September 7th, 2012
05:28 PM ET

My View: The whole world is watching Chicago, once again

Courtesy Becky HaleBy Sam Chaltain, Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Sam Chaltain is a Washington-based writer and education advocate. He can be found on Twitter at @samchaltain.

In 1968, student protesters stationed outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago broke into a spontaneous chant that quickly crystallized the tenor of the times: "The whole world is watching!"

It's ironic, then, that one day after this year's Democratic National Convention, rumors of a city-wide teacher strike in Chicago are reaching a similarly feverous pitch.

As they do, I want to borrow that famous line from 1968 and re-purpose it for 2012. The whole world should be watching, once again, because the core issues at stake in Chicago are the same core issues at stake in our ongoing efforts to improve American public education. In short, what's happening in Chicago is extremely important, extremely rare, and not entirely discouraging.

It's extremely important because you have a Democratic mayor pushing reforms that his city's teachers - the majority of who are also Democrats - are pushing back against. The mayor wants merit pay and a longer school day. The teachers want a more balanced set of courses, including the arts, music and foreign languages. The mayor wants 50% of a teacher's formal evaluation to be based on student reading and math scores. The teachers counter that if you enact a policy like that, the only thing your extended day will get you is more test prep and more concerted efforts to game the system.

In that sense, the fight in Chicago isn't purely about teacher contracts - it's also about conflicting visions of how you create the optimal conditions for teaching and learning.

It's extremely rare because it hasn't happened in a quarter-century - and yet 90% of Chicago's teachers voted to authorize a strike. That tells you just how strongly Windy City educators are feeling. And regardless of what one thinks about teacher unions, surely we can all agree that having teachers more directly engaged in core questions about education reform is a good idea.

And finally, it's not entirely discouraging. The most recent reports I've read suggest that a deal is close to being reached. If that's true, I'd characterize the Chicago showdown of 2012 as our latest reminder of what democracy actually looks like when it works - messy, frustratingly slow, and contentious. And yet, at the same time, when we honor individual and collective processes for making our opinions felt and known, it's also the best chance we've got to ensure that when decisions are made, they are done so with the fullest possible knowledge of what "we the people" wish to see.

Tune in if you can.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Sam Chaltain.

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Filed under: Policy • Practice • Sam Chaltain • teacher unions • Teachers • Voices
soundoff (110 Responses)
  1. Gene

    Average salary $76.00 per hour and aproximately $20,000 in benefits and retirement at 55, for a part time job? We have nothing against teachers but who can afford it? Hold on Emanual the union is killing us.

    September 17, 2012 at 10:32 am |
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    September 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  3. Chris

    Figures – another D.C. person who thinks we're the center of the universe. If they are paying attention, teachers in other countries are either LTAO or shedding a tear in pity for our kids. (The Chinese would be calmly rubbing their hands together in satisfaction.) There are good points on both sides here, but the harsh reality is that Illinois is more financially troubled than most states, and the job security or retraining (?) these teachers want is a pipe dream. I think this is also going to produce a huge backlash if Romney wins: unions have had their place but have also overplayed their hands (esp. in California), and people have about had it with them. Lastly, what really ticks me off about this "noble" profession is knowing how petty politics and infighting ruin it for teachers in districts across America with a far better standard of living. Noble profession? It's up to individuals to make it so.

    September 12, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  4. skeo

    As Mitt Romney stated, we NEED Teachers, NOT Unions. We had wonderful teachers and education without unions back in the 60's. The Unions are stealing sucking the money from the State and Teachers. Unions are killing our country...We have no jobs for graduating students now that Obama with is Socialist agenda is killing America.

    October 2011 Ex-teachers union boss gets $242,000 state pension
    Underfunded state system supports more than 100 teachers union officials
    By Ray Long, Tribune reporter
    SPRINGFIELD — — Reg Weaver receives a state pension of $242,657 a year, not because it's based on his last salary as a teacher, but because he gets to count the $300,000-plus check he made as president of the National Education Association. It's one of the highest pensions paid by the heavily indebted Illinois Teachers' Retirement System.

    Higher-profile people who collect a Teachers' Retirement System pension based on a union salary is former Illinois AFL-CIO President Margaret Blackshere, 70, of Niles. She receives $107,867 a year from the teachers pension system, where she started collecting in 1994. She was a teacher and a ranking leader of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

    "I felt that when I worked for the IFT, I was doing the best I could for the IFT members," Blackshere said. "So I thought I had a right for (the union salary) to be counted in the pensions."

    Soon after she began her pension, she was recruited back to work by the Illinois AFL-CIO. When she left as president in 2007, she said she made $120,000 a year. For her service at the AFL-CIO, Blackshere said she now also receives a pension of nearly $36,000 a year.

    September 12, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  5. Teachwithclass

    I am amazed by the sweeping judgements being made about the hard work of teachers. Nobody ever thinks about all that our students bring to school. Try googling the amount of research linked to teaching students in poverty. Then try and count your per pupil funding, then look at the teaching exp. of the newest teachers and you will find a serious problem. Teachers are not babysitters, many of them teach because they simply love helping others, but working miracles is what a teacher in an large urban school district is asked to do. With little support at all. Now, you want to evaluate them on test performance. When some teachers are getting students in high school who can't not ready beyond a 5ht grade level. Just look up your local schools and see for yourself. Before anyone judges my remarks, I have been teacher of the year 4 times in another large urban system, I have been an item writer for state tests, I set standards for national test and I conduct extensive research on school reforms. Know the facts. Teaching is a difficult profession today, but as a new teacher mentor I know there are still people out there who believe they are doing the right thing by becoming a teacher is hot, overcrowded and underfunded classrooms.

