Blog: The Educated Reporter

Local and National News About the Chicago Teachers Strike (DAY 4)

Local and National News (Day 4)

Note from the team: Schools won’t open tomorrow, but delegates from CTU will meet to vote on the terms discussed between the union and city leaders. Karen Lewis, president of CTU, is optimistic the sides can agree on labor terms that will bring the strike to a close. Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing. Union delegates are slated to vote tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. to end the strike, provided the new contract is approved by the union’s full membership. Monday is the earliest projected start date for students and teachers to return to class. Should that happen, the strike will have lasted one week. 

 Just heard from a delegate that a meeting set for Friday at 2pm. House of delegates must agree to call off strike and accept agreement.

UPDATE: CTU confirms: house of delegates mtg Sked 2 pm Friday. HOD has to vote to end or accept a deal

Chicago Tribune: “On a scale of 1-10, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said ‘I’m a 9′ on a deal being reached today. But she said classes may not resume until Monday because the union’s House of Delegates would have to approve ending the strike.”        

Catalyst-Chicago: Karen Lewis leaves Wednesday night negotiations smilingcreating a chorus of seers who believe the strike may be drawing to a close. While there has been traction on the subject of teacher evaluations, the rehiring of laid off teachers remains the other major sticking point: “Initially, CPS wanted to reduce the protections for displaced teachers. While promising teachers could follow their children to receiving schools, CPS wanted to reduce the amount of time spent in the displaced teacher pool to five months from 10 months. They also were offering three months severance.

CPS has fought hard against giving displaced teachers preference for future jobs—something the union is demanding. On Wednesday, Jean-Claude Brizard held a roundtable with principals in which he again framed the issue as one of principal autonomy.”

Of special concern: 70%/CPS teachers do not teach a tested subject, yet up to 20 %/ evaluation based on schoolwide test results:

Reuters: “‘We are definitely coming much closer together than we were,’ a smiling Karen Lewis, the teachers union president, said after talks went late into the night on Wednesday. ‘Both sides making movement, coming together.’

The strike by 29,000 public school teachers and support staff began on Monday and has affected 350,000 elementary and high school students in the biggest strike in the United States this year.

‘The conversation was productive,’ Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief education adviser for Chicago Public Schools, said on Thursday. ‘There was steady and substantial movement on key issues around teacher evaluation and layoffs and recall.’”

16% raise = 2% cola in each of 4 yrs, plus 2% step increases. According to board’s latest proposal. Link:

WBEZ 91.5: New contract details shed light on the gains and sacrifices both sides are willing to accept to end this four-day strike. Progress was made on the teacher evaluation system, known as REACH. The modifications aim to assuage union fears that a new evaluation plan would lead to the possible dismissal of over one-quarter of represented teachers. 

“The new contract proposal offers the following modifications to the original evaluation plan:

  • an appeals process for “erroneous ratings”
  • a renaming of the “needs improvement” rating to “developing.” The four ratings would now be excellent, proficient, developing, and unsatisfactory
  • a pilot year for tenured teachers, and
  • biannual instead of annual ratings for teachers in the “satisfactory” category

Significantly, the contract proposal does not seem to touch on one of the union’s biggest underlying problems with the rating system: using student growth measures to rate a teacher.


Catalyst Chicago Mag ‏@CatalystChicago

Last night’s offer to includes same class size language as old contract, increases class size reduction $ from $2.25M to $2.75M                   

Chicago Sun-Times: “‘I’m praying, praying, praying. I’m on my knees for that,’ Lewis said about students’ return to school Monday.

Casting doubt on a return to school for students by Friday, Lewis questioned if there was enough time to go through all the details that both sides still need to address Thursday and then get it to the union’s House of Delegates for the necessary vote to end the strike.

Lewis said there is a better atmosphere in the negotiation room than before, and one key to the change was both sides diving deeply into the details of the teacher evaluation process.”

Capitol Fax: A new poll shows widespread support for the union and the strike: “Conducted by We Ask America, the poll of 1,344 voting Chicago households asked, ‘In general, do you approve or disapprove of the Chicago Teachers Union’s decision to go on strike?” 55.5 percent said they approved and 40 percent disapproved.” More households blame Emanuel than CTU. 

NPR: Chicago teachers might be the ones striking, but the issues that led them to the picket lines reverberate across nearly every school district in the country. NPR provides this handy primer on the major topics that have labor unions in a scramble. It also provides some evidence for and against the major reforms that have marked the teaching profession. 

