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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Sparking a conversation to get the best teachers

Chicago Public Schools teachers recently took to the streets for the first time in a quarter-century to protest the new teacher evaluation system alongside more traditional bread-and-butter issues. But amidst the polarizing debate as to whether striking was the right thing to do, we lost sight of the big picture. Now more than ever, it is important to take a step back from the chaos this controversy created and ask the more fundamental question of whether we are doing right for our city’s children in providing each and every one the best teachers who can help them succeed in school and beyond.

Strike or no strike, do we have enough excellent teachers? If the new teacher evaluation system that has fueled so much action and so much debate is used as planned to dismiss under-performing teachers, do we have the types of teachers that we want, and that so many Chicago students need, waiting in the wings?

Recent events have shown how questions about fairness—fairness for teachers, fairness for students, and fairness for parents—too often trump the raw economic question of supply and demand in teacher policies. That is, are the salaries and working conditions (inclusive of performance evaluations) in Chicago’s schools sufficiently attractive to talented professional people? Of course they are attractive for some, but are they attracting enough talented teachers to meet our city’s needs?

Do CPS teacher salaries and working conditions entice those excellent teachers already committed to the profession to stay in the classroom for the long-haul, and do they make teaching an attractive career option for talented men and women choosing between many career options available to them? Research conducted by McKinsey & Company on our younger generation of college students suggests that in fact, very few college students from the top-third of their class view teaching as offering them as appealing a career as their alternatives.

If teachers were behaving inappropriately by picketing and partying on Chicago’s streets, what would it take to recruit a more professional, and more highly effective, teacher workforce?

Taking a step back from the chaos of the strike to reconsider whether Chicago as a city is doing its part to secure enough of the kinds of teachers that can get all students reading, writing, and mathematically literate, while also developing their aspirational capacity, requires a comprehensive, systemic human capital approach that strategically addresses not only teacher evaluation but also teacher preparation, recruitment, hiring, induction and mentoring, professional development, working conditions, and compensation.

It’s time to take the bird’s-eye perspective—creating a world-class Chicago teaching force—rather than the worm’s-eye perspective of striking a deal and getting students back in the classroom. At a national convening of state departments of education, Arne Duncan’s teacher quality advisor, Brad Jupp, called for statewide conversations among citizens about what the teaching profession ought to look like and how teacher evaluation reforms can serve as a launching point to help schools and the public to realize that vision.

Chicago researchers at American Institutes for Research, with colleagues from Public Agenda, have created a model and free online resource to help teachers spark these conversations in their schools (see Let’s start this conversation in Chicago—book clubs, community groups, and most importantly educators, should use this historic strike to spark a renewed conversation to shape the future of our teaching force and the future of our city.

The national wave of teacher evaluation reforms are playing out differently across the country, with the New York Times publishing an article on New York City’s “worst teacher,” and a Los Angeles teachers’ suicide even attributed to the outing of his students poor test scores. What mark does Chicago want to have on the nation—the largest strike, or the largest, most collaborative conversation about how to advance this most important of professions? 

Ellen Behrstock Sherratt is a researcher and policy associate at the American Institutes for Research in Chicago. An expert in teacher quality, she is a coauthor of Improving Teacher Quality and the forthcoming Improving Teacher Evaluation—With Everyone at the Table.

Allison Rizzolo is the senior communications associate for Public Agenda, a national research and engagement organization. She is also a coauthor of Improving Teacher Evaluation—With Everyone at the Table.

Both of us work with Everyone at the Table: Engaging Teachers on Evaluation Reform, a nationwide initiative to encourage teacher voice in the teacher evaluation policy dialogue.


Ed Dziedzic wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago


"If teachers were behaving inappropriately by picketing and partying on Chicago’s streets, what would it take to recruit a more professional, and more highly effective, teacher workforce?" So picketing is "inappropriate?" And teachers were not partying! Sorry if we were not dour, somber and grim, but keeping up the energy of an entirely appropriate strike requires joy and camraderie, song and chanting. Who are these people, the puritanical anti-joy squad?