    September 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  6. TheycaneatCake

    Its funny to read a whole bunch of teachers correcting each other.... Glad im not an English teacher!

    September 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  7. preschoolvolunteer

    REally? 80% of the kids are on free breakfast/lunch programs? Sounds like Chicago has more than education problems. Perhaps the WIC and social programs need to re-evaluate those families crying that they have no where to send the kids while they go to work. Seems like if that is such a big problem, then there must be a lot of abuse of federally funded programs in the city. Not hearing too much complaining about actual school being missed, but rather the inconvenience of not having somewhere to send the kids 6-8-10 hours a day. As a volunteer at the very start of the educational process, I see first hand the difference that parent involvement makes in the education of the children. Those with little to no parental involvement do not do as well as those whose parents reinforce classroom lessons. This strike is a wake up call that is being ignored by the parents who need to pay attention

    September 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • fromchicago

      I agree as a parent of 4 I kept up with this strike dislike it to the core. My children asked what was the problem I explained, my oldest said, " we need better books, but I've been going to school with out an a.c. I don't know what's the point of missing school for an a.c". Now she's concerned of a late summer vacation. This was a waist of time, for the children. I'm hoping if the ctu got what they asked for, they do what's right for the children other wise there's going to be parents going on strike. I'm going to keep up with it, just to make sure our children get what they deserve in school. The teachers should get paid by child that passes grade, they get paid a lot already, our children are not going to learn by a teacher getting paid more. If their arguing about teachers being laid off, well hey its happens, it only part of what's called life!

      September 13, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  8. raphael

    this is lunacy. the teachers want 16% over 4 years (nobody in the private sector is guaranteed that kind of increase...well above the COL increase over the time period) they want no increase in health care costs, even though health care costs are going up every year (even after obamacare) they want a guarantee of employment and acording to the union leader, there is NO way to evaluate an educators performance. so once they are hired, they cant be questioned or evaluated except for their years of service? the avg teacher in chi-town makes 75k...keep in mind, thats for 9 months of work. by my public education math, thats a 6 figure salary. in addition to a 6 figure salary, they have the best health insurance possible, and an almost inability to be fired. a public school teacher would have to come into class drunk, with a crack pipe and a gun to get disciplined. even then its not certain. look make a solid living, and there are no standards to evaluate your performance (apparently) take your money and run with it...and stop complaining. get back to work!

    September 11, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Jr High Teacher

      1. There is a way to be evaluated and have it done correctly. Administrators need to be present, in the classrooms, checking up on teachers, mentoring new ones (or those who've fallen into a rut) as necessary, and then taking care of dismissal procedures when the teacher is not working out and does not improve. The problem is that this costs more money and time. It's just much easier for them to say "just use the tests" – never mind that kids come in with disabilities, poor home situations, or an inability to read the test questions in English. How is this reflecting the job I do during the time I have my students in the classroom?

      2. Firstly, 75k was mentioned as an average. The last time I checked Chicago's salary schedule (the year before last, I believe), pay for starting teachers with a Master's (what I have) was around 50k (hence, starting teachers with a BA are lower). Keep in mind that Chicago teachers must live within the city (again, the last time I checked.) Your "6 figure" argument doesn't hold water, either. That salary is for the whole year. Our working days might be nine months, but it's not like we get the same rate of pay for the summer. Technically, I'm *unemployed* from June to mid-August.

      3. It's perfectly possible for an administrator to fire a tenured teacher. He or she must first go through the process, that's all. You're upset at teachers who you feel do a bad job? Blame the administrator.

      4. While I don't work at CPS (I work in IL, but downstate), I can say that my health insurance is absolutely horrible and expensive, useful only if I end up in the ER. Our pensions will also likely be gone by the time I retire, since IL can't be bothered not to spend it (and I don't get any money I may have put into social security).

      It's clear that you're ignorant about what teachers do and about this situation specifically. It's amazing anyone goes into teaching these days after seeing the scathing comments on these CNN articles. No one out there should be judging these men and women, who work incredibly hard jobs, for no credit, little pay, personal attacks, and who made an incredibly tough choice to go on strike.

      September 11, 2012 at 1:30 am |
      • Dondiego Brigante

        Jr High- Most people are ignorant of what teachers do. They can complain about working hours and vacation time when the reality is that they all (private sector workers) should be enjoying the same vacation time we do. Thats what the Labor Movement brought to the country's collective conscious a hundred years ago. Only now, the majority of over used workers are behind a desk, not in a mine or factory, but the fact remains that most of their employers who make ridiculous profit margins, are underpaying them, and taking from them something more valuable than money, their leisure time. I think its time private sector white collar "laborers" rose up and demanded better, and unionized. The physical and mental toll their jobs take from them is no different than the sweatshop workers of 1913.

        September 11, 2012 at 6:20 am |
      • Charlotte

        I totally agree. Teachers are being taken advantage of. The bad one's should be evaluated and dismissed. All Administrator's aren't doing their jobs. Good teachers wind up leaving the profession after a few years. This is terrible, especially for the future of our children. We need good teachers! At least in Chicago they can strike. Other States, they cannot, and this is definitely a wake-up call for everyone to see. Every state needs to do more for Educators, especially for our children.

        September 11, 2012 at 11:53 am |
      • G Lee in CA

        Being paid 75K for 9 months is akin to a 6 figure rate during those 9 months, dummy. And you're a teacher ?

        September 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
      • Elrond

        to G Lee in CA. Do you think a teacher is going to find a second job that pays an equal rate for 2 or 3 months a year just in summer? Really?

