Bill Ruthhart, John Byrne and Patrick M. O’Connell: Paul Vallas has spent the better part of the last two weeks fueling speculation that he might launch a bid to challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February 2019 city election. The former Chicago Public Schools CEO, 2002 Democratic governor candidate and 2014 lieutenant governor candidate certainly … Continue reading Paul Vallas brings experience, political liabilities to possible Emanuel challenge
“Progress Illinois”: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s running mate Paul Vallas, a former school executive, says he and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner have fundamentally different views on education reform. Vallas is the former head of the Chicago Public Schools as well as the school districts in New Orleans and Philadelphia. He was most recently the … Continue reading Paul Vallas Criticizes Rauner’s Position On Charter Schools, Education Issues
Turning around low-performing urban school districts is in the same class as CEOs turning around failing companies.
After serving in Chicago for six years, Philadelphia five years, and New Orleans four years, Paul Vallas put the saga of urban superintendents in stark, if not humorous, terms:
“What happens with turnaround superintendents is that the first two years you’re a demolitions expert. By the third year, if you get improvements, do school construction, and test scores go up, people start to think this isn’t so hard. By year four, people start to think you’re getting way too much credit. By year five, you’re chopped liver.”
Vallas’s operating principle, according to one journalist who covered his superintendency in Philadelphia, is: “Do things big, do them fast, and do them all at once.” For over a decade, the media christened Vallas as savior for each of the above three cities before exiting, but just last week, he stumbled in his fourth district-Bridgeport (CT) and ended up as “chopped liver” in less than two years.
Vallas is (or was) the premier “turnaround specialist.” Whether, indeed, Vallas turned around Chicago, Philadelphia, and New Orleans is contested. Supporters point to more charter schools, fresh faces in the classroom, new buildings, and slowly rising test scores; critics point to abysmal graduation rates for black and Latino students, enormous budget deficits, and implementation failures. After Bridgeport, however, his brand-name as a “turnaround specialist,” like “killer apps” of yore such as Lotus 1-2-3 and WordStar, may well fade.
Turning around a failing company or a school district is no work for sprinters, it is marathoners who refashion the company and district into successes. Lee Iaccoco was CEO of Chrysler from 1978-1992; Steve Jobs was CEO from 1997-2011, and Ann Mulcahy served 2001-2009.
Paul Vallas at LaFollette Video
School reform superintendent Paul Vallas spoke at LaFollette High School at the behest of Boys and Girls Club of Dane County CEO Michael Johnson. The two and a half hour presentation with question and answer periods as attended by about 100 people in the LaFollette Auditorium.
Paul Vallas has been the Superintendent of schools in Chicago (CPS), Philadelphia, New Orleans, and currently Bridgeport Connecticut. He is currently hired to improve the schools in both Chile and Haiti, and has been praised in two State of the Union addresses. His work as a superintendent has engendered both strong support and strong disagreement.
The two and a half hour meeting has been divided into five clips and I have tried to summarize comments made by Paul Vallas, the panel and the audience members who spoke.
About 100 parents of Madison schoolchildren looked toward a longtime superintendent on Saturday for answers on how to fix the achievement gap plaguing the district.
Paul Vallas, the superintendent of the Bridgeport, Conn., school district, previously led New Orleans schools during the recovery after Hurricane Katrina. The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County brought him to La Follette High School to help answer questions about the shortcomings of Madison schools.
Parents asked questions on several topics, but mostly focused on the minority achievement gap.
“They want perfection, and the achievement gap is that one big hurdle that they’re struggling to get over,” Vallas said in an interview after the two-and-a-half hour town hall. “This is a community that cares and sometimes when people care strong enough and have different viewpoints they have a tendency to shout at each other.”
As Jim Anchower says, “I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya…” Sometimes you need a break; expect more soon.
Paul Vallas will be featured at a “school reform town hall meeting” this Saturday, May 26, 1:00 PM at LaFollette High School. The announcements feature “Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County” as “collaborating” hosts, but as reported by Matt DeFour the United Way “has requested that our name be removed from all upcoming communications related to the event, but will attend to hear the conversation from all those involved.”
Attempts to clarify MMSD’s role have not yielded a response. You can try yourself: Board of Education: email@example.com, Supt. Dan Nerad: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve been told unofficially that MMSD is donating the space, which would mean that your tax dollars and mine are being used (see the district facilities rental policy here). It would really be a shame if our district collaborated in bringing Vallas here, there is very little in his version of school reform that our community, or any community will benefit from.
