Zerlina Maxwell on Chicago teachers strike:
According to teachers, the strike is necessary because of the ongoing battle over high stakes testing and dilapidated conditions of the public schools creates inadequate working conditions for students who struggle to learn in overcrowded classes, in overheated rooms, with insufficient supplies of text books.
One hundred and sixty public schools in the city of Chicago have no library, yet Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered the city’s public libraries to close earlier, due to budget cuts, thus leaving students without resources. During the negotiations, teachers were offered a 4% annual raise in exchange for an extended school day, but that was eventually rescinded by Emanuel who then offered only a 2% raise.
The conflict over salary increases is the most reported part of the impasse, but it’s really high stakes testing (standardized exams which require teachers to “teach to the test”) being the basis for teacher evaluations that is the most significant conflict. Despite numerous studies showing that this testing is an ineffective method of cultivating successful students, reformers have succeeded in spinning the narrative around to blame teachers, damaging their public image.