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Monday, September 26

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Education Mon Aug 31 2009

The Great Inflation

The Sun-Times and the Chicago Teachers Union conducted a joint survey of Chicago Public School teachers that revealed that a shocking percentage--among High School teachers, more than half--have felt pressure to change a student's grade. Given the high stakes of the "percent graduating" statistics as a metric of public schools, it makes sense that the heaviest percentage would be among High School teachers. Still, more than a quarter of middle school teachers also reported feeling pressured to change a student's grade.

Of seven thousand teachers in CPS, fourteen hundred responded to the survey; while that provides more than enough for a statistically valid survey, it should also be considered or understood that the fact that it was self-selected to some degree could have altered the results.

With that in mind, this is still absolutely shocking, and adds yet another piece of evidence to the (well, my) on-going case that Arne Duncan was hardly qualified to be named Secretary of Education.

Obviously it was not Duncan pressuring teachers. According to the survey, the pressure came primarily from principals. But as the "CEO" of the schools, the buck must stop with him. And if principals felt the need to put the arm on teachers, that did not come from nowhere. There must have been in-turn pressure on them to meet statistical standards no matter what the cost.

While that pressure may have gotten Mr. Duncan the press needed to ascend in his career, it has done nothing for students.

Of course, this is not Duncan's school district. Many of these teachers had been teaching well before Duncan came on the scene--but the vast majority (64%) of teachers reporting have been teaching less than ten years, which puts them under either Duncan or Vallas, and certainly inside the Amendatory Act, Daley-control era.

Have our schools made progress since William Bennett described them as the worst in the nation in 1987? Perhaps; but with each new revelation and report, we seem to be getting further away from being able to actually answer that question.

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Kenzo Shibata / August 31, 2009 8:58 PM

Yes, Ramsin. We can blame Arne Duncan. He implemented the COMPSTAT/EDSTAT program while CPS CEO. This was a program where principals were grilled for low achievement of students.

The following was taken from a January 2008 piece I wrote for the Beachwood Reporter. The link can be found here:

"CPS CEO Arne Duncan holds regular meetings with high school principals where they look at dropout rates and achievement scores of schools citywide.

Chicago Public Radio spotlighted this initiative recently on its Eight-Forty-Eight program. Clarice Berry, who runs Chicago's principals union, said her charges 'felt it was more of an attack than an instructive process.'

Chicago Public Radio's Jay Field reported that '. . . [Berry's] office was flooded with angry calls in the weeks after the meetings began. Principals complained of being called downtown and interrogated.'"

The COMPSTAT program is a data-driven model where principals are grilled for underperforming students. Principals will take that pressure and place it on teachers who are often afraid of losing their jobs and will fix grades, which "jukes the stats" and makes the school look like it's performing up to the CEO's standards.

MonicaV / September 1, 2009 3:44 PM

It us sad that teachers are acquiescing to parents and the school administrators to give students higher grades. Student who under perform, should be given help, but ultimately they can't be just "moved along."

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