Elected Representative School Board (ERSB) Campaign
Did you know Chicago is the only school district in Illinois (of 891) without an elected school board? Enough is enough! Democracy Now!!
Go to our ERSB Resource Page for updates, downloadable window signs, downloadable info-sheets and more. The 1/9/16 Teach-In was a great success! We shared resources, got organized and made plans for this continued campaign.
A response to “Teaching About Laquan McDonald: A Toolkit for Teachers”
December 3, 2015
By: Danny B Martin, PhD, professor of curriculum and instruction and mathematics Josh Radinsky, PhD, associate professor of curriculum and instruction Cecily Relucio Hensler, PhD Curriculum Studies student David O. Stovall, PhD, professor of educational policy studies
In anticipation of the release of video of the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) created a document titled “Teaching About Laquan McDonald: A Toolkit for Teachers” that was made available to teachers over the Thanksgiving holiday. The toolkit is “designed to help guide a difficult conversation, if you choose to discuss the case in class.” It aims “to ensure teachers feel comfortable and prepared,” anticipating that many CPS students will have seen the video of the shooting and media coverage of the ensuing protests.
As teachers and teacher educators at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Education, we support CPS’s aim of helping teachers and students productively discuss LaQuan McDonald’s killing and its aftermath. This is a critical and tragic moment that demands our attention, and teachers need to be supported in their efforts to create educational spaces for young people to make sense of these events.
However, the CPS toolkit raises many questions and concerns for us. There is no mention of the reasons why this case has sparked massive protests, nor that it is one of numerous police killings and assaults on African American citizens that have been documented and protested within the last year alone. While the details of this case are unique, the events surrounding it are not isolated. A culmination of similar historical moments nationwide (many not captured on videotape) has led up to this moment in Chicago.
As public educators, we wish to offer some suggestions of how to better serve youth, communities and educators in Chicago. We are all struggling to understand these events, and how they reflect larger historical, social and political forces and conditions. We hope to reframe the discussion on the important teaching and learning that needs to happen at this time.
CPS’ Summary of the Case
The Introduction to the lesson plan describes the killing of Laquan McDonald on October 20, 2014, and offers an account of the events that followed. This account mirrors the account given by City and police department officials: it uses the word immediately (twice) and the phrase several days later to suggest a timely investigation, and emphasizes that the officer was charged with first degree murder, as if to imply an aggressive prosecution of the case. Not mentioned are the reports that officers at the scene dispersed witnesses, failing to take statements from those who might have provided a different account. There is no mention of the fact that the video contradicts CPD testimony, that the charges were not brought until a judge ordered the video’s release (against CPD’s wishes), or of widespread demands for the resignation of the States Attorney, CPD Chief, and Mayor.
The introduction to the lesson plan also makes excuses for delays by the City and State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez throughout the investigation. These delays have been widely criticized by local and national press, and especially by local community members. The introduction fails to point out that the $5 million settlement with the family was not the result of a lawsuit, but was initiated by the City in apparent acknowledgment of the egregiousness of the case. Also omitted is the fact that the murder occurred four months before the mayoral primary election of 2014, and the $5 million settlement was finalized one week after the runoff election. It is not accurate to state that the only reason the video was not released earlier was “so as not to interfere with an active criminal investigation,” and both national and local press have challenged this assertion.
We are troubled that CPS would repeat this much-questioned narrative from City officials in a lesson plan for teachers and students, as if it were the district’s own narrative of the events of the case. No news outlets have offered an account of events that so cleanly adheres to the official story. Mayoral control of the district should not mean that CPS curriculum is used to parrot City officials’ talking points. A lesson plan designed to meet the learning needs of young people should not be used as a vehicle for political manipulation.
The Learning Goals of the Lesson
CPS frames the lesson around six learning goals:
“Give students a safe outlet for expressing their thoughts without arguing about the incident.”
