Chicago Teachers Standing Strong for Better Schools, Improved Student Services

Thursday, September 13, 2012

(AFL-CIO)

While contract talks between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the city continue today, the 29,000 teachers and education professionals who were forced out on strike to gain a contract that provides students with the education they deserve were on the picket lines early this morning and then gathered for three large rallies across the Windy City.

Chicago teachers want smaller class sizes, investments in neighborhood schools and additional services for students. Chicago students deserveand parents wantsmaller class sizes to foster improved teaching and learning. And Chicago teachers are calling for investments in health care, social workers, additional meal services and other programs to ensure that children receive the support they need to succeed in the classroom.  

AFT President Randi Weingarten says what Chicago teachers want more than anything are the tools and conditions to do their jobs and help all students succeed. This morning, in a column in USA Today, she writes:

The issues that teachers are fighting for go to the heart of improving Chicago's public schools.Teachers report classes of more than 43 students and not even enough chairs for them all. And teachers often lack textbooks and other materials up to six weeks after the start of school.They are calling for smaller class sizes, investments in neighborhood schools and health care, social workers, meal services and additional services for students.They want to focus on teaching and learning and have legitimately objected to the district's fixation on high-stakes testing that is narrowing the curriculum and being used to sanction teachers.

Read Randi Weingarten's full column.

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Zerlina Maxwell writes on Ebony.com that teachers have been unfairly demonized as greedy, but that while the conflict over salary increases is the most reported part of the impasse,

its really high stakes testing (standardized exams, which require teachers to "teach to the test") being the basis for teacher evaluations that is the most significant conflict. Despite numerous studies showing that this testing is an ineffective method of cultivating successful students, reformers have succeeded in spinning the narrative around to blame teachers, damaging their public image.

Meanwhile Rebecca Mead at TheNewYorker.com also takes a look at the growing demonization of teachers not just by the far right but by people with little knowledge of such urban school systems as Chicagos where 80 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced priced lunches, which is usually taken to be a measure of poverty.

One problem with Chicagos schoolslike schools in urban centers all over this countryis that their constituents, the students, suffer from the usual hindrances of poverty: having no place at home to study; having no support at home for studying; sometimes having no home at all. Another problem is that talk of breaking teachers unions has become common parlance among the kind of people whose kids do not live below the poverty line, polite Pinkerton agents of education reform; circling at cocktail partiesblaming teachers for the failure of schools is like blaming doctors for the diseases they are seeking to treat.

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In The Washington Post,Melinda Henneberger writes:

If we really wanted to improve schools, wed do what education powerhouseFinland does  fund schools equally, value teachers more, and administer standardized testing almost never.

On his blog Teacher X, Chicago teacher Xian Barrett fires back at Chicago Pubic Schools (CPS) CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and writes, I wanted to educate Mr. Brizard about what it means to help or hurt our kids I am willing to sacrifice an awful lot to protect the students I serve every day.

When you make me cram 30-50 kids in my classroom with no air conditioning so that temperatures hit 96 degrees, that hurts our kids. When you spend millions on your pet programs, but theres no money for school level repairs, so the roof leaks on my students at their desks when it rains, that hurts our kids. When you take 18-25 days out of the school year for high stakes testing that is not even scientifically applicable for many of our students, that hurts our kids.

 

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