All posts by morgangilbard

New SAT gets better reviews from students, but doesn’t end debate on testing bias

By Morgan Gilbard

Education experts argue that the new SAT still punishes students for not being white, wealthy or male—a bleak verdict that places the majority of CPS students at a disadvantage in college admissions. The new test aligns more closely with high school curricula and eliminates penalties for wrong answers, but critics say it still does not address long-standing biases in its overall content.

Administered for the first time on March 5, the test’s release marked over 20 years of criticism of the College Board’s approach to measuring the potential of high school students as they head to college.

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Rebel Rouser: High school activist speaks up for better education

By Morgan Gilbard

Nidalis Burgos stood her ground when police threatened to arrest her during a school closings protest in 2013. A teacher told Burgos, who was only 15 at the time, that the incident would cost her a future.

“My eighth-grade teacher came into the classroom and said, ‘Hey, just so you know, if you do this, colleges won’t accept you,’ ” Burgos recalled.
Now a senior at Lincoln Park High School and a prominent figure in the burgeoning student-led activism in Chicago Public Schools, Burgos still doesn’t regret that night—especially now that her college dreams are approaching on the horizon.

“I got my three acceptance letters and all I could think was, ‘Hey, Ms. Macey was incorrect,’ ” Burgos said.

Proving people wrong is a hobby for Burgos, who is doing just that as co-founder of Chicago Students Union, the champion force behind student-led advocacy for education funding and reform. Support for the Students Union has increased at the same pace that the district’s pile of problems has grown. CPS has made $75 million in cuts for this fiscal year, is in the midst of seemingly endless teacher contract negotiations and needs a $725 million loan to stay afloat.

The student protesters who follow Burgos at marches and rallies are fed up— and their numbers are growing into the hundreds. Continue reading

Anti-testing movement plans 2016 strategy as education cuts take center stage

By Morgan Gilbard 

Anti-testing advocates worry that the opt-out movement will take a backseat this year as Chicago Public Schools and the state drown in a sea of other problems.

Concern over budget cuts and teacher union negotiations threaten to overshadow a movement that led to 20,000 Chicago students opting out of standardized tests last year. Statewide, 44,000 students opted out of tests.
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Rauner pleads to Assembly on budget, gets booed by hundreds of protesters

By Morgan Gilbard

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s annual budget address to the Legislature was upstaged by approximately 400 protesters who stormed the State Capitol on Wednesday afternoon and booed the governor upon his departure.

The protesters’ chants condemning higher education cuts were audible from inside the General Assembly chamber, where Rauner tried to placate Democrats with new attempts to compromise on a solution to resolve the eight-month budget impasse.

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Sanders on the upswing: What now?

By Morgan Gilbard 

DES MOINES — Underdog Bernie Sanders fought Democratic Party  royalty Hillary Clinton to a draw in Iowa on Monday night.  Whoever noses ahead in the final count, the results highlighted a hard lesson that Clinton should have learned in 2008: Never underestimate the new kid on the block, even if he’s a 74-year-old Democratic socialist.

The caucus was a victory for Clinton in only the strictest sense of the word. In many respects, Sanders’ close pursuit brings Clinton’s entire campaign strategy into question and places more pressure on her to regain ground in New Hampshire and beyond.

Projections for the Feb. 9 primary already looked bleak for Clinton, who trailed Sanders by 18 points before the Iowa results were in. Her team is watching to see if the dead heat will further energize the Vermont senator and his enthusiastic fans.

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Cruz spins Constitution into votes

By Morgan Gilbard 

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When you ask Ted Cruz fans what they like about a man publicly hated by so many, one trait stands above the others: Cruz’s self-proclaimed respect for the Constitution.

Campaign 2016
Click here to check out all of Medill Reports’ coverage of the Iowa Caucus and the road to the white house.

“We need somebody in there or the country is going to be over. Someone that supports the Constitution,” said John Koval, who attended a Cruz rally in Iowa City on the eve of Monday night’s caucuses.

A Harvard-trained lawyer, the Texas senator tells audiences that President Obama has dismantled the Constitution through misguided policies and rash executive actions. No matter that Obama himself is a Harvard graduate and longtime professor of constitutional law.

Cruz, a champion debater in college, fires up his audiences by lambasting Washington politicians and Democrats more generally. He proclaims his faith in god and his loyalty to the Constitution. He told Iowa City audience, “Our constitutional rights are under assault every single day.”

Every Cruz fan I spoke with at the muddy Johnson County Fairgrounds on Sunday mentioned the candidate’s “Constitutional values” almost immediately. Their phrasings were so similar, the words sounded as though they had been lifted from a press release.

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A Valentine for Hillary

By Morgan Gilbard

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Chloe, age seven, waved a homemade valentine at Hillary Clinton’s rally on Saturday night. She clutched a heart flag, cut from construction paper with a hand steadier than her own. At every crescendo of Clinton’s speech, she cheered.

After the candidate’s words and the crowd’s cheers had faded away, I went up to Chloe and asked, “What’s your favorite thing about Hillary?” She looked at me through her glasses, grinned sheepishly and said, “I don’t remember.”

Her aunt prompted Chloe to tell me about their other sign. “There’s been 227 years of men!”

For girls as young as Chloe and women far older, seeing Clinton vye anew for the presidency sparks sentiments more powerful than an abstract conversation about the possibility of the first woman president. Continue reading

Who would be on a Trump ticket?

By Morgan Gilbard

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Timothy Hagle is hounded by reporters every four years for his thoughts on the Iowa caucuses. His analysis of campaign strategy, minute details of candidate demeanor and insight into Iowa life is basically a second job.

The University of Iowa professor, like the rest of us, is shocked by how far Trump has made it. So, speculating about Trump’s vice presidential pick no longer seems ridiculous.

“In some sense, he might go for someone with more government experience,” Hagle said. “I can’t see him going for another total outsider. That might make it too easy for Democrats to attack—saying ‘They don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to get things done.” Continue reading

Christie makes voters curious, not excited

By Morgan Gilbard

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Presidential hopeful Chris Christie drew more uncertain voters than die-hard fans to his town hall forum Friday night. Voters dissatisfied with the Republican frontrunners came to give Christie a look – and left with greater respect for the New Jersey governor.

“I think Donald Trump is a bully,” said Fran Draude, a retired mailman and undecided voter. “The other people are negative. We’re tired of that and they’ve done that for too long. And it’s time for a change.”

Recognizing that he might have voters like Draude in the audience, Christie took advantage of the spotlight with a well-practiced Trump impression.

“I’m gonna make everyone incredibly wealthy,” Christie said in a deep New York accent. “Not as wealthy as me, but incredibly, incredibly wealthy.” Continue reading

Maverick youth: the generational war of the Republican Party

By Morgan Gilbard 

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio may be trailing in the polls, but he is capturing the attention of young Iowa voters uninspired by Republican front-runners in a party often seen as too old and too white.

“Our generation has a more hopeful message rather than an angry kind of message,” said Meaghan O’Brien, president of the Hawkeyes’ Marco for President chapter and a campaign volunteer.  “I feel like he has the potential to not only further the Republican Party, but also reach across the aisle and solidify a stronger relationship with Democrats.” Continue reading