Strike a Fire, Fire Strikers

Posted: September 22, 2012 by GeeOhPeeved in Current events, Unions
Tags: , , , , , ,


The recent strike by teachers in Chicago is over, and everybody seems to be heaving a sigh of relief.  The politicians, because they can say they’ve resolved the issue; parents, because their children have a place to go during the day, other than wandering the crime infested streets of Chicago; teachers last and, in my opinion for this matter, least, get to go back to “work” (quotations explained later), with assurances of an even fatter paycheck, and safe in the knowledge that the attempt to judge their performance has been quashed.

Let’s not pretend that any of us doubted for a moment that the liberals running the city weren’t going to buckle.  They’re elected on the union dime time and time again, so acting as if they were going to offer more than token resistance is a bit ludicrous.  Of course, negotiations were drawn out a bit for the sake of keeping up appearances, but this is solely to allow the spineless flunkies to claim later that they tried to take the fiscally responsible path.  Oh, no, they were forced to reach a compromise, their backs were to the wall.  Yeah, yeah, save it.

As far as the parents?  You know, I’m a bit more sympathetic here, but still…  I understand that they had limited options, that many of them had jobs and not a whole lot in the way of childcare choices.  We’re talking about the education, and to an extent care (in loco parentis and all) of your children.  The people responsible in this case have clearly shown that the education and care of your children are the least of their concerns.  I should think that any chance to replace them with people worthy of the job should be accepted.  I should think, as well, that that possibility is one worth enduring some inconvenience to realize.  You endure what you must in order to do what’s best for your children.

Now, to the teachers.  I’ll address that “work” bit from before.  I attended two high schools in the suburbs of Chicago.  Both schools were considered average.  With few exceptions, “teaching” in these schools amounted to about 10-15 minutes of lecture, with the rest of the class being devoted to reading or working on homework while the teachers took care of their paperwork, then fiddled around online for the remainder of the period.  I point this out solely to explain where I’m coming from when I say that the sub-par rankings of Chicago public schools show that while they may be run differently, they can hardly be assumed to run better.  That being the case, CPS teacher’s are on average the highest paid public school teachers in the country.  To be fair, the CTU claims that Chicago’s teachers are only the second highest paid, after New York City’s.  As you can imagine, my heart just bleeds for them

This is what we’re paying them for?


At the heart of the issue is an attempt to extend the school day by about 90 minutes, along with proposals to start actually evaluating the teachers at these schools.  Chicago public schools average about 5.3 hours of instructional time, a full hour less than the national average of 6.3 hours.  Seeing as they’re already the highest paid people in the country for the job they aren’t doing, an extra hour and a half of instruction time shouldn’t be that big a deal.  Evaluations, though?  Oh, no no no, silly taxpayers.  You don’t actually get to employ and pay people based on their ability to do the jobs they’ve been hired to do.  That’s crazy talk.

No, wait… Crazy talk would be a demand by those underperforming teachers that they be given a 30% raise.  Huh?  You mean that’s exactly what they demanded?Luckily, CPS didn’t completely fold, just caved to the tune of 7% over three years, or 10% over four, should the union agree to extend the contract past the three year point.  Factor in the neutering of student-performance based teacher evaluations (they now only account for 30% of the evaluation)* and the CPU clearly won an ill-deserved landslide victory in this showdown.  I may do a separate post later to break down the tentative contract agreement later to show just exactly how screwed the taxpayers got in all of this, but for now, feel free to take a look at the CPU’s comparison of CPS’s proposals vs. the contract the teacher’s will be voting on in October here.

*Apparently this reduction in the weight of student performance is more in line with state law, to which I can only reply:  change the damn law.

So, the Chicago Teacher’s Union got everything they wanted and more, the taxpayers of the already deeply-indebted city of Chicago get left holding the bag, and their children get tossed back in to the same lousy schools as before with zero sign that any positive reform is on the horizon.  Sigh of relief?  Where’s the bellow of rage?

  1. The law being referenced, of course, is the famous No Child Left Behind act, a law which could more aptly be described as “No Child Left Untested.” In just two years of teaching, I saw firsthand how awful the implications of this law is for teachers and schools. There are kids out there who just cannot and will not be taught. These kids fail their tests regardless of the quality of their instruction, and the teacher is at risk of losing her job. The school is at risk of losing their government funding. It’s a mess.

    That being said – I can also tell you all about the losers I attended college with, the ones who submitted college-level essays with phrases like “lol” and “srsly” right there in the body of the text. The state of today’s pool of potential educators is a disgrace, largely because of (surprise!) a lack of decent education growing up. These people graduated right next to me and some are even teaching students as we speak. Almost makes me wish I had the desire to teach in the public schools myself – almost.

