September 18th, 2012
Chicago Teachers End Strike, Add Anti-Bullying Clause Protection
By voice vote, teachers suspended their strike against Chicago Public Schools. Classes resume on Wed. Sept. 18. Download a comparison of original CPS demands with terms in the final agreement.
Three major points. (1) CPS wanted principals to have unlimited teacher termination privileges. Instead, CTU inserted an anti-bullying clause that prohibits abusive and demeaning conduct by principals.
(2) On teacher evaluation, CPS (and all other public education “reformers”) wanted 45% of a teacher’s performance to be determined by her or his students’ test scores. No appeals process would apply. With career-ending evaluations beginning year 1. Additionally, teachers were to evaluate each other. In the final agreement, CTU preserved 70% of teacher ratings based on practice, not student performance. Appeals for unsatisfactory ratings allowed. No evaluation by colleagues. The insertion of student survey data will be by choice, not mandatory.
(3) The proposed raising of employee health care premiums by 40% and co-pays was frozen.
The strike was not as much about salary as the above two points. When Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office he immediately rescinded the agreed upon 4% pay raise for CTU members. So, CPS offered only a one-time raise of 2%. The agreed to contract calls for 3% in year 1 and 2% raises in years 2 and 3.
The term of the contract will be 3 years instead of the 5 years proposed by the district. The next dispute will flare up during the mayor’s re-election campaign. Look for fireworks again as the anti-education mayor (and “new” democrat) attempts to do the bidding of the public school privatization movers and shakers.
I can’t get over the momentum of the anti-teacher, anti-public-school movement in this country. It shows the power that when movements are backed by billionaires, the pace of change is quite swift, never glacial.
The body of evidence, based on facts and evaluation research, still suggests that teacher accountability based on student test scores is a bad idea and charter schools are not a panacea.
Here are two more sources of information about these topics to arm those of you committed to preserving public education provided by government rather than corporations.
1. Teacher Quality and Teacher Accountability by Marc Tucker, May 8, 2012.
We are fools to think that we will improve teaching by inducing fear into the hearts of the incompetent. All we will accomplish is inducing resentment among the many good teachers we already have, inducing them to leave, which is happening at an increasing rate, and inducing revulsion among the best and brightest of our young people who therefore choose some occupation other than teaching, which is also happening at an increasing rate.
It is time instead to reach out to our teachers with an offer of support and to the most promising of our young people who are deciding on their careers with new policies that will convince them that we genuinely mean to convert teaching from a blue collar occupation into a high status profession that can offer them the profound satisfaction and reasonable compensation
2. Teaching Me About Teaching by Charles M. Blow, New York Times, May 4, 2012 (cited by Tucker)
A big part of the problem is that teachers have been so maligned in the national debate that it’s hard to attract our best and brightest to see it as a viable and rewarding career choice, even if they have a high aptitude and natural gift for it.
A 2010 McKinsey & Company report entitled “Closing the Talent Gap: Attracting and Retaining Top-Third Graduates to Careers in Teaching” found that top-performing nations like Singapore, Finland and South Korea recruit all of their teachers from the top third of graduates and then even screen from that group for “other important qualities.” By contrast, in the United States, “23 percent of new teachers come from the top third, and just 14 percent in high poverty schools, which find it especially difficult to attract and retain talented teachers. It is a remarkably large difference in approach, and in results.”
According to the report, starting teacher salaries in 2010 averaged $39,000 a year. Let’s assume that federal, state and local taxes eat up a third. That would leave a take-home pay as low as $26,000. However, according to the Project on Student Debt by the Institute for College Access and Success, a college senior graduating that year carried an average of $25,250 in student loans. The math just doesn’t work out.
Furthermore, jobs in education were slashed substantially from August 2008 to August 2011. According to an October White House report: “Nearly 300,000 educator jobs have been lost since 2008, 54 percent of all job losses in local government.”
If we want better educational outcomes, we need to attract better teachers — and work to retain them. A good place to start is with respect and paychecks.
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