The killing of LaQuan McDonald, and the circumstances and events preceding and following it, are complicated and troubling. It takes time, energy, and political will to create space for young people to grapple with these issues in all of their complexity. We believe that differences of opinion, as well as intense emotional and physical responses -- anger, grief, distress, confusion, fatigue -- are appropriate and necessary when confronted with the violent and unjust loss of human life, especially that of an adolescent of color. Rather than suggest that teachers suppress students’ reactions (“without arguing”), we recommend curriculum activities like those developed by Project NIA (see links below) that encourage students to experience and process these reactions.
“Have students imagine the best possible outcome.”
The best possible outcome of what, and for whom? This focus simply on students “imagining” outcomes does not suggest much faith in the ability and agency of young people, and misses the fact that many students are already actively engaged in demanding and working towards real social change. Students can learn, in this moment, what it means to take collective action to hold public institutions and officials accountable, and to redress past and present injustices. This is most urgent for students who are most negatively impacted by institutional racism and poverty. As teachers, we should help our students move beyond “imagining” outcomes, to develop their agency to make change.
“Avoid further perpetuation of the fear and hatred of law enforcement that these incidents encourage.”
This does not point to any positive learning goal, and seems to ask teachers to “teach” students not to be afraid or angry. We assume that “these incidents” mean police killings and brutality against people of color. It is hard to imagine a lesson that instructs children not to be afraid, after they have watched the nightmarish image of a teenager gunned down by a police officer as he walks down the street. Teachers need ideas for how to help children of all ages process these feelings, and to understand the causes of these terrifying and enraging experiences, rather than try not to feel. There is an urgent need to establish honest and trusting relations between the police departments and communities of color nationwide, aggravated by institutional racism and patterns of police violence.
People are demanding transparency and accountability to the public. These are essential in a democratic society, and this is a perfect moment to teach these concepts clearly, and help students understand their right to demand them. Following curriculum materials like those linked below, an examination of the history of policing and the causes of police violence can allow for a deeper understanding of the reasons underlying distrust between communities of color and the police.
“Help students to consider the tools for civil protest that are in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in the spirit of brotherhood.”
The teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., are powerful, revolutionary, and highly relevant today. However, we find it puzzling that CPS looks backward a half century for a model of protest in response to oppressive forces and conditions, when powerful models of peaceful protest for social change are being organized, led by young people of color all over the country, and especially here in Chicago. An examination of the historical traditions of social movements, resistance, and struggles for liberation is a valuable goal for young people’s learning. But when they are looking out the window and seeing protest actions happening today, it seems also important to teach and learn about those movements for change that they now have the opportunity to participate in. By having a fuller understanding of historical and present day resistance, youth will be able to critically analyze representations that characterize protest as violent, criminal, and unjustified.
“Help students to examine the role that race, class, privilege, and stereotyping plays not just in this incident, but in our society.”
These are important concepts to teach in the current moment, but this language still skirts some of the most important issues. “Race” is the use of categories to name members of a certain demographic group, but the more relevant issue that must be addressed in this moment is “racism.” Beyond the idea of racism as a problem of certain individuals, this is an opportunity to learn aboutsystemic racism: the views, values, and processes engaged by institutions that subordinate, marginalize and discriminate against members of particular racial groups. The concept of “stereotyping,” while an important and harmful issue, is not enough to help students understand the frightening and pervasive pattern of police killings of young people of color. The concept of systemic racism can give students a way to understand racism in its historical context, and to interrogate the relationship racism has to their lives.
“Bring historical context to the conversation.”
We agree with the need to provide historical context, but none is provided in the lesson plan -- instead it is stripped of any reference to history. The current moment of social and political protest must be connected to the history of Chicago, including the relationship many communities of color have had to law enforcement throughout the city’s history. Whereas the Introduction of the lesson presents the killing of Laquan McDonald as an isolated and “difficult” case of possible police misconduct, the event -- and the protests -- cannot be understood without learning about the legacy of systemic racism and violence that African American people have been subjected to throughout our history. To change these historical patterns, we must confront this history squarely, and understand today’s events in light of that history.