Much more on Paul Vallas’s visit, here.
ACLU on freedom of speech.
Related: 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use?
and: When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
How long will our community tolerate its reading problem? Bread and circuses.
We’ve heard pundits and politicians weigh in on Gov. Scott Walker’s nearly $1 billion cuts to Wisconsin schools. But what do Walker’s policies look like to the people most affected by them — the kids sitting at their desks with No. 2 pencils and hope for the future?
Now we know. A group of precocious students at Madison’s West High School have created a political action committee called Students for Wisconsin and duly registered it with the state’s Government Accountability Board. They have an impressive website that lays out issues and goals and encourages visitors to get involved (extra credit for the Lyndon Johnson quote about the vital importance of education).
United Way president Leslie Howard said the talk was initially billed as “a very informal event.” But when it learned of the public policy issues that would be raised, Howard said, the charity determined it didn’t have time to put the the matter before its board to review, so it backed out.
Howard stressed that the United Way was not taking a position on Vallas’ views, pro or con.
“We take very seriously and are extremely judicious on taking a position on any public policy issue related to the issues we’re concerned about,” Howard said. “We just weren’t in a position to go through the process.”
T.J. Mertz, a local education blogger and liberal activist, contacted the United Way last week with concerns about the organization’s involvement.
- Where Have All the Students Gone (November, 2005)?
- Where Have all the Students Gone? An Update (January, 2008)
- Madison School District Outbound Open Enrollment.
- Open Enrollment Leavers Survey
Paul Vallas will be speaking at Madison LaFollette high school on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 1:00p.m. More information, here.
Much more on Paul Vallas, here.
Per Student Spending:
I don’t believe spending is the issue. Madison spends $14,858.40/student (2011-2012 budget)
Middleton’s 2011-2012 budget: $87,676,611 for 6,421 students = $13,654.67/student, about 8% less than Madison.
Waunakee spends $12,953.81/student about 13% less than Madison.
A few useful links over the past decade:
- Notes and links on Madison Superintendent hires since 1992 (2007).
- English 10
- Small Learning Communities
- Connected Math
- Reading Recovery
- When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before
- Madison School Board member may seek audit of how 2005 maintenance referendum dollars were spent
- Madison Preparatory Academy
In a makeshift waiting room of the warehouse that serves as the headquarters for public schools, three young prospective teachers sit.
As superintendent, Paul Vallas could someday be their boss. As he passes through the room, he stops to shake hands. Then he tries to persuade them to teach someplace else.
He has more than enough teachers for the new school year, which began last week, he explains. Have they considered Baton Rouge?
“I know Baton Rouge doesn’t have the French Quarter,” he says. “That’s OK. It’s OK to be far from the French Quarter — keep you out of trouble.”
As Vallas begins his second and probably final year trying to rebuild the ailing public school system, he not only has more teachers than he needs. He has eye-popping funding, nearly unchecked administrative power and “a sea of goodwill” that stretches across the USA.
The biggest question isn’t whether he’ll be able to turn around the system, at least in the short term. It’s whether there’s anything standing in his way.
If Vallas succeeds, observers say, he’ll show that with a clean slate, extra cash and a few big ideas, a hard-charging reformer can fix an ailing system and create a template for other districts. If he doesn’t succeed, they worry, Americans’ faith in urban public schools could burn out for good.
A case of poor timing landed state Superintendent of Education Paul Pastorek in hot water with the House Appropriations Committee as he was testifying Wednesday about his agency’s budget.
Pastorek, whose cocksure manner and $377,000 annual pay package has rankled legislators in years past, told Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, early in the meeting that he planned to select a new superintendent for the Recovery School District “soon, very soon.” But Pastorek didn’t divulge to the committee members that he had tapped John White, deputy chancellor for New York City public schools, to take over the job held by Paul Vallas.
As Pastorek continued his testimony, lawmakers on the committee learned the truth, as the news of White’s selection was reported on NOLA.com. And that brought a rebuke from the courtly committee chairman Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, who reminded the superintendent that he was under oath when he was being questioned. “So you weren’t willing to share that? That you had made the selection?” Fannin asked.
The sudden rise of one Chicagoan and fall of another in recent days holds a unique significance for New Orleans’ Recovery School District superintendent, Paul Vallas.
Arne Duncan, President-elect Barack Obama’s pick for secretary of education, was among Vallas’ trusted deputies when Vallas led the Chicago Public Schools.
