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The [Wednesday] Papers

"Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touts his education reform agenda as one of his greatest achievements as he campaigns for reelection," Stephanie Simon reports for Politico.

"It may also be his greatest vulnerability. Emanuel is facing an unexpectedly tough challenge in his bid for a second term."

Wrong. Emanuel is hardly facing an unexpectedly tough challenge. He's facing far less of a challenge than expected. This is a mayor whose approval rating once dropped to 19 percent and polled behind a succession of two major potential challengers, Toni Preckwinkle and Karen Lewis.

Few politicians can recover from those kind of numbers - no matter how much love Emanuel's pals in the national media gave him at the same time he was alienating nearly every constituency in the city back here at home.


"Polls suggest his four opponents could pull enough votes in the Feb. 24 election to force a runoff. That would be a political shocker, and it could reverberate far outside Chicago."

Wrong again. For the same reasons I've just outlined, it would hardly be a shocker if Rahm was forced into a runoff. In fact, it will be more shocking if he isn't sent into a runoff, given how vulnerable he was and is.


"On the surface, Emanuel would appear to have plenty to boast about when it comes to education."

Perhaps on the surface, if the surface means according to CPS press releases and his campaign website, which is where the following links Simon uses in her story lead to.

"He appoints the board that runs Chicago Public Schools. And the sprawling district, once labeled the worst in the nation, has been on a winning streak.

"The graduation rate has soared 11 percentage points since Emanuel was elected, hitting a record 69.4 percent last year."

Now let's go beyond the press release.

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett are basking in the latest graduation and on-track rate numbers, saying the five-year cohort graduation rate is now nearly 70 percent," Catalyst reported in August.

"Instead of holding a press conference and taking questions, though, Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett announced it in an editorial in the Sun-Times. They credit full-day kindergarten, the longer school day and better programs in neighborhood high schools, such as International Baccalaureate and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.

"Of course, these initiatives probably had little effect on the graduation rate, as they are too recent to have had any impact on the cohort of students in question, who entered high school in 2009-2010. The Consortium on Chicago School Research has another theory: In 2005, the consortium put out a study stating that freshmen who earn at least five credits and no more than one 'F' in a semester in a core course are 3-1/12 times more likely to graduate in four years. The findings prompted CPS to hire on-track coordinators to stay on top of freshmen, though many of those support positions have vanished due to budget cuts."


Back to Politico:

"The attendance rate is at a record, too."

The attendance rate has been trending up for years - as has the annual, manic push for first-day attendance.

Still, we all want higher attendance rates. I would just suggest caution, especially regarding any figures coming out of CPS. If you don't know why already, you will see so by the end of this column.

Oh, and:

"The wrongdoing laid out in the latest report from the inspector general for Chicago Public Schools includes cases of school administrators faking data, a problem the district watchdog said has been a particularly troubling development in recent years," the Tribune reported last year.

"'We do have a concern about CPS data as evidenced by the cases we had this year,' said Jim Sullivan, who's been the district's inspector general for nearly 11 years. 'The system has incentivized how performance is evaluated based on data, and much of that data is created and can be manipulated at the school level.'

"Sullivan's latest annual report, issued earlier this month,revealed that a high school principal and her programmer created 'ghost students' to pad enrollment so the school would be eligible for an assistant principal and additional non-teaching staff. Also uncovered was an elementary school principal who changed grades to allow children to graduate."

And from the Tribune: "'F' In Attendance For City Schools."


Moving on . . .

"So is the average ACT composite score: At 18, it's still far below the benchmark that indicates a student is ready for college, but it's been slowly, steadily improving."

Just as it was before Rahm took office.


"CPS did not have a major announcement about this year's state test scores - and it turns out the scores remain exactly the same as last year's, with 52.5 percent of students meeting or exceeding standards," Catalyst reported last fall.

"Whatever the caveats, the figures and the lack of upward movement don't look good, especially with the district about to move to a new, more difficult exam aligned to the tougher Common Core standards.Also, the achievement gap widened: average scores for black and Latino students fell slightly, while white and Asian students posted tiny gains."


