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Chicago teachers have a tentative deal and may be headed back to work on Monday. But the schools they teach in still have a lot of problems, and there are still a lot of powerful people determined to blame teachers for those problems. That makes it important to keep listening to teachers and students and parents when they talk about the problems they see and the solutions they want.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

A fair day's wage

The War on Education

  • If you read an article headlined "Fab 5 Star's Charter a Beacon of Hope," would you expect the following to be true of that "beacon of hope" charter school?
    Problems the Academy wrestled with in its first year were a classic mix of start-up mistakes and a focus on glitz over substance. They ran out of money because they set a 10-student class size limit. There were costly monthly field trips (including one to Olympic basketball camp in Las Vegas). No science labs (students left fetal pig detritus in restroom sinks), no locker rooms, showers or air-conditioning in summer heat. Fights, expulsions and a security guard who had to be fired. A teacher using his own media equipment for instruction took his technological tools and skills with him when he left mid-year. A heavily promoted on-line curriculum couldn't be accessed, due to broken laptops. Test scores started and remained in the basement.

    Here's the most telling fact, however: there was 100% turnover in teaching staff--not a single teacher returned--and as the school's second year opens, they're on their third principal.

  • A former New York schoolteacher writes that teachers aren't islands unto themselves:
    I taught in three different public schools in New York City. Where I was able to be my best depended as much on the class sizes, the conditions, the financing, the materials available to me, the support staff for teachers, the support for students and the climate created by administration, as it did on my own efforts and abilities.
  • So much important stuff has been written on the Chicago teachers strike, not just on the immediate issues in Chicago but on the broader picture: Mike Konczal looks at the view from the streets. David Dayen explains more about how this is a national fight. Valerie Strauss explains the real problems with Rahm's reforms. Rick Perlstein calls this the next chapter in the fight against plutocracy.

State and local lawmaking

  • Remember the Georgia Senate bill that would have criminalized picketing? Republican Sen. Don Balfour was the driving force behind that, so, while it's unrelated to the picketing bill, it's nice to hear that he's currently under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for filing false expense reports. He was already fined $5,000 by the Georgia Senate Ethics Committee.

Miscellaneous

  • Republicans think they've really got something with this "are you better off now than you were four years ago" thing. Of course, four years ago the stock market was crashing, credit was pretty much frozen, the auto industry was on the brink of collapse, and basically everything in the economy was getting worse. In fact, four years ago today, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. So United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard has an answer on that four years ago question:
    Now, in September 2012, global financial markets have stabilized. Credit is available to Main Street. GM and Chrysler are building cars and creating jobs. Unemployment is declining as the private sector has added jobs to the economy every month for the past 30. The value of housing is rising once again, creating wealth for the middle class. Now there’s a financial reform law to prevent another Wall Street bailout. There’s Obamacare to help families retain and secure health insurance. The war in Iraq is over and Osama bin Laden is dead.  Is America better off than it was four years ago? Hell, yes it is!

    September 2012 can’t be described as boom times. But it’s sure not the dread-filled days of September 2008.

    The Steelworkers' blog is lining up data points on this, looking directly back four years:
    On this day four years ago, Sept. 12, 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau released a dismal retail sales report: department store sales were down 1.5%, online sales were down 2.3%, and sales overall were in a marked decline that would continue until March 2009. [...]

    By contrast, over the past three and a half years, sales have steadily recovered, with another .7% increase projected for this month, September 2012.

  • More than 10 years later, I'm more than ready to let 9/11 start to recede a little. But at the same time, isn't it amazing to think that public workers like these are now the subject of such fierce political attacks?

    Related, UNITE HERE remembers its members who died working at Windows on the World.

  • The Fraternal Order of Police, which endorsed Republicans in 2000, 2004, and 2008, is not endorsing Mitt Romney.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Labor über alles. (nt) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar

    I can’t decide who’s cuter – the dead guy with the arrows in his chest, or the guy in the ditch with the seeping wound. -- Game of Thrones (Heard on Set)

    by prodigal on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:05:43 AM PDT

  •  The main message? (6+ / 0-)

    Collective Bargaining works.  

