Won’t You Please Come To Chicago?

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iStock 000001090904XSmall 150x150 Won’t You Please Come To Chicago?It’s hard to remember Chicago being the center of such significant national attention since the convention days of ’68. And, as was the case then, the confrontation between the establishment (Mayor Emanuel) and protesters (Teacher Unions) may have ramifications well beyond state lines.

As of this writing, 350,000 students remain at home, while 25,000 teachers and support staff walk the picket lines. A proposed solution seems to be on the horizon but the fallout of the strike will effect policy decisions around the country.

While not the only issue fueling the teacher’s action, at the center of the debate is the subject of last week’s blog post; tying teacher evaluation to student scores on standardized tests. The fact that Mayor Emanuel was given the podium at this year’s Democratic National Convention, and used that opportunity to praise the Obama administration’s willingness to embrace such change, speaks volumes as to the extent significant school reform is deemed necessary in order to correct the perceived ills of the public school system.

Some went so far as to claim that the democratic party has abandoned one of their staunchest and most loyal support groups, teacher unions, and has instead embraced a very different vision of public education. The pre-release screening of the anti-union drama “Won’t Back Down,” sponsored by Democrats for Education Reform, clearly demonstrated to which side of the debate the party line had subscribed.

And, it doesn’t stop there. This past week the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents the district’s school administrators, agreed to have school principals evaluated by student achievement. The decision brings the LAUSD in line with a California State Superior Court judge’s ruling on Doe v. Deasy that said that teacher and principal evaluations must account for student achievement. And while the extent of that linkage will be closely monitored over the next few years, one would have to be both blind or rather clueless to miss the direction all this is headed.

Much of this debate, as is the case in most debates, centers on misunderstandings, and misrepresentations. The above mentioned film is a case in point. It portrays teachers, and certainly teacher unions, in an ugly light. They are seen as lazy, irresponsible, unprofessional, unbending and uncaring. You and I, who have spent the better parts of our lives dedicated to children, know well the lie being presented. But we would be foolish to think this representation and the call for quantifiable teacher and principal evaluation were not, at least in part, the result of such thinking.

As educators we can, and must, react in two ways. We must continue the good fight against systems that would harm our profession and inhibit our ability to teach our students. At the end of the day we are the ones who are trained to educate, and the trust placed in America’s teachers by the parents of our students is well placed and well deserved. At the same time, we must examine the policies of our unions, and our own professional conduct to uncover the source of the significant dissatisfaction that fuels the call for reform. If you have trouble finding fault in our current system of education, then take a truthful look around, the problems are fairly easy to identify. What we have to realize, is that if we do not actively confront those faults, others, by in large much less qualified, will step in to correct them for us. What CSN&Y said in the summer of ‘68, still rings true, “We can change the world.”


7 Responses to Won’t You Please Come To Chicago?

  1. christian yow sang says:

    teachers have been hiding problems of indiscipline of pupils too much , trade unions are very timid on this issue, so the ministry believe that the teaching profession is ok , teachers are very happy to work . . .join the groups “Education problems ” and the group “Teachers Problems”, we have 13 pages on Indicipline problems which many wants to hide .,.,, also go to read the group The Far Siders. .

    Christian Yow Sangg Facebook
    a teacher from mauritius island since 1991

  2. Tony da Silva says:

    I teach in Ontario, Canada and we are also facing an attack on our profession by having our government pass a bill taking away our right to collectively bargain a contract.
    I also know that this is a shift of taking away education rights.
    Keep up the fight since we know who we are representing- students! Teachers need to have an important role in education and be awarded for the work they do!

    • Karmi Gross says:

      The best response I can offer is a bumper sticker I once saw which read: ‘It will be a great day when schools have all the money they need and the air force has to run a bake sale to by a bomber.’

  3. Patrice Lee says:

    The social ills which are overwhelming many households have not been sufficiently addressed in this country. Too many public school students are not fully prepared to respond to rigorous daily instruction. Some come to school hungry and refuse to eat the breakfast that is available. Others come to school without adequate rest or in poor health. Others are distracted, angry, or rebellious. Such problems can be continuous in many schools with counselors and principals unwilling or incapable of dealing effectively with these issues. In the midst of all this, you want to tie teachers’ pay to standardized scores. (I did not mention a poor physical school environment laden with toxins such as mold–from leaks and condensation, asbestos, and lead paint; inadequate ventilation, sanitary conditions, heat, or air conditioning.)

  4. Patrice is so right. Should teachers be judged by the performance of students who bring such grave issues to the classroom? They need healing before they can really learn adequately. Teachers are compassionate, but they are not miracle workers. We do our best to meet as many needs as we can, but positive results may not happen within the space of a semester. If the scores raise by only one point shall the teacher be fired? If so, shall a new teacher be hired every year then? If that’s the way the Department of Ed will go then teachers will be hired to serve as scapegoats and nothing more. May the powers that be, seriously reconsider their logic.

    • Karmi Gross says:

      Your point is well taken and highlights the immense complexity of this issue. Those who think there are easy solutions will do us all a tremendous disservice. All parties must be cognizant of this fact and work closely together to come to logical and appropriate means to assess educators.

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