And btw, their first assumption is that there is something wrong with us, the teachers who strive to do the best we can with often very limited resources and very troubled and needy children. So we, who do the work, are not good enough? Good luck finding these imaginary super-teachers they desire! What a bunch of effete, self absorbed snobs! I guess if we were only ivy leaguers like them all of the problems of educating students trapped by violence and poverty would just magically disappear!

northside wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago


In my 8 years as a teacher not once has one organization come and helped me at cps......with the exception of chicago zoo....let me rephrase that not one area office or think tank has ever come to help me or give me advice. I dont know if these people have ever been in a classroom. But they have alllll the answers...i certainly dont. Can we spark a conversation on how to improve and evaluate these organizations

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

the ABA, ADA, AMA, ANA, AAA, and any other professional org.

heck--even licensed carpenters, plumbers and electricians would not have citizens determine how they would be evaluated. But when it comes to teachers--anybody can do it.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

You have italicized the word

You have italicized the word "If". As if you want to bash teachers, but in a stealthy way, and you certainly don't want to be called out for it.

Deloitte is on this group's Board of Directors. Deloitte -- along with McKinsey, KPMG, Boston Consulting, and Jeb Bush's Digital Learning Now! -- has spent a lot of time talking about herding children into much larger classes and using computer-based software to replace teachers. Kids will sit in front of screens, drilling themselves in reading and math for up to two hours a day. As Tom Vander Ark said at Georgetown U. in August 2011, "Give me two more hours in a day, two more weeks in a year, and you can subtract two teachers."

Consulting firms like Deloitte use think tanks to provide "independent" research that supports their clients' agendas with the public and, especially, legislators. It is essentially a fancy sales brochure, which furthers the consulting firms' business opportunities. Often education think tanks like this one are funded by the Gates Foundation, whose president said would spend 15% of $3.5 bln in advocacy work in the coming years. These groups have the not-so subtle agenda of busting teachers unions which they see as the one true impediment to privatization.

Even though virtual or cyber charter schools have a 20% annual drop-out rate and poor test scores in state after state, these consulting firms are pushing their "disruptive technologies" as a key part of the privatization agenda.

I suggest that you Google 'Deloitte and disruptive innovation' for the full report. Here is an excerpt.

Then decide if you want to join their book club.

Deloitte -- Disruptive innovation
Case study: K-12 education
“At least two-thirds of U.S. students will be doing most of their learning online by 2020.”

Pace of disruption
Thanks in part to much greater capabilities, today’s online learning courses are moving rapidly from test preparation and correspondence classes into main- stream education. More than 4 million students at the K-12 level took an online course in 2011, up significantly from just 1 million three years earlier.2 About 250,000 U.S. students attend online schools full time, mostly through virtual charter schools.3

The Innosight Institute predicts that the pace that online learning substitutes for live classroom instruc- tion will increase dramatically in the next decade. In 2008, they estimated that by 2019, American high school students will take 50 percent of their courses online.4 This was a bold prediction, to say the least. If the current 46 percent annual growth rates in online learning continue, however, it may prove too conservative. Vander Ark predicts that at least two-thirds of U.S. students will be doing most of their learning online by 2020.5 That would indeed be quite a disruption.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Catalyst should not censor, but should research

the organizations that post op-eds.

Ed Dziedzic wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Thank You Anonymous

Thanks for exposing these sneaks. I had no idea, except to know that something smelled fishy.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Ed, here are a few links / excerpts on online learning for you

How well are virtual or cyber charter schools like K-12 Inc. doing?

excerpt: Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools

Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.
By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.

A parent who researches the privatizaters of New Jersey schools.

excerpt: :
Here's their mission statement: Innosight Institute is a not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank whose mission is to apply Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen’s theories of disruptive innovation to develop and promote solutions to the most vexing problems in the social sector.

So what does "disruptive innovation" mean?

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that transforms an existing market or sector–or creates a new one–by introducing simplicity, convenience, accessibility, reliability, and affordability, where before the product or service was complicated, expensive, and inaccessible. It is initially formed in a narrow foothold market or niche that appears unattractive or inconsequential to industry incumbents. 

Examples of disruptive innovations are the personal computer, which disrupted the mainframe and minicomputers, as well as Toyota automobiles, which disrupted those of Ford and General Motors. 

In education, for example, online learning appears to be a classic disruptive innovation. In the world of higher education, for example, online universities are rapidly disrupting the traditional universities.


How the Gates Foundation is spending its money.

In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.
“We’ve learned that school-level investments aren’t enough to drive systemic changes,” said Allan C. Golston, the president of the foundation’s United States program. “The importance of advocacy has gotten clearer and clearer.


How the Obama administration is spending its money.