    And as long as politicians stay out of that process and stop trying to be Capitalist CEOs, it will continue to work.

    Mitt Romney's moral compass points to the Cayman Islands.

    by captainlaser on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:12:11 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for linking to the Strauss piece (10+ / 0-)

    It points out how the current tools are for assessing teacher performance by test scores are too primitive. In particular, the Rand study that shows "Researchers have found that how a teacher is rated changes from class to class, from year to year, and even from test to test" is a pretty strong indictment of Rahm's plan.

    Just common sense tells you that teachers who have a set of kids for one year, and are expected to show quantifiable improvement from the previous year to get paid -- I mean, what's that going to do to the type of thing that they teach? Are you going to teach them civics and history, or drill them on formulas that are going to improve the test scores?

    I went to Chicago public schools, and they need a lot of help, but teaching kids to cram better for tests is, in the big picture, totally backwards.

    "Stare at the monster: remark/ How difficult it is to define just what/ Amounts to monstrosity in that/ Very ordinary appearance." - Ted Hughes

    by MarkC on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:16:22 AM PDT

    •  and... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      xaxnar, MarkC, houyhnhnm

      when high school students who have been trained to cram for tests go to college, they take that mentality with them.  They then say to their professors: "Tell us what you want."  My students expect me to have very narrow expectations that I outline to them in explicit detail.  In their view (and, I fear, the view of the university administration), I "deliver content" and the students memorize it.  The admin pays lots of lip service to "critical thinking," but they still repeatedly refer to professors "delivering content."

    •  The help that they need will come with the new adm (0+ / 1-)
      Recommended by:
      Hidden by:
      aoeu

      when ALL public sector unions are eradicated and every public educator fired.  We can then systematically hire back only those qualified by testing every teacher for proficiency.  Tenure will be a bad nightmare memory and teachers will be held accountable for the product they put out.

  •  30+ years of war against workers in this country (7+ / 0-)

    Cutting wages. Eliminating benefits. Raiding pensions. Deregulating things that make workplaces safe, and safe for the people who buy the products that come out of this economy is why we have pet food that kills, E. coli burgers, and worse.

    Social Security isn't in trouble because people are living too long and benefits are too good. It's because for 30+ years their wages have stayed flat while the economy grew, and all that money got siphoned off into things that pay nothing into Social Security. What shape would the trust fund be in now without the cap on income, or the huge sums that got turned into capital gains? How much extra would people have put aside for retirement if they'd gotten a share of that growth?

    Giving people cheap crap to buy while giving them cheap credit to buy it with so they can run up debts while thinking they're doing well - well we're seeing how that has worked out.

    But the really galling thing is seeing workers made into scapegoats while the real source of our troubles is busy running its very own candidate for the White House - and the incumbent is trying to avoid having to choose which side to take in Chicago.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:22:47 AM PDT

  •  Thank a teacher if you can read this!! (6+ / 0-)

    I'm a product of the Chicago schools and proud of my life's achievements.  

    60 years later, I still remember the names of each teacher I had in elementary school.

    What puzzles me is why Rahm Emanuel has become a corporatist hellbent on destroying my cherished Chicago Public Schools.

    I now understand why Obama has been doing so much better since Rahm stopped being his Chief of Staff.

    *Austerity is the opposite of Prosperity*

    by josmndsn on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:34:48 AM PDT

  •  Are unions to blame (7+ / 0-)

    for not meeting AYP?

    for students not doing their homework?

    for students disrespecting staff?

    for students who have parents in jail?

    for mom stabbing dad last night?

    for dropping out of school?

    for not having dinner last night?

    for children working to help pay the bills?

    for dad taking bath salts and slicing up his face?

    for breaking parole?

    for not having clean clothes to come to school?

    for being sexually abused by the uncle living in the house?

    for being raised by grandparents because parents are off in jail or on drugs?

    Let's quit pointing fingers and start realizing that we are in this together and there are no simple solutions!

    •  Quiet! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley, Grabber by the Heel

      We're trying to break a union, here!

      ;)

      Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth. - Lucy Parsons

      by cruz on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:57:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  am I allowed to point a finger... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley, Grabber by the Heel

      at the Chicago thug democrat mayor leading this assault?

