After working with Arne and his staff pre-Obama, I have to say he was my least favorite person to be chosen to head up the Nation’s Education. When Arne left the Chicago schools were just barely staying afloat. Now that he’s gone – there isn’t much change in any direction here. What does that say about Mr. Duncan?
Mr. Duncan’s professional life started playing Ivy League basketball, you know – he endeavored to be a super privileged jock but ended up in education when he (I think) injured himself, says a lot about his ability to prioritize responsibly. Privileged jock dreams transferred into political administration and all.
￼ A co-worker pointed out the bright side to the man’s career – at least he did manage one of the top three largest school districts in the nation… but now that he’s gone, what’s really changed? How did he get to be the head of Chicago’s schools in the first place and what’s he going to do with the nation’s education? Yay for more out of touch Ivy Leaguers running our country into the dirt.
Anyway, in the melee of our new Secretary of Education I managed to snatch up an anonymously written piece by what appears to be a perturbed stock broker who gives about 99 reasons to loath Arne Duncan. The Examiner link doesn’t work anymore. I only leave it for reference of where the original piece came from. The title doesn’t do it justice.
Chicago’s Arne Duncan Presided Over a School’s Grade Changing Scandal
Written By: Anon
Duncan is a Ponzi-class con man. In light of the bubbling scandal in Chicago Public Schools I have to give U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, more credit for his Machiavellian life story than I have. Unlike his basketball buddy, President Obama, who grimaces and honestly tells you to your face that he is going to blow up your country and rebuild it with a broken chainsaw. Duncan misleads, manipulates, and lies through his oversized Colgate smile, uttering educations generalities that any novice PTA president can produce. What else can you conclude after months of revisionist reports have come out refuting, denying, and negating the phony school reform that catapulted this sociology major into the White House as an ‘education expert?’ He never taught school, and you cannot get a principal’s certificate in Illinois without teaching a minimum of two years; so he has never run a school. But Mayor Richard Daley can anoint you anything he likes, and he will in order to destroy bad schools for Negroes and wipe out good schools for Hispanics to replace them with bad schools for everyone except the prodigal sons returning from self-imposed, ‘white flight’ exile in the suburbs. That way he makes room for repatriated middle-class families that can afford to pay the additional taxes he will have to impose to bring in the 2016 Summer Olympics, and also takes care of his real-estate cronies at the same time. True efficiency in urban evil.
“Mayor Richard Daley can anoint you anything he likes, and he will in order to destroy bad schools for Negroes and wipe out good schools for Hispanics to replace them with bad schools for everyone except the prodigal sons returning from self-imposed, ‘white flight’ exile in the suburbs.”
I confess that I’ve been sardonically amused by the fairy tale ascendancy of Duncan, and admit to marveling (a euphemism for jealousy) at his good fortune in choosing the right parents and making the best of growing up in proximity to poor black children like John Rodgers who also chose his parents wisely. Rogers is the African-American founder of a successful money management firm who hired his boyhood buddy, Arne, to run his company’s education outreach organization. John’s father was a judge, and his mother, the late Jewel Lafontant, was a civil rights crusader and an U.S. Ambassador. Perhaps one day I will tell you the story about the time John called me when we were both struggling young stockbrokers, he for William Blair and myself at Merrill Lynch. But that’s another story.
Anyway, my humorless amusement with Duncan ended today after I read the Sun-Times story written by Rosalind Rossi and Art Golab on: CHICAGO TEACHERS PRESSURED TO CHANGE GRADES. The headline was so innocuously pedestrian I almost didn’t read it. When I did, it blew me away. The Sun-Times and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) conducted a joint survey this summer of 1200 teachers. For those of you who have neither been waterboarded nor forced to play with statistics, 500 is a large enough number for a statistically reliable random survey. The outcome of this ostensibly innocent exercise was the horrid revelation that one third of the teachers surveyed said they were pressured to change grades in the last year.
That’s a lot. In the five years I taught before going over to the dark side and becoming a principal, I changed one grade. The principal of Kennedy High School on Chicago’s southwest side rushed into my classroom after final grades were submitted and politely requested (euphemism for pleading like an indicted alderman) I change the failing grade of a graduating senior who’d attempted suicide the night before. I didn’t much like the girl but she did me a semester-long favor by constantly cutting my class, and she didn’t need the history credit. She was going to graduate anyway, so I returned the favor. Grade changing is a rare rabbit. Or was then.
