Good news from CCC. No really…

Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield

The data are in – serious big data. Millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records have been used by The Equality of Opportunity Project which specializes in using mass data to create policy solutions for social justice and increase equality. The headline of the just-published data set when searched for CCC says:

“The median family income of a student from City Colleges of Chicago is $31,700, and 4.9% come from the top 20 percent. About 2.7% of students at City Colleges of Chicago came from a poor family but became a rich adult.”

Behind this unsurprising finding there are much more important data about which we should be proud. On the access issue it is very clear who our students are. Really clear:


Yet, with regard to social mobility we do much better than we might imagine:


So we end up with what I consider to be a fairly impressive “mobility index”:


To know our students, to know the struggles some of them face, and to now know that big national data puts us at 53 out of 690 community colleges for real impact to family lives, is a pretty impressive performance. Of course, I am being selective with the data I report here. Yes, really.

You can find the full data set here:

Sure, there is more to do. And yes, we must always get better. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful 2017 to have a District leadership team who lead by knowing and acknowledging the pretty spectacular job we already do? Oh happy day!


Mike Heathfield


Shared Governance Action Items: Provost Nominations by January 17 and Policy Revisions by January 22

Two important announcements from FC4 and District. You received these as an e-mail, but just to help spread the word:


From FC4 President Jennifer Alexander (Subject: “Nominations for Provost”), nominations for City Colleges Provost are now open until January 17. Anyone may nominate anyone. Description is here:…/About-the-Provost-and-Chief-Academic-O…

Send nominations here:


New policies are being proposed, and we have a short window to provide commentary and other proposals. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to review the proposals, but will before our FC meeting tomorrow. Armen forwarded the e-mail yesterday (subject: “District-Wide Academic & Student Policy Review, January 9 ­ 22”), but here are the key points:

1. Deadline for feedback is January 22.
2. Relevant documents can be viewed and feedback submitted here:

Faculty Council Meeting: Wednesday, January 11, 1-3pm, Room 1115

The first Faculty Council meeting of the year is scheduled during registration week, Wednesday, January 11, from 1 to 3pm, in room 1115. Vice President Sarrafian has approved attendance to this meeting as part of full-time faculty’s 30 hours during registration week.

This meeting’s purpose is to be as accessible as possible to the largest number of faculty, in order to have at least one meeting this semester where the faculty body can gather to introduce and discuss the issues that matter most to our community. This will also help Faculty Council set its agenda for the Spring semester. If all goes well, I hope this serves as a model for a pre-semester large Faculty Council meeting going forward, in order to better facilitate shared governance.

If you have thoughts about what should be on the agenda, either leave a comment or e-mail me at

CAST Elections, October 10-14

Elections for CAST coordinator will be conducted this week. Ballots and envelopes will be deposited in department offices on Monday afternoon and picked up Friday morning, just prior to the HLC meeting.

This year, we have one choice: Dr. Rosie Banks and Chao Lu have decided to run as a team (this is allowed according to the CAST charter). I have asked nominees to compose a statement regarding their merit and goals, which is provided here:

“The Center for the Arts and Science of Teaching (CAST) has long provided a faculty-driven, faculty-owned space to share best and current practices, new research, and emerging ideas in pedagogy and curriculum development. In past years, we have enjoyed diverse and substantive FDW and academic year programming that has challenged us to grow as educators. Should you accept us as CAST coordinators for this year, we hope to continue and expand that legacy by:

“-extending CAST’s accessibility through podcasting or other programming possibilities,

“-increasing opportunities for exchange with educators in the HWC community and/or in the Chicagoland region who are doing substantive work in teaching and learning, and

“-increasing opportunities for support for those of us currently pursuing degrees or taking courses, thus recognizing the significance of faculty scholarship in teaching and learning.

“-Most importantly, we will welcome your feedback and participation every step of the way.

“Since joining the HWC community, Ms. Lu and Dr. Banks have contributed extensively to the life of the college through our work in faculty committees, developmental education, the union, and administration (instruction). We hope to have this opportunity to work with you as your CAST coordinators. We would be happy to answer any questions you have both during and after this election process.”

The Search for a New Chancellor

This is the position paper delivered to the consulting firm that is spearheading the search for the new Chancellor and Provost, presented on behalf of Faculty Council, and e-mailed to the HWC faculty and relevant parties. I present it in this public forum because I believe statements like this should be public and accessible.

To the Consultants of AGB Search, LLC, regarding the search for the next Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago:

On behalf of the faculty of Harold Washington College, I would like to thank you for reaching out to us, hosting an open forum for faculty and students to voice their input, and requesting a position paper regarding the selection of a new chancellor.

