At a birthday gathering Saturday night, I overheard a conversation among several decade-plus Rochester City School District elementary school teachers. They joked about being the last to leave their school building at 7 p.m. They talked of never going out for dinner or drinks during the week because of their stressful workload. One said she was frustrated her teacher friend in high-achieving Penfield got a preliminary rating of “highly efficient.” Another said, “I’ll never be rated above ‘developing.'”
These teachers are working hard in high-poverty schools with minimal parental involvement. They’re tired of having a target on their backs when their students fail, despite their long hours and best efforts.
Teachers in Chicago are on strike today for the first time in 25 years. The Chicago union is the first to wholesale rebel against the “education reform” sweeping urban school districts across the country.
After marathon talks mostly resolved “economic issues” (The district says it offered what amounts to 16 percent raises over four years), teachers walked out anyway. They’re worried about job security amid the craze over standardized testing and teacher evaluations. The Sun Times reports:
Key disputed issues in the talks were teacher cost of living raises, additional pay for experience, job security in the face of annual school closures and staff shakeups, and a new teacher evaluation process that ties teacher ratings in part to student test score growth.
“Evaluate us on what we do, not on the lives of our children we do not control,” (Union chief Karen) Lewis said Sunday, denouncing the online process by which teacher evaluators were being trained.
CTU officials contend that CPS’ offer of raises over the next four years does not fairly compensate them for the 4 percent raise they lost this past school year and the longer and “harder” school year they will face this school year, with the introduction of a tougher new curriculum.
The union also has pushed for improved working conditions, such as smaller class sizes, more libraries, air-conditioned schools, and more social workers and counselors to address the increasing needs of students surrounded by violence — all big-ticket items. CPS officials contend they are seeking a “fair” contract, with raises for teachers, but are limited by funding and the threat of a $1 billion deficit at the end of this school year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel calls this a “strike of choice.” The school system will likely be in utter chaos as the district set up 144 half-day sites staffed by administrators and nonprofits. The strike will place a tremendous burden on families and students.
If Chicago Public Schools Jean-Claude Brizard had remained in Rochester, where teachers overwhelmingly voted “no confidence” in his leadership and gave him scathing marks on a survey, would things have gotten this bad?
Brizard is among the “reformers” who want longer school days, more flexibility in hiring and firing, merit pay and tough evaluation metrics. They have a singular focus on tests, which comes at the expense of art, music, libraries and physical education. They don’t like to talk about the concentration of poverty, believing their methods will level the playing field. They believe they’re leading a civil rights revolution that calls for drastic measures in dire times.
This strike is about so much more than money. It’s about how to teach poor kids.
Links of the Day:
– The killing of college student Greg Fickess remains unsolved, 19 years later. I was in high school and remember the fear and racial animosity this case stirred. His parents now run a ministry.
– A Rochester student loan debt collection company is doing quite well.
– Imagine living in a house New York State has been threatening to demolish for two decades.
– In Kansas City, getting poor people to sign up for Google Fiber has become a civic cause.
– Let the baby cry it out, so you can get some sleep.