    I thought the whole CPS strike was totally ridiculous. To think – $74k a year and still complaining? 5.5 hours of instruction a day? Unions be damned. I saw a teacher being interviewed on the news about what she planned to say to her students about the strike. “Well, we’re going to have a large-group discussion about how we went on strike because we care so much about our students.” Bollocks. If you cared, you would have been in the classroom last week instead of out on the streets in a red teacher and a misspelled sign drinking coffee.

    Not that I have strong feelings on the subject or anything like that… 😉 Great post. Let’s figure out how to get more circulation of this brilliance!

    • GeeOhPeeved says:

      Thanks for commenting.

      I believe the law they were referencing in the article I was reading had to do with state law, actually. As far as NCLB…I agree that the law is a travesty. I also believe, however, that if the bill that was actually passed at all resembled the bill it was originally intended to be, it would have been a huge improvement.

      NCLB was originally intended to test schools by testing the students, much as it’s used now. The difference is in the effect of that testing. Schools were to be evaluated on the basis of student performance. If a school failed to make the grade, so to speak, parents were then to be offered vouchers, to the tune of whatever it was estimated the state would have paid the school had their child attended, which the parent could then use to send their child to a school that WAS up to snuff. Essentially, NCLB started off as a school choice bill. No way THAT was going to be allowed to pass, right?

      People attacked the original version for de-funding schools as well, but their arguments were illogical. Why should a school with 1500 children in attendance be funded as though 3000 were enrolled? For the schools taking children in from the failing ones, how were they to be expected to manage the education of 4500 students with funding for only 3000?

      None of this points out the other problems with NCLB which is, as you said, children who will not or cannot be taught.

      I’ve been told, though I haven’t verified it for myself, that special education students are also tested. That is, of course, ridiculous. If what I heard was true and there isn’t, then there needs to be exemptions for children with a legitimate impediment to learning.

      As for children who refuse to be taught: unfortunately, there isn’t much to be done there. As unfortunate as the overwhelming trend of multiple choice ONLY tests is, it may allow for at least a partial solution, though. We’ve all known kids who, when they recognized the 25% chance to get the answer right without trying, decided they would answer “A” for everything, or had some pattern they would follow. Hell, some of the more artistic slackers I’ve known drew pictures with the answer markings. One possible solution, for these cases at least, is to include pattern recognition in the scanning software (ease of grading being the sole purpose of the multiple choice trend). When sent in to the state to be graded, all answer sheets would be checked for patterns. Any clear pattern (all “A”s, “ABCDABCD”, etc.) would be kicked out, with any sheet kicked being checked by a human and discarded if there was a verifiable pattern. These discarded tests should have no effect on the school, assuming it occurs in less than a certain percent of submitted answer sheets.

      While NCLB testing should NOT have an effect on grades nor a child’s ability to graduate, there DOES need to be some sort of disciplinary action available to schools to deal with children who have clearly and intentionally blown of the tests.

      Granted, there are students who will try their best on the test despite having ignored their instructors all year. No system is perfect, all we can do is try to iron out the wrinkles.

      Those students shown to consistently and actively disrupt the learning process should be moved to some sort of alternative schooling. Such alternative schools already exist, though in my experience, they are used at this point to simply rid teachers of students they would rather not deal with, rather than students who are continually disruptive. Any such school, used properly, should use what I would call an accelerating remedial curriculum. Start off on the basics, and teach these students as fast as they can learn to get them up to grade level. As they would be there in the first place because they avoid learning, offer motivation (both negative and positive) for them to learn, and allow them the opportunity to transfer back to traditional schools upon meeting certain educational and behavioral benchmarks. That mobility is something that is sorely lacking now- a good friend of mine was kept in an alternative education program, and eventually a separate alternative school, solely due to having trouble reading in the SECOND GRADE. By junior high, he was able to read at least well enough to keep up with his course work. He was in fact punished at least once that I saw for refusing to allow his “helper” to give him answers to a test for which he had studied and felt prepared. At no point was he offered any chance to escape the hand-holding; because he had trouble reading at 7, he was doomed by their system to be separated from his peers and treated though he was incompetent until he graduated high school.The alternative education programs I suggest here should have as little resemblance to the educational roadblock thrust in front of him as possible, while allowing teachers the ability to focus on those students who are willing and able to learn.

      If we were to trash NCLB as it is, and pass an education reform bill similar to what it was originally intended to be, I believe it would be one of the single most important pieces of legislation to be enacted in a generation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s