        September 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
      • Amazed

        Dear Teachers,

        I AM NOT a teacher. I work in the Corporate sector. Let me list my thoughts.

        1.) I am evaluated on how others perform under MY management, so should teachers.
        2.) I am salaried and am expected to work much more than 40 hours a week, so should teachers.
        3.) My health insurance cost is outrageous and I don't even DARE ever go to the ER! You're lucky to have good ER coverage teachers.
        4.) I work with lazy, unmotivated, "poor" (and worse-yet, rich) people everyday. Some don't want to work, some are just plain defiant and unintelligent. I am paid to motivate, I am paid to provide training. So are YOU, quit bringing it up as a bonus you are providing. 6.) I have no job security what-so-ever. Why should you? 5.) I don't have a company retirement plan. They let me contribute to my own 401 K, that's it. But teachersa are worried about their pension plans running out?!

        Bottom line, stop acting like you DO more, like you have less than non-teachers. The way we see it, and if you have the brains, you would admit it, YOU have more than the rest of us. Be as grateful as the rest of us are jealous.

        September 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
      • Caren Katsmom

        II agree with your comments 100%, Jr High Teacher. I work in a Florida public school system... as support staff in Special Education in a middle school. The majority of our student population is also on free or reduced-price lunches, plus breakfast when Transportation can get them to school in time to eat. Years ago, I planned on moving into teaching when my daughter went to college. The more I saw, the less I wanted to do that. I love my job and working with the students. I hate what government and "the powers that be" have done to the teaching profession today. I can handle a tough student. I can't handle ignorant adults who insert politics into public education... who blame hard-working, dedicated teachers for all the problems in public education... who have never walked a mile in a teacher's shoes, or taken the time to see the reality of daily life in a public middle school. I wouldn't become a teacher in Florida today... or possibly anywhere in the United States. By the way, my support staff income falls into the poverty level. I take home between $1000 and $1500 a month, and that's only for ten months a year. My benefits deduct a huge chunk of my pay, along with a 3% deduction each pay check to pay toward my eventual retirement benefits (not enough to live out of my car). Our local school board just approved enormous changes in our health benefits that will reduce my pay even more for the upcoming year. Where does it stop? Florida is a right-to-work state. Our unions have no power, whatsoever. It's illegal to go on strike here. We can be arrested for doing so. Is this the United States of America? So I say... GO, Chicago teachers and Support Staff! Indeed, the rest of us are watching you. I hope the concessions they've made really are productive, but please do NOT end your strike unless you really have made the progress you sacrificed so much to achieve. The rest of us are counting on you to lead the way for us.

        September 15, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Prince

      The 16% is basically what they have been getting per 4 years. They don't want that to change or be scaled back in this ailing economy. Mayor Emmanuel is trying to change the standards on the teachers workplace and compensation, he's trying to implement charter schools, and create more schools that would make parents have to eventually pay to send their children to. The teachers are fighting against that as well as fighting for what they have had already. They care about the kids more than Mayor Emmanuel, they are also trying to ensure that they can continue to take care of their own families as well.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:12 am |
      • Sick to death of this nonsense

        Why should they ge a raise at all - the economy stinks - the median salary is 67 grand - really most people in secular for profit are NOT making that kind of money - I say get back to work or lose your jobs - the union is out of control

        September 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • walski

      If you teach college education courses, these children want to learn and get good grades. If you teach lower level courses,most of the children do not study or try to learn, thus poorer grades. How can you grade a teacher by what these children learn or do not learn? Standardized tests only show what a child wants to learn, not how good a teacher is teaching. If you have an accident with your car, do you blame the driver or the driving instuctor of years before? This is the main reason for the strike; job security, not pay rates. Every town will try to follow this illegal way to control teacher's rights.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  9. Thomas Brady

    It pains me to see teachers strike. It also pains me to hear that teachers are underpaid. Work in a school and your perspectives might change. This noble profession is anything but. I was/am so disgusted to hear teachers nickel and dime their profession. Some teachers earn upwards of $90,000 a year. Yet, because what they do is so taxing that their teachers unions have negotiated a workload of five or six class periods a day. This equates to roughly teaching/working 2 1/2 hours a day over the course of 180 or so days. Please don't throw in the"hours" at night grading because that just does not happen anymore. So, our poor and overworked teachers work roughly 450 hours over the course of a school year. To most hardworking Americans that is about 12 forty hour work weeks. So tell me who wouldn't want to be making close to $200 an hour? These are public servants. Stop focusing on what you don't have and starting considering yourselves blessed for what you do have. Get off the streets Chicago teachers and get back in to your classrooms.

    September 10, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • quimo sabe

      you are an idiot. I'm a teacher and instruct face-to-face over 7 hours a day. Where do you get your 2.5 hours? You just invalidated your entire post because you lied.

      September 10, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
      • Katy


        September 11, 2012 at 12:12 am |
      • Thomas Brady

        Quimo,, do some research, the national average for daily instructional time in the U.S is five 40 to 45 minute class periods a day.

        September 11, 2012 at 4:48 am |
    • Katy

      You, sir, need to do better math. Teaching 5 classes a day is 5 hours worth of work. Add to that plan time (which by the way is when teacher do work like grading, planning lessons, paperwork, email etc), before school meetings, after school meeting and club and teachers work an easy 8-10 hours a day. Plus, yes, we do grade homework after school. And on the weekends.

