Testimony

City Council Chamber

Yesterday, the Committee on Education and Child Development for the City Council of Chicago met to discuss one agenda item – “calling for hearings to determine the impact and consequences of consolidating Child Development programs at the City Colleges to single location”. Several representatives from City Colleges provided testimony after which the Aldermen had a chance to ask questions. It was an interesting experience for me. I’ve never attended a City Council meeting before. I was impressed with the questions they asked about the 6 nationally recognized Child Development programs offered at City Colleges and the obvious time they had put in to understanding the program and its impact on the early childhood workforce in the city of Chicago. There were many moments when I felt the Aldermen had a better grasp of our program than upper administration at the District Office. Many people had the chance to speak including a graduate who described the impact of studying Child Development at a college close to her home in Englewood and how that helped her to make a better life for her own children as well as the young children and families she served in her work as a child care provider. It was quite moving, but also very informative and I’m glad people were listening.

I’ve included my full remarks below:

My name is Carrie Nepstad. I am an Associate Professor of Child Development at Harold Washington College. I have been in that position for 13 years. In that time, I have also served as the Board President for the “Associate Degree Early Childhood Teacher Educators” association. Currently, I am on the editorial Board of “Voices of Practitioners” a publication of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and I also serve on Mayor Emanuel’s Early Childhood Education Workforce Development Taskforce. In 2015, the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council of the National Academies produced a report entitled “Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation”. This is the full report. It is nearly 700 pages long. I served as a Practitioner Advisor on this report where I met with the committee at the National Academies offices in California Irvine as well as in Washington DC and then again here in Chicago.

All this is to illustrate that I serve many roles at the city, state, and national level where I am routinely asked to provide my expertise on a wide range of projects, initiatives, and policy. I am not rare. All of my fellow faculty in Child Development at City Colleges serve similar leadership roles and yet our own institution did not seek our expertise when the decision was made to close 5 nationally recognized Associate degree programs and leave Truman as the only option for Child Development students across the city. If they had consulted with us they would have seen how destructive this decision is to the child care workforce in the city of Chicago and how this decision, based on misleading information and inaccurate data, will hurt young children and their families in our most vulnerable neighborhoods for many years to come. We need to build the workforce and provide more access to higher education in our south and west side communities – not cut them off or create more burdens for them.

A major recommendation of this report is to increase the education level for the early childhood workforce. There is a sense of urgency in our field to provide access to higher education so people can build their academic credentials in the field. And, as the report states, strategies will be needed to

“mitigate possible negative consequences such as workforce shortages, [and] reduced diversity in the profession…” (p.8).

We have repeatedly stated that it will be exceptionally difficult for Child Development students residing and working on the south and west sides to travel across the city to attend classes at Truman College. The early childhood agencies where they work, which are legally bound to keep workers on site while children are present, will not be able to release employees early for such a long commute. The employers in all of your wards are already suffering under budget crises and teacher shortages. Shutting down these 5 accredited college programs puts additional undue burden on students, on early childhood employers and agencies, and on families in the communities where the early childhood center is often one the strongest resources in the neighborhood.

Because we draw students from every region of the city, Chicago is in an enviable position to meet the recommendations of this report and to build a highly qualified and diverse early childhood workforce. But we have to be mindful of the barriers our students face; they typically work full-time in early childhood while pursuing their degree and they often have children of their own. They are not in a high-wage position, yet they often feel compelled to give back to their communities. The strength of the early childhood workforce in Chicago is that the workers come from the communities in which they serve. We know how important this is for the development of young children and their families. We also know that the stresses they face are not mere inconveniences.

From page 476 of the report,

“The health and well-being of care and education professionals play a critical role in their effectiveness as educators and thus in the development of children… These effects of the stressors they experience can restrict the ability of educators to create positive, high-quality learning environments for their students”.

One of my recent graduates is a veteran who has faced many challenges upon returning to civilian life. While in Iraq, he would often be asked to play soccer with the local kids. Through this act of service, he came to realize that working with children was his true calling. Another student started attending classes in the late eighties and through a series of life events has had to stop and restart her studies many times over the years. Last semester, she almost stopped out again because her daughter had been diagnosed with a serious illness, but with the encouragement of her classmates she was finally able to complete her student teaching and achieve her goal. Another student, late in life, is now raising her nephew with disabilities while working full-time and continuing to take one class at a time to finish her degree. In her final semester, she suffered an illness, but she completed her homework from her hospital bed because she was so determined to finish on time with her classmates, and earn her degree.