A number of educators and organizers have developed powerful materials for teaching and learning along the lines described here. We recommend that CPS teachers join these conversations and seek out support for teaching lessons that can truly help all of us to understand the events playing out in our city.
Resources for Teachers
In addition to the resources provided in the CPS lesson plan, we suggest the following:
#FergusonSyllabus (via Twitter): a working collection of curriculum ideas compiled by teachers since the killing of Michael Brown, to which you can add your own lesson plans. Also see thisarchive, which is also linked from the CPS lesson plan
#ChicagoSyllabus (via Twitter): a new collection of lesson ideas focused on current events in Chicago - editable google doc
You can download flyers to help us promote the CF here.
Join hundreds of fellow defenders and transformers at the Curriculum Fair:
Curriculum Tables. Curriculum Tables are tables where (usually) teachers come to share/exhibit curriculum, bring student work, lesson plans, handouts, etc., and often bring students as well!
Resource Tables. These tables are usually for organizations that produce curriculum and resources for teachers and want to share them w/ others
Workshops. Although the main focus of the CF is person-to-person contact through the exhibitors at their tables, we also have a limited number of workshops.
If you would like to volunteer to help put the CF together...for example, helping with outreach, media/social media, documentation, setup, cleanup, registration, food, Spanish-English translation, or more...email us here. You can also volunteer through the individual registration form, when you register. So remember...click here to register!!
Follow the #TSJCF15 hashtag on twitter to stay connected.
12 Parents, grandparents, community members and supporters from around Chicago started a hunger strike on August, 17th.
On September 19th, day 34, the hunger strikers have ended this phase of the #FightForDyett. The hunger strike is over, but the fight for a community driven sustainable green technology high school continues. The hunger strike forced CPS to stop their delaying tactics and commit to re-opening Dyett as a publicly accountable neighborhood high school. The hunger strike prevented the privatization of Dyett, but there is still work to be done. The #FightForDyett continues.
Their demand is simple. Rahm Emanuel and his appointed school board needs to follow the community's wishes and use the now shuttered Dyett High School Building at 555E 51st St. for the innovative, academically excellent and culturally connected Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. While Mayor Emanuel has now committed to re-open a district run ope-enrollment at the Dyett site, he did not honor 90% of what the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett presented in their proposal.
Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School
List of Demands
1. Green Technology in school name and in school curriculum. 2. Global leadership/ world studies curriculum. 3. Duane Turner as the school principal, who was selected by Coalition to Revitalize Dyett. 4. Fully elected local school council in year 1. 5. Coalition to Revitalize Dyett represented on design/planning team with 6 members in prominent positions. Those who paid protesters to support closing Dyett cannot be on planning team. 6. The school must retain the name Walter H. Dyett 7. Vertical curricular alignment with the 6 feeder schools identified in the Coalition proposal. 8. Community school (open till 8pm daily, with programs and resources for parents, students and the community.)
Donatefunds to help the hunger strikers at the location or by clicking here. Follow the #FightForDyett and #WeAreDyett on Twitter and Facebook - Spread the word to put pressure on the mayor and his appointed board of education. Call Rahm Emanuel at 312 744-3300 and demand that he honor the innovative community plan for the creation of the Dyett Global Leadership and Green Technology High School. You can come to show your support for the strikers at the Dyett location 555 E. 51st St. between 10 am and 3 pm most days. For media inquiries please contact Jawanza Malone at email@example.com or 312 805-4326
Dr. Aisha Wade-Bey is a veteran educator, Bronzeville resident. Dr. Wade-Bey is a member of the Chicago Teachers Union Black Caucus, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and Coalition to Revitalize Dyett HS. Dr. Bey committed hundreds of hours with many other Coalition members to complete the Dyett RFP.
