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Teachers Strike Notebook 4

Has the strike actually been a good thing - are we better off as not only a city but a nation for having it?

When I see the discussions that the strike has sparked all over the country, I kind of start to think so.

It's been more substantive than the presidential campaign, even given the vast amount of misinformation spinning around out there.

And if it comes to an end soon, as it now again looks like it might, one week of lost instruction (that will be made up) isn't a big deal.

In fact, we all may have learned a thing or two.

Helping or Hurting
A teacher responds to Jean-Claude Brizard.

Optics Journalism
"Messaging has been an Emanuel strength," Kristen Mack wrote for the Tribune earlier this week.

In other words, he's done a really good job manipulating us!

Evaluation Games
If only reporters and editors were evaluated as thoroughly as they want for Chicago teachers. Sheesh, is anyone else in the world evaluated so stringently? Let's face it, everyone knows who the good, average and bad teachers are in a given school. Formal reviews, as an editor once told me, exist almost wholly to be used in case a boss wants to fire someone.


Robin Meade on CNN Headline News: "Teachers don't want test scores to affect their evaluation, which would affect their pay."

Simply not true. Teachers accept test scores as part of their evaluation, they just don't want them to be as huge a part as Obama and Emanuel want them to be.


"Chicago's teachers say they would accept a rating where 25 percent was based on student achievement on tests, but balk at the increase to 40 percent, higher than the state standard," the New York Times reports.

Table Games
Hipster Alderman Joe Moreno strikes again.

And here's where Rahm has been. The principals are rarely at the table until the very end.


"[Rahm] has not personally attended any of the schools negotiations and has instead sent an aide," the New York Times reports.

Nominal schools superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard hasn't attended the negotiation sessions either.

Test Case
So Rahm and the editorial boards are going to take on the Lab School next?

Political Reporting
In the mind of a political consultant, this angle might be true. But in the mind of a journalist, the only thing that should matter is determining the truth about where the president stands - and it's clearly with Rahm - and forcing him to say it aloud.

Business Opportunity
"The Chicago Teachers Union strike, now in its second day, is giving one Chicago company a boost in business," Crain's reported on Tuesday.

"Sittercity, a website that helps parents find baby sitters and nannies, has seen membership jump 35 percent in the past 24 hours in the Chicago market, said Mary Schwartz, director of public relations."

Hedging Bets
So funny - journalists hate when hedge funders buy up and run their news organizations but they don't seem to mind when they try to run school systems.

Illogical Leadership
"As an executive in banking and then trading, David Vitale was known for his strong opinions and terse logic, according to former colleagues," the Tribune reports.

"Although Vitale projected an aura of calm and quiet amid chaos, he worked tenaciously to do what he thought was right even if that left some feeling 'rubbed the wrong way,' according to A.D. Frazier, who worked with Vitale at First Chicago Corp. in the 1980s."

Great. Between him and Rahm, you've basically got two grating banksters.


"Before being tapped by Emanuel to helm the school board, Vitale chaired the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit that manages teacher training academies in Chicago and oversees efforts to turn around several low-performing schools in Chicago.

"The move led to accusations of a conflict of interest because the turnaround operator was expected to receive new schools to manage."


"Wendy Katten, director of the parent group Raise Your Hand, said she found Vitale to be informed but at times dismissive.

"Katten recalled one particularly chaotic board meeting in which protesters shouted down board members over school closings. During a lull, Vitale quipped that he hoped the protesters had 'gotten it out of their system.'

"'He doesn't get it,' Katten said. 'Of course, they didn't get it out of their system.'"


CTU vs. Tea Party Astroturf Bully Billionaires


Letter From Karen Lewis
Sent out by the union this morning.


"The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is so cash-strapped that it plans to close and consolidate under-utilized schools, with rumors that it could be upwards of 120 schools this coming year. Many people would consider this to be fiscally prudent. Mayor Emanuel is of course going to blame the soon-to-be agreed upon new union contract.

"What the public does not understand, however, even though both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times have been writing about it for months, is that CPS is also simultaneously planning to open 60 new charter schools in the next few years. That decision was made last year under the 'Gates Compact' in which CPS went into an agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to increase charter schools in Chicago.

