Chicago Teacher Strike - a different perspective

I got this from a friend in Chicago Public Schools and it sheds a very different light than what the National News is portraying.

I didn't post this to create any hostility or debates - but rather as a way to see it from another perspective - from the teacher perspective.  It doesn't matter what side you stand on - but it is important to listen and understand the other side.

"They are saying all sorts of things on the national news, but there is a lot of misinformation and confusion. We are not striking over pay and we aren't demanding 19%. That figure comes from the independent arbitrators report that was released in June. Our mayor has extended our school day and year by 11%. The arbitrator said we should be compensated for our time. Last year, the final year of our previous contract, Rham said the school system couldn't afford the 4% raise that was in our contract so we didn't get anything. That money was then used to hire consultants making six figures, pay bribes/bonuses to schools and principals that didn't follow the contract, and some was transferred to the police department. The arbitrator said we should get that 4%. Finally, he recommended a 1% COLA raise for 4 years. That is where the 19% figure came from as far as I know.

The main issues for teachers are evaluations and teacher recall. I'll try to be brief on both, they are implicated issues. The board is proposing an evaluation system where 40% of our ratings will be based on test scores. For non classroom teachers part of this is a subject specific test and part is school wide literacy scores. I was on the team that designed the music assessments and after we finished them they were changed significantly. A listening exam about instrument families was changed to examples of individual instruments for example. As for the literacy scores, if the entire building doesn't go up, our ratings are lowered. My school is at 93% meets and exceeds with 18% special needs students. If our scores don't go up, we are considered unsatisfactory and subject to being fired. For classroom observation, the other portion of the proposed evaluation system they are using a distorted form of Charlotte Danielson's work. She has said it is not ment o be used this way, but they don't care. We have already been told hardly anyone will qualify for the top category, you have to be a perfect teacher in all four dementions. They did want to tie this to merit pay, but have dropped that as they couldn't formulate a plan as to how it would be implemented.

Another issue in CPS is that they are using testing scores to put schools into turnaround. This means they fire the staff and give the school to a charter company. The charters do not have to hire all certified teachers, and they can turn away students with disabilities and behavior problems. Veteran teachers, some NBCT's are displaced and have trouble finding new jobs due to the stigma of turnaround. Principals are hiring first year and TFA teachers because they are cheaper. Some schools have huge teacher turnover each year, but they won't hire experienced educators who want to stay in the system. We are asking for a recall process where principals would have to interview veteran teachers for positions, but principals would still have final choice over who they hire.

There are other issues that we can't strike over: class size, most are 30-45, building conditions, air conditioning, materials, we often don't have them, sick day accumulation, a punitive wellness policy and much more. We want better schools for our students and teachers, not education on the cheap. Outside groups are putting a lot of money towards "school choice", but none of that money makes it to the schools. None of the board members or high ranking people from downtown are educators, most haven't been into a CPS school for anything but a press conference or photo op. They have no idea what our schools are dealing with and blaming teachers is the party line. That's why we are striking and will continue until we have a fair contract.

Over 140 CPS schools don't have libraries. My request for screens on my second floor classroom windows was denied. 101* in my classroom on the first day of school. Today we moved our rally from downtown to three schools in the poorest areas of the city. As we marched through the neighborhood past the hosing projects and boarded up buildings the kids swarmed out to join us. There was 100% support from the parents, ministers and businesses. I know they are saying horrible things about us in the national media, but we are receiving a lot of support from our communities."


Rina k6art.com said...

Thanks for posting this. Seriously. I will pass on to my general ed. colleagues.

Mrs. C said...

It's so scary. This could be any of us.

Ms Novak said...

Yes -- Pass this on. I think it needs to be spread. I think it is time that people hear from passionate teachers that are in it for the teaching. The public needs to not listen to the union reps, or the media -- but to the teachers. People who assume or speak on our behalf generally have no idea what we are really trying to do or ask for.

I don't know how it all gets jumbled or how we ended up having teachers be the root of all evil.... ::sigh:: I am going to try and stay off of that soap box for now.

As an art teacher the merit base pay based on test scores makes me super nervous!

cathy said...

Our school system is evaluating us this year in a similar fashion. Any pay raise I receive will be based on my schools literacy and math scores as well as growth shown in my subject teaching area which is art. I have to come up with "test" to give students based on 30 standards at the beginning and end of the year. Everyone is walking around half scared because our evaluations can take place anytime with no announcement all year. Our system of evaluations sounds very similar to Chicago. Our bargaining power has also been taken away from the union. The only thing we are allowed to bargain is pay raises, and we only get them if our school does well with standardized testing. It's a mess! I wish more people new what was really going on.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your inside perspective on the situation. You are correct that news media have not covered these points. On the other hand, as a teacher, you might want to check your spelling and punctuation before hitting the "publish" button.

Best wishes for a successful conclusion to the story.

Ms Novak said...

Anonymous -- While I appreciate your concern for my spelling and grammer, I did not write this. I do not work for CPS. This is a direct quote from a friend's Facebook status that does work in Chicago Public Schools and their take on the situation.

Jennefer Doll said...

Thanks for the heads up! I am a teacher, and I too struggled with a new evaluation system. I was evaluated 6 times in a year. Our school mentored our teachers, we worked together as a PLC, to come up with specific ways to bring up our literacy score, I taught mini-lessons on writing. In the end it worked..our scores are up. Based on my evaluations and the schools scores, I will get a pay incentive. I love teaching art, and at first kids didn't understand why I was teaching writing in a art class, but you have to read and write in all classes. Students soon saw the light.

The conditions in CPS are not the conditions in which I teach, my heart goes out to those teachers who are on the front lines, teachers who truly care that each child succeeds. America needs to wake-up, we are blessed as a country that EVERY child receives a education, this does not happen in other countries. We do need reform in education. I watched an awesome documentary called " Waiting for Superman" it really opened my eyes. We all need to work together, it's the children who end up suffering in the end.

Anonymous said...

Tying ancillary teachers' pay and teaching skills to a school's reading/math scores is a good way to get people to not work at lower-performing schools. CPS admin have been trying to privatize the system for years, thank goodness the CTU leadership finally came through being advocates of teachers.

To the previous poster - "Waiting for Superman" is propaganda paid for by charter-school supporting billionaires. I am not trained in teaching reading or writing, and yes, you do need to read and write in classes (though, I think there's an argument for the beauty of a class, like art, that kids DON'T have to be subjected to the whole reading/math obsession), but it's ridiculous your district is having you take time away from what you were hired to do. Kids need more, not less, fundamentals taught by art, music, dance, and drama.

Anonymous said...

To the previous poster........Waiting for Superman. Propoganda??? Seriously? Are you saying that "rubber rooms" don't exist? I, personally, feel that that is the main reason teachers are so frantic and gung ho at the opportunity to strike! They are afraid of having any REAL evaluation that might be detrimental to their employment all the while proving they are not being productive teachers. Having a "rubber room" is a safe haven for teachers...and WHY NOT? I can do as I please. Get reprimanded in the "rubber room" and STILL receive my pay and benefits. AND THEN, I'll go on strike because I DESERVE MORE! GIVE ME A FRICKEN BREAK! And for the record, I AM A TEACHER who believes in making a difference NOT stomping my feet and throwing a two year old fit because someone is going to finally hold teachers to task! Going on strike is PATHETIC!