Troy Anthony LaRaviere was, until this week, the principal of Chicago Magazine’s #1 neighborhood school, Blaine Elementary School. LaRaviere became the principal of Blaine back in 2010, saying he would bring the 6th ranked school to the top of the list and he would use empirical evidence to support the school practices he and his fellow educators applied to their student body.
About two years into his tenure, after dealing quietly with the mountains of bullshit that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) get from up high, he began speaking out about his misgivings with what he felt was mismanagement. When Emanuel announced sweeping budget cuts to education a couple of years ago, Troy LaRaviere publicly criticized Emanuel and others. This led to LaRaviere being chastised publicly, and the beginnings of a campaign to oust LaRaviere began, you know, corporate gangster-style.
Troy LaRaviere has been battling, on principle, to stay principal the past couple of months, but the announcement of his school’s success—in a publication that Emanuel and others laud—LaRaviere was given the opportunity to resign on his terms and in an open letter addressed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It’s one of the best pieces of writing on public education and the fundamental problems with education “reformers” in both the Republican and more importantly the Democratic Party. On his school’s accomplishments LaRaviere writes:
Behind this significant accomplishment are a series of basic concepts based on empirical evidence regarding effective school practices and thoughtful consideration of how we might apply those practices at Blaine. One fundamental element of improving the school was ending selective access to advanced curriculum. When I arrived, less than 30% of students had access to it; today more than 90% have access. As is the case with most CPS schools, Blaine has a talented hard working staff. Another critical element of our success was to involve that staff in an effort to create systems, relationships, and patterns of collaborative activity that are proven to improve teacher performance, and therefore improve student achievement. In many ways, that was the easy part.
The difficult part was mustering the will and stamina to remain steadfast in our commitment to use evidence-based practice in the face of tremendous pressure–from politicians like you–to adopt baseless “school reform” ideas like “tracking” (school based selective enrollment), “choice,” and the over-evaluation of teachers; ideas that are grounded in ideology and politics as opposed to proven effective educational methods. In a word, the biggest obstacle to Blaine becoming the #1 neighborhood school in Chicago was politics. And while many people contributed to this problem, nobody in our great city is more responsible for that political obstruction than you.
LaRaviere hoped for a while that his, and the example of others, would help get Rahm and other “reformers” to see that there were tangible benefits to listening to actual educators about…education.
Accordingly, in the summer of 2013 I began efforts to ensure that the residents of our city understood the negative consequences of your administration’s backward and reckless management of our school district. I did so for the following reasons:
- Decisions by you and the board you appointed and completely controlled had damaging consequences for our school system.
- Although your board was unelected, and therefore unaccountable to the residents of Chicago, you were indeed elected and could be held accountable.
- As a public servant it was my responsibility to ensure the public understood the negative consequences of your school-related decision-making so they could hold you and your board accountable.
So for the next three years, I consistently and publicly advocated for credible evidence-based education policies. This, in turn, made me also be a consistent public critic of the ideological and politically driven policies coming out of your office and implemented by your hand-picked board.
He is not alone. The United States is filled with teachers who are being forced to comply with idiotic test-based and private money-interest-driven educational “reforms.” The whole letter is linked above and below, but I will leave you with his conclusion:
In closing, should you ever decide to prioritize student learning over the profits of your campaign donors, feel free to reach out to me and the principals I was elected to represent. We have an abundance of ideas for improving the system for the students we serve. In the meantime, we will continue in our efforts to vigorously advocate for the kind of effective evidence-based education policies and practices that your office does its best to ignore and suppress.
Listen to Principal LaRaviere talking about budget cuts and his opposition to the crony education being pushed by both Democrats and Republicans, last year. Read the entire open letter here.
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