Tag Archives: Chicago Public Schools

From the archives: New CPS Chief Education Officer Charles Payne on School Reform.

Charles Payne has been tapped to write an education plan for the Chicago Public Schools.

What a difference two years make.

Almost exactly 24 months ago, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who had not yet lost the bid for the 2016 Olympics or announced that he would not seek re-election, tapped then-CTA head Ron Huberman to run the city’s 600-plus schools.
Shortly thereafter, I wrote a post recommending books about education that Huberman might want to read since he had no previous experience as an educator.
I wrote at some length the following day about University of Chicago professor Charles Payne’s work, So Much Reform, So Little Change.
As many of you know, Payne has now been chosen to serve as chief education officer for the Chicago Public Schools for the next 90 days, during which time he will write an education plan for the city.
Here’s the original post.  I hope it is useful for education watchers.
I know I mentioned this book in yesterday’s post about a potential reading list for new Chicago Public Schools chief Ron Huberman, and I wanted to spend some time today talking about Charles Payne’sbook, So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools.
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Facing History and Ourselves Dinner, my favorite resources.

Then-future First and Facing History Board Member Michelle Obama at the Chicago office's 2007 fundraising dinner.  This year's dinner happens takes place tonight.

Then-future First and Facing History Board Member Michelle Obama at the Chicago office's 2007 fundraising dinner. This year's dinner takes place tonight.

Facing History and Ourselves’ fundraising dinner for the Chicago office is tonight, and I’ll be there.

My wife Dunreith is the associate program director and has, in my opinion, done amazing work in getting Facing History materials, themes and resources throughout the Chicago Public Schools.  She has concentrated on, and been extremely effective in, schools on the city’s South and West Sides.

Dunreith and I met 12 summers ago at a Facing History follow up seminar, so the organization is at least indirectly responsible for my being  a husband and father! 

The organization, though, has been part of my life for 30 years, when I first took a Facing History class as part of my time at Exploration Summer Program at Wellesley College.

For those who do not know, Facing History is an international professional development organization that has students think about their choices, and the moral consequences of their choices, by reflecting on themselves, the past and the connection between the two.  Through examining the Holocaust and other examples of mass violence, students are encouraged to think about how to be active participants in society today.

Facing History’s scope and sequence calls for students to learn first about themselves and then to think about the groups to which they belong.  From that thematic base, they move back in time and place to the historical periods they are studying.

While the focus initially was on Germany and Europe in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, the eras now include looking at Rwanda, Northern Ireland, and South Africa, to name just a few.   During the study of the past, students are making connections between their own lives and the materials they are reading, hearing and seeing.    They are also considering universal questions of human behavior and issues of rescue, resistance, perpetrators and bystanders.

The scope and sequence then calls for students to think about how communities and nations come together after mass violence, deal with memory and legacy and then, as mentioned above, encourages students to think about how to apply what they have learned by contributing to our democratic society.

Through Facing History I’ve had the opportunity to meet many remarkable people like Holocaust survivor and author Ava Kadishshon Schieber, witness to the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp and former educator Leon Bass, Cambodian genocide survivor Arn Chorn-Pond,  South Boston native, author and activist Michael Patrick MacDonald, and Dutch survivor, psychiatrist and philanthropist Ries Vanderpol, to name just a few.

Here are five, but by no means all, of my favorite Facing History resources:

The Lunch Date-This Academy Award-winning film by Adam Davidson explores issues of race and stereotypes through an encounter at a New York train station between a white woman on a shopping expedition and a possibly homeless black man.

Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education.  This book by the MacArthur Award-winning scholar Danielle Allen blends an analysis of the infamous picture of Hazel Bryant screaming at Elizabeth Eckford on the first day of school in 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas with classical definitions of citizenship and heavy doses of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man and German philosopher Jurgen Habermas

Strong at the Broken Places-This documentary film by Margaret Lazarus interweaves the sustaining and healing from trauma of four survivors. In addition to Michael Patrick MacDonald and Arn Chorn-Pond, the film also features Marcia Gordon, who survived rape, homelessness, prostitution and a relative’s death by fire, and former U.S.  Sen Max Cleland, who lost both arms and a leg in Vietnam.  Be warned tough: this is a tear-jerker!

Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence. Harvard Law School ProfessorMartha Minow, who dedicates the book to Facing History founder Margot Stern Strom, looks here at the moral necessity but inevitable insufficiency of ways to come together after mass violence.  Specifically, she concentrates on trials, reparations and truth commissions (She has a favorable impression of the latter, especially as implemented in South Africa.).

Steve Cohen-No list of Facing History classics would be complete with Cohen, who entertained and educated thousands of teachers during his time with Facing History with his inimitable style of teaching that could best be described as an early Robin Williams teaching history. 

Do you know about Facing History?

How have you connected with the organization?

What resources have I left out from the list?

What are some of your favorite books, videos and speakers that connect to the different parts of the scope and sequence?

Ron Huberman’s Reading List

CTA President Ron Huberman is slated to become schools chief today; here are some reading suggestions for him.

CTA President Ron Huberman is slated to become schools chief today; here are some reading suggestions for him.

In a surprising move, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley apparently is going to appoint Chicago Transit Authority President Ron Huberman to head the Chicago Public Schools today.

The 37-year-old Huberman, who has no education experience, will replace U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Huberman clearly will not be lacking for things to do in the upcoming days, weeks and months. 

Still, in order to familiarize himself with the field in general, and with inner-city education in Chicago in particular, he might consider reading the following:

1. Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families, by J. Anthony Lukas.  Set in Boston, this absolutely classic work traces the lives of three families-one Yankee, one Irish-American, and one black-during the decade that starts in 1968 with Dr. King’s assassination.  In addition to reading like a novel and emphasizing the importance of class, Common Ground has extensive sections on children’s education, the intersection of internal and external social forces, and the factors that promote or hinder achievement.

2. So Much Reform, So Little Change: The Persistence of Failure in Urban Schools, by Charles Payne.  This recently released book by acclaimed historian Payne provides a ‘guardedly optimistic’ if sobering look at urban school reform during the past 30 years. 

Payne’s central contention is that school reform efforts often do not address the lived realities of students in the hardest to impact schools, and thus have little chance of truly helping those students reach their potential. Heavy in references to the work of the Consortium on Chicago School Research and Chicago Reporter sister publication Catalyst-Chicago, the book is stronger on diagnosing than solving the problem, but is a useful orientation to school reform efforts in Chicago as they relate to the national landscape. 

3.Maggie’s American Dream: The Life and Times of  A Black Family, by James Comer.  Yale psychiatrist Comer has developed a highly successful method of collective adult involvement in students’ lives to boost achievement and build community.  In this book, he tells the story of his mother Maggie, who helped inspire and form his vision.

4. The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America, by Jonathan Kozol.  This 2005 book returns to the subject of education, which Kozol first tackled 40 years ago in his National Book Award-winning Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools, and offers a bleak assessment of the state of education nationally 50 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.

5. Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing People’s Minds, by Howard Gardner.  The MacArthur Award-winning Gardner pioneered and developed the concept of multiple intelligences.  In this book he writes about how business leaders, politicians and advocates can go about changing public consensus. 

Gardner discusses seven levers to change and six realms in which they occur (Two are classrooms and diverse groups like a city or nation).   Although a bit vague on specifics, the book could be useful for Huberman to consider both in terms of his work within the schools and the public perception of him as having dubious qualifications for his job.