What Happened to Rahm?

At some point the gap between press conference and reality becomes too glaring to ignore…

By Maria Moser
rahmHow on earth could something as silly as neighborhood public schools bedevil Rahm Emanuel right out of his incumbent throne as mayor of Chicago? The New York Times recently asked that question, and I’m happy to provide some answers.  My home is on Chicago’s South Side, on a street full of cops and firefighters, and people still call themselves *new to the neighborhood* if they’ve been here less than 25 years. With only 9 years under my belt, I’m a relative newcomer. But traveling often for work, and seeing the gap between national coverage and reality on the ground, I’d like to try to answer a question that’s been asked a lot recently: What happened to Rahm? Continue reading →

Principled Opposition

Chicago Principal Troy LaRaviere is speaking out against the direction of education reform—and he hopes more school leaders will do the same…

LaRaviere at City HallJennifer Berkshire: I meet a lot of principals these days who express strong objections to policies and mandates that they think are harmful to kids—but few seem to feel comfortable expressing their opinions publicly. Why do you think that is?

Troy LaRaviere: I was at an event recently and someone asked *why are principals afraid to speak out?* One of my colleagues responded that *It’s not that we’re afraid; we’re just being strategic about how we move forward.* I’d never really thought about it this way before, and it hit me that the difference between being fearful and being *strategic* is meaningless because, if you’re scared, you avoid telling the truth because you’re afraid of the consequences. But if you’re being strategic, you fail to tell the truth because you’re trying to avoid the consequences. However you define it, fear or strategy, you’re not speaking your truth because you know there will be consequences from the governmental bureaucracy in charge of the public schools. There is no place for such a fear of government in a constitutional democracy.  That is part of why I tell my truth; the primary reason is to stand up for students, but a secondary reason is to test our democracy—to be an example of an ordinary citizen that believes that the First Amendment is both powerful and real.  It is a meaningful expression of my own patriotism. Continue reading →

The Art of Being Rahm

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says it’s time for kids to Be Creative—or else…

rahm-emanuelTo properly convey the depths of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s passion for art in the schools, I would have to reach deep into my own slender store of expletives. But as this is a family publication, I will fall back on the next best metric: star wattage. So how much does Emanuel love the thought of kids doing arty things with paints and paste pots? Combine wonder cellist Yo Yo Ma, super soprano Renee Fleming and you still have room for—wait for it, wait for it—Lil Buck, backed by an artful assemblage of $38 million big bucks, and you’re starting to get the picture. Reader: it’s time to Be Creative, and *this time is different…* Continue reading →

Back to the Lab Again

In which I visit Arne Duncan’s alma mater on the hunt for *secret sauce*

The University of Chicago Lab Schools

The University of Chicago Lab Schools which Arne Duncan attended from K-12.

Reader: you are almost certainly aware that our Secretary of Education, Mr. Arne Duncan, has many excellent ideas regarding how to enhance the excellence of our failed and failing public schools. But did you ever pause to ask yourself *from whence did those ideas come?* It’s field trip time and our destination is none other than the very school that nurtured young Arne’s spirit: the University of Chicago Lab Schools, the bastion of progressive education founded by none other than John Dewey himself in 1896. And since I know that you are, at this very moment, administering a high-stakes test, I recently took it upon myself to drop in on the school on your behalf. Continue reading →

Is TFA Undermining the Chicago Public Schools?

An internal TFA document shows plans for a dramatic charter expansion in the Windy City

When news broke this summer that Teach for America was expanding its presence in Chicago amid the largest school closings in that city’s history and the layoffs of thousands of teachers and school staff, the reaction was swift, furious and extended well beyond the usual chorus of TFA detractors. At the time, I argued that the heated-back-and-forth, while welcome, missed the point. In city after city, TFA has largely abandoned its earlier mission of staffing hard-to-fill positions in public schools, serving instead as a placement agency for urban charters. In Chicago, however, TFA’s role appears to go far beyond providing labor for the fast-growing charter sector. An internal TFA document indicates that the organization has a plan to dramatically expand the number of charter schools in the city. Continue reading →