Observations on life

Progress in education reform?

Following is a brief summary of the contract settlement for the Chicago teachers union as published in the paper:

The draft contract, a copy of which was viewed by The Wall Street Journal, calls for a 3% raise the first year and 2% raises the next two years. The two sides can agree to extend the contract to a fourth year with a 3% raise. Mr. Emanuel had wanted to replace the “step and lane” raises that teachers get for years of service and extra credentials with merit pay. But the union blocked that. District officials say the total pay increases in the deal would average 4.4% annually over four years, and cost an additional $295 million for a district that faces an estimated $1 billion deficit in 2015-16.

Under the deal, teachers would be ranked into four categories. Those in the lowest tier, “unsatisfactory,” could be fired in 90 working days if they don’t improve—although they can appeal their evaluations. Teachers in the second-to-lowest category, “developing,” would be moved to the “unsatisfactory” ranking after two years unless they gain at least one point annually on the evaluations, which have a 100-to-400-point scale.

A pilot study conducted last year in about 100 schools showed that about 2% of teachers fell into the lowest rating, and 28% into “developing.” Ms. Lewis said as many as 6,000 teachers could face dismissal under the city’s initial contract offer.

Tim Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, which supports tougher evaluations to improve teacher effectiveness, called the provision “twisted” and said it allows a teacher to “stagnate at a mediocre” level forever. “This policy makes no sense if you are trying to reassure parents that the district can consistently hold a high standard on teacher quality,” he said.

It is into this environment with similar versions of evaluations, or less, across the Country that the President wants to hire 100,000 new teachers. Again, we focus not on root causes of a problem but on symptoms. Nowhere is the cause of our educational woes the lack of teachers, but rather the system within education that allows it to be dysfunctional and inefficient.

The general lack of a functioning appraisal and evaluation system is common in all government jobs where a disproportionate percentage of workers receive the highest level performance ranking.

In all fairness, when it comes to education we cannot lay the blame solely perhaps even mostly on teachers. Parents carry equal responsibility and dysfunctional families make the learning process difficult and the teaching process a monumental challenge.

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