Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sun-Times blows it again on teacher planning time

Sun-Times editorial asks: "But since when do salaried professionals watch the clock like hourly workers on an assembly line?" Answer: In Chicago, schools are still organized like factories (remember them?) Teachers still punch in and out.
Today's Sun-Times editorial: When teachers strike so they can teach kids less, something is wrong, blows it again.

It's the second time in a row for S-T, although the last one wasn't an editorial. They just turned over a full page to an anti-public-school harangue by a right-wing think-tanker. But now they're running neck-in-neck with the Tribune's McQueary and Kass for most ill-informed anti-teacher, anti-union pundit awards.

Kass and McQueary I understand. They are committed right-wing, racist, anti-union ideologues who never bother with seeking truth from facts. Remember when McQueary wished a natural disaster would strike Chicago to pave the way for a "rebirth" of the city?

But the S-T (partially owned by the CFL) just seems to be missing the mark out of ignorance, rather than ideology. Today's editorial calls on the CTU to drop their demand for more teacher planning time and get back to work.

While I have been at odds with CTU leaders over their tactics, especially their abusive, personal attacks aimed at Mayor Lightfoot and her supporters (me included), I have been walking the picket line and supportive of the teachers' demands for better pay and working conditions, including full support staffing for every school.

I am hopeful that they can settle this thing, hopefully by today, by agreeing on a fair contract which includes provisions for adequate, teacher-directed planning time.

But for some reason, this demand for more and better teacher planning time has become a minefield and one of the last barriers in the way of a tentative agreement between the board and the union. The S-T editorial, by mischaracterizing the demand, just adds fuel to the fire.

According to S-T editorial,
The CTU has repeatedly insisted on a terrible idea: Giving elementary school teachers an extra 30 minutes of prep time every day, though this would meaning cutting 30 minutes of teaching time every day. Forget it. 
No, it not a terrible idea. It's a great one and one that doesn't have to cut into classroom teaching time. But even if it did, research shows, that's not so bad.

S-T claims,
Chicago once had the shortest school day in the country, which was a national embarrassment. When kids are not in class, they cannot learn. But since 2012, thanks to the effort of many parents, educators and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago has had a longer school day — something closer to the national average — and we cannot go back.
This is all bullcrap. Chicago didn't have the shortest day in the country and wasn't a "national embarrassment." That was all a fabrication of Rahm Emanuel's who made a longer school day his election campaign mantra so there would be more time for test-prep rather the prep time for teachers and staff.

Rahm even dragged Arne Duncan back to town from Washington to campaign for his longer school day plan. I gagged when I heard Duncan call Chicago's school day, a "disgrace" and a "badge of shame." Duncan had autocratically run the schools here for the seven years previous and with a compliant union leadership behind him, had never implemented a longer school day.

As one observer wrote in a letter to the Sun-Times in 2011,
 A longer school day without structure is like a restaurant serving “lots” of food — if the food is not tasty — who cares if you get a lot of it!
If less seat time for students was a "national embarrassment", why wasn't the Lab School, where Rahm sent his kids, embarrassed? They had a shorter school day and year than did CPS and still do. So do the wealthy suburban districts to the north of us. None of them equate more seat time with more learning.

S-T claims:
Yes, teachers need time to plan. But since when do salaried professionals watch the clock like hourly workers on an assembly line? True professionals — teachers, doctors, college professors, and even journalists — agree on an annual salary and get on with the job.
Have the S-T editors ever been inside a Chicago Public School? If they had, they would know that unlike other professionals, our teachers punch a time clock every day, just like factory workers (remember them?). No, teachers are still not treated as professionals. Real professionals have time to plan, much greater autonomy over their work and the time and wherewithal to collaborate with their colleagues.

Can you imagine a lawyer defending a client with inadequate prep time? Or doctors being told to spend more time in the operating room with less time to prepare? Or either of them punching a clock?

As I said up top, I hope the strike gets settled today and I hope teacher prep time is part of the deal. It shouldn't be that hard to reach an agreement on this.

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