"The CPS district has seen declining enrollment over the last decade, as have many other urban districts, because urban sprawl is sending our families to far-flung suburbs like Oswego where the housing is much larger and much cheaper than in the city. This is not because Chicago schools are 'failing' - this is an urban planning phenomenon that we have seen many times in the last century. Illinois' farmlands are being converted into towns and just as the highways of the 1940s and 1950s allowed for suburban commuters to live comfortably outside the city and quickly get to work downtown every day, the Metra and I-355 have been expanded out to Oswego and other suburbs to help push that housing development.

"Thus, the decline in enrollment in CPS District 299 is a natural phenomenon. Populations ebb and flow over the decades.

"But, what is not natural is the city's push for unprecedented charter expansion. The mayor loves to tout unsubstantiated statistics about how popular charter schools are among Chicago parents. Today he used a new number: now apparently the waiting list is whopping 19,000 students. Wow - that's a lot of children who were 'so unfortunate' to not get a seat at a coveted charter school.

"Really? Then why did only a few hundred families show up at last year's New School Expo, even though Chicago's corporate elite spent so much money on promotional advertisements and even provided a free shuttle bus to Soldiers Field. Why did the UNO Charter School Network admit at the press conference at St. Scholastica last month that its organizers were going to go door-knocking in the neighborhood to try to recruit a couple hundred families to open the school this fall? Why did Andrew Broy of the Illinois Charter School Network say this week that there are 3,000 - 4,000 slots still available at Chicago charter schools for parents who didn't want to wait out the strike?

"Chicagoans need to understand what is happening to our school system. The mayor and his hedge fund allies are going to replace our democratically-controlled public schools with privately-run charter schools. This will have such disastrous results and people need to rise up and refuse to allow this to happen. As a parent, do you really want your child wearing a three-piece polyester suit every day to school and pay a fine every time your child's tie isn't on straight? Do you really believe that it's okay for a school to punish your child with a three-hour detention because he or she wanted to eat some Flaming Hot Cheetos?

"And then of course, there is the dismal achievement outcome of the majority of charter schools. Urban Prep brags about its 100 percent college-bound rate when the average ACT score of its' students is only 16. Where are those students going to college?

"Finally, and most importantly, there is the cost. Mayor Emanuel says we will have to close and consolidate public schools to save money to pay for the new union contract. Does anyone in the public have any idea how much money it costs to open a brand new charter school and pay for the first few years while the school gets up and running? Hundreds of millions of dollars! CPS has an entire department dedicated to soliciting charter proposals, reviewing them, and then supporting the charter during its 'incubation period." Also during this incubation period, the school is not held accountable for its test scores because CPS understands that of course the school will not do well initially.

"This is what we want for our children? Parents don't want their kindergartner, 5th-grader or 9th-grader acting as guinea pigs for a charter school that might eventually become a good school. There is not a single charter management network that can say that all of its campuses are doing well.

"Mayor Emanuel and his charter school friends are complaining that the Chicago Teachers Union strike has kept students out of school for a few days - what about the years that students suffer in low-performing charter schools that are still trying to figure out how to manage themselves as an academic institution? Even the hedge fund billionaires that are behind this push admit that every charter school is not going to succeed - so why are we doing this? Why aren't we simply looking at what already works, at the 30 percent of CPS' neighborhood elementary schools that are scoring 85 percent and above - some at 100 percent - on state tests. Why aren't we replicating that?"


I don't agree with the urban sprawl argument - I think it was economic and safety issues that drove 200,000 people out of Chicago in the last decade, most of them African Americans - but that's not really important.

And the baloney about Urban Prep is worse than Lewis says; the 100 percent graduation rate is an illusion.

But those are details. The crux of the argument is right on and it's important to understand as the context undergirding the strike.


See also:
* Teachers Strike Notebook 1: Textbooks and A/C.
* Teachers Strike Notebook 2: Obama vs. Sveum.
* Teachers Strike Notebook 3: Nickelback and Numerology.


Comments welcome.


Posted on September 13, 2012

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - COVID Bowl Toteboard.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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