Rod Blagojevich, the scandal-ridden Illinois governor, edged out Vallas to secure the Democratic Party nomination in the 2002 gubernatorial election.
Vallas’ former protege in urban education has made a name for himself in use of innovations such as a financial reward system for successful teachers, a pay-for-performance strategy. His former political rival, on the other hand, has become a household name because of pay-to-play allegations.
Shortly after his loss to Blagojevich, Vallas left his native city to lead the Philadelphia school system. A year-and-a-half ago, he moved to New Orleans to take over the recovery schools position.
Now Mr. Vallas, a veteran of big-city education battles, faces the once-unimaginable prospect that he will be driven out of town by summer’s end. A retired judge filed a lawsuit arguing that his lack of an education degree makes him unfit for the office, despite his years of experience running other school districts. Last month, a superior court judge agreed, and now Mr. Vallas has appealed the case to the Connecticut Supreme Court.
The battle in Bridgeport highlights the divisiveness of change in American education. Critics of the existing system are pushing centralized control, weaker teacher tenure protections and expanded charter schools, and some have made installing superintendents with backgrounds outside of education a priority, causing rifts in many districts.
Arne Duncan, the federal education secretary, said the opposition to Mr. Vallas was “beyond ludicrous.” He said too many school districts were afraid of innovation, clinging to “archaic ideas.”
“This, to me, is just another painfully obvious, crystal-clear example of people caught in an old paradigm,” Mr. Duncan said in an interview. “This is the tip of the iceberg.”
Mr. Vallas was hired in late 2011 to much fanfare: a nationally known advocate of change in education, with stints in Philadelphia, Chicago and New Orleans on his résumé, coming to the aid of a modest school district mired in budget cuts.
Much more on Paul Vallas, here, including a recent Madison appearance.
A discussion on school reform in New York took a surprising turn this week when Paul Vallas, a pioneer of the current era of school reform, said, “We’re losing the communications game because we don’t have a good message to communicate.”
That’s something for Vallas, who is now superintendent of the public schools in Bridgeport, Conn., (earning $234,000 a year, according to this article). As a reputed expert in turning around failing school systems, he led the school districts in Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans and was a champion of many of the reforms that critics believe are leading to the privatization of public education and doing nothing to actually improve schools.
Vallas has been at the forefront of modern school reform. For example, back in 2002 when he was in charge of Philadelphia’s schools, he oversaw what at that time was the largest exercise in allowing private managers — including for-profit companies — to run public schools. In New Orleans, where he was hired after Hurricane Katrina to supervise the reconstruction of the ravaged school system, he oversaw the creation of a collection of charter schools. Many of them were staffed with Teach For America recruits, who are given five weeks of summer training before being sent into classrooms with high-needs students.
Larry Winkler kindly emailed the chart pictured above.
We are not interested in the development of new charter schools. Recent presentations of charter school programs indicate that most of them do not perform to the level of Madison public schools. I have come to three conclusions about charter schools. First, the national evidence is clear overall, charter schools do not perform as well as traditional public schools. Second where charter schools have shown improvement, generally they have not reached the level of success of Madison schools. Third, if our objective is to improve overall educational performance, we should try proven methods that elevate the entire district not just the students in charter schools. The performance of non-charter students in cities like Milwaukee and Chicago is dismal.
In addition, it seems inappropriate to use resources to develop charter schools when we have not explored system-wide programming that focuses on improving attendance, the longer school day, greater parental involvement and combating hunger and trauma.
We must get a better understanding of the meaning of ‘achievement gap.’ A school in another system may have made gains in ‘closing’ the achievement gap, but that does not mean its students are performing better than Madison students. In addition, there is mounting evidence that a significant portion of the ‘achievement gap’ is the result of students transferring to Madison from poorly performing districts. If that is the case, we should be developing immersion programs designed for their needs rather than mimicking charter school programs that are more expensive, produce inadequate results, and fail to recognize the needs of all students.
It should be noted that not only do the charter schools have questionable results but they leave the rest of the district in shambles. Chicago and Milwaukee are two systems that invested heavily in charter schools and are systems where overall performance is unacceptable.
- Notes and links on the rejected Madison Preparatory Academy IB Charter School. [Kaleem Caire video interview]
- Comparing Milwaukee Public and Voucher Schools’ Per Student Spending
- When all third graders read at grade level or beyond by the end of the year, the achievement gap will be closed…and not before (2005)
- “They’re all rich, white kids and they’ll do just fine” — NOT!