Even if the CTU/Sun-Times study is wrong by half, the incidence of grade changing is pandemic. Sure, Simeon High changed Derrick Rose’s grade so he could win a national championship with Memphis State, who are we kidding? How many CPS teachers have the NBA’s rookie of the year sitting in their classroom? Must be a lot more than I thought. Worse (worst?), dozens of those queried report that grades were changed without their approval. That means they didn’t get paid, bummer, but it also means they won’t be subpoenaed .
“Sure, Simeon High changed Derrick Rose’s grade so he could win a national championship with Memphis State, who are we kidding?”
Rossi and Golab wrote: Teachers reported pressure from principals, ’upset’ (euphemism for wild, crazy, and frightening) parents and even other CPS employees who were parents of their students. They said the squeeze was put on them to pass failing students, to give ill students a break or to help athletes. Some felt prodded to goose up grades to help kids graduate, avoid summer school or get into an elite high school (uh ho!). Such heat was twice as common among teachers in high schools, where the push is on to reduce failure rates. (Duncan reform scam at work) One teacher said her school lowered its grading scale and ’still we are pressured to change grades.’
Look, we are all adults here. Nothing in this materialistic, shallow American society that just happens to be the best place to live on the planet is even close to perfect. After all, this is Chicago where federal prosecutors feed of the dead weight in our city council and this is also the state that sends every other governor to prison. In a town with the likes of Rob Blagojevich, Jesse Jackson, Todd the Stroger, and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, you gotta expect a grade or two to slip by the Integrity Police. But Chicagoans, we have to draw the line somewhere.
“In a town with the likes of Rob Blagojevich, Jesse Jackson, Todd the Stroger, and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, you gotta expect a grade or two to slip by the Integrity Police.”
‘It’s in the culture of the schools,’ wrote one experienced high school teacher who raised numerous grades under pressure. You can’t completely be honest in grading students; otherwise the failure rate would be off the chart.’ (If you think that is an alarming quotation, fasten your seat belt and read the next one.) ‘While I am not crazy about it, I am sure it is necessary for a host of reasons,’ wrote another teacher. ‘As the grade coordinator at the school, I am the one that has to actually make the changes.’ (Poor baby, your subpoena is in the mail)
In true Chicago style, the president of the Chicago Principals Association, Clarice Berry, responded, ‘I can imagine teachers would feel pressure. Principals feel pressure. If you call any other city and any other state, you’ll hear the same thing.’ (Translation from unicorn-speak to straight-talk: Everybody’s doing it; you got a problem with that?) In true California speak, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Marilyn Stewart, said, ’It’s absolutely a ripple effect,’ Stewart said in response to the Sun-Times CTU survey on grade-changing. ’It causes more work for the next teacher.’ Uh, how about it’s dishonest, immoral, and wrong Ms. Stewart? CPS isn’t Enron or AIG, or Lehman Brothers where we pay people to lie, cheat, and steal; these are kids. They‘re in school, not Congress! But what can you expect from an institution that threw school prayer under the bus and replaced it with Hanna Dakota?
Mayor Daley has been in total control of schools for a decade and a half now, and Arne Duncan was his bagman for half of that time. Duncan either tolerated this practice or knew nothing of it. So he is either corrupt enough to look the other way or too inexperienced to know it was going on during his watch. Regardless of which answer is the most correct, either answer disqualifies him to tell anyone how to run their school systems. Apparently, the Duncan-Daley duo sat on top of a cesspool of CPS lies and intimidation whose contents are slowly oozing out under the federal light of magnet school indictments, inspector general investigations, and now corruption-inspired surveys. I hadn’t previously tossed in the University of Illinois admissions debacle downstate because I haven’t seen a direct connection between my alma mater and CPS, but if I weren’t writing this from Baghdad, I bet I could find one.
Oh, I almost forgot the public service announcement. Unindicted schools CEO, Ron Huberman, another Daley crony who has never taught school a day in his life, suggested teachers call the Chicago Schools inspector General at (773) 534-9400 or the I.G.’s anonymous hotline at: (773) 48-FRAUD. Really.