Anna Jones is an empathic Bronzeville parent of 4 and community leader, parent advisory council member at Woodson and parent mentor.
April Stogner is a lifelong Bronzeville resident, mother of three, grandmother three. Education leader and advocate, proud KOCO leader and member of the MidSouth Education Association.
Cathy Dale is a former CPS parent, LSC member at Mollison and King College Prep. Member of KOCO, Trinity United Church of Christ and proud grandmother of a 6 week old.
Irene Robinson was born and raised in Bronzeville and has been a parent to youth in the community for over 30 years. Ms. Robinson is parent of 6, and grandparent of 14. She has served as a foster parent for 20 years and is proud of the fact that all of her foster children returned home successfully. She was an active parent at Anthony Overton School and served as an LSC member and parent leader since the 90's. Ms. Robinson worked with other parents at Overton and Mollison when Overton School was unjustly closed and was recently sold. She is an active LSC member at Mollison and is a proud leader of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization. Ms. Robinson like scores of others committed hundreds of hours with other Coalition members to complete the Dyett Global Leadership & Green Technology Plan as a member of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett.
Jeanette Taylor-Ramann is a lifelong Bronzeville resident, mother of 5 and soon to be grandmother. Ms. Taylor-Ramann has served as a Local School Council member at Mollison Elementary for 20 years and is currently the Chair of Mollison Local School Council. She is a parent organizer at the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and member of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett. She committed hundreds of hours with other Coalition members to complete the Dyett RFP.
Jitu Brown is the epitome of a lover of all children and the belief that all children deserve a world-class education in their community. He has mentored thousands of young people in Bronzeville and beyond for the last 22 years and is a the director of the Journey for Justice Alliance and lifelong member and leader with KOCO. Jitu has served on Dyett's Local School Council since 2003 and is a member of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett and committed hundreds of thousands of hours on the School Alignment Process and the Bronzeville Global Achievers Village that eventually became the Dyett Global Leadership & Green Technology Plan.
Marc Kaplan is a long-time organizer, Board member and leader at Northside Action for Justice. Parent, husband, local school council member at Uplift High School in Uptown. Marc has been involved in organizing against gentrification and for people' s power in Uptown and around the city since 1972.
Dr. Monique Redeaux-Smith is a longtime Bronzeville resident and homeowner, parent, mother, member of Teachers for Social Justice and veteran educator.
Nelson Soza is a lifelong activist and organizer that has worked in all communities for justice. Husband and father of three and is the the Executive Director of Pilsen Alliance.
Prudence Browne is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois College of Education
Curriculum and Instruction Program and proud member of Teachers for Social Justice. Her research focuses on new teachers in New Orleans Post Hurricane Katrina. Ms. Browne is a member of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett and committed hundreds of hours with other Coalition members to complete the Dyett RFP.
Rev. Robert Jones has been a pastoral minister for 35 years. He is the Minister & Pastor of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church. He has been married for 15 years. father of 4, grandfather of 10. He has served on the Dunbar LSC for 3 years and is dedicated to standing for the rights of those whose voices are not heard.
Portraits of the hunger strikers by Phil Cantor. Allies may use the photos to promote the cause of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett. For other uses contact Phil at firstname.lastname@example.org
ItAGs are an opportunity for educators, parents, and community members to engage as learners and develop as education activists.
Kickoff Event: Wednesday, July 8, 6pm to 8pm location TBD
Finale Event: The week of August 17th, exact date TBD, 6 - 8 pm
Register for ItAGs here. Registration is required and free!
In between events, individual ItAGs meet weekly (for five, two-hour sessions) to share experiences, respond to readings, exchange ideas, and develop plans of action.
All locations TBD - once registered, you will receive location information.
