Education Week - September 19, 2012 - (Page 16)
SEPTEMBER 19, 2012
Chicago Dispute Puts Spotlight on Teacher Evaluation
Conflict reflects broader tensions over use of test scores
By Liana Heitin
While wages and benefits played an important role in the dispute between the Chicago Teachers Union and the city’s school district that led last week to a teachers’ strike, the most divisive issue was teacher evaluation. In that respect, the flare-up in Chicago reflects broader tensions about changes to evaluation policies being rolled out across the country. Illinois’ Performance Evaluation Reform Act, passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature in January 2010, required districts to make student-achievement data a “significant factor” in teacher evaluations. The driving force behind the law was the federal Race to the Top grant competition, which gave states incentives to incorporate student performance into their accountability systems. Consequently, the 403,000-student Chicago school district developed a new evaluation system that was to be implemented in the 201213 school year. The system, called reach (for Recognizing Educators Advancing Chicago’s Students), includes an observational component based on the teaching framework crafted by Charlotte Danielson, an educational consultant and teacherquality expert. In addition, under the system, student growth, as determined partly by value-added measures, would eventually account for 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation score. The rules implementing the state law require a minimum of only 25 percent to 30 percent, depending on the year of implementation. In a statement on the eve of the strike, ctu President Karen Lewis said that Chicago’s percentage was “too much” and argued there were “too many factors beyond our control which impact how well some students perform on standardized tests, such as poverty, exposure to violence, homelessness, hunger, and other social issues.” In addition, she contended that the system could result in the firing of 6,000 teachers— or 30 percent of the ctu’s members. “This is unacceptable,” she said. Proponents of reach, however, point to Chicago’s previous checklist-based evaluation system as being too subjective, not offering clear expectations for teachers, and emphasizing surface-level details, such as teachers’ clothing and bulletin boards. District officials, according to the Associated Press, have also questioned Ms. Lewis’ estimate of the number of teachers who could be let go as a result of the evaluation system. And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the new evaluations would not count in the first year of implementation, to provide time for needed adjustments. As of Sept. 14, the district had not released details on how or whether the evaluation system would be modified under the reported agreement with the union. associate policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States, based in Denver, 18 states and the District of Columbia now have laws that require the use of objective student data to “significantly” inform teacher evaluation. A total of 24 states require the use of student data to some extent, she said—double the number of states with such mandates just three years ago. And 10 states require that student academic growth make up at least half of the evaluation. Teaching groups nationwide have voiced concern that test scores— even under value-added analysis, which seeks to determine an individual teacher’s impact on student achievement over a school year— fail to account for many aspects of student learning and are not proven to be accurate indicators of teacher effectiveness. “Unless you completely believe
A National Issue
In attempting to reorient its evaluation system around measurable student progress, Chicago is by no means alone. According to Emily Workman, an
CTU, Mayor Clashed Early
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 14
membership and waning political power.
In Chicago, enmity between the an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, and Mr. Emanuel, who took office in May 2011, had been building long before teachers walked off the job, with their differences centering largely on wages and longer school hours. Last year, the union had dismissed Mr. Emanuel’s bid to extend the school day in exchange for a minimal pay increase—a proposal that came just months after the school board canceled a previously negotiated 4 percent increase for teachers. When that plan failed, the mayor attempted an end run around the union by getting individual schools to adopt the longer day voluntarily in exchange for teacher bonuses. In June, the ctu flexed its muscle through a strike-authorization vote affirmed by more than 90 percent of its members. The victory was symbolic as well as functional: A 2011 state law had raised the union’s strike threshold to 75 percent, a figure some of the law’s supporters had painted as unattainable. The district and the union struck a bargain in July to rehire 477 teachers to create the longer school day without extending current teachers’ work hours. But that agreement didn’t lead to a breakthrough in negotiations on other issues that had festered since the previous fall. For its part, the union had pushed for hiring more teachers to reduce class sizes, for restoring arts and other programming, and for adding more social workers and nurses. On the picket lines, many
Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/MCT
teachers cited those elements and other working conditions as reasons behind their protest. “We’re showing Rahm Emanuel we’re strong, we’re united, and we’re getting what schools need, not just what teachers want,” said María Ramírez, a 1st grade bilingual education teacher. Topping her wish list: working air conditioning, a school playground, and the art and music teachers promised as part of the longer school day.