      Don't dismiss what teachers do if you've never done it. Teaching is a PROFESSION, not a glorified babysitting position and teachers deserve to be treated like professionals who can expect to be fairly compensated for their work.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:12 am |
      • Thomas Brady

        Katy you must be the exception. And, my math is correct in that the national average for classroom instruction is five 40 to 45 minute instructional periods per day. But, even if your "face to face time" is five hours you are still "working" less than the average American who is lucky enough to have a job. You see Katy I have been a teacher and left the "profession" because I was so disillusioned by the petty, self-absorbed nature of those with whom I worked. It was disgusting that our planning periods were spent whining about receiving stipends or per diem pay rather than focusing of the 71% graduation rate that our district had. You are clearly committed to your profession. Your students are lucky to have you.

        September 11, 2012 at 5:00 am |
      • Rara

        Right on! I'm in total agreement!

        September 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  10. MRV

    Not sure if you noticed that Chicago's Democratic Mayors always align themselves with far right Republicans when it comes to "educational reform" in the Windy City. That is why the local public schools are privatizing and becoming worse and worse over the twenty years of Democrat + GOP "reform."

    September 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
  11. Dondiego Brigante

    All this garbage about "working for the tax payers" is just that, garbage. They work for politicians. Politicians couldn't give two sniffs about what most taxpayers want, but for one three month period every few years. In fact, when politicians began taking control of "corrupt" Departments of Education is precisely when we've started to see our ed system fail. Its not a business, and can't be run like one.

    Teaching is the most under-appreciated profession there is. Where else could people "support" you and feel you do something noble, and then have the same person go into the voting booth and silently, and anonymously, vote with one thing in mind, their wallets. Once Americans become less selfish, and begin to think about things beyond their own personal economy, our system can be fixed. And by system, I don't just mean education, but society.

    I stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Chicago, and wonder how long it will take NYC to follow, after all, we're talking about the same evaluation systems, some of it already agreed upon, and haven't had a contract in 3 years. Where's the public outcry for fair bargaining by King Bloomberg and his failed administration?

    September 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  12. Delbert Sampson

    Its ruff to say but maybe the entire idea of a "Free Public" education needs to be looked at.

    I am willing to bet that parents would be more involved if they had to pay for there child's education.

    September 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • westin72

      you have to be kidding,"I am willing to bet that parents would be more involved if they had to pay for there child's education"your saying parents dont pay for education? were are you from?

      September 10, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • fromchicago

      That's real dumb, if parents care about their children of course they're going to pay attention. Now if they don't well u know your answer. If I were to pay it'll be the same I've payed attention n it's stressing me and my children!

      September 13, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  13. dd

    Who will get the shaft? the union, the taxpayer, or the kids. My vote is that Obama will support the union and the taxpayer will pay even more for the worst public school teachers in the country shafting the kids. Democrats have this thing about loving labor unions and hating kids. Heck, Democrats would abort a kid before he shows up in the world before they would educate the kid.

    September 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • quimo sabe

      you are dead wrong. Obama loves tying test scores to teacher pay. He brought the entire 'Race to the Top' initiative, which does just that. Know what you are talking about before you post. Both Dems. and Republican leaders in Washington want to tie teacher pay to test scores. Teachers oppose this, in every corner. If they don't, it is only because they signed on to get the RttT money, which will soon run out and then they again will oppose it.

      September 10, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Katy

      It is not hating kids to want to be compensated fairly. Teachers teach because they LOVE kids. However, every person has a right to make a decent living, be evaluated fairly and treated like they are a professional. If you've read what the Chicago Union wants, it is everything to do with what's best for the kids including smaller class sizes and more well-rounded classes.

      Think if you were asked to do more and more work for less and less pay and then told you were a "child-hater" because you wanted to make enough money to afford your phone bill. Let's not criminalize teachers because they too want to provide for their families while working a job they love.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:16 am |
      • Al Shret

        Wrong! The number issue was compensation followed by other issue such as being held accountable, hours and job security (since the city has to close schools down because of budgets). Also, since when have Unions represented the students. Who are you kidding? If they are serious about helping the kids, they would ensure that the classroom environment is both good for learning and teaching. That, they don't even bother with. Before negotiations even began, 90% of the teachers have already voted for strike!

        September 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  14. Stacy

    When do the CHILDREN come first?!??! Its all about the CHILDREN! What does this TEACH them? First, the union had all summer long to finalize negotiations! Help me understand what was going on all summer. If this was that important then it would have been ironed out before school started. Why can't they teach & get school started while negotiations continue? The strike is not helping the children learn. Striking is really NOT necessary. Infact, this is extremely irresponsible of the Chicago Teachers Union. Hello, in this economy you are asking for more money, benefits, etc???? Everyone knows if you want to make a lot of money, you don't go into teaching. And teachers typically don't work for a full 12 months. Also what I find hilarious is that the Wellness Plan was thown out of the negotiation by the Union. One look at the Chicago Teachers Union President would explain that one. Their selfishness angers me. Bottom line: Get the kids off the street and in the classroom!

    Their are valid points being made. No one should have to work in 98 degree heat with no AC. The parents of the children who are failing in school need to be held accountable. Turn off the TV and help your kid with his homework, help him study. Its sad that it becomes the schools rescponsibilty to provide pencils and paper, not the parents.

    September 10, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • luckeyfrog

      Why is it that you blame the union for not getting this deal done? There are two sides. Teachers should not have to sacrifice what they believe for the children just because they're "nice." They are professionals, and there is no reason that the union should be blamed more than the administration should be blamed for this problem not being solved.