RADICAL CURRICULUM FOR PRIMARY GRADES TUESDAYS 5:00 - 7:00 pm 7:00 PM
This group will focus on developing curriculum specific to the primary grades on the oppressive, patriarchal, and colonized history of the United States. Too often our students read about Christopher Columbus discovering America and the first Thanksgiving without the truth. There is not a lot of curriculum today that reveals what really happened, so this group will focus on developing that curriculum for the primary grades.
SOCIAL JUSTICE IN MATH INSTRUCTION TUESDAYS 6:00 to 8:00 pm00 - 8:00 PM
Are you interested in incorporating Social Justice into your math curriculum? During this ITAG we would like to invite educators, parents, students, and community members to collectively participate in the creation of lesson plans that will allow students to read the world through mathematics. We will explore different social justice topics and their mathematical connections to develop lessons to use in different grade levels.
CULTURALLY RELEVANT SCIENCE CURRICULUM TUESDAYS 10:30 am to 12:30 pm30 AM - 12:30 PM
In this ItAG we will work together to study culturally relevant science curriculum. We will also explore the NGSS to see what role they can/should play in culturally relevant teaching and learning. Our goal will be to design curricular units for high school science which engage students not only in learning science but also in learning to see their world through more critical eyes.
Register for ItAGs here. Registration is required and free!
Please spread the word to your educator/student/parent networks and on social media.
As many of you know, TSJ is part of the struggle to revitalize Walter Dyett HS, which the Board of Education voted (in 2012) to close by this month (see attached Dyett chronology for more). However, due to sustained community pressure, CPS agreed not to close it and to accept proposals. The Coalition to Revitalize Dyett HS, of which TSJ is a member, submitted one this April (see summary here), as did two other groups. June 17, CPS is holding a "community forum" as part of the proposal process. Below is the info from the Coalition, including its call for a candelight vigil immediate following the hearing.
TSJers, wear your TSJ t-shirt (if you have one!), we want all to see and understand that the support for the Coalition's proposal is from both within and without the community.
The effort to reclaim Dyett HS is part of the larger education justice work in Chicago, including the campaign organized by the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) for an Elected Representative School Board, and for 50 Sustainable Community Schools (click formore info). We are also supporting the CTU's contract demands for "a just Chicago," and were with CTU yesterday, rocking Chicago's downtown, Tuesday June 9!
Dyett HS will be one of those 50 sustainable community schools, but it's not won yet. Bronzeville residents worked for over four years to develop a "village" of schools, controlled by the community, but the Mayor, CPS, and allies refused to accept that plan and instead instigated the proposal process. Also, if the Obama Library comes to Washington Park (accelerating Bronzeville gentrification), it will be next door to the HS.
At the June 17 CPS-scheduled "community forum," the Coalition and the two other groups will present their plans followed by community testimony. Whether you live in Bronzeville or outside, you can come to the forum, support the community's long-developed plan, and speak out FOR public education and AGAINST education privatization.
The Coalition is holding a candlelight vigil immediately after the forum, demanding 50 sustainable community schools, of which Dyett will be the first.
Stand with our CTU sisters and brothers! TSJers! Come out to the rally to support CTU's contract demands (click here), which are demands for a just Chicago and just education for CPS students.
Remember-Teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions.
The below is from the CTU:
CPS is broke on purpose. For decades, politicians have diverted taxpayer money intended for Chicago's public schools to fund their pet projects. Now that the system is "broke," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and CPS interim CEO Jesse Ruiz think that teachers-and the parents of CPS learners- should expect and accept less.
As teachers, we stand for quality public education because every teacher wants to be an effective teacher. As the Chicago Teachers Union, we are bargaining with the city to renew our contract that expires June 30.
We ask for your support as we demand smaller class sizes, school libraries and art classes, and in-school counselors. We want to protect teachers' pensions so the profession will continue to attract and retain the best and brightest.
We ask you to stand with us as we fight for a quality education for every Chicago kid and a quality workplace for every Chicago teacher.