Chicago fails its students
Scott Walker, not Rahm Emanuel, offers a model for reform

Reuters

Students make their return to Whitney Young High School in Chicago, September 19, 2012. Chicago students return to school on Wednesday after a teachers' strike ended, thrilling parents who had to stay home from work to care for their kids, pay for alternative childcare or leave them with friends and relatives for more than a week.

Article Highlights

  • Despite a strong opening hand, @RahmEmanuel wound up with precious little after the #CTUStrike.

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  • Who sets a better model of #edreform? @GovWalker, says Hess of @AEIEducation.

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  • "They want to know if there’s anything more they can get,” said #CTU president Karen Lewis.

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  • Why @govwalker wins on #edreform, not @RahmEmanuel, after #CTUStrike.

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This article appears in the October 15, 2012 issue of the National Review.

"They want to know if there’s anything more they can get,” said Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis, explaining why her members voted to reject a tentative agreement the CTU had negotiated with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. Two days later, on September 18, after taking a victory lap to show who calls the shots in the Windy City, the CTU accepted the generous deal.

The odds had seemed to favor a happier outcome. Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff, is a notorious fighter and an ardent champion of education reform. Chicago public-school teachers already earn, on average, $76,000 a year for working 190 days (15 of them student-free “professional” days). The city spends more than $13,000 per child a year and deems 99.7 percent of its teachers effective, yet its 674 schools graduate just 60 percent of their students, and fully 52 percent of fourth-graders score “below basic” in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. When the CTU opted in early September to strike rather than continue negotiating, it seemed a golden opportunity for Emanuel to prove that reform-minded Democrats can face down their union allies.

Yet, despite a strong opening hand, Emanuel wound up with precious little. The CTU’s initial request was dismissed as laughable in tough times (even by the New York Times editorial page), and the union was slammed for opposing Emanuel’s push to make growth in student test scores count for more than the state-required minimum when evaluating teachers. The new three-year contract calls for raises of 3 percent, 2 percent, and 2 percent in successive years, over and above regular seniority-based increases; retains seniority-based pay; and calls for hiring 600 new teachers, of whom one-half must be laid-off former teachers. It stipulates that teachers displaced because of school closures will keep their jobs, regardless of performance. On teacher evaluations, Emanuel managed only to get the CTU to comply with state law. Illinois requires that growth in student test scores account for at least 30 percent of evaluations; after fiercely insisting that the figure be 40 percent, Rahm accepted the minimum.

The full text of this article is available via subcription at National Review Online.

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About the Author

 

Frederick M.
Hess
  • An educator, political scientist and author, Frederick M. Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include "Cage-Busting Leadership," "Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age," "The Same Thing Over and Over," "Education Unbound," "Common Sense School Reform," "Revolution at the Margins," and "Spinning Wheels." He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog, "Rick Hess Straight Up." Hess's work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, National Affairs, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind.  Hess serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.


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