"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sweet Home Chicago*

Chicago teachers went on strike today. Among their "demands" are things which affect teachers all over the country...things like too much testing and privatization. Below are voices from and about the strike. The teachers are fighting against the privatization of America's schools and the de-professionalization of America's public school teachers.

Why I'm striking, JCB
CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard is on record saying both that CTU leadership is deciding whether or not to strike, and that “everyone knows that a strike would only hurt our kids.”

...I wanted to educate Mr. Brizard about what it means to “help or hurt our kids”.
When you make me cram 30-50 kids in my classroom with no air conditioning so that temperatures hit 96 degrees, that hurts our kids.

...When you take 18-25 days out of the school year for high stakes testing that is not even scientifically applicable for many of our students, that hurts our kids.

...When you unilaterally institute a longer school day, insult us by calling it a “full school day” and then provide no implementation support, throwing our schools into chaos, that hurts our kids.

...When you support Mayor Emanuel’s TIF program in diverting hundreds of millions of dollars of school funds into to the pockets of wealthy developers like billionaire member of your school board, Penny Pritzker so she can build more hotels, that not only hurts kids, but somebody should be going to jail.

...When you close and turnaround schools disrupting thousands of kids’ lives and educations and often plunging them into violence and have no data to support your practice, that hurts our kids.

...I am willing to sacrifice an awful lot to protect the students I serve every day. I am not hurting our kids by striking, I’m striking to restore some semblance of reasonable care for students to this system.

With the Chicago Teachers' Union, I will defend my profession
One evening, in a small home with many bedrooms, I overheard my mom, my aunt, my cousin talking. Despite my mom’s deep sadness, her boldness had not waivered. “Defiende tu carrera,” my mother, who still wishes she could have gone to college, quietly--boldly--told my cousin. “Defend your profession.”

I recite my mother’s advice silently when I must invoke her boldness to speak up or speak out.

Spirits were high at the Chicago Teachers Union(CTU) Strike HQ
While media coverage has focused on pay issues, that’s only part of the story
It’s early Sunday morning now and if an agreement is not reached by Sunday midnight, thousands of teachers, para-professionals and other support staff will go on strike.

CTU members care deeply about their students and are fed up with the poor physical conditions of the schools, the cutbacks in art, music, science, PE etc., the closing of entire schools accompanied by mass firing of teachers, the ballooning class sizes, the lack of student support services, the abuse of standardized testing and the accompanying ‘teach to the test” dumbing down of the curriculum. They are also determined to stop the corporate privatization of the schools.

Why the CPS Strike Matters
If anyone thinks this strike is just another union “ploy” for higher pay or less “working time” they are sorely mistaken. And while workers should be entitled to protect their rights, the CPS strike is about the heart and soul of public schooling, the deprofessionalization of teachers, and the ways that the education “crisis” nation wide has been co-opted as a means of pushing privatization as the be-all-and-end-all solution to the “achievement gap”. Schools are not businesses, children are not widgets, and teachers are not robots or machines. Let’s start there.

Press Statement on Chicago Teachers Strike
The policies pushed by Rahm Emmanuel, which are being simultaneously implemented in New York and many other cities, involve evaluating teachers and schools on the basis of student test scores, closing schools whose test scores fail to meet a certain standard and firing half their staffs, replacing public schools with charter schools, some run as non profits and some run for profit, and trying to weaken teacher tenure and introduce merit pay. The first three components have been already introduced in Chicago and the mayor wants to intensify them and lengthen the school day. The union is saying enough is enough.

The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve

This is a publication from the Chicago Teachers Union. The executive summary lists 10 items which they believe are necessary to improve the education of the children of Chicago. The 10 items are appropriate for all children...this could easily be retitled The Schools America's Students Deserve.
Executive Summary

The Chicago Teachers Union argues for proven educational reforms to dramatically improve education of more than 400,000 students in a district of 675 schools. These reforms are desperately needed and can head Chicago towards the world-class educational system its students deserve.

The following are essential:
  1. Recognize That Class Size Matters. Drastically reduce class size. We currently have one of the largest class sizes in the state. This greatly inhibits the ability of our students to learn and thrive.
  2. Educate The Whole Child. Invest to ensure that all schools have recess and physical education equipment, healthy food offerings, and classes in art, theater, dance, and music in every school. Offer world languages and a variety of subject choices. Provide every school with a library and assign the commensurate number of librarians to staff them.
  3. Create More Robust Wrap-around Services. The Chicago Public Schools system (CPS) is far behind recommended staffing levels suggested by national professional associations. The number of school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists must increase dramatically to serve Chicago’s population of low-income students. Additionally, students who cannot afford transportation costs need free fares.
  4. Address Inequities In Our System. Students and their families recognize the apartheid-like system managed by CPS. It denies resources to the neediest schools, uses discipline policies with a disproportionate harm on students of color, and enacts policies that increase the concentrations of students in high poverty and racially segregated schools.
  5. Help Students Get Off To A Good Start. We need to provide age-appropriate (not test-driven) education in the early grades. All students should have access to pre-kindergarten and to full day kindergarten.
  6. Respect And Develop The Professionals. Teachers need salaries comparable to others with their education and experience. They need time to adequately plan their lessons and collaborate with colleagues, as well as the autonomy and shared decision-making to encourage professional judgment. CPS needs to hire more teaching assistants so that no students fall through the cracks.
  7. Teach All Students. We need stronger commitments to address the disparities that exist due to our lack of robust programs for emergent bilingual students and services for students faced with a variety of special needs.
  8. Provide Quality School Facilities. No more leaky roofs, asbestos-lined bathrooms, or windows that refuse to shut. Students need to be taught in facilities that are well-maintained and show respect for those who work and go to school there.
  9. Partner With Parents. Parents are an integral part of a child’s education. They need to be encouraged and helped in that role.
  10. Fully Fund Education. A country and city that can afford to take care of its affluent citizens can afford to take care of those on the other end of the income scale. There is no excuse for denying students the essential services they deserve.
*I was born and raised in Chicago. I attended public schools from Kindergarten through high school graduation (Rogers School and Sullivan High School). See A Lifetime of Elementary Schools Part 1.

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Stop the Testing Insanity!


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