- Paul Soglin notes and links.
- Madison School District Open Enrollment Leavers Report, 2012-13 (2009 Open Enrollment Leaver Survey)
- Paul Vallas visits Madison; Enrollment Growth: Suburban Districts vs. Madison 1995-2012
- Where does MMSD get its numbers from?
- 60% to 42%: Madison School District’s Reading Recovery Effectiveness Lags “National Average”: Administration seeks to continue its use
- Minneapolis teacher’s union approved to authorize charter schools
I am unaware of Madison School District achievement data comparing transfer student performance. I will email the Madison School Board and see what might be discovered.
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has some pretty strong ideas about how to improve academic achievement by Madison school children. Charter schools are not among them.
In fact, Madison’s ongoing debate over whether a charter school is the key to boosting academic achievement among students of color in the Madison Metropolitan School District is distracting the community from making progress, Soglin told me.
He attended part of a conference last week sponsored by the Urban League of Greater Madison that he says overstated the successes elsewhere of charter schools, like the Urban League’s controversial proposed Madison Preparatory Academy that was rejected by the Madison School Board a year ago.
“A number of people I talked with about it over the weekend said the same thing: This debate over charter schools is taking us away from any real improvement,” Soglin said.
Can a new committee that Soglin created — bringing together representatives from the school district, city and county — be one way to make real progress?
The City of Madison’s Education Committee, via a kind reader’s email. Members include: Arlene Silveira, Astra Iheukemere, Carousel Andrea S. Bayrd, Erik Kass, Jenni Dye, Matthew Phair, Maya Cole and Shiva Bidar-Sielaff.
Michael Johnson, via a kind email:
Madison Metropolitan School District, Verona Area School District, United Way of Dane County, Urban League of Greater Madison & Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County is collaborating to host a town hall meeting with one of the most respected urban school superintendents in the nation at Lafollette High School on May 26th at 1pm. Paul Vallas has raised hundreds of millions of dollars to support academic achievement, he has raised test scores in urban communities, built hundreds of schools while maintaining great working relationships with community leaders, teachers and unions. His efforts has been featured in Education Week, New York Times and hundreds of other articles profiling his work in urban school districts.
Arne Duncan the current US Secretary of Education served as his Deputy Chief of Staff and the current Superintendent of Schools in Milwaukee was his former Chief Academic Officer. During Vallas time in other cities he has led the effort to build over 175 new school buildings and renovated more than 1,000 existing buildings. According to several news outlets Paul Vallas managed consecutive years of improved reading and math scores in every school district he led. During his time in Chicago he organized the largest after school and summer programs in the nation. His education reforms produced double digit increases in test scores which was some of the highest in the nation among the 50th largest school districts in the United States. His leadership efforts was cited in two presidential state of the union addresses and CBS News highlighted that he is one of the most sought out school superintendents in the country. Recently he was invited by the Government of Chile to assume responsibility of turning around and improving test scores in 1,100 of Chile’s lowest performing schools. He was invited by the Government of Haiti to advise their Prime Minister and education team. He also served as an education adviser to London- Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Paul Vallas will share best practices, talk about school reform and take questions on how we can improve academic achievement for our kids. I hope you can join us on Saturday, May 26th at 1pm for this important discussion at LaFollette High School, 702 Pflaum Rd. Madison in the auditorium. To confirm your attendance please email Sigal Lazimy at email@example.com. Thanks in advance and we look forward to seeing you! Below is a documentary of his work in New Orleans.
Paul Vallas made his mark in education-reform circles as school superintendent in the big cities of Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, post-Katrina. Now the superstar superintendent is trying to turn around the schools in much smaller Bridgeport, Conn.–in 150 days or so.
This is more than a curiosity: America’s economic future depends on fixing its public schools. And, as Mr. Vallas observes, “There are a lot of Bridgeports”–small, de-industrialized, cash-short cities with failing schools.
If he succeeds here–within “existing financial constraints,” as he puts it, and with strong unions–Bridgeport can inspire others. “There are models for school improvement that don’t cost $1 million a school,” Mr. Vallas argues, a not-so-subtle swipe at the cost of experiments elsewhere.
The saga of schools in Bridgeport (pop. 144,229), a poor city amid the wealth of Fairfield County, is too long for this space. The short version: For nearly a decade, the state has flunked the 20,250-student, 37-school system. Only 10% of tenth graders meet state math and reading standards. At the best-performing of the city’s three high schools, the dropout rate is 23%; at the worst, 45%.