      Their concessions are reasonable- even you can see that. People may not go into teaching to make money, but they do have to support their families, and any person who chooses to teach in an inner-city school and then agrees to let 50% of the income that supports their own family be dependent on test scores alone would have to be a saint. I love teaching, and I do it for the kids- but I'm also an intelligent person who loves my family, is cautious in my personal finances, and understands that many factors affecting a student's growth are out of my control. Should I be paid less because it's 95 degrees in the classroom and a student can't concentrate? Should I be paid less because that student didn't get dinner last night and can't focus on school? Should I be paid less because a student is dealing with all kinds of issues like alcohol, drugs, abuse, gangs, negligence, and who knows what else? Statistics show unequivocally that poverty is an incredibly influential factor on test scores- and unfortunately, it's a factor that teachers cannot control. There needs to be accountability, but test scores are not the best way to do this, particularly when they are percentages of pass/fail and don't account for growth.

      If all schools go to mostly merit pay, teachers will not be able to afford to teach in low-income schools... and unfortunately for our children, that's where great teachers are needed the most. Do we really want to create a system where the best teachers are sought after by the schools that have better test scores and can therefore pay them more? We are only going to hurt our most helpless students more.

      September 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
      • Thomas Brady

        Sorry luckyfrog, when teachers start being held accountable like other "professionals" then maybe they will start being considered as such. You can bea terrible teacher and in Florida you can even serve your students your own semen and get bought out instead of being fired and thrown into jail. Teachers unions are the cause of the horrible educational standing of American students. Right now unions have negotiated five to six instructional periods a day. Imagine the gall of administrators who would want their teachers to teach all eight periods of a day. Heaven forbid teachers are asked to clean theri own chalkboards. Oh yeah that's right, don't have chalkboards anymore – we have smartboards that teachers can use to book their travel plans for the twelve weeks a year they are not "working".

        September 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
      • AKM

        I so agree with you luckeyfrog.....!
        It is also NOT generally recognized that teachers aren't opposed to evaluations & measurements that are based upon a student's individual growth! Criterion based measurements are tests that show: Specific skills a child had upon entering a classroom// Specific skills the student was taught//...AND finally //Specific skills the student mastered (of the skills he/she was taught) ....i.e.. 9/ 12/ 2012: Pre-test– Student's sight-word reading level score: 320 words.....Post test: 1/12/2013 (Given this same criterion referenced exam) student's sight-word reading level score was: 740 words......... Standardized testing is not specific to the classroom & is instead an overall measurement & comparison of students nationwide! MANY cultural/socioeconomic/language/ & mathematical variables ( that are definitely out of the teacher's control) effect the results of this standardized type of testing!......Teachers want to and do utilize criterion referenced testing to help them evaluate how a student is learning! THOSE types of exams would be encouraged by teachers ( as part of teacher evaluations too). But to suggest that a teacher (or student) be evaluated using the scores of a standardized test that has so many variables in terms of outcomes is actually not at all adequte or fair to the teacher or the student! I get really aggravated when people continue to compare apples to oranges & then start screaming that teachers don't want to be data -driven or are afraid to be evaluated on a data outcome based.. They are proponents of data driven instruction.....They would just like to use accurate data!........
        ..I get even further aggravated that teachers are not recognized as professionals that SHOULD be included in the methodologies & best educational practices to utilize in this field..... Lastly? So far I am not hearing "pay" is the major issue in this controversy & strike.....The benefits (insurance) & methods of teacher evaluation are the 2 areas that are the primary areas of disagreement! "Greedy bad teachers" I read that in some of the other comments here.....and thought? Haven't we "scape-goated" teachers long enough? Read what the issues really are........................

        September 11, 2012 at 2:15 am |
    • walski

      The mayor was chasing chick-fila instead of negotiating.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Margaret Canniff

      Children will come 1st when School Boards and Administrations start putting them 1st. Where was CPS for the last 10 months that they couldn't come to an agreement with the union? As for salaries, did you know the teachers' 4% negotiated raise for last year was cancelled by the Mayor? When was the last time your employer cancelled your raise? And if he did, how did that make you feel?
      And here is some definitive info on teachers' salaries from a Chicago Magazine article: 2010-2011: the CPS gives a starting salary of $50,577 for a first-year teacher with a bachelor's degree. But that's including the seven-percent "pension pickup," which comes from the Board of Education: it's compensation, obviously, but not money teachers get right now.

      Since that doesn't seem to be regularly included in the salaries quoted by news reports, it's probably better for comparison to subtract it, which can easily be done with the more detailed tables provided by CPS (PDF).If we do that, the starting salary is $47,628. The maximum, for a teacher with 20 years' experience and a doctorate, is $88,680 ($93,817 if you include the pension pickup). The average, according to the AP, is $69,000.

      We need to support the Public School system and the teachers if our children are to get an education. Charter Schools are "for profit" schools – they can pick and choose their students which will leave many students by the wayside. (And all Chicagoans know how well the "for profit" parking situation turned out.)

      People are accusing the Union of putting money before the children – isn't that what the Mayor and the School Board are doing? And 50% of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on a student’s TEST SCORES?? Is that all teaching is about? TEST SCORES? Let’s see . . . Einstein, Mark Twain, Churchill . . . just a few of the major figues of the last century did pretty horribly on their tests. I think they would argue TEST SCORES are not a valid indication of a person’s knowlege or intelligence. And teachers know that!

      I'm always amazed how people always seem to know the best way to do a job without actually consulting with the person who is actually doing it! Stop the Power Play, Mr. Mayor, and get the contract resolved.

      September 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  15. Al Shret

    With 60.6 percent graduation rate (which is the highest we've seen here in Chicago), the Union expect to have job security and they are initially asking for 2 years contract of 19% for the first year and additional 3% for the second year. That with an average pay of close to $75K and some of the best pension benefits in the country. But hey, according to them, they are doing it for the kids!