As you have undoubtedly heard from faculty across the district, the relationship between faculty and administration has grown contentious over the past five years, perhaps irreconcilably so with the current administration. The cause of this strain, as you have also likely heard, has been due to a lack of “shared governance.” That in short, our administration has made major decisions with minimal faculty involvement, and as a result our classes and the education of many of our students have been disrupted. This has occurred despite much protest from the faculty, a protest that was consistently met with a dismissive and disparaging tone from district office. Time after time, we saw our administrators declare large changes without prior consultation with faculty; we saw these actions followed by negative consequences; and when faculty strived to correct these actions, we often felt that administration stonewalled and insulted us. We believe that because of this, we may not be providing the same quality of education as we once did for all of our students, even while some of our data points suggest that we do.

From speaking to my colleagues, there are four specific points that arise again and again in various forms:


FC4 Representative Nominees

As I announced via e-mail last week, we are currently engaged in FC4 representative nominations. We have one position open as Jesu Estrada completes one term. She is eligible to run again, and has chosen to do so. She is joined in the election by Jacqueline Cunningham. I’ve asked them to write up a statement, which you can find below and in your e-mail. Elections will run this upcoming week, from September 12 to September 14. Ballots will be in your office.

Dr. Maria J. Estrada

I have served as an FC4 representative for almost three years.  In that time, I have tried to represent, with the highest ethical standards, the wide interests of the faculty and departments.  I have taken your input and recommendations seriously.  It continues to be important to have a strong voice within the context of Reinvention and changes in our local, state, and national educational systems. At FC4 meetings, I have often been critical and outspoken, always advocating for our faculty interests, whether it be to oppose ill-thought policies or negative changes in our programs.  Likewise, it has been important to support changes that would benefit our students and faculty.  I have also cooperated on committees with faculty across the City Colleges as well as student advocates because I believe collectivity and cooperation produces better work.

Historically, I approved curriculum and courses that would benefit students, back when Faculty Council still had this role.  I was also one of the first faculty members to openly speak out against Biometrics and the privatization of our education both at the Board and meetings across the District.  Part of my FC4 advocacy includes speaking at Board meeting about academic program and policy changes, attending Board meetings to be further informed about campus-wide issues, and participating in actions like informational pickets and town hall meetings to voice faculty concerns. I am not afraid to fight for faculty interests and will continue to do so; however, when I can work with administration strategically and with your support, I will do so, especially if this endeavor furthers our academic interests and goals.  Finally, my door has always been and will continue to be open to your concerns and suggestions.

Jacqueline Cunningham
M.Ed., MA LinguisticsDepartment Chairperson English Language Learning/World Languages

My interest in serving on FC4 stems from not only the issues that we face locally at CCC, but also a triad of policy initiatives coming from Washington DC to the state of Illinois that are already in play, such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which affects our future students, the new Workforce Investment Opportunity ACT which is a complete revision of Adult Education, and next year 2018 Higher Education Act.  As a Chicago educator for over 20 years, I have seen the cycles of change in education more than once.  I have also experienced with students the effects of some challenging policies.  The coming few years are going to present policy challenges at many levels.  We need to advocate for our students as these changes occur. I recently returned from Washington DC speaking to our representatives, and I have seen great success locally in holding or reversing proposed changes to programs through advocacy by some of our faculty.  These observations have made it clear that faculty can educate our leaders locally and nationally on the needs of our CCC students and that the faculty are essential to advocating for the needs of all students.  It is up to us.


“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.

Tuesday Teaching Topic: Considering the Value of Student Learning Objectives

In the past few weeks, a number of articles have been published that question the value of Student Learning Outcomes (a selection of articles is linked to below). For example, the report that spawned the discussion presents its thesis as such:

“This report takes a look at how government officials have pressed college accreditors to focus more on “student outcomes”—quantifiable indicators of knowledge acquired, skills learned, degrees attained, and so on. It then argues that it is not these enumerated outcomes that are the best way to hold colleges accountable, but rather the evidence of student engagement in the curriculum—their papers, written examinations, projects, and presentations—that holds the most promise for spurring improvement in higher education. Furthermore, this engagement is also a key factor in keeping students in school all the way to graduation. The report concludes that reformers seeking to enhance college performance and accountability should focus not on fabricated outcome measures but instead on the actual outputs from students’ academic engagement, the best indicators of whether a college is providing the quality teaching, financial aid, and supportive environment that make higher learning possible, especially for the disadvantaged.”