At the negotiating table, wage issues appeared mostly settled by midweek, with the district offering an average increase of 16 percent for teachers over the life of the contract, including premiums for experience and advanced degrees. The district had previously sought to end such premiums. In all, the package would cost $320 million. It was not clear at press time whether those figures were incorporated into the deal’s outline. As the volatile negotiations continued, issues surrounding teacher evaluation and job security arose as the primary sticking points. District officials had wanted to exceed the
state-set percentage of each teacher’s evaluation that would be based on growth in student achievement, but the union steadfastly opposed that idea. The union contended that teachers instructing disadvantaged students would be penalized under such a system. The fallout from the district’s past reform efforts also shaped the union’s demands for more job security. Many of those efforts were launched during U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s tenure as the Chicago schools’ chief executive officer, from 2001 to 2008. “The contract negotiations have been going on since November, but the disrespect of teachers and parents and poor communities has been happening since 2004,” said Jitu Brown, an education organizer with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, which has a longstanding relationship with the ctu. Mr. Brown was referring to the district’s Renaissance 2010 initiative, which aimed to shutter underperforming schools and convert them into smaller schools run by private operators. He said the program had led to school closures that displaced students and cost teachers their jobs.
Ryan Hamilton, right, an elementary school physical education teacher, gets a hug from one of her students while on the picket line. The strike took some 350,000 students out of classes. The district’s charter schools were not affected.
Fearing the district plans to continue such policies, the ctu pressed officials to restore “recall rights,” under which teachers who are laid off or displaced through school closures or shake-ups would get priority for rehiring. Recall rights were eliminated in Chicago in 1995. The city’s most recent public offer to the union made concessions in that direction—permitting, for instance, teachers in schools being closed to get first dibs on positions in the schools to which their pupils are transferred. If accepted, such policies would stand in contrast to trends elsewhere. Other urban districts, including Baltimore and New York City, have whittled down seniority as a factor in placement decisions. On the evaluation issue, the city offered teachers the chance to appeal their ratings, and proposed that the new system would carry no consequences in the first year of implementation.
Challenges for Parents
While the teachers walked, churches, community organizations, and recreational facilities scrambled to put together programming to keep children occupied. The city’s board of education approved some $25 million to keep 147 schools open as a contingency plan for parents unable to find other alternatives. (See related story, Page 14.) The teachers’ union had tried to cultivate support from parent groups, and many parents turned up for rallies, some with their children in tow. Local polls showed a plurality of the public at large, and slightly more than half of parents specifically, supporting the union’s decision to strike. Yet many parents found the issues behind the strike difficult to parse, or were worried about more immediate matters, such as making child-care arrangements. “They don’t understand what’s happening, or why it’s happening. Most of the parents haven’t really
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - September 19, 2012
Education Week - September 19, 2012
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Low Proficiency Seen on Computer-Based NAEP Writing Exam
Global Study Finds U.S. Trailing In Early-Childhood Education
Scholars and Educators Team Up For the Long Haul
Focus On: School Turnaround
Virtual Ed. Providers Work to Influence State Policy in Maine
Blogs of the Week
In Designated Schools, Children Play Waiting Games
Chicago Dispute Puts Spotlight On Teacher Evaluation
Race to Top Winners Plug Away At Promises
Chiefs’ Vacancies Offer Prospect Of Policy Shifts
Learning From Success
Using National Service To Ignite School Turnaround Efforts
You Don’t Know Me
TopSchool Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
Schooling Beyond Measure
Education Week - September 19, 2012