"In his campaign literature, Emanuel talks of 'a rising tide of achievement' in Chicago Public Schools, which is the nation's third-largest district, with 600 schools serving 400,000 students."

Actually, CPS enrollment dropped last fall below 400,000 students for the first time in at least 20 years - something CPS tried to bury when finally announcing figures.


"Emanuel has also enacted populist education programs with wide appeal: He's making pre-K and full-day kindergarten widely available, for instance. And he has promised free community college tuition - and even free books - to any student who passes math and reading tests and graduates a public high school with at least a 3.0 GPA."

Pre-K: The CTU points out - and the administration does not dispute - that pre-K enrollment has declined by 1,600 kids during Rahm's tenure.

See also: How Investment Bankers Are Set To Profit From Rahm's Preschool Plan: The Mayor's Latest Funding Scheme Could Cost Schools Millions.

Full-day kindergarten: From the union: "He ordered principals to provide full-day kindergarten to all students without providing funds to pay for additional teachers necessary to staff the program. Principals cut librarians and arts and music programs and increased class sizes to make ends meet his unfunded mandate."

Free community college: "The mayor has yet to explain the cost of this initiative - saying only that City Colleges will absorb it through 'reforms and efficiencies,'" the Sun-Times reports.

"It is yet another pre-election bone to black voters who helped put Emanuel in office but abandoned him in droves after he closed 50 public schools, most of them in impoverished neighborhoods on the South and West Sides."


Back to Politico:

"After a long and bitter tussle with the teachers union, Emanuel even succeeded in getting an agreement to lengthen the school day and extend the year - something his predecessors had talked about for years but never got done. Over the course of their K-12 education, students will receive the equivalent of two full years' worth of additional learning time thanks to the schedule change."

Emanuel's decree lengthening the school day - instead of negotiating an agreement with teachers like his predecessor did - was one cause of the teachers' strike. In the final agreement, the school day was indeed lengthened - and 477 teachers added to help cope with it. That was not a win for the mayor.

Also, the union didn't oppose a longer school day - they opposed a longer school day without more pay and without an instructional plan for what to teach during the extended hours. See "To Close Achevement Gap, Extra Hours In School Have To Be Better Hours."


"Emanuel, by contrast, has raised some $13 million and has been on the air for weeks with upbeat TV ads."

Try $30 million.


Finally, it would have been nice if Politico had even hinted at the fact that CPS has a reputation in town among reporters as well as parents, teachers and the union of being the crudest evaders of truth around.

Just for starters, see:
* Rahm And His Administration Have Trouble Telling The Truth.

* BGA, NBC Sue CPS For Violating Open Records Law.

And, of course, the latest:
* CPS CEO Caught Lying In Print About Pulling Persepolis From Classrooms.


Separately, but also from Politico:


Willie Wilson Sings
And we've got the video!

DJ Lego's Tragic Traffic Record
Plus: Lupe's new Mural & Dr. Dan, unlike Willie Wilson, is a real doctor. In Local Music Notebook.

Coffman: Let The Combine Begin
Twenty-six analysts covering four dozen hours over six days.

Chicago: Heaven And Hell
Plus: A Public Historian's Hegewisch & Abandoned Rockford. In Local Book Notes.

Data Geek vs. Data Cynic
First of an occasional series.

Media Opportunities At Deer & Turkey Expo
Trick archery and cooking mushrooms.


* Former Chicago Accountant Chronicles One Year On Tinder.

* NFL Draft Crashes Into Roosevelt University's Commencement.

Haugh says it's worth it.

* This Week On Today Now!

* How Brian Williams Got To The White House.

* River North Bar Owner Apparently Unfamiliar With Reality Show She Signed Up For.

* The Health Law, In The Real World.

* Our Party-Hardy Presidents.

* George Washington, Slave Catcher.


A sampling.







The Beachwood Tip Line: Be well.


Posted on February 17, 2015

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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