Monday, August 30, 2010

Reformed out

"I appreciate how painful this may be for these...teachers, and I also appreciate the fact that even the best data systems won't tell the whole story."--Arne Duncan
I ran into a old friend yesterday, a (former) Chicago teacher. She is She was a veteran teacher at a large north side high school who has been a fine educator and a  leader in school reform efforts for two decades. She piloted the creation of one of the first teacher-led small learning communities in Chicago, an SLC that somehow survived the school's revolving door of principals and district leaders.

Visibly upset, she told me that last week, she received a paragraph-long notice from the board informing her that she has been "honorably separated" from CPS and that her long, distinguished teaching career is over. No notice. Just tossed out like an old coat. Plus, she and her family will lose her medical insurance coverage.

I'm sure there are thousands of stories just like hers. To Ron Huberman and his army of  former Transit Authority bureaucrats down on Clark St., she is just another saved salary in the middle of a deficit-heavy spread sheet, along with thousands of other riffed Chicago teachers. She's also just another sacrifice on the altar of Arne Duncan's Race To The Top--one that has so far gone unrewarded with any RTTT funding for our state.

But to me (and I have watched her teach), she is good, skillful teacher, close to retirement, at the top of her game, being pulled away from the very students who need her the most, students she knows personally and know she cares about them. She's one whose added value does not show up on a test-score-only evaluation sheet. Now there's one more mountain of instability that those students will have to surmount.

Here also is one fewer skilled mentor for the school's younger teachers and one fewer change agent in a school and a system badly in need of change. One less bread winner in a family. One less tax payer in a state badly in need of tax payers and consumers.

Such is the sordid nature of Arne Duncan's so-called "school reform."


  1. This is a painful and not very unique example of what is going on, and for all the reasons you describe. Every teacher knows a teacher who tells the same story. It hits us at our very professional core.
    Let me add one more issue: What happened to the CPS union contract? What happened to seniority rules. The rules served students by ensuring that experienced, high quality teachers were in every building. The rules served younger teachers by ensuring that that would have model teachers to mentor them. All gone when the former union leadership gave away seniority rights.

  2. Seniority rights were lost under the Debbie Lynch administration. It was a legislative act and Ms. Lynch had very little control over it. Know your CTU history before you place blame on the wrong administration.

  3. Thanks. Where can we read and learn about the CTU's history. Any books, articles to recommend?

  4. However you wish to sum up the tenure of Debbie Lynch as President of the CTU, and I happened to have been a supporter, for Anonymous to claim seniority rights were lost, as if they were a set of keys, is absurd. Compare that view with the response of the current CTU leadership to performance based layoffs.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.