    •  There are simple solutions to those problems... (5+ / 0-)

      but they all involve actually providing a good, living wage to everyone, regardless of how achieved. It's always been a problem far beyond teachers to solve, but parental income is the most significant predictor of educational success we know of, far more than any other factor.

      Until we fix the base problem, we are never going to have a solution for most poor students that overcomes the disadvantages of their poverty. The charters only prove this point, since they can skim the cream of the student population (both by self-selection and ejection of unwanted students) and when supported by plenty of cash can do very well. But those schools aren't replicable on the large scale nor are they achieving results that are any different than you'd get with a public school given the same selection systems and resources. Just look to the second and third rank magnet schools in many districts; they're great examples of schools generally doing well on just selectivity alone, even without too much in extra resources. The fact is we could apply that model very well indeed across large urban systems if we didn't have so many students saddled with the burden of poverty and without the list of woes (and many others) that you list.

      Teachers do what they can, even to fix the problems on this saddening list, but we can't fix the whole socio-economic system and still get our classes taught.

      Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

      by Stwriley on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 12:11:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Stwriley

        "The single most reliable predictor of test scores is poverty,and poverty, in turn, is correlated to student attendance, to family support, and to the school's resources.~Diane Ravitch

      •  They already have (0+ / 0-)

        a more than decent wage along with obscene benefits for a completely dismal job performance.  FIRE every single one of these worthless union pukes!

        •  You must not have paid attention... (0+ / 0-)

          during English class. Otherwise you'd be able to handle basic reading comprehension. But, since you obviously need additional instruction to grasp the meaning of my comment, We'll just review:

          1) I was, of course, talking about the poor and working class parents of most urban public school children when I used the phrase "living wage", which you should have understood from the context (the next sentence where I specifically refer to "parental income" especially) and the nature of the comment I was answering. Nipit had listed the woes of urban poverty to point out that the main problem in poor performance is related to poverty, not the schools themselves. Thus my answer built on that point to bring in the known correlation between parental income and educational performance to counter the idea that teachers can somehow overcome the effects of poverty for all or even most students.

          2) I then cited the equally well-known facts that charter schools, despite their non-union staffs, don't perform any better than comparable public schools; they just pay their teachers less and siphon off the money for executive salaries and (in the case of the for-profits) stock dividends. But this point you didn't even manage to notice.

          No, in your rabid quest to froth at the mouth about "these worthless union pukes" you've managed to prove the kind of senseless, fact-free, demagoguery that characterizes the entire anti-teacher bias of the education "reform" community that Rahm and his friends represent.  

          Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. Sun Tzu The Art of War

          by Stwriley on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 11:41:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Are we allowed (7+ / 0-)

    to talk about the fact that many of the most aggressive "reformers" - meaning the kind of reform that privatizes education, commodifies kids, and breaks unions - are Democrats, including the President and his Secretary of Education?

    Or should this wait until after the election? (snark)

    Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth. - Lucy Parsons

    by cruz on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:55:23 AM PDT

    •  of course not...... (0+ / 0-)

      now be a good little partisan and go back to howling about Paul Ryan.

    •  Yes, of course you're allowed. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL

      Clearly the President is NOT leading on this issue.  He seems to have concluded that the corporate side is the safe side here and concluded that a long time ago.

      At least he is not publicly endorsing the union busters either.  I suppose that counts for something.  That, I guess was the "progressive" position.   Until this week, when the Chicago Teachers showed them a thing or two.  Maybe this will break the consensus by bringing the issue more into the open.

      I saw this guy John Legend on Bill Maher last night.  Some kind of "progressive" but he's totally bought into the notion that principals need absolute authority to hire and fire, that that will bring accounatability and quality to the schools.

      Several problems here.
      1.  We talk about educational quality without any consensus on what it is.
      2.  The idea that testing is a valid measure of quality (again, what's quality?) in spite of the fact that the tests have a proven record of failure to predict consistently which teachers will get the best scores on an ongoing basis.  A teacher who rates high one year may rate low the next for reasons beyond their control.  Imagine a medical test which did not give repeatable results when administered multiple times.  Such a test is worthless.  
      3.  So we have a worthless test measuring an undefined concept and a bunch of people ignorant of on-the-ground conditions pontificating that such tests are the only way to go.  At least it's a number.

