
>Editor, Substance


  1. What a very interesting entry on home schooling supply. You may also like to know that our publication at is also a great resource on home schooling supply and associated areas Enj oy

  2. Hey, interesting!
    Visit my site too, relating to debt consolidation websites site. It pretty much covers debt consolidation websites and other related stuff.
    Check it out later :-)