For years, members of the elected school board were at odds both with each other and with the city. The city hasn’t increased school funding for four years.In July, with quiet backing from the mayor, governor and wealthy education-reform enthusiasts, the school board took the extraordinary step of voting itself out of existence and asked the state to take over. A new state-appointed board fired the superintendent and, in December, signed Mr. Vallas to a one-year contract, raising money from private donors whose identities weren’t disclosed to pay his $229,000 salary and settle with his predecessor. But in February, the state Supreme Court declared the takeover illegal, and ordered a special election for a new school board. The date has yet to be set.
Bridgeport’s 2010-2011 budget spent $215,843,895 for “more than” 21,000 students = about $10,278/student. Madison spent $14,858.40/student during the 2011-2012 budget cycle.
So after waves and waves of reform, you thought Chicago public elementary schools had made tremendous progress in the last 20 years?
Despite millions of dollars in fixes and programs, Chicago’s elementary grade reading scores have barely budged over the last two decades, a new report by the University of Chicago’s Consortium on Chicago School Research has found.
Math scores improved only “incrementally” in those grades, and racial gaps in both subjects increased, with African American students falling the most behind other groups, especially in reading — an area pushed heavily under former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
But the good news in a unique study called “Trends in Chicago’s Schools Across Three Eras of Reform: Summary of Key Findings” is that Chicago Public Schools made “dramatic improvement” in its high school graduation rate over almost two decades. Less than half of CPS freshmen graduated by age 19 in 1990, compared to about two thirds today, the study said.
In 20 years of near-constant reform efforts, Chicago’s elementary school students have made few gains, high school students have advanced, and the achievement gap between poor and rich areas has widened, a major University of Chicago study found, contradicting impressions created by years of Chicago Public Schools testing data.
The report examined performance across three eras of reform over the last two decades — a span including the Argie Johnson, Paul Vallas and Arne Duncan regimes. Researchers for the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research found that most publicly available data measuring the success of public schools in Chicago did not provide an accurate picture of progress.
One of the most striking findings is that elementary school scores in general remained mostly stagnant, contrary to visible improvement on state exams reported by the Illinois State Board of Education. The consortium study used a complex statistical analysis of data from each state-administered test over the last 20 years, controlling for changes in the test’s content and how it was scored, said Stuart Luppescu, a lead consortium researcher.
Here’s a great analysis of the new Chicago school facilities law from Jackie Leavy, retired executive director of the late lamented Neighborhood Capital Budget Group.
Jackie and I were members of Paul Vallas’s Blue Ribbon Capital Development Panel, which Vallas dissolved around or about 1997 after Jackie and I (mostly Jackie) began to ask too many questions and actually try to get the group to do what this new law will now force CPS to do.
Here’s what Jackie says today:
Colleagues, Parent and Community Leaders:
As the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches, the superintendent brought in to revive New Orleans’ troubled public schools is bidding farewell after turning many of the schools into charters. Before his departure, Paul Vallas speaks with John Merrow about where things stand with the city’s school reform efforts.
JOHN MERROW: For Paul Vallas, the veteran superintendent Louisiana hired in 2007 to do the job, the pressure was on.
PAUL VALLAS, superintendent, Recovery School District of Louisiana: We need to move now. We need to start building buildings now. We need to modernize those classrooms now.
JOHN MERROW: Almost from the time he arrived in New Orleans, Paul Vallas began making promises, talking publicly about all the big changes he intended to make in the schools. Well, it’s been three years. Time for Paul Vallas’ report card.
PAUL PASTOREK, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education: I give Paul very high marks.
JOHN MERROW: State Superintendent Paul Pastorek hired Paul Vallas.
PAUL PASTOREK: If you would tell people five years ago what is happening today, no one would have believed it was possible.
In his ongoing look at efforts to turn around ailing schools in New Orleans and Washington, D.C. John Merrow reports on the use of alternative school programs in Louisiana and progress on negotiations between a teachers union and public schools in the nation’s capital.
JIM LEHRER: The “NewsHour”‘s special correspondent for education, John Merrow, has been tracking changes in the public schools of New Orleans and Washington, D.C., two cities that are being watched nationally.
We begin in New Orleans tonight. John looks at alternative schools for students with behavior and academic problems.
JOHN MERROW: When school superintendent Paul Vallas arrived in New Orleans three years ago, he faced a tough challenge: how to educate students who are way behind academically or who have gotten in trouble with the law.
