Chicago strike could influence teacher accountability debate
September 11th, 2012
04:08 PM ET

Chicago strike could influence teacher accountability debate

by Michael Pearson, CNN

(CNN) The debate over teacher evaluations that's taken center stage in the Chicago schools strike could have major effects on the issue in the future, an education expert says.

"Chicago absolutely matters," said Elena Silva, senior associate for public policy engagement at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

"I think what happens here will substantially matter for what we see happen with teacher evaluations nationwide," she said.

In the last three years, 21 states have passed have legislation or implemented new regulations designed to highlight teacher accountability, according to a report by Bellwether Education Partners, a consulting firm.

The changes came often by way of the kind of standardized testing that one Chicago Teachers Union board member referred to as "data-driven madness."

My View: A parent's take on the CPS teachers strike

In many - but not all - cases, the reforms were hotly contested, with teachers unions saying the changes put jobs at risk without enough evidence they would work in the way both sides say reforms should work - helping students learn, said Sara Mead, a Bellwether analyst who tracks teacher effectiveness policy nationwide.

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Filed under: Policy • teacher unions • Teachers
My View: A parent’s take on the CPS teachers strike
September 11th, 2012
01:33 PM ET

My View: A parent’s take on the CPS teachers strike

Courtesy Rebecca LabowitzBy Rebecca Labowitz, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Rebecca Labowitz writes about the Chicago Public Schools on her blog which has become a discussion board for parents and teachers in Chicago.  She began the blog in 2008 when her now fourth-grade son was entering kindergarten as a way to share information with other parents navigating school options in Chicago.

Parents of public school kids stayed up late Sunday night, glued to the TV and the Internet, waiting to find out whether they needed to make lunches, arrange backpacks, and get their kids hustled out the door in the morning.  Facebook alerts were flying fast and furious, similar to update I saw during the Olympics and the Oscars.  “She’s coming out now!”  No names needed.

We all collectively were waiting for outcome of the weekend negotiation session between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union – would our Chicago teachers call a strike?

Karen Lewis’ announcement of the strike was not surprising as most parents who’d been keeping up with the events suspected that the two sides were still fairly far apart in their negotiations.  What was a little more surprising was the anger that started to mount immediately.  Many parents didn’t seem to believe that CTU would actually pull the trigger and bring the school year to a halt.  Some parents feel inconvenienced, feel like the CTU is not working in the kids’ best interest by calling the strike, and feel like both sides should have found a way to work something out.

I’ve heard comments from angry parents who feel that teachers should feel lucky to have their job – a job that many feel is well-paying and secure compared to workers in the private sector.  There is a palpable sense of exasperation that the teachers gave up, wouldn’t budge, wouldn’t even prioritize their list of demands.  Whether or not this was true, it was the impression that many parents had after watching the press interview Sunday evening.

Parents who regularly comment on my blog have spent time talking to teachers, learning more about what it’s like to teach in an inner-city school with limited resources and a revolving door administration.  These parents realize that teachers are feeling disrespected lately both within CPS and as a profession as a whole.  Teachers are being blamed for a lot of the ills of the school system.  They’re being asked to work longer, being asked to do a lot with very little.  Most are spending their own money on school supplies.  They tell stories about their students that will break your heart.  Those of us who have listened have certainly had our eyes opened to the realities of teaching in CPS.  Having summer break doesn’t make it an easy gig.

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Filed under: At Home • Parents • teacher unions • Teachers • Voices
My View: How schools should handle 9/11 in class
A young girl touches a name on the 9/11 memorial South Tower pool of the World Trade Center in New York .
September 11th, 2012
04:05 AM ET

My View: How schools should handle 9/11 in class

Courtesy Tisch College/Tufts UniversityBy Peter Levine, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Peter Levine is the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs and director of CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, part of Tufts University’s Jonathan Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service. Levine has published eight books, including “The Future of Democracy: Developing the Next Generation of American Citizens.” He blogs daily at

(CNN) - I can vividly remember September 11, 2001, but today’s fifth-graders were not even born on that day. For them, September 11 is history - and often, a topic in their history class. Most teachers use best-selling civics and American history textbooks that describe the attacks on New York and Washington. And as of last fall, 21 states specifically mentioned 9/11 in their social studies standards.

Those are results from a scan of state laws and textbooks conducted by William & Mary professor Jeremy Stoddard and University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Diana Hess. My organization, CIRCLE, published its study last year.  The authors tell me that not much has changed since then.

When we released the study, many readers expressed dismay that September 11 was mentioned in less than half of the states’ standards - as if that meant that policymakers and educators did not care enough about terrorism. When lawmakers are concerned about any topic, they are often tempted to add it to the state’s social studies standards. The Illinois Legislature, for instance, has passed bills requiring or encouraging social studies teachers to spend time on Leif Erickson, the Irish Potato Famine and the importance of trees and birds. So why not mandate teaching 9/11? FULL POST

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Filed under: Civics education • Curriculum • History • Practice • Voices