I’ve worked with hundreds of students over the past 15 years that are just like these. They are real people facing real challenges. The role they play is extremely important in our society and we should be doing everything we can to support them. Our students are strong and they have demonstrated an ability to face many challenges yet City Colleges asks them to do the impossible when they say that students can get from their workplace on the far south or west side of the city to a 6pm course on the far north side using public transportation or even a shuttle. This is physically impossible. How dare we suggest that they will simply figure this out or go somewhere else? As a city, we can do better to support early childhood education. This is arguably one of the most important workforce development projects of our time and we can do better.

This is not about faculty who are supposedly unwilling to change. Most disciplines and programs across the City Colleges struggle to align their curriculum, yet the Child Development faculty have twice redesigned every core course in order to meet the demands of the field, they have gone through a rigorous accreditation process, and they have worked together to align offerings with the state credentialing system.

We reinvent ourselves annually. We are not afraid of change.

Child Development faculty have been working closely with the Education Dean over the past year to provide ongoing recommendations for the various upgrades City Colleges is making to the classroom spaces at Truman. We fully support that City Colleges has made some investment in that program as it was the only program in the District that did not have adequate resources including a lab space. We can continue to work together to support all Child Development programs at City Colleges. This absolutely can be done within budget. In fact, it has the potential of becoming a model within the District and beyond.

I want you to know that because of its unique District system with 6 separate accreditations, the Child Development programs at City Colleges of Chicago are known across the country and this process is being watched closely by Associate Degree faculty and institutions of higher ed. from Washington State to Washington DC. The people in our field know about what is happening here. They know it’s a mistake to shut down these programs and they are watching to see what the city of Chicago chooses to do about it.

Thank you very much for your time.

FC4 moves to file complaint

Posted on behalf of FC4 President, Jennifer Alexander

June 17, 2016

Official Statement: The Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago (FC4) Calls for an Investigation

Over the past two weeks, in an apparent attempt to justify their decision to consolidate six Child Development Programs to Truman College, the District Office of the City Colleges of Chicago has disseminated the following documents to stakeholders including Aldermen, media contacts, and the Mayor’s Office: 1) a PowerPoint Presentation, 2) a document entitled “The Facts About Child Development Programs at City Colleges”, and 3) a document entitled “Child Development Programs Information”.

Faculty researched the data presented within the documents listed above and have found them to contain misleading and erroneous information. In addition, faculty have discovered that over the past two years at least 120 Child Development Basic Certificates were awarded from Truman College to Child Development students who have not taken any courses at Truman.

The Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago (FC4) is the elected representative body of all full-time City Colleges of Chicago faculty members. The charge of FC4 is to “represent and be responsible to the faculty in all matters of general academic policy such as curriculum, program development, academic freedom, and professional development in an advisory, consultative, and planning capacity to the Chancellor and to the Board of Community College District No. 508” (Constitution of the Faculty Council City Colleges of Chicago).

On June 15, 2016 FC4 held an emergency meeting and the following motion was passed:

FC4 will file a formal complaint with the Office of the Inspector General, the Board of Trustees, PACC, the Illinois Community College Board, the Higher Learning Commission, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, and the Department of Education seeking an investigation of the City Colleges of Chicago’s reporting on the number of completions for all Child Development Programs across the district, including all reports that have been submitted to ICCB, HLC, DOE and any other external agencies over the past two years.

This letter serves as a formal complaint.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago

Jennifer Alexander, FC4 President

A call for an investigation

Over the past two years over 100 Child Development Basic Certificates were awarded from Truman College to Child Development students who have not taken any courses at Truman.
Based on this information, the District-wide Child Development faculty team is calling for an investigation of CCC’s reporting on completion rates for all Child Development programs.  Completion rates are used for a variety of purposes for internal decision-making, but also for external accountability so it’s important that they are accurate.
The Child Development faculty team urges FC4 and any other faculty groups to act now and call for a full investigation.
 

June 2 Board & Mo’ Problems with Ed Tech?

On Thursday, June 2, there was a press conference in front of 226 W. Jackson regarding Child Development and keeping it available at all colleges. I didn’t attend the press conference, but I did speak (for my new monthly activity!) at the board of trustee meeting.

There were so many addresses from faculty and students (and community members) on June 2. Kim Knutson spoke so eloquently about the new procurement bucket for city purchases and students spoke so powerfully about consolidating child development and the recently changed nursing requirements.

I provide my address below. The clip I refer to is hyperlinked in the text.


Good morning, Chair Middleton, trustees, Chancellor Hyman, esteemed colleagues, and honored guests.

My name is Kristin Bivens; I am faculty member from Harold Washington. My doctorate is in technical communication and rhetoric. And this fall, I will proudly celebrate ten years at HW.