I was introduced to the idea of SLO’s soon after being hired at HWC. After hearing the description, I immediately became skeptical. It struck me as a thin and abstracted means of measuring the value of a whole class. But in my own experiences, the great lessons I learned had almost nothing to do with the neat set of skills that the course was supposed to be about. My lessons were more about understanding the sorts of problems that a discipline engaged in, the limits of those problems, how to utilize the structure of those problems in different spheres. My teachers’s greatest lessons were always larger and grander than what could be captured in an SLO. And I wanted to be that kind of teacher.

But others around me have defended SLO’s. What is your take? Join the conversation here or on the CAST Faculty Lounge on Facebook (and if you are not a member of the group, I invite you to join. I will approve all educators).

Some other recent articles critical of SLO’s:

A reflection on the value of the article, generally supportive.

“Ten Theses in Support of Teaching and against SLO’s.” Thanks to Jeni Meresman for this one.

CASTaway: Brown Bags and Facebook Faculty Lounge

I’d like to announce two big changes to the operations of CAST, effective at least until my term expires in November, and then I’ll explain the motivation for these changes.

The first of these changes concerns the Tuesday meeting time. From now until the end of the semester, we will meet in 1046 on Tuesdays from 1:00pm-3:00pm for a brown bag lunch. All faculty are welcome, without RSVP or reservation, and there is no formal topic of discussion. It will simply be an opportunity to meet with your fellow faculty and talk about classes, teaching, your academic discipline, and so on. We will perhaps occasionally have specific discussion topics or workshops, but now these will be special events rather than the default form.

The second change is more of an addition. We now have a Faculty Lounge on Facebook. Currently, we have 52 members. This mostly includes HWC full-time faculty. But it also includes a number of adjuncts from the Humanities department and a couple administrators. I hope to see more adjuncts there in the future, but I’ll need your help for that: I can only add adjuncts who I know exist, and I only know adjuncts within my own department, with only a couple exceptions.

So why the change? 


Tuesday Teaching Topic: The Final Stretch

As we return from Spring Break, we face seven more weeks before the end of the semester. I find that the timing of Spring Break changes a lot of how the semester precedes. You may have remembered a few years ago when Spring Break took place after week 13. I felt that everyone was exhausted by the time we got to Spring Break, and when we came back, there wasn’t enough time to reignite the course. It was one of the most frustrating three weeks of teaching I can remember.

This year, we have almost half the semester. In my opinion, this is perfect timing for Spring Break. Everyone had a chance to to mid-terms, even if some classes held them slightly after the half-way point.

Yesterday, my classes still needed a bit of a warm up. I gave some problems to my logic students, and predictably, even the best students pre-break struggled with some basic problems. By the end of the session it seemed that everyone had gotten caught up to where they were before. We’ll see how today goes.

What particular problems do your classes face when returning from Spring Break? Is it business as usual, or do you use the temporal break to make some pedagogical or ideological shift in your classes?

As a side note, CAST now has a Facebook page: the CAST Facebook Faculty Lounge. I’ll post shortly about the purpose of the new page, but please join us at

I will approve all requesters, assuming they have some loose connection with pedagogy. If you wish to remain anonymous to the Facebook world but would like to join, just send me a note about who you are and I’ll admit you to the group.

Credit where credit is due

Posted on behalf of Professor Michael Heathfield. 


Huge credit is due to Dr. Margie Martyn and the team that pulled together an excellent State of the College meeting on Friday of last week. I loved it. It is good for all of us to communally listen to the authentic and diverse voices of our students sharing how they navigate their own particular journeys of success.  As was beautifully articulated, they do this with vital support from the many stellar employees at HWC.  It’s good to know we are also doing impressive things to reduce our carbon footprint.


Just imagine if Jim, Gabrielle, Anna and Nanmin were asked to share their real stories with the Board of Trustees and Chancellor Hyman.  My doctorate is in Educational Research and in qualitative research, authenticity of voice is very important.  You can get people to say all kinds of things, even in life and death situations, sometimes clearly against their own interests, but the authentic voice is the gold standard; “world class” if you like.  In the criminal justice world, the verbal confession used to be the gold standard of evidence, but it is no more.  DNA evidence has swept all before it and released numerous wrongly convicted men from jail despite their earlier “confession” of guilt.