    The difference between a private sector union and a public sector union is that a private sector union has an end game. The public sector do not. The modern day private sector unions can demand as much as they want and at some point, the business bust and nobody wins. Union workers either loose their jobs by driving employer to seek cheaper labor elsewhere or the company declare bankrupt. However, for public sector... there is no end. The taxpayers have to continue to shell out all those benefits. Chicago teachers striking is equivalent to a 3 year old kid throwing tantrum at a store because his mom didn't buy the toy that he wants. The argument of better pay equal better education is a bunch of bologna! Yes, socio-economic issue plays a huge role. But don't try to convince me that US is the only country that have that issue. I can also name so many countries with better educations than US and they are not paid nearly half of what Chicago teachers get. You have to chuckles when I see Chicago teachers holding signs like "Children First!" Who are they kidding????

    September 10, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Alice in PA

      The US has the highest childhood poverty rate among the "wealthier" nations except for Mexico. The rate in the US overall is ~22%. In the other countries it is around 5%. I am sure Chicago's rate is much higher. So yes, this is a situation that is unique to the US. Other nations with higher poverty rates do not education all of their children to the same high degree that we do. Ever notice that the China statistics are only for Beijing and Shanghai and not for the whole country?

      September 11, 2012 at 6:36 am |
      • Al Shret

        Alice in PA – I would have to respectfully disagree with you. First off, childhood poverty definition is quite subjective. Our poverty level here in US is by far better than most countries in the world. Lets use Chicago as an example. Majority of these so called "childhood poverty" kids have iPhones, X-Box, PS3, flat screen TVs at homes and many are overweight! Their parent even have Coach and Vuitton bags. I suggest taking some trips around the world and perhaps it may open up your eyes and realize how good we have it here in US. In other poverty stricken nations, their parents and kids are malnourish (skin and bone), they lack clean water, electricity and other basic necessities . Here in Chicago, they get free housing, they get assistance on electricity and water. The city is full of programs to assist the poor. Some of these folks (parents) squandered their money on drugs, alchohol or other things. I know because I have mentored so many kids from the inner city. To be specific part of the problem are cultural. They are being fed with the same poison from their so called community leaders that are supposed to represent their interest. Yet these folks are nothing but corrupt politicians that prey on the vulnerable by teaching hate and blaming everyone for their misfortune. They are taught to pity themselves instead of self reliance. By striking, the teachers are also setting the same bad example. Nice examples by the teachers for showing kids how to quit because they didn't get their ways. In most countries, the poor don't get food stamps or any help from their government. Some are truly victims of wars. So please stop blaming it on poverty. Being a military person and an immigrant, I've traveled around the world and seen countries that are truly poor. I have yet to see a Chicago kid poor enough that they even compare to those I've seen in in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Sahel regions, Philippines, Indonesia India and etc. Lets get real here. If you continue to believe that bad teachers don't contribute to the school failure, then you are in absolute denial. Some of these kids that I mentor tell me how bad their teachers are when it comes to teaching. Good thing the mayor is not Republican or the Union would have pulled the same circus like they did in Wisconsin. I admire and respect Mayor Emmanuel for doing what is right. Both for the kids and for the city. The CTU simply just wants more money and don't want to be held accountable. For them, it is simply not about the kids.

        September 11, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
      • Alice in PA

        I agree. Poverty is a culture in itself. And that is the main problem, not necessarily the material goods. It is more than inadequate nutrition and medical care,although those are factors. Success in school is also heavily influenced by the vocabulary ( or lack of) in the household, the expectations for behavior or success or the future ( or lack of) , the leisure activities ( or lack of). None of this is controlled by the teacher. That is why test scores, including the SAT, are very highly correlated to socioeconomic status.
        Also, none of the poor countries you mentioned attempt to educate all of their children through 12th grade to a high level.
        Finally, taking kids' portrayal of their teachers as evidence is dicey. Kids do not always know why teachers are doing the particular activity or curriculum or seating or anything. I am not denying that there are less effective teachers just like there are less effective anything. But the insane evaluation system will get rid of far more good teachers than bad. Striking is a show of strength. Teachers are not in charge of education, politicians are. The CTU is bringing attention to that fact. The teachers need to be making more decisions, not people in DC or Springfield or, in my case, Harrisburg.

        September 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  16. Al Shret

    In 1937 President Roosevelt (Democrat) expressed caution about public sector unions:

    "... Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the government. All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations ... The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for ... officials ... to bind the employer ... The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives ...
    Roosevelt (a Democrat) argued:

    "Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees. Upon employees in the federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people ... This obligation is paramount ... A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent ... to prevent or obstruct ... Government ... Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government ... is unthinkable and intolerable."

    September 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  17. Norman Viray

    if we are really after K to 12 Education, why not hire more Teacher Assistants & College TAs, and Continuing Education Lecturers to provide 1 to 3 ratio Tutoring? In today's modern economy were rich gets richer and poor becomes poorer, everybody has to take paycuts from Superintendent down to the 1st yr. teacher in order to create more jobs, thus more taxpayers. USA needs compensation structure where private and public school teachers earn same salaries and provide same quality education from K to 12.

    September 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  18. daveyoung

    The populace of urban Chicago has elected the Daly family, multiple socialist Ward leaders historically, and recently elected Rahm Emanuel as Mayor. They appear to be fatally ignorant as a whole. Why bother to educate them now ? They seem to already be re-educated as permanent sheep of the democrat plantation. This is just a big non-event.

