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The Chicago Teacher Strike: What do You Think?

Chicago teachers rally during the walk out. Image courtesy flickr photostream kirstiecat.
Chicago teachers rally during the walk out. Image courtesy flickr photostream kirstiecat.

I suspect teachers in Georgia would have a lot to say about Chicago’s teacher’s strike. Many of the issues that educators there are dealing with resonate here and across the nation: teacher merit evaluations, pay, benefits, charter schools and job security. Get an explainer from these articles on Mother Jones, CNN and GPB Education News. Here is also the opinion of a striking educator on the ground. )

To get a sense of what educators, parents and lay people are saying about the strike, I scoured social media sites, listened to talk radio, watched the news and did a lot of reading. This captures what some think about the situation.

(And of course I invite you to contribute your thoughts. Please join this conversation by posting your comments here.)

It’s About Evaluations

How should teachers be evaluated? This is one of the main sticking points that sparked the walk out. Should test scores be the measure of teacher success?

One radio show caller who is an educator practically bellowed “No” in answer to this question. She argued that tests are not designed to measure teacher performance but to gauge student knowledge and understanding of the subject they are being tested on.

Moreover a teacher can be brilliant, but a student can be a terrible test taker. That exam may not be a good bell weather of what the student knows.

She pointed out that it’s this emphasis on linking test scores to teacher performance reviews that led to the Atlanta CRCT cheating scandal.

Chicago Teachers Union Rally

Notable activist, principal, and media commentator Dr. Steve Perry argued the opposite view. On the same show and on his Twitter feed, he mused how else are teachers supposed to be evaluated? He gave this example: one of his kids takes piano lessons. The measure of whether the piano teacher is doing a good job is the fact that his child can play complex pop pieces at a young age. If his child couldn’t play piano at all, the teacher’s skills would need to be called into question.

“Teachers Can’t Save Everybody!”

Another caller - a music teacher and band leader chimed in that teachers can’t save every student. One student may really need his help, he mentioned but if that student is not responsive to it, why should his other 25 students suffer? He railed against the unrealistic expectations placed on teachers to be all things to everyone and play every role. That is why he supported the strike.

The Students Are Suffering

For the most part, tweets lamented that students are paying the ultimate price for the strike. It’s the beginning of the school year and more than 300,000 students (and their parents) are having to make contingency plans. Some of them are staying home, others are being sent to libraries and others are just left out to roam the streets. This was the biggest concern as Chicago has a high crime rate.

Again, what do you think of the strike? Would or could something like this happen in Georgia?