These initiatives have been given a green light by the Obama Administration’s Race To The Top, which rewards those districts which embrace charter schools, virtual schools, online learning, merit pay and destruction of teacher rights. All of these elements are, in fact, tied together. The 2012 federal budget has specially allocated $26.8 billion for such “reform-oriented competitive initiatives” including $372 million for charters.

David Blumenthal wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

We versus they

Ed, I am proud of you for at least sharing your name rather than hiding behind the veil of anonymity, but I must insist that you missed the point of the article. Name calling (e.g., "effete, self absorbed snobs") is precisely the kind of inappropriate attitude Sherratt and Rizzolo are decrying. Rather, they are asking for a conversation with everyone, including the self-sacrificing teachers such as yourself, at the table.

What kind of professional development do you need to become the best teacher possible? What kind of human capital strategies would you have wanted in place when you were in school and considering a career in education? Those are the kind of questions the authors are raising, not whether you are competent. It is a shame that you and so many others the commented on this article missed the bigger picture.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Question posed

The question posed, and please excuse my paraphrase, was

Do we have enough quality teachers now, and more importantly, waiting in the wings once the new evaluations come in and result in the dismissal of many current teachers.

Well, we don't, of course. CPS has lost thousands of teachers and hundreds of principals who dislike the mayor's new policies.

I can see the mayor has only three choices:

--Hire TFA-ers as fast as he can.
--Replace teachers with computer-based software
--Ignore the evaluations, which are based on less-than-scientific methodology.

What would others suggest?

Ed Dziedzic wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Big Picture

Mr. Blumental, I don't think I missed anything. First, the authors called the strike, the pickets and the "partying" inappropriate. I disagree most strongly and feel insulted on many levels, especially their coy use of italics, while not identifying their source for that idea.

Second, their thesis is that there is something wrong with the teachers we currently have. Are the teachers at Northside bad? How about New Trier or Naperville? Those are union teachers as well.

Third, I believe these ladies have a hidden agenda. Their desire to get these "super-teachers" is linked to the failed idea of using fewer teachers and more computerized learning. I would like it if these women would come right out and say what their agenda is instead of trying to sweet-talk us into believing they just want to "improve teachers." I don't want to sound insulting Mr. Blumenthal, but it is not me who is missing the big picture here.

Karen Drill wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Big Picture (cont.)

I actually think the authors have created a space for teachers to engage in the dialogue about how to attract and retain teachers. It seems to me that both authors are making a strong effort to fully include teachers in decisions that have a direct effect on their career. Too often, it seems that teachers are excluded from the reform process, and both authors are advocating full, collaborative inclusion rather than top-down decision-making. See the website to which they directed the readers:

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

130,000 people have read a North Carolina teacher's post

When I printed the post by Kris L. Neilsen explaining why he quit his teaching job in North Carolina, I had no idea what the reaction would be.
It went viral.
Kris’s post has been read–to this point–by more than 130,000 people. It has been retweeted more than 800 times. Previously, the post that had the largest readership was “I am a teacher. Let me teach,” read by 4,000 people.
For Kris’s post, more than 130,000 page views.
I have only been blogging for six months, so maybe others have experienced posts that took off like a rocket.This one was a meteor.Every time I check, the numbers have soared yet again.
Kris captured the rage and frustration that many teachers feel.
He is sick of the disrespect.
He is tired of being micromanaged by people who know nothing about education.
He is fed up with the directives and mandates.
He wants to be treated as a professional.
He wants to exercise autonomy and judgment, as professionals should.
He wants to do what is best for his students, not comply with federal or state or local mandates.
Many others have written to say that Kris expressed their own feelings.His story illustrates the sickness of what is now absurdly called “reform.”
It is nothing of the sort.
It is micromanagement by bureaucrats and politicians.
It will not improve education.
It sets up schools for failure and it demoralizes dedicated teachers.
The sooner the public understands what these people in Washington and in the state capitols are doing to the public schools, the sooner it will end. Our job: Inform the public. Get the word out. Be strong. But don’t quit. Be there when the madness collapses.
It will.