This school, Booker T. Washington, was designed for teenagers who are performing at an elementary school level. Although three-fourths of students in Vallas’ district are at least one grade level behind, here, the problem is extreme.
If Mayor Richard Daley walks into your office and tells you to remove your car from his parking space, you will do it. If he sends in one of his flunkeys to tell you to move your bloody car, you will do it. The only distinction between the two requests is how much you grovel, bow, and scrape before doing as you are told. Past Chicago Public School (CPS) CEO, Paul Vallas, walked into the Chicago Teacher Union (CTU) president’s office in 1995 and told her to move her union out of his way because the mayor said so. She did. You would too. That was the whole of Chicago School Reform. It didn’t make any difference at all whether the messenger was Vallas, Arne Duncan, new CEO Ron Huberman, or Pee Wee Herman. When Mayor Daley says make a hole, you get out of the way, and you do it with a smile.
Non-educator Vallas did nothing to make schools better for struggling urban youth; non-educator Duncan did less, and the new non-educator Huberman after three months on the job is on paternity leave following his announcing that he and his male partner have a baby. Real educators who previously sat in the CPS superintendent’s office did not have direct backing from City Hall. They were weak administrators that chose not to fight the CTU. They may have tried, but not one of them did anything except appear to be busy.
New Orleans test scores jumped this year across most grade levels and school types, with both charter and traditional schools celebrating gains.
The boost in scores, the third consecutive year of improvement, helped narrow a still-sizable gap in student achievement between the city and the rest of Louisiana.
“In some cases, the gap is closing dramatically, ” said Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas.
Vallas’ district includes 33 traditional and 33 charter schools. Overall, both types of schools saw some growth, although the charters still outperformed the noncharters, echoing last year’s scores. The directly run RSD schools, however, must accept students enrolling throughout the year, while charters can cap their enrollment, giving them a more stable student population.
The mythologizing of Arne Duncan is moving along at a pretty fast past. Bernie Noven alerted me to this adulatory article from the London Economist and urged me to respond using some of the recent data about Arne’s record here in Chicago, saying that people “out there” have no idea about the reaiity here in Chicago. Here’s what I sent.
“Golden Boy” Arne Duncan is a pleasant fellow who held the position of Chicago Executive Officer (CEO) of the Chicago Public Schools for seven years without losing his cool.
He’s so cool, in fact, that butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.
As a long-time Chicago public school parent advocate, I have had a front row seat at the Arne Duncan show. When Mayor Richard Daley appointed Mr. Duncan to replace Paul Vallas in 2001, there was a palpable sense of relief across the city. The new CEO’s Opie-from-Mayberry modesty was a soothing antidote to the previous six years spent with a CEO who could suck the oxygen out of a room.
We soon discovered, however, that Mr. Duncan simply provided a more complaisant and – more importantly – a more compliant cover for City Hall’s machinations.
Is a change in management enough to transform some of the worst schools in the country? Paul Vallas seems to think so, which might explain why the New Orleans superintendent is one of the biggest cheerleaders for charter schools. Because charter schools are free from district control and often from teacher unions, they have the power to hire and fire, choose the curriculum, and set student rules.
Over half of Vallas’ schools are now charters, and most of them are outperforming traditionally-run schools in New Orleans. But Vallas wants to ‘charterize’ the entire district, even though there’s evidence that charters may be abusing their freedom.
There is a school of thought-one that Mayor Richard Daley subscribes to-that says that if you are a good manager, you can manage anything.
That is the announced basis for Daley choosing Ron Huberman to head up the Chicago Public Schools, replacing Arne Duncan, who is now serving President Barack Obama as the Secretary of Education.
I have no doubt that Huberman, 37, who formerly was in charge of the Chicago Transit Authority, is intelligent. I have no doubt that Daley is a huge booster.
I have serious doubts, however, about Huberman’s fitness to lead the Chicago Public Schools.
The mayor pats himself on the back for choosing Arne Duncan, and before him, Paul Vallas. He says that the schools were in horrible shape in 1995 when the law was changed to allow him to take control of the school district. He said that “educators” were in charge of the district then, and it was an abysmal failure.
An ongoing series takes a look at Paul Vallas in New Orleans and Michelle Rhee in Washington, DC.
Paul Vallas recently passed his first major milestone when fourth- and eighth-graders in the city’s woeful public schools posted significantly higher test scores on state tests.