You might remember me from last month. I spoke about the infancy of educational technology and caveat emptor; or being cautious, careful, and conscientious spending taxpayer monies on educational technologies.

Today, I want to further contextualize a framework for decision making regarding educational technology or ed tech.

I am a critic of science and technology. I imagine my mind is critical of technology because of two main factors: my grandma Bivens—who lived through the depression and modeled conscious consumption and spending money wisely; and my background and education in technical communication.

Last month, I invited you to be critics of educational technology with me and to embody, as is our responsibility, the spirit and practice of caveat emptor–let the buyer beware.

It might be that it is June, and my brain is relaxed by the sights and sounds of early summer in our Chicago, but I have been thinking about Clark Griswold a little bit.

Do you know the movies starring Chevy Chase as the patriarch of the Griswold family: the National Lampoons movies? If you remember Clark Griswold and his family, they were Chicagoans, too, who liked to vacation in places like Wally World, Vegas, and Europe. I appreciate a good vacation, too.

In National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation, Clark Griswold takes his family to the Hoover Dam. While on the Hoover dam tour, which included getting inside of the actual Hoover dam structure, Clark wanders away from the tour group, and notices there’s a leak in the actual dam.

He pulls chewing gum out of his mouth and seemingly and benevolently, he plugs the leak with his chewing gum in the wall.

For a moment, he stops the leak. Then, suddenly the leaking water is redistributed and  more leaks emerge.

Uh-oh.

As you can imagine the scene is quite humorous, and I remember laughing quite a bit when I viewed this movie as a younger woman because Clark pulls out more gum, chews it quickly, and plugs up the latest leaks.

For a moment, again, he stops those new leaks, but yet again, the leaking water is redistributed, and creates new leaks.

Clark ends up sneaking away from the mess he has created, leaving it for someone else to fix.

Sometimes, solving one problem creates new problems.

The takeaway from Clark’s Hoover Dam scene is we should endeavor to not create more problems with our solutions.

And if we don’t know, we should ask. I am sure if an engineer was standing next to Clark on the Hoover dam tour, he could have advised him to keep his gum in his mouth.

Chair Middleton and trustees: I hope you think about Clark Griswold when educational technology “solutions” are presented to you.

Thanks for your time and attention.

 

“Being an Adjunct College Professor can be Awful”

If we cannot help adjuncts now, we must keep it in our minds, so that when there is an opportunity to help, we do not forget them.

It has been a long time–too long–since we reminded ourselves and administration about the ridiculous and unjust plight of adjunct faculty. Over the past year, the issues of consolidation, graduation rates, student success numbers, and the concept of shared governance have taken center stage. These are undoubtedly important issues, and I don’t mean to distract us from them. However, I confess it is shocking to me that graduation rates is talked about more, in my experience, than the plight of adjuncts. Perhaps we see it as an unsolvable issue. One that costs an enormous amount of money, and we should therefore focus our efforts on issues that we can affect positive change.

But in terms of the ways in which we, as an institution, are failing miserably and in a morally reprehensible way, the compensation we provide adjuncts is far and away our number one issue.

So, dear district administrators and fellow faculty, take this as a reminder that we, as an institution, are failing the majority of people who are directly providing our goods–education–to our students. If we cannot help them now, we must keep it in our minds, so that when there is an opportunity to help, we do not forget them.

Remember: 21792. That is the annual wage we provide our most experienced, most hard working, most highly educated part-time faculty. 4 classes per semester. PhD. 7+ years of experience. Less than poverty wages. And nearly four years without a contract, or even a fair contract proposal.

http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2016/04/25/being-adjunct-college-professor-can-be-awful

FourSee Faculty Post: Reinvention 5-Year Data

Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield and FourSee Math Faculty:

 

Here is a very disturbing graphic that will not be appearing at a Board Meeting anytime soon.  It paints a dramatic picture of what Reinvention has delivered for some of our students, communities, colleges and colleagues. Does it look good to you?

FTE Change

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some wiser heads predict this picture will get even more disturbing once fall 2016 registrations are factored into the frame.  Campus Zero is quick to ascribe falling enrollment to a recovering economy and improved employment. Of course, it would be heresy at Campus Zero to refer them to solid statistical evidence that for the middle class, the working class, and the poor the “recovery” did not indeed lift them up to where they were before the Great Recession.  These R words cover a mass of complexity, which is an anathema to the political class. These are dangerous blanket words in the wrong hands: Recession, Recovery, Reinvention and, lest we forget at our peril, Recruitment and Retention.

 

FourSee

 

 

 

 

Mike Heathfield & Math FourSee faculty