Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama In the "Chicago School Wars"
-- A Failed Executive Experience
(Updated: 9/24 am)
In a devastating overview piece , "Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism On Schools," in the Wall Street Journal today, Stanley Kurtz records many of the observations he has gleaned from his recent careful examination of the internal records of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) -- the umbrella "school wars" organization he led for 5 years from 1995 to 1999, and remained on the Board of Directors of until 2001.

Kurtz incurred considerable hostility in his initial efforts to examine the records. His entire WSJ piece is well worth reading, including the further detailing of the disturbing relationship between the Democrat nominee for President, and the still unrepentant domestic terrorist, William Ayers.

Tom McGuire at "Just One Minute," is still all over this Obama/Ayers relationship story as well. And Steve Diamond at Global Labor has been hotly pursuing the CAC story as well, also zeroing in on the question of what role Ayers had in the hiring of Obama.

In this piece in the Wall street Journal, Kurtz makes the following salient point, one that is too quickly glossed over by skeptics. It goes to the heart of the only professional executive position that Barack Obama has ever held, and to his judgment in fulfilling that role. Kurtz notes:
"CAC's in-house evaluators comprehensively studied the effects of its grants on the test scores of Chicago public-school students. They found no evidence of educational improvement."
One would think that one observation ought to be at the heart of how people weigh the qualifications of Barack Obama to become the President of the United States. After all, his work as the Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) for those five years, constituted his only professional executive experience.

What Obama, along with the assistance of Bill Ayers, chose as their agenda to pursue in fulfilling his executive role, was to carry on a radical left-wing political fight for control of the Chicago schools, one that by and large ignored the academic needs of the children.

Instead, they spent all the money and energy on their "democratization," or "small schools" agenda, concentrating their efforts on promoting the power of Local School Councils (LSCs), rather that pursuing any real or measurable educational benefits for the students, whose very lives and fortunes were at stake.

That speaks volumes about his bad judgment.

We noted some of this in general sense in our prior post, but it is well worth repeating, as now much more fully documented and elaborated on by Kurtz.

Bear in mind that the original grant proposal to obtain the $49.2 million dollars from the Annenberg Foundation, a proposal that was predominantly written by Bill Ayers, specifically promised "a Renaissance in the classroom."

They produced no such thing.

But based on the promises contained in that original grant, they were able to attract considerable additional grant moneys. Yet, what they delivered over the next several years while he was in charge -- between 1995 and 2000 -- was essentially an unbelievably expensive and ongoing internal City fight over who would "control" the Chicago School system, and a pile of money for radical groups such as Acorn.

Indeed, they were paying for such things as "training" candidates for these local political campaigns, and for teachers, in such "substantive" topics as "social justice." And, in pursuit of that agenda, they were forking over boodles of money for a variety of projects proposed by leftist radicals, such as former SDS radical and known Maoist, Mike Klonsky.

At the same time, they turned down academically-oriented proposals, such as ones for the improvement of the math skills of minority Hispanic students.

As Kurtz notes:
CAC translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice. Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with "external partners," which actually got the money. Proposals from groups focused on math/science achievement were turned down. Instead CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or Acorn).

Mr. Obama once conducted "leadership training" seminars with Acorn, and Acorn members also served as volunteers in Mr. Obama's early campaigns. External partners like the South Shore African Village Collaborative and the Dual Language Exchange focused more on political consciousness, Afrocentricity and bilingualism than traditional education.
In 2003, the conclusion by CAC evaluators, was that the CAC had produced absolutely nothing of value for students -- there were no measurable improvement in student skills or performance that were attributable to the project.

That was the conclusion (pdf) from the 2003 Report of the Consortium of Chicago School Research (CCSR), whose sole purpose was to evaluate the success of the CAC funding over the years.

Here are a few choice tidbits quoted directly from their evaluation report, which can be found right up front in the Executive Summary. The language and tone of the Report are both charitable, even "understanding" of the possible whys and wherefores of the CAC's lack of success. But the bottom line is disturbingly clear.

(Re: Student Academic Achievement) -- "There were no statistically significant differences between Annenberg schools and non-Annenberg schools in rates of achievement gain."
. . .

(Re: Student Academic Engagement) -- "Like student academic achievement, there were no statistically significant differences in these outcomes between Annenberg schools and non-Annenberg schools."
In other words, the Annenberg evaluators themselves conceded in their study that any educational improvements occurred across the board and, therefore, had nothing to do with the CAC, or the Annenberg project.

As recently noted here, the evaluation simply stated that there was "no Annenberg effect on achievement" in the Chicago schools under the leadership of Barack Obama.

It is also becoming more and more obvious that there has been a significant, long-term Bill Ayers effect on the political career, and on the political thinking of Barack Obama.

Let's just hope that there will not be be a corresponding Ayers/Obama effect on our nation's educational system!

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