      Truly, the emperor here wears no clothes.

      About the best we can hope for here is that the apparent success of the CTU, which teachers unions around the country are flocking to associate themselves with, will begin to turn the tide and force the supposed politicians to change their tune.  "Make me" said Obama.  Maybe this will start the process.

      sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

      by stivo on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 01:49:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  and look at our President... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slatsg

    out on the picket line, in his walking shoes, just like he promised!

    Errrrrrrr staying completely silent while his former right hand man tries to massacre unions.

  •  Thankful for teachers (0+ / 0-)

    Public school is important to our society and generates future hopefully well adjusted adults.  It provides socialization and a common experience with others in the same peer group.  As someone who grew up in poverty and dysfunction, it provides a safe haven, knowledge, nourishment for the body and mind, and the most important thing you learn is how to behave in public.
     Some of us come into school with behavioral problems, as I did.  My grade school teachers had to make me understand what to do, and what was not acceptable.  And, without that foundation, how would children not fortunate enough to start off their school career with basic understanding ever learn anything?
    My point is, standardized tests don't always measure an educator's excellence, they are busy acting as surrogate parents.
    Teachers are more important, and harder working that we give them credit for.  

    If you like it, put your face in it.

    by LiveNudePolitics on Sat Sep 15, 2012 at 11:57:39 AM PDT

    •  That's a load of crap! (0+ / 0-)

      Most teachers are there phoning it in and clocking time until their ridiculous lifetime pension kicks in.  Eradicate EVERY public sector union and fire every single "educator".  Only hire the ones back who test proficient and can pass a hiring board.  No more scum union pukes "educating" our youth.  That has been a complete failure for decades with graduates not even able to read at a 6th grade level.  Totally unacceptable and totally worthless.  How come Magnet schools can do so much more with the EXACT same kids?

  •  Evaluate teachers on students ..then do this for (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, JanL, weinerschnauzer, houyhnhnm

    doctors, too.  Make their compensation be based on the health of their patients.

    What's that you say?  The doctors have no control on what the patients do when they leave his/her office.  Diet, exercise, losing weight, stopping smoking, taking their meds, etc..

    Now you see the flaw in evaluating teachers on student's performance.

    I never hear the student being blamed for not learning in all the discussions about education.

    It's time to put the blame where it belongs - on the students and their parents.  

    Take a very good performing school (probably in a wealthy, white suburb) and transfer those teachers to a poor, urban, black school that is underperforming with mostly failing students.   Do you think those students would now rise to the achievements of the ones in the white, rich suburban district?

    Of course not, because it's not about the teachers.  

    •  As I told you poor worthless liberal pukes (0+ / 0-)

      Your assertion goes out the window when a non union magnate school can take same kids and run circles around what the liberal puke "educators have been able to do for decades.  Worthless is what you get ANY time you let a union into the workplace.  It's time for complete eradication.

      •  Just another right wing extremist tea partier (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Americantrueandblue

        You're comparing apples and oranges because those magnate schools do not play by the same rules.  They do not take the same kids, they don't have all the special ed. kids (with inadequate funding), they don't have the same class sizes nor do they have the same testing requirements, among other things.

        You should thank unions everyday for all of your job's wages and benefits because even you ungrateful, hyocritical non-union slobs benefit from what the unions worked for in this country.

  •  The company my son works for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL

    Cortera is telling their worker that they will all be fired and the new management will not let them collect unemployment.

    He is supporting a wife and baby - and live in Newtonville, Massachusetts where Cortera has an office.

    I'm not even sure that's legal. Is it?

  •  Strike isn't guaranteed to end Monday. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    houyhnhnm

    CPS wants it to, but the CTU has been so damaged by the City's constant lies to them they aren't guaranteeing anything till they see it in writing and vote. And I don't blame them. Dick Kay on WCPT gave a great history of the City's attempts to screw teachers today.

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