The superintendent of a 33-school district that includes many of New Orleans’ worst-performing schools has received mostly positive reviews after his first year on the job, but many challenges remain. Too many students continue to fail or not show up for classes, there’s limited funding for dilapidated buildings and the district needs to retain quality teachers.
Vallas, 54, was known as a hard-driving reformer in Chicago and Philadelphia. After a year as the Recovery School District superintendent in New Orleans, the tireless worker has lengthened class days, decreased class sizes and increased classroom technology. He also is helping create schools that revolve around themes like the arts and technology.
The public school system here is fractured. A handful of the city’s best-performing schools are run by a local board and not under Vallas’ control. Private organizations run a few dozen others as charter schools.
Money is limited. The district’s $260 million operating budget has no cash reserve, and decrepit school buildings need an estimated $1 billion for renovations.
Paul Vallas: Ensuring that all schools have the capacity to provide high-quality remote instruction need not be financially prohibitive. Even financially strapped school systems have options. Schools can secure needed curriculum and instructional materials through subscriptions and by using online materials. By leasing the technology, a district can create and maintain a comprehensive, technologically supported … Continue reading Hey, Teacher, Teach Those Kids at Home
Maureen Kelleher: SYSTEM-GAMING HAS EXISTED FOR DECADES Ways to make hard-to-serve young people disappear from high school rolls have existed since well before Michelle Fine’s groundbreaking study on this problem, Framing Dropouts, was published in 1991. In the early 1980s, Fine discovered that only 20 percent of the freshmen who entered one of New York … Continue reading Hey, ProPublica, No Child Left Behind and Charter Schools Aren’t the Root Cause of Gaming the System
Mike Vaughn: CPS runs Consuella B. York Alternative School, a school located inside the jail at 26th and California. I was there to visit an art class and write a story about it for the Chicago Educator, a newspaper that CPS started when Mayor Richard M. Daley first took control of the school system and … Continue reading Of white bread, papier-mâché, and the original “education reformer”
Carlos Sadovi and Stephanie Banchero, via a kind reader’s email:
Public boarding schools where homeless children and those from troubled homes could find the safety and stability to learn are being pursued by Chicago Public Schools officials.
Under the plan, still in the nascent stages, the first pilot residential program could open as soon as fall 2009. District officials hope to launch as many as six such schools in the following years, including at least one that would operate as a year-round school.
The proposal puts Chicago at the forefront of urban school reform, as cities struggle to raise the academic achievement of students hampered by dysfunctional homes and other obstacles outside school.
Some districts, including Chicago, have looked for solutions from small schools to single-sex campuses. But residential schools are a bolder — and far more expensive — proposition. Long an option for the affluent, boarding schools are virtually unheard of for the disadvantaged.
Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan said he does not want to be in the “parenting” business, but he worries that some homes and some neighborhoods are unsafe, making education an afterthought.
“Some children should not go home at night; some of them we need 24-7,” he told the Tribune. “We want to serve children who are really not getting enough structure at home. There’s a certain point where dad is in jail or has disappeared and mom is on crack … where there isn’t a stable grandmother, that child is being raised by the streets.”
Chicago school officials are still working through details of the plan, and it’s not clear whether the schools would be run by the district, outside agencies or some combination of the two.
It’s also not certain how the schools would be funded, who would shoulder the liability of keeping students overnight or how students would be selected.
In April, as part of its Renaissance 2010 new schools program, the district will put out a formal request for boarding school proposals. Officials have already met with interested groups in Chicago.
Officials have also visited several public and private boarding schools across the country and asked some to submit proposals.
Duncan said he has dreamed for years about opening boarding schools, but only last year, when he hired Josh Edelman, son of Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, did the idea take off.
Dion Haynes: The school systems making the largest gains are united by some common threads: Government and school leaders have set aside differences and harnessed their power behind reforms, superintendents have brought an intense, persuasive leadership style to the process, and efforts have concentrated on raising the test scores of the lowest-performing students. But Philadelphia … Continue reading Philadelphia’s School System
Denis Doyle: The case for national standards is so self-evidently powerful that I am always surprised that it has to be made. Indeed, for years I have expected national standards to emerge spontaneously, with state after state seeing the wisdom of pooling resources rather than re-inventing standards 50 times over. After all, America is rich … Continue reading “Time for National Standards”
More than half of eighth-graders fail to achieve expected levels of proficiency in reading, math and science on national tests.
