Unless you have been hiding underneath a rock, you have heard about the Chicago Teachers Strike. My friend posted this on his facebook, so I thought I would re-post it (with his permission). This was his response to a friend who disagreed with his stance on the strike.
It appears that you are angry about the current strike in the city of Chicago. There are several people who are mad that students are being displaced and alternative arrangements need to be made, including teachers. The accountability system for teachers in the state is up in the air and this strike plays a much larger role in the big picture. Are you aware that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) established benchmarks for schools to reach in terms of the percentage of students passing standardized test? There is a formula to figure out the numbers, but I won’t go into it. Let’s assume that one year it is 70%. That means that 70% of ALL students need to pass the math exam. Regardless of prior education, disability, or language deficiency, 70% of all students must pass. The next year that is increased and so on until 2013-2014 when 100% of all students must pass the standardized test. If your school does not meet these standards your school is labeled as a “failing school.” If you are not able to turn the school around after 5 years, the state can take over the school.
Imagine this for one minute. I know that you work in the field of health care and you put in a ton of work. Assume that your practice has 100 patients; all overweight and diabetic (type 2). You must make sure that by the end of the first year 60 of those patients are at normal weight and they return to a healthy lifestyle. By year two, 75% of those patients need to be at that level and by year 3 every single one of your patients needs to be at a healthy weight and cured from type 2 diabetes. If you are not able to accomplish this, the practice will be labeled as a “failing practice” and reports will be sent out letting patients know that you are a “failing practice.” Furthermore, the state is going to dictate that as your boss, I can see how many of these patients were under your care and place the sole responsibility on you for not curing these individuals. Disregard the fact that you met with these individuals, created a healthy diet for them and introduced them to personal trainers. You cannot force them to eat what you want them to or work out as hard as you would like but you will still be held responsible. If your practice does not turn things around within 5 years the state can take it over and shut it down. Can you imagine if this were real? Every medical practice in the U.S. would be considered failing and the entire nation would be without health care. If you think this is not right, imagine how teachers feel when a large portion of evaluations will be based on student test scores. There are many factors that are out of our control.
What I find most shocking is that I work at a “failing school.” Our average ACT score is 24.1, but I work at a “failing school.” 92% of our students who took AP exams scored a 3 or higher, but I work at a “failing school.” We have raised thousands of dollars for Doctors without Borders, Katrina relief, and the Wounded Warrior Project, but I work at a “failing school.” The students at my school “adopted” over 100 students during the holiday season to purchase toys and clothes for the less fortunate, but I work at “failing school.” Our sports teams have won state championships in baseball, volleyball, and water polo, but I work at a “failing school.” Graduates of my school are represented at every single Ivy League school, but I work at “failing school.” I guess the definition of failing is different than what I thought it was. I thought all of these accomplishments were good things. I guess not.
I’d also like to answer the people who think that the teachers do not care about students. If I did not care about students, I would not volunteer my time to go on a weekend retreat and teach kids about leadership and positive decision making. If I did not care about students, I would not work until 10 p.m. most nights supervising their extracurricular activities. If I did not care about students, I would not have contacted DCFS numerous times in my career to report signs of abuse and neglect. If I did not care about students, I would not write college recommendation letters so that they hopefully get accepted to the college of their choice. If I did not care about students, I would not have given a new TREK mountain bike to a student so he could escape his terrible home life and actually have a way to get to school because his family would not help him. If I did not care about students, I would not console them when their best friend passed away. If I did not care about students, I would not give Bulls tickets to a student who cried to me that his dad lost his job and they wouldn’t be celebrating Christmas this year. If I did not care about students, I would not teach.
However, I do care about students, and I choose to teach. I also care about the conditions in which my students learn and that they have the resources available to them to be successful. While the media and general public point this out as teachers fighting over their working conditions, what we are really doing is fighting to have proper learning conditions for our students. We are fortunate enough to be well educated because we were taught in an environment that was conducive to learning and had the necessary materials. I would like to have the same opportunities for my children and support CPS teachers as they fight for Chicago students. These teachers are entering an environment in which they are not given the necessary materials to educate students and succeed. Would you be willing to perform a surgery with no tools? I doubt it.