    September 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  19. Chris

    "Teachers want job security." – that says it all. Why should teachers get job security while the rest of the working world has to *perform* to achieve job security? And sometimes performance isnt even enough... Sometimes the way a system works is just ineffective, and it takes a dislocation of employees onb the journey to make it right, regardless of how effective those employees are individually. I've seen this happen in the business world- fantastically effective colleagues have lost their positions, and it's broken my heart to watch it happen- but then I've watched the business gets stronger and more effective as a result. "job security" is a figment of the past. Get over it, and work to make yourself relevent assuming you lose your job *tomorrow*

    September 10, 2012 at 1:59 pm |
  20. Deke

    This is the great system that our current president is from.

    September 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
  21. Shelly

    No one debates accountability and evaluation. It is the terms of what does it mean to be an effective teacher? If we hold teachers accountable to student performance on a standardized assessment given on one day, shouldn't we also hold doctors accountable to patient wellness rate on a checkup day, regardless of if the patient took the advice to lose weight or exercise or take their medications? Shouldn't we blame farmers' poor yields in a drought on the farmers' incompetence? People hate teachers lately. If teaching is such a cake-walk job, please go to college and earn your degree so you can join in!

    September 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • daveyoung

      When you work for the taxpayers, you have no right to Unionize. End of story.

      September 10, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
      • Katy

        Oh so what rights do you have exactly then? Teachers should be overworked, under-appreciated and forced to live in poverty for the sake of being "nice"? Teachers have rights just like all Americans. Get over yourself.

        September 11, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • Alice in PA

      Great analogies! And actually holding doctors accountable for patient care has been tried and abandoned because doctors and hospitals took on far fewer high risk patients. Public education does not get to choose who it educates, unlike private and charter schools.

      September 11, 2012 at 6:38 am |
  22. dgonzalez9

    The strike seems to point out to me how we have totally inadequate child care and terrible poverty. The CPS contingency plan showcases how many kids can't eat and have no one to watch them because of two parents working. Not exactly a great society in my opinion.

    September 10, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Len Witucki

      How about a nudge into the 21st century.... Apparently, you would be surprised by how few of our students in Chicago live in a two-parent home. One of the major causes of poverty and its continuation from one generation to the next is teen pregnancy. And some cultures seem to promote teen pregnancy as a rite of passage. Yes, a rite that usually condemns the teenage mother, her first child and all ensuing children to a life of poverty in neighborhoods that are often gang-ridden And the gangs? Populated often by youth who are growing up in one-parent households with too many children and not enough supports. Ending the politically correct practice of accepting cultural practices that destroy our families, our youth and our neighborhoods would be one great step toward fixing poverty and fixing education.

      September 10, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  23. Kamil Zawadzki

    Reblogged this on Outspoken.

    September 10, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  24. Moya

    The whole world watching Chicago's public school system?! A lot of the industrialised world has a superior education system to the US to start with.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • blair

      Whole world ISN't watching. I live in Ontario Canada and our teachers might get their collective bargained contract put on hold for two years so a wage freeze can be enacted all out of helping the economy. Its crazy how decentralized primary schooling is in the US its as if No one is accountable. Our teachers get paid arounf 90000 dollars top rate. US teachers are far worse pais on average. If you want results you have yo pay $$ one way or another. Yes we all know everything going on in the USA desreves the worlds attention...

      September 10, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  25. jonat

    Chicago is corrupt and crime ridden and an embarrassment to the state

    September 9, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Richard Jones

      Somebody needs to find Mrs O'Leerys cow and finish this dump off !!! I lived there for about 6 months and I know it is a DUMP !!!!

      September 10, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • walt198

      Yep! Jonat... you have that right! Corrupt!

      September 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm |
  26. jonat

    Any union that has the gall to strike during a recession needs to be replaced with non-union workers

    September 9, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • PublicSchoolTeacher

      Maybe it's because of the recession that the strike is happening. In education recession means that every task gets tougher (as kids cope with their parent's reality), more work is added (more students in classes and/or more classes to teach to fill in for all those dropped teaching positions), and quality suffers. So you end up working a lot harder (and longer) for less effect.

      One of the things that jumps out at me.... They want a longer school day. It's Monday and here I am at school. How many people saw me here two hours on Saturday? How many were at my house all day yesterday (8:30 A.M. till 7 P.M.) while I worked on school stuff after the first week of school. And I didn't finish, I stopped with enough done to get me through till tomorrow. If you extend the school day (and presumably increase my face-time with the kids) when do I get the other work done? Maybe I just give up sleep? That's another 6 to 7 hours/day that the administration will be happy to gobble up so taxpayers (and I too am a taxpayer) can pay thirty dollars less per year.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
      • Lucy

        Being a public school teacher teaching in the suburbs of chicago, I think we need to really think about that issue. Longer school day without raising pay! I was really upset by this..until i realized that most city schools (including many of my friends and relatives) have class from 8:30 to 1:45. That is ridiculous! Although people do need to understand that school is not babysitting time. Its for learning FOR YOUR CHILDREN not a place where you can dump your kids off while you're working.

        I also think that people shouting about test scores need to realize that it is CHICAGO! This place is totally crime-ridden (all of the failing schools anyways). The biggest issue is that these parents are not around. When students have no accountability at home, there is no way that a teacher can do that job instead. It comes down to families quite frankly and that is a totally different issue in itselt.

        September 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
      • Brian

        When you were in school, do you not remember your teachers complaining about this very thing? When you were in college...taking classes to become a teacher, did you not hear grumblings from the professors? Did no one explain to you that there would be long hours? Work at home? Low pay? Even less appreciation? I went to high school almost 25 years ago and remember hearing all this back then...why did you become a teacher? Did you think it would change?