In These Times: Some Chicago area charter schools are cheering on the CTU striking teachers: “Harris says that the teachers’ strike could call attention to working conditions within charters, including long hours, high turnover and lower pay than their public sector counterparts. While the Illinois Interactive Report Card reports that the average CTU salary is $71,000, estimates put the average Chicago charter teacher salary at $45,000.”

WBEZ 91.5: As strike drags on, students worry they might be falling behind. “‘It’s kind of bad for me because I’m actually behind on homework,’ Lawson said.

That’s right. Strike homework. Some Jones Prep teachers expect students to keep up during the strike. They’ve posted assignments online.

 ’So although they can’t talk to us, they still assign us homework,’ Lawson said.

That’s fine with sophomore Ross Floyd – although he admits he’s a little behind too. Floyd is worried about keeping pace with the curriculum in his AP History class.”

The Huffington Post: While we’re busy keeping you informed with up-to-the-minute updates on the strike in Chicago, HP takes a step back with a photo gallery timeline tracking the antecedents to the current labor conflict. 

A CPS parents has a blog up to connect with other CPS parents as strike continues.

Chicago Tribune: Teachers are anxious to return to their classrooms, but normal instruction will likely be accompanied by a “candid” talk with students about what the strike means. The latest round chatter among the striking teachers is that schools will re-open Friday. 

Lewis says agreement is close but school resuming Friday is “highly unlikely.” Delegates would need to be called in for vote.        

WBEZ 91.5: The aldermen are having a hard time taking sides, though they have quietly supported the mayor since the strike began: “Ald. Tom Tunney of the 44th ward… said he’s happy he is not at the negotiating table because ‘it doesn’t sound pretty” and added the strike is another flashpoint in the national debate over public employee unions.

‘This is really what I call our Wisconsin moment here in Chicago,’ Tunney said, referring to the showdown between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and unions in 2011. ‘The issues are much bigger than the teachers. It’s about union movement and respect for [them] and also the financial realities we have as a city.’”

Education Week: In the last three years, the number of states that require some use of student test scores to count toward a teacher’s performance evaluation has tripled. But in those 24 states and elsewhere, a gulf remains between what value-added does and what teachers want it to do: “Teaching groups nationwide have voiced concerns that test scores, even under value-added analysis, fail to account for many aspects of student learning and are not proven to be accurate indicators of teacher effectiveness.

‘Unless you completely believe that value added takes into account at-risk students and all the things that affect student achievement, it’s going to be really hard for teachers and teachers’ unions to sign onto evaluation systems where the predominant thing is student performance,’ Ms. Workman noted.”

MinnPost: What ails Rahm?

The New York Times: “Of the issues that remain to be settled in the contract dispute here between the teachers’ union and the city, expanding charter schools is not officially on the table. But the specter of those plans — an oft-cited goal of Mayor Rahm Emanuel — hangs heavily over the teachers’ strike.”

Commentary and Analysis

The striking teachers have let it be known they view charter schools in a negative light. Many critics of charter schools point to their private management structure while still relying on public dollars and little proof the schools improve student test scores. But what about improving the chances of entering college? “They find that in both Florida and Chicago, attending a charter high school increased graduation and college attendance rates. In Chicago, students were 7% more likely to graduate from high school if they attended a charter, in Florida it was 12% to 15%. Charters increased the probability of attending college by 8% to 10% in both Florida and Chicago. “

Karen Lewis: Cash-strapped Chicago schools plan to open 60 new Charters, as agreed to in “Gates Compact”

Calling standardized testing a form of Apartheid aside, the demands the Chicago Teachers Union has add to a very hefty price tag. Their proposals are mostly based on sound research, but the cumulative cost is staggering. Dylan Matthews of Ezra Klein’s WonkBook explains. 

In Chicago strike seems like CPS winning nationally, CTU winning locally. And like surfing, locals rule.

Marc Tucker, one of the most respected education scholars in this country going back two decades, discusses the politics of the Chicago teachers strike. “It turns out that Chicago wants a higher percentage based on student test scores than is required under a new state law.

Guess what?  That state law was passed in response to what amounts to a requirement for such laws laid down by the Obama administration for states wishing to get federal Race to the Top funds.  The very policy that the teachers are most furiously opposed to is not just Rahm Emanuel’s policy.  It is core Obama administration policy.  The mayor is carrying the water for the Obama administration’s education reform strategy, and, in doing so, may be undermining the very reelection effort to which the Mayor is personally very committed.”

