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How good are Chicago's schools?

Miami, Houston and New York had higher scores than Chicago on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Boston, San Diego and Atlanta had bigger gains. Even fourth-graders in the much-maligned D.C. schools improved nearly twice as much since 2003.

That's from this critical assessment of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's record as superintendent of the Chicago School System. But if you read the article closely, it looks to say a lot less about how good or bad Duncan was than how difficult it is to change outcomes for children when your only lever is schools but their behavior reflects communities, families, income, crime, peers, etc.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 30, 2009; 7:55 AM ET
Categories:  Education  
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I went to Chicago public schools k-8. When I entered Catholic high school, I was WAY ahead of my peers that went to private schools. They didn't even know the parts of speech! I was learning about gerunds in 7th grade. Of course, this is back in 1997.

On top of that, they had the most awesome culture program. I went to the symphony every other month, had seen 4 operas and 3 ballets by the time I graduated, as well as clocked hundreds of hours at Chicago's very excellent museums and conservatories.

If Chicago's schools have declined in the past decade or so, then I'm very, very sorry to hear it. I feel like they were doing a very good job, if somewhat unsung, not too long ago.

Posted by: roquelaure_79 | December 30, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Well, that is precisely the point. Arne Duncan is presented as the man and model who can make the schools good without changing all those other things. It is very much to the point to realize this does not work, because the Duncan model involves union-busting, teacher-bashing, bringing in unskilled 'aides', selling school district property, and closing neighborhood schools.

In the end, the Duncan model is really about destroying public education, and substituting a system of parochial schools using unskilled labor to maintain order in classrooms dedicated to rote work preparing for standardized testing.

Considering that the schools would be doing just fine if the rest of society would do its part, I have no problem being totally against Arne Duncan.

Posted by: serialcatowner | December 30, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse


Did you go to a gifted school? Chicago's gifted schools are similar to your description.

Posted by: aby1 | December 30, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Under Arne Duncan about 1,000 teacher's aides were laid off in (I think) 2005. In Illinois you have to have at least 2 years of college to be a teacher's aide.

I know when I talked to a CPS teacher in a self contained special education class she told me in 2008 that teacher's aides were still being cut back. She had students with mental retardation, and often to teach them without any aides. That was difficult.

Posted by: aby1 | December 30, 2009 11:16 PM | Report abuse

" difficult it is to change outcomes for children when your only lever is schools but their behavior reflects communities, families, income, crime, peers, etc."

Because it is politically incorrect to acknowledge the fact that ethnoracial groups differ in IQ, people are continually expecting Black and Hispanic students to be as high-achieving as Whites (though it is inconsistent that no one seems to be expecting Jewish and Chinese students to be as low-achieving as non-Jewish Whites).

Therefore the main problem is the unrealistic expectation that poor children and Black and Hispanic children can (on average) achieve at the same level as non-poor children and White and Asian children. Cognitive psychologists, behavioral geneticists, and educational-psychologists have proved that IQ is largely determined by genetics and that IQ-type intelligence is the main factor that influences academic achievement and subsequently socioeconomic status.

Black children on average have IQs that are about 15 points lower than White children, the average IQ of Hispanics is about 12 points lower than Whites. Thus it is totally unrealistic to expect lower-IQ ethnoracial groups to show the same level of academic achievement seen in higher-IQ ethnoracial groups.

So it would be more accurate to say that it is difficult to change outcomes for children when your only lever is schools but their academic ability largely reflects their INNATE INTELLIGENCE.

Posted by: rifraf | December 31, 2009 10:53 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that we as Americans would not be so narrow minded to think that Arne Duncan is qualified to be our secretery of ecucation. The statistics of the Chicago school system in comparison with other major cities across the country lead me to believe that we are placing the leader of a struggling school system in charge of the highest education position in the country expecting success.
Barrack Obama, since taking office, has consistantly placed old friends from Chicago, who are not qualified to be a dog catcher in my town in high fedral government positions. It is also shameful to all so called news organizations; that the only news orginization reporting the truth about these appointees is Fox News.

Posted by: rookie37814 | January 4, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

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