Today the Chicago Teachers Union strike has ended and nearly 350,000 children will be able to return to school on tomorrow after seven full days away from the classroom. This event is significant for multiple reasons, and it also presents a very intriguing storyline. What settled were the mitigating factors that kept teachers away from the classroom, but what was left on the table was the future direction of public education and how it will serve our children in the coming years.
In an election year, it was Democrats that usually court the teachers unions as supporters, that played the disruptor, as Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, is both a Democrat, and the former Chief of Staff for Barack Obama’s White House. The strike was also happening in Obama’s hometown, which adds another layer of seriousness to the mounting problems in the city. Politics aside there were still very important factors that needed to be agreed upon before any new contract would be decided. One of these was stretching the current school day from six hours to seven. Another would be the use of standardized test scores to be used in teacher evaluations. Teachers wanted extra money in the extension of the school day, but in my opinion, getting paid for the standard 8 hour day makes perfect sense. Using test scores to evaluate teachers is probably a better idea, than not using them. Teachers were wary of using this, because they argued that factors in home, social and learning would potentially be causes that could bring the scores of students down.
The strike presents a feud pitting Democratic values against Democratic players. It also sets the stage for a nationwide discussion on education reform. Our country spends the most money per student on education and we are routinely getting beat in the worldwide battle of preparing students for jobs, college and more. What is the right course of action? What can we do to make education better? These questions will be answered in the future, but in the meantime, at least the students in Chicago are back in the classroom. Does anyone else have an opinion on this?