Lauren wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Teacher Evaluations

By bringing the prospect of teacher evaluations to the forefront of the discussion about improving education, Ms. Sherratt and Ms. Rizzolo create a space for constructive conversations about improving education for all school children. No one is saying that teachers are bad or are solely responsible for failing schools. Ms. Sherratt and Ms. Rizzolo merely highlight that we do not know whether teachers are proficient because no one is evaluating them and many teachers do not have consequences or rewards for their successes and failures. In every other profession, employees are evaluated on a yearly basis and rewarded or fired based on performance. With client based jobs, the clients simply will not use those who cannot perform their jobs competently. Public school children do not have that choice.

Ms. Sherratt and Ms. Rizzolo have opened a dialogue for improving education, and I look forward to understanding their ideas for change. I hope teachers can embrace this dialogue without automatically dismissing anything that changes the status quo.

Ed Dziedzic wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago


Lauren, where did you get the idea that teachers were not being evaluated? Teachers at my school have been evaluated every year by a member of the administration.I have been at CPS for 16 years, and have gotten an evaluation every year. Is there some district you are aware of that does not evaluate its teachers?We are not anti-evaluation, despite what groups like DFER and SFC say, but rather we are against using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers.

I, personally, am also against diletanttes who have not taught at all, or taught two years then left, coming in and telling us how badly we are teaching, when they would not last one day in a CPS classroom and do not acknowledge the real problems holding back children in poor, violent, drug and gang infested neighborhoods. Oh, right, it is the teachers.

Finally, these women are not being honest, and are not telling the whole story of what their organization is after: much larger classes and computerized teaching. If that is not the case I invite either of them to correct me and deny it.

Lauren wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Teacher Evaluations

Ed, thank you for pointing out I should be more precise with my language. I meant meaningful evaluations from the appropriate level of supervisors (whether local, state or other) and consequences and rewards tied to evaluations.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Hardly constructive

If Barbara Byrd-Bennett needed a reason for the distrust between parents and CPS, here's an easy one. I hope Catalyst will take note. Parents dislike front groups for CPS and corporations who try to persuade us that privatization is a good thing for the kids.

We know better. These are our children. We wipe the eyes of the littlest ones when they can't figure out how to use a mouse on the latest standardized test. Or how to read the word next, which they have been told to click on. Or what the word "divide" means. I have heard of children soiling themselves because they could not do what this developmentally inappropriate test asked of them.

Any Chief Instructional Officer with a kind heart would have known that testing kindergartners by computer -- 60 questions no less -- is child abuse. Harvard PhD notwithstanding.

Yet CPS carefully thought this through and rushed to implemented it, without informing parents. I wonder if these bureaucrats are proud of the heartache they have caused the littlest children? How do they pass the mirror test each morning? These tests are about CPS keeping a weak cover story about lousy teachers from completely unravelling -- by pointing to this year's new test scores as "proof" teachers are weaker than the schools' ISATs have shown.

It is no such thing. But it is part of a calculated plan to fire masses of teachers and replace them with Rocketship Education computer software for drilling students in much larger classes.

It is about ruining a solid education and replacing it with test prep and testing -- the kind of education that the wealthy will not have for their kids. And it is about setting up the traditional CPS school to become a test prep factory, while permitting charters to escape that fate, at last making the charters more attractive, despite the fact that most have not made AYP -- ever.

The op-ed is not about constructive conversation. It is about a think tank funded by wealthy privatizers who are helping to keep the CPS cover story about lousy teachers from completely unravelling.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Forgive me for being presumptuous

You mean you want ways for the central office to get rid of experienced teachers and replacing them with younger, cheaper and more easily led teachers who will put up with less pay and smaller pensions, if any.

You mean you want ways for corporations to make billions from an evaluation system through the sale of tests and the capture of data.

Alissa wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

A parent's perspective

I did not analyze the article in a negative way at all. It does not seem to me that the authors think the picketing was inappropriate (hence the "if" in italics). They do not take a stance either way. Unfortunately it is of the opinion of some (NOT ME) that it was. As a working parent though, it is very frustrating to not know when my kids will return to school, especially when the clearly want to be there. That is not the fault of the teachers, so much as the system. Sherratt and Rizzolo are mearly taking all opinions into account. Attracting quality teachers would mean increased incentives for both old and new teachers. That's not a bad thing. It's a very interesting question though... what attracts someone to go into teaching? It is certainly not financial. Teachers are grossly underpaid for the hours of teaching and preparation they endure. Teachers have the most important job in the world. They spend more hours on a given day guiding and enriching our children's lives than we as parents do. Any other job expects a certain level of accountability and provides rewards for those who exeed expectations. Why should the teaching profession be immune to that? Is it fair that a low quality tenured teacher gets to keep their job while a younger, high quality teacher is let go simply because they are newer? (for all of you waiting to jump down my throat... I am NOT implying that tenured teachers are low quality at all). Maybe if there was a realistic way to evaluate teachers, then schools would be able to keep the great teachers, attract new quality teachers and encourage those who are not pulling their weight to step up?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Did you miss Ed's comment

Did you miss Ed's comment about the fact that teachers already undergo annual evaluations?

Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago


As the authors of this post, we just wanted to provide readers with two brief points of clarification:

1) There is no hidden agenda – the agenda is to: 1) increase teacher voice in policymaking, particularly around the current policy community's priority area of teacher evaluation reform; and 2) spark public dialogue about how to support an excellent teaching profession.

2) The italicized “If” was referring to the media controversy about whether or not it was inappropriate for teachers to strike; you can read it as being directed to those (not the authors, but there were many out there) who saw the strike as inappropriate, and challenging those people to direct their attention to the more constructive question of how school leaders, teachers and concerned community members can work together to ensure and support the strongest possible teacher corps.

We apologize if the way we expressed this thought was not clear and gave the impression that we were attacking, accusing or disrespecting teachers. Those are the last sentiments that we wanted to convey and in fact our entire point, and the project we were discussing, is about the importance of respecting and including teachers in the evaluation process in much fuller ways than is typically the case. We've been arguing for teacher voice and teacher leadership, not against it.

Please do visit our project website for more information:

Ed Dziedzic wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Inappropriate, Again

Ms. Behrstock-Sherratt, do you have a cite for any person, commenting publically, who called our strike "inappropriate," or referred to our picket lines as "partying?" I don't mean some shmoe on a comment board, but a respected public figure worthy of a quote.

Second, you have not denied that one goal of your organization is larger class sizes and computerized classrooms. Can you deny that? If not, why not tell parents what your organization's goals really are?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Who is the "policy

Who is the "policy community", please?

Anyway, the persistent criticism of teachers blames them for the lower outcomes of poor students. The teacher evaluation systems are based on junk science. ALEC-model laws pushed them through anyway. Parents and teachers were purposely kept out of SB7. All of these are unfairly imposed mandates. You should not be surprised that you are losing experienced teachers and having a difficult time recruiting bright, idealistic young graduates from top colleges.

Unfair eval systems make jobs precarious. Continuous over-testing that narrrows the curriculum to boing and scripted test prep. None of this make for an appealing job description.

Time and again you read posts about teachers who once loved teaching but who now would never advise their own children to pursue that career. I used to tell my own children that teaching was a noble career, but now I tell them to stay far away from public schools. I also advise them that they their own children must never attend a Chicago public school; that they must go live in a good suburban district.

Really, why would young people go into the profession now? Any kind of economic upturn will mean even fewer teachers.

Amanda G wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Teaching Quality, not Teacher-Blaming

I am disappointed by the comment chain of people who apparently hear any call to improve teaching quality as "teacher-blaming." Everyone knows that teaching is a damn hard job, and no one denies that factors unrelated to teaching quality (such as poverty, gangs, etc) contribute to poor learning outcomes. (Also the authors said NOTHING about online learning, so that is a total diversion.)

Maybe there are people who blame teachers, but it is not these two. I understand teachers are frustrated, but this is no excuse to scapegoat two researchers who just want to start a conversation. They stated very clearly that they think teachers should be MORE involved in whatever policies and reforms are adopted to improve schools. I can't see any reason not to investigate how we can CONTINUE to attract and develop teaching talent. The authors argue that it requires "a comprehensive, systemic human capital approach that strategically addresses NOT ONLY teacher evaluation BUT ALSO teacher preparation, recruitment, hiring, induction and mentoring, professional development, working conditions, and compensation." How anyone could object to that is beyond me.

northside teacher wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago


When someone says "spark" a conversation they don't always agree with your opinion. Express your opinion instead of attacking people for giving theirs! That's why we have these boards. I agree these ladies may have "teachers" best interests involved. I just wonder why I NEVER see any one ever question how we evaluate Principals and Administrators jobs. I have seen 5 CEO's in my career and about 4 principals at my northside school. They all seem to move on to new higher paying jobs (just look at Brizzard). However, I have seen good teachers have their careers ruined by corrupt principals, yet I have never seen think tanks or state laws change thier evaluation process. They seem to be able to inflict damage and then just move on to a new school or school district, sometimes with 250k severence package and insurance??? Makes no sense this is the conversation I want to start!! But let people express their opions if the orginator says they want to "spark" a conversation. we need to listen to them...but you also need to hear the conversations of the people who have lived through hundreds of reforms!!