I noticed Executive Vice Chancellor Laurent Pernot was there briefly, feverishly making notes, but my guess is that his notes will not capture the pride and confirmation that this State of the College generated in the hearts and minds of many in the room.  Of course, these student stories were a reinvigorating reminder that this is the quality work HWC has been doing for decades.  We should all be very proud of the longstanding work we do together in providing transformational opportunities for our students.  HWC is an exciting and innovative place to work and we rightly guard this downtown gem with much passion and love.  This is, and will remain, a very special place to work.  Passion and love are very hard to capture as data, so it is of little interest to Campus Zero and their world of mythical metrics.  So let’s give our HWC Administrators the first ever Aspen Award2 for knowing that in times of great challenge, we must frequently be reminded of the strengths, gifts and capacities that public educators use for the greater good. Political narratives use dirty data to spin stories of triumph or disaster and should have no place in public education.


Since we are moving heavily into the zone of less easy to capture phenomena, I wanted to share with you what happened in my new Social Science 105 class.  I have just graded their first assignment in which they told me a little of their lives and then explored three American social issues. They had to connect broader social issues to their own individual experiences. A full half of the class chose to write about the cost of education and the recent rise in the cost of their tuition. Got to love our students, using opportunities of choice and freedom, to tell it like it is.  We have yet to reach their textbook chapter on “Education”.  What a lovely lesson in the difference between book learning and life learning.


When love is in the air, it always is wrapped up with challenge and vulnerability.  Love has never been an easy ride.  So as a challenge to all those I love at HWC, I would like to offer the prize of the first ever Aspen Award3 to the first HWC employee to correctly identify which, if any, of the wonderful students sharing their success stories at the State of the College is, or will be, a contributor to our much-lauded IPED’s graduation rate?  You will need evidence – we don’t give these awards away without proof.  Love bites!


“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.”

Jimi Hendrix


Mike Heathfield


Akademos: Have you experienced any difficulties this semester? [Update]

Meanwhile, in “Noconfidenceindistrictoplis,” our heroes struggle to even be students…

Last fall, I actually expressed to my dean how surprisingly wonderful the Akademos user interface was for ordering books.

I should have known better.

My classes are currently plagued with students who do not yet have their books. We’re in week four, and students report they haven’t received their books. On the first week, a number of students claimed they had no way of knowing what books to buy. I’m sure the information was available to them, but they didn’t know where to get it. Today, I heard two reports in my smallest class of one student still waiting on his book (though he ordered it on week two) and another student who first experienced a delay in shipping, only to receive a book for a psychology class. And psychology is not philosophy (we often get confused by people or businesses that don’t understand academics).

Maybe some of my students are exaggerating their book woes, or blaming the system when it is in fact their fault. But it can’t be true for all students.

If we had a brick and mortar supply, I would know that they had a clear opportunity to get their books. Now? We’re in week four and some students may yet have cracked the cover of principal core texts.

Is anyone else having problems with Akademos? Good, bad, or weird, share your experiences in the comments.

UPDATE: Within twenty minutes of posting this, I received a phone call from an Akademos representative. The rep told me someone had alerted her about this post. They offered to provide information for any or all of my students on when they ordered the book and whether they’ve received it or not. This feels a little creepy to me. I accepted the information anyway, confident that I’ll use my knowledge of ethical theories to justify this some way or another. Utilitarianism usually works in such cases, but I’m screwed in Kant’s categorical imperative. Anyway, I learned that a grand total of 8 of my 15 students had ordered a book through Akademos. The two students I referred to above didn’t order their books until early February, despite reporting to me for weeks that their books were ordered and on the way. The story about receiving a psychology book instead of the philosophy book was confirmed. This is no less frustrating than before, but the fact that students waited until February to order books means that they must share in the responsibility.

Julie Andrews Joins CCC Board

The following post is written by Professor Michael Heathfield


Apparently at the February 4th Trustees meeting faculty and press were presented with an all singing and dancing performance of Chicago style political theatre.  It was tragically evident many six-figure salary executives had toiled long and hard to pull this performance off.  A note to the scriptwriters – too many mentions of the word “confidence” betray sloppy writing and weak direction.


If the wonderful Dr. Cecilia Lopez had been there, she would have surely provided the performers with an exact word count for “confidence”.  Many years ago she did this to me with an over-used phrase when she observed my teaching.  After her precise note on my limited vocabulary, with the support of my students, we implemented a successful six-week program to wean me off of my rhetorical over use of, “Does that make sense?”.


So I won’t use it now while I comment on the tawdry performance orchestrated by a group of unelected, politically connected, knowledge-deprived cast of characters. OK, I admit Julie Andrews was not there, but for the rosy and effusive beautification ceremony of Chancellor Hyman, she should have been.


Can we please inject some facts into this hyperbolic exaltation of Chancellor Hyman’s heroic ride on her chariot to save CCC from the unbridled mess we had made of public education before she arrived to bless us with her corporate gifts?