Michael Petrilli says this strike is about power and bucks. He argues the union recognizes arguing over pay raises is unpopular given the high unemployment rate and flat wages, so they’ve taken on a new tack: “Now the teachers were upset about evaluations that would link their performance reviews with students’ test scores. But that position is unpopular, too—and puts the union at odds with President Obama—so now they are striking over…class sizes and air conditioning

This is akin to the Republican defense of the dubious “Voter ID” laws: That they are necessary to protect against voter fraud. Everyone knows they are a cynical ploy to suppress the participation of poor and minority citizens—likely Democratic voters. But GOP officials can’t admit that. So they obfuscate.

So it is with the Chicago Teachers Union. It’s the meat-and-potatoes issue of pay and benefits that has been front and center during the months-long negotiations; to argue otherwise is simply dishonest.”

Jay Matthews on the end of value-added measurements and Paul Tough’s new book: ”Education policymakers — including big city mayors such as Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel (D) — see rating teachers by student test scores as reasonable and know voters and big foundations feel the same way. Common sense is occasionally wrong in assessing schools, but it trumps research every time, as Hacsi’s book proves. Big-city leaders even overlook the fact that the successful charter schools they admire don’t assess their teachers that way… Science has proven, Tough says, ‘that the character strengths that matter so much to young people’s success are not innate; they don’t appear to us magically, as a result of good luck or good genes. . . . We now know a great deal about what kind of interventions will help children develop those strengths and skills, starting at birth and going all the way through college.’ Parents can help, his book shows, with intriguing profiles of the researchers involved.”

Matt Yglesias writes it’s a testament to Chicago’s investment in human capital that teachers in the Windy City have a higher than average salary. But there should be checks and balances: “Chicago’s teachers aren’t living lives of luxury, but the city really is investing in paying them an above-average amount. Now it wants to ensure that it’s not just investing a lot of money but investing that money in quality. Chicago teachers don’t want to be subjected to that kind of regime and reject the premise that the test-based model the city’s elected officials favor is a good proxy for quality.”

Nothing says class war quite like a spirited defense of the income and job security of college educated professionals.                   

Alexander Russo on the politics of this strike: “If Chicago teachers, union leaders, and the folks at the AFT National didn’t care much about the elections coming up, they might be thinking about prolonging things further and seeing how much they could get.  The poll numbers seem to be strong in support of the strike, even though the mainstream media opinion seems to be running against them. Maybe they could get more from Rahm, or inspire other locals to get more militant in the face of reformers.  That’s really the only reason why I don’t think you see AFT and NEA officials out there clamoring for more labor unrest (and why, I’m assuming, they’re urging Lewis to let go).”

Somewhat new to the education reform debate, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof feels the strike is doing the children no favors: ”It’s not just about education, but about poverty and justice — and while the Chicago teachers’ union claims to be striking on behalf of students, I don’t see it… I’d be sympathetic if the union focused solely on higher compensation. Teachers need to be much better paid to attract the best college graduates to the nation’s worst schools. But, instead, the Chicago union seems to be using its political capital primarily to protect weak performers.”

A pro-union, left-wing news site came up with a hit-list of liberal writers who have expressed some amount of criticism aimed at the striking teachers. If we are witnessing a break within the Democratic Party over education, something similar is happening among liberals and their support for labor. 

Along those lines, labor reporter and Washington Post columnist Herold Meyerson imagines an America in which liberals permitted the downfall of labor. 

One way to improve the education of poor students is to ban private schools, writes one person in the cheeky and scurrilous Gawker. The argument, summarized: rich families disproportionately enroll their kids into private schools; politicians respond to the powerful and wealthy; make private schools illegal so rich families can send their kids to public schools and force city managers to improve public schools; and Warren Buffet once said this should be done.   

If teachers want to find a permanent peace with city managers, agreeing on how value-added measurements should be calibrated would be helpful: “In Tennessee, for instance, teachers in non-testing grades were judged heavily by the test scores for their entire schools – something over which the teachers had little control… Teachers should also demand that the results of the evaluations be used to significantly improve professional development. If districts are going to hold teachers to higher standards – as well they should – they need to give those teachers the resources they need to meet them.”

The New York Times has a running debate on who’s at fault and what role labor plays in education.