James Nevels on Philadelphia School Reform: How did we–teachers, principals and our chief executive, Paul Vallas–do it? We defined the district’s “customers” exclusively as the 200,000 children we serve. Not interest groups. Not adult constituencies. We held adults accountable for results. To start, we instituted businesslike systems. First came a standardized curriculum so that all … Continue reading Reading, Writing, ROI
MMSD financial results for 2012-13 were favorable in comparison to budget expectations. The General Fund Balance, which was budgeted to decrease by ($5.5) million to support several one-time expenditures, actually decreased by just ($1.6) million. This puts the District’s balance sheet in a stronger opening position for 2013-14. The primary reason for the favorable result was an unbudgeted revenue influx of $3.2 million from Medicaid reimbursements.
However, the Food Service Fund struggled in 2012-13, recording a net loss of $386,000 on total revenues of $10.5 million. Labor cost overages were the primary cause of the net loss. The Business Office is working closely with the Food Service department on budgetary expectations for 2013-14. Overall participation in the program decreased slightly last year.
Open enrollment results show 370 students enrolling in to MMSD from elsewhere and 1,206 MMSD residents enrolling outside of the district. The net out is -836. (Enrollment background data & District statistics)
(Last year, MMSD had 379 students enrolling in and 1,118 enrolling out, for a net out of -739.)
Much more on open enrollment here.
Suburban Districts vs. Madison, 1995-2012.
Madison School District: Private/Parochial, Open Enrollment Leave, Open Enrollment Enter, Home Based Parent Surveys (June, 2009).
Private school enrollment has steadily declined across Wisconsin over the past 15 years, but that’s not the case in Madison and Dane County.
St. Ambrose Academy, a West Side Catholic middle and high school, has been rapidly expanding and is discussing the addition of an elementary school. EAGLE School is planning a $3 million expansion at its Fitchburg campus with the goal of increasing its student body by a third. And High Point Christian School on Madison’s Far West Side is full, so some students board a bus there and travel across town to its sister campus on the Far East Side.
“The Madison metropolitan area is definitely bucking the national trend,” said Michael Lancaster, superintendent of Madison Catholic Schools. “I wouldn’t say we’re growing at any kind of geometric or exponential rate. But we’re very solid in the Madison area.”
The vitality of local private schools could help explain the muted level of interest in Madison for the publicly funded voucher expansion proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget. Vouchers also face intense opposition from Dane County political and public school leaders.
Walker has proposed expanding the state’s voucher program from Milwaukee and Racine to school districts with more than 4,000 students and at least two schools with low ratings on the state’s new school report card. Based on the first report cards released last fall, students in Madison and eight other districts would qualify for vouchers.
On March 4, the Wisconsin Council of Religious and Independent Schools held the first public voucher meeting in Madison at St. James Catholic School on the Near West Side. Fewer than 10 parents and private school administrators attended.
A similar meeting last week in Beloit, a smaller city with far fewer private schools, drew about 40 people, WCRIS executive director Matt Kussow said.
The largest challenge to Madison’s $392,000,000 public schools is not the threat of vouchers. Rather, it is the District’s long time disastrous reading results that undermine its prospects and reputation.
Suburban district growth and open enrollment leavers are also worth contemplation and action.
Citizen-run boards have suddenly been thrust into managing individual schools all over the city. Neophyte teachers barely out of college instruct students sometimes older than they are. A wide range of teaching styles has been employed, from the rotelike call-and-response methods of the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Foundation school to more traditional textbook-based approaches. For the first time, parents are being asked to choose schools for their children (though in many cases the parents are absent, and the student is being raised by relatives).
Success will be a tall order in a school district where 85 percent of some 32,000 students are a year and a half to two years below their grade level. In a typical district, the figure would be around 15 percent, said Paul G. Vallas, the new superintendent here.
Worse, a third of the students here are some four years below grade level, a challenge that Mr. Vallas, a veteran of the Chicago and Philadelphia schools, calls “extreme.”
Yet nearly a year into the job, Mr. Vallas professes to be unfazed. With no politics in his way — he answers neither to the neutered parish school board nor to the mayor, but to the state — he is far freer to plan grand schemes than in the much larger cities where he made his mark.
Adam Nossiter: Louisiana on Friday picked one of the nation’s most prominent education reformers to run the troubled school district of New Orleans, as schools here continue to grapple with physical and administrative damage from Hurricane Katrina. The new superintendent, Paul G. Vallas, who is credited with changes in school systems in Chicago and, most … Continue reading Prominent Education Reformer to Lead New Orleans Schools