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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 03/27/2010

More on Duncan’s VIP list in Chicago

By Valerie Strauss

It was disclosed this week that when Arne Duncan was superintendent of Chicago schools, he kept a list of people--including some prominent ones--who asked for help in getting certain children into the city’s best public schools.

The Chicago Tribune obtained documents and reported on details of nearly 40 pages of logs, showing requests from, among others, politicians and influential business people.

In a follow-up story, the Tribune reported that it had verified six instances in which the staff of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, or Daley's nephew, made admissions requests. Daley denied any role in the list.

A spokesman for Duncan said that then superintendent did not do anything to help these people but simply passed on the requests.

There is an interesting discussion of the VIP list, as well as about Duncan’s tenure as Chicago schools chief here on the Democracy Now! website.

The guests on the show are: Azam Ahmed, the Tribune reporter who broke the story; Pauline Lipman, professor of education and policy studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago and director of the Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education at the university; and Jitu Brown, community and educational organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. He teaches at St. Leonard Adult High School for the formerly incarcerated.

The guests discuss Duncan’s efforts to improve Chicago’s schools by pushing charter schools and private turnaround experts. This approach is what we now see in Duncan’s and President Obama’s blueprint for rewriting No Child Left Behind.

Lipman says that Ahmed’s story points to a larger problem with Chicago’s public schools, including those set up under the program called Renaissance 2010, which called for the creation of new schools, most of them charter schools.

"The larger scandal is that Chicago has basically a two-tiered education system, with a handful of these selective enrollment magnet schools, or boutique schools, that have been set up under Renaissance 2010 in gentrifying and affluent neighborhoods, and then many disinvested neighborhood schools. So parents across the city are scrambling to try to get their kids into a few of these schools. So instead of creating quality schools in every neighborhood, what CPS has done is created this two-tier system and actually is closing down, as you said, neighborhood schools under Renaissance 2010 and replacing them with charter schools and a privatized education system, firing or laying off, I should say, certified teachers, dismantling locally elected school councils, and creating a market of public education in Chicago, turning schools over to private turnaround operators. And this is, in the bigger, bigger scandal, this is now the national agenda under the Obama administration for education."

You can listen to the conversation and/or read the transcript here.


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By Valerie Strauss  | March 27, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Education Secretary Duncan  | Tags:  Chicago public schools, Ed Secretary Arne Duncan  
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Next: Less Testing, More Learning




It is just incredible to think of the audacity of naming a program 'Renaissance 2010' and then ignoring the richness of the lessons from the great European Renaissance it refers to: that the ARTS, Languages, History, Social Knowledge, as well as Science and Math were all important and crucial to a well-educated person who would then contribute to the good of a greater society. Yes, we live in an era of unique specializations, but to distill our education system - our children's learning - down to a narrow set of skills that students are to learn through mechanistic teaching and testing - is shameful and flies in the face of the individual hopes and dreams that this country was largely founded upon.

In terms of the influence of big business, the following is a quote from a prophetic work, "Education and the Cult of Efficiency", by Raymond E. Callahan, concerning the impact of the Industrial Revolution (i.e. technology)on our present day education system.

"....Concerning the individuals who made the best school boards members he (Cubberly)wrote:
'Men who are successful in large business undertakings-manufacturers, merchants, bankers,contractors,and professional men of large practice-would perhaps come first. Such men are accustomed to handling business rapidly; are usually wide awake, sane and progressive; are not afraid to spend money intelligently; are in the habit of depending on experts for advice, and for the execution of administrative details; and have the tact and perseverance necessary to get the most efficient service out of everybody from superintendent down.'
Those who did not make good board members were: 'Inexperienced young men, unsuccessful men, old men who have retired from business, politicians, saloon-keepers, uneducated or relatively ignorant men, men in minor business positions, and women....' "

Notice that 'women' are last.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | March 27, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

As for the popular approach to ed reform that's now being pushed from the top by Duncan and Obama, people need to take their heads out of the sand and get a clue.

To understand the foundation of the mentality at work, read "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" by Naomi Klein. Pauline Lipman also briefly mentions the book in the Democracy Now interview.

Posted by: pondoora | March 27, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Big business? What about government takeover. Why is it that superintendents have either become apathetic standbyers or complicit in the state/federal and or business takeover of schools? Understand, although without digging, these loosley coupled systems will remain largely responsible for the downward spiral of American education. Superintendents are the ones in Chicago and Florida who should be fired for inactivity. Corrupt activity of legislators not stopped by the 82% MALE superintendents across the country make them just as guilty. Further, why is it that over 75% of those employed by schools across the country are female, yet only 18% of superintenents across the country are female; and in most cases, those women superintendents are in charge of small rural K-8 districts. Anyone else see a pattern?
BTW, PL, women school board members still only represent about a third of all board members and most school boards are dominated by men. Are the other men on the school board letting superintendents male or female sit idley by why the system grows more corrupt with governement officials or their relatives (e.g. Neil Bush (Ignite Ed) ) profit off of new and corrupt legislation?
Women dominate the school systems and are empirically proven to be both better educators and leaders by in large. Almost all data says the same thing. Further, who has more experience overall in education, men or women. So, why are the men making the district level, state, and federal policy governing schools? How would Americans react if a public service profession such as firefighting, dominated by males, (again about 75%) was governed by females and around 80 percent of all fire chiefs and marshalls were women. Now, I think that might turn some heads? But, in reverse, within the context of education, this obvious illogical practice rarely raises an eyebrow. Should it?

Posted by: sikacoruptpoltikn | March 27, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Thank you sikacoruptpoltikn for picking up on and detailing the issues around the largely male dominated power bases in education.

To continue on in this vein, I am sure that if the education profession were dominated by male teachers, politicians wouldn't dare pull some of the stunts we see currently.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | March 27, 2010 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Sorry PL, had a great story for you from Ed Week and copy and pasted most with website, but post keeps grabbing up my comments and not posting.

Posted by: sikacoruptpoltikn | March 28, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

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