        September 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
      • Thomas Brady

        How many people saw the garbage collectors, the police officers,and firefighters working while you were in your school for two hours onSaturday? Those folks work forty-hour work weeks for at least fifty weeks a year and earn a third of what you make public school teacher.

        September 10, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
  27. lisahazen

    This is is the degree of detail I can handle on this matter as the parent of a CPS kid:

    September 8, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • JM

      Lisa, thanks for setting up that site! JM, OIP neighbor.

      September 9, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
  28. aflarend

    Great job, Chicago Teachers! You are standing up for what is right in the classroom. You know that tests are narrowing the curriculum and that they only measure a small part of what a child learns academically in school. As a graduate of a Chicago Public school in the 1980s and one on the far South Side, I know first hand the challenges that you face. And I know your successes since I earned advanced degrees in engineering, thanks in part to several inspiring teachers. Thank you for all your hard work and dedication. And thank you for standing up for students and teachers.

    September 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • AKM

      Thank You aflarend.....YES –I think it's about time that teachers -Stand-Up-.....Those within this profession DO care and also are on the front-lines of what comes through their school-room doors.....In many respects a school is a reflection of the community in which that school resides.....Teachers that work in "at-risk" schools see first hand the many hardships that children endure. Hardships that also make their ability to academically achieve much more difficult!....Test scores are one part of a multi-dimensional issue.....Attacking teachers & NOT adhering to or hearing these educators ( in regards to what may truly improve this system) is a huge part of the problem too! This STRIKE is a stand to say:...The..Existing philosophies & practices are failing our teachers & students!

      September 11, 2012 at 2:51 am |
  29. Barbra & Jack Donachy

    By and large, Chicago's public schools have been a mess for a very long time as one reform after another has ultimately gone nowhere. Like his friend President Obama, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to be taking a tack that puts too much emphasis on standardized test scores and places too much blame on teachers for the failure many of Chicago's schools. It is frustrating that, like Mr. Obama, the mayor has given up attempts to get to the root of the problems in our education system (horrible leadership from school and district administrators and the school boards that supposedly oversee that leadership) and is instead desperately hacking at the leaves around the fringes of meaningful school reform while pointing a wrongly accusatorial finger at teachers. No company, no team, no military unit, no group of teachers can rise above the level of their leadership for any length of time, and until we make positive changes in terms of getting better superintendents, better principals, and better school boards our public schools will continue to founder.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • J

      "The real problem" are parents, not district administrators, not school boards, and not teachers, when it comes to test scores. Parents are a child's real teacher and most are no where involved in their children's academic life. Stop making excuses that other people are responsible for educating our children. PARENTS PARENTS PARENTS.

      I am so tired of people making excuses on this subject – get involved with your children's education and recognize that you, the parent, are ultimately responsible and you only have yourself to blame.

      September 10, 2012 at 3:45 am |
      • bruce

        Amen, Amen, Amen!!!

        September 10, 2012 at 11:13 am |
      • Matt R.

        Amen, its about parents people. Education starts and ends with you period. Own up to it. Teachers and administrators can only do so much. I dont belive in the longer school days either, but why do private schools have even shorter school days than CPS and yet scores are much higher, its about parental involment and teaching at home and in life. Get off your smartphones, get off welfare, or whatever is distracting you, and pay attention to your kid and what's going on with them, because NOTHING is more important raising educated and respectful young people.

        September 10, 2012 at 11:21 am |
      • Peter

        Sorry but your asking a city that is already broke, do you know what broke means? to give more money and not hold teachers accountable. In the real world if you don't perform you get fired. Now I'm not saying all teachers are not performing but there are some that sit on their fat ass an do just enough to get by because they know the union protects them. Starting with Karen, she should be fired immediately from her position. Talk about lazy and trying to throw her weight around. 26 years the union has not stuck, I have firends that are teachers in Chicago that did not want the strike and are against it.

        September 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
      • Al Shret

        J – I am an immigarnt and went to a public school here in Chicago. My parents were quite involved and expected all their kids to do well in school. The school I went to was much better rated than the average Chicago high school. I can say that about 20% of the teachers in my school don't teach. They are simply going through the motion. About 10% that are exceptional and inspiring. The rest are mediocre. Yes, some parents of these inner city neighborhoods are too bogged down with their 2 or 3 jobs while other are simply absent because of drinking or drug problems. So I agree with you that parents needs to be more involved. Socio-economic is one of the issue but please don't sit there and pretend there are no issues inside the school. The public simply wants better accountability of the education system and part of the problem is with the Union refusal to even acknowledge that there is a problem among their ranks. Yet they continue to keep wanting more pay, benefits, protection while blaming everyone else for some of the problems that they caused.

        September 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • cyclingbob

      Actually the standardized test mantra was started by G.W. Bush with NCLB. I understand what the mayor is trying to do we need accountabiliity. The teachers do not want a majority of their job performance based on a child taking a standardized test. It is not fair. Ex. A teacher in 5th grade gets a student that reads at a PreK level. At the end of 5th grade the child now reads at a 2nd or 3rd grade level. Is that teacher a failure and deserves to be fired. All the other 5th graders took 5 years to get t o that point. This same child will not pass the SBA at the 5th grade due to the reading deficiency. In my opinion that teach did a great job. The child progressed 2 to 3 grade levels. That is how you gage teacher performanc based on trackable data that show growth or a lack of growth. There are other factors that we all forget, parents getting divorced, death in family natural disasters, teacher strikes that will all affect student growth. IMHO. What do I know I have been teaching 18 years........

      September 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm |