Chicago teachers stayed away from public schools for tough teacher evaluations that U.S. education reform advocates see as crucial to fixing urban schools.
The union for Chicago teachers and also the third largest U.S. school district said they’ll try on Thursday to create a final push to stay a strike which has drawn national focus on the sweeping education reforms sought by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Because the strike of 29,000 public school teachers and support staff ready to enter a fourth day, negotiators the very first time expressed optimism the nasty fight will finish soon.
Chicago School Board President David Vitale said they’d made considerable progress toward an agreement. Chicago has become the focus of a debate over how you can reform troubled urban schools and also the outcome could have a ripple effect in cities across the nation.
Lewis, a former high school chemistry teacher, led the teachers on strike Sunday saying the union couldn’t accept what it considered misguided reforms which were hurting poor neighborhoods.
She’s rallied teachers to her cause with enthusiastic marches and pickets through the city at a time whenever a weakened U.S. labor movement has lost several fights over collective bargaining and benefits for example pensions.
While the teachers’ loud protests have obtained more attention, Emanuel has powerful backers within the fight over education reform too.
National reform groups who offer the tougher performance evaluations for teachers sought by Emanuel began running broadcast ads in Chicago media now.
One radio ad taken care of by a group called Democrats for Education Reform, a coalition of wealthy financiers and entrepreneurs, asked listeners to sign a web-based petition calling on the union to return to work.
The new optimism within the negotiations followed times of acrimony and deadlock over two key issues — how you can evaluate teachers and whether principals must have more authority to employ the teachers within their schools.
Neither Lewis nor Vitale, who’s Emanuel’s chief negotiator, would give information on compromises on those issues.
But teacher evaluations happen to be at the heart of the national school reform drive.
Emanuel was proposing that Chicago teachers be evaluated with different system that would rate teachers in a number of categories. Administrators would observe them within the classroom. Students could be asked about teacher weaknesses and strengths. And, most controversially, many teachers could be assessed based on their students’ performance on standardized tests.
The union fiercely opposes using standardized test results, arguing that lots of Chicago students perform poorly around the tests because they arrived at school hungry and reside in poor and crime-ridden neighborhoods. Additionally they say that class sizes are extremely large to teach children effectively.
Wages don’t appear to be a sticking reason for the talks, using the district offering a 16 percent rise over 4 years and some improved benefits.
The president has stayed from the dispute between his former top White House aide Emanuel, and arranged labor, which he must help get out the vote within the presidential election on November 6. The White House has urged the 2 sides to settle it quickly.
Parents have struggled to balance day care and work throughout the strike. The city setup nearly 150 centers to accommodate children for most during the day and feed them breakfast and lunch. Only a fraction of the 350,000 students from school came to the centers.
Some parents said they didn’t want to cross picket lines setup by the union away from centers and others said they believed children were safer in your own home.
Both sides in the dispute agree Chicago schools have to be improved. Students perform poorly on standardized tests and just around 60 percent of students graduate, well underneath the national average.
“Teachers feel beaten down through the country,” said Randi Weingarten, national president from the union including the Chicago teachers. “They feel beaten down due to austerity, because of test- rather than teacher-driven policies, due to a spike in poverty, due to the demand on them to complete more with less — after which blame them when that does not work out.”