Friday, September 21, 2012

The teachers' strike in Chicago

Fighting irrelevance with fire

Sep 14th 2012, 18:39 by N.L. | CHICAGO--ONLINE ONLY

IMPROVING America’s schools is no easy task, but in recent years the school-reform movement has made great strides and there is growing agreement about what it takes to make a great school. The tired arguments of the past are finally being put to rest. Much as we would like to say that the key is something simple like charters, or smaller classes, or different testing, or fewer mediocre teachers, or more motivated parents, or less poverty, in fact there is no silver bullet. A system this stagnant requires changes on many levels.

The boffins at the Urban Education Institute (UEI) in Chicago have written an exemplary book on school improvement. They looked at 100 elementary schools that showed progress in attendance and test scores over a seven-year period, and 100 others that did not. They argue—with quantitative data—that five essential pillars are needed to build a great school. These are: effective school leadership, collaborative teachers (with committed staff and professional development), parent-community ties, a student-centered (and safe) learning climate with high expectations, and ambitious and demanding instruction.

The teachers in UEI's home city of Chicago are striking, leaving 350,000 children out of class. The unions say they only want the best outcome for the students. But this cannot be true. This is because their demands (to have a role in the hiring and firing of teachers and to weaken or delay plans for improved teacher assessment) essentially kick away at two of the UEI's five essential pillars for great schools. [MORE...]