Ed Dziedzic wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Not a "Total Diversion"

Sorry Amanda, Ms. Behrstock-Sherratt works for The American Institute for Research, and its subsidiary since 8/20/10, Learning Point Associates, is heavily invested in K-12 online learning. I merely am questioning their motivation for creating "super-teachers." One explanation is a desire to increase class size and begin large scale computerized instruction. Their organization "Everyone At The Table" is generously funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. They definitely have a strong interest in computerized teaching (and selling computers.) And they have not denied their desire for larger class sizes and computerized teaching yet. Why is that?

Anne G wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

A platform for public debate

I did not perceive the article in a negative way at all. Quite to the contrary: I understand it to invite stakeholders to enter a public debate about the sustainability of teacher excellence. In my view, Behrstock Sherratt and Rizzolo do not express an opinion either way, but offer a platform for everyone involved to engage in a constructive public debate. Personally, I think this is what good research should do, and I commend the authors for their efforts and for their courage to bridge policy and practice in order to increase the voice of teachers in policymaking.

Emma wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Everyone At The Table

A colleague introduced me to the Everyone At The Table website and resources a little while ago, all of which seem to me to be underpinned by one fundamental belief - that developing a fair teacher evaluation system demands teacher input from the outset. Teacher evaluation is happening across the country and will continue to happen. Behrstock-Sherratt and Rizzolo argue that it is critical that teachers have the opportunity to participate in designing and implementing these evaluation systems, as opposed to having evaluation systems imposed on them by policy makers etc. They argue that teachers have a unique and incredibly important perspective on teacher evaluation because they are the ones who are in schools every day, dealing with the pressures and obstacles that are an inherent part of the education system, and that to design and implement an evaluation system that did not involve teachers in the design and implementation process would be a serious mistake. These researchers are actually very pro-teacher, and their Everyone At The Table project seems to me to have two clear goals: to ensure that teachers' voice is heard and respected on this important policy issue, and to ensure that the teacher evaluation systems that we end up with are informed by teacher experience and expertise and are fair. Both of these goals are, from my perspective, important and worthwhile. By getting involved in policy discussions around teacher evaluation, we can communicate to policy makers the realities of teaching and, hopefully, end up with an evaluation system that is fair to all as a result of our input.

Chad wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

It's good to get involved

I am a teacher who is in support of maintaining the quality of our profession. I also support strike action.

I think it is important to acknowledge that evaluation that will strengthen our teaching and enhance student learning MUST have input from the teachers on the ground. I think that this is what the writers of the article are getting at.

I am concerned that teacher evaluation systems have the potential to be unfair, and this is why I believe that we need the continual engagement of teachers, students, parents, unions, the broader community, researchers, and policy makers. This discussion shows that a robust conversation is an important part of any changes to our profession.

Anne wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Teachers Voices

I also read this article as supporting and encouraging teachers' voices in changing the reform agendas that several comments above raise serious about. I believe a strong democracy and better policy can require hitting the streets, striking in defense of teachers' and students' rights and interests, and being brazenly contentious; but I also believe it requires having respectful and deliberative conversations that focus on substance. It's unfortunate when the political environment becomes so fractious that even straightforward efforts to bring the community into a deliberative, respectful conversation, such as the resources the authors mention (Everyone At The Table), are met with suspicion.

I've been lucky enough to hear teachers across the country weigh-in on the multitude of education reforms that they are trying to deal with today. The professionalism, insight, and practical ideas that emerge in those conversations deserve a giant megaphone in the policy environment today. I applaud the authors for creating tools that have the potential to magnify teachers' voices and respects their professional views.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

" The American Institute for

" The American Institute for Research, and its subsidiary since 8/20/10, Learning Point Associates, is heavily invested in K-12 online learning. "Everyone At The Table" is generously funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. "

AIR is working with privatizers. Privatizers can only profit from education if districts can free up a good deal of the money now used to pay teachers' salaries. That means districts must cut the number of teachers, since salaries account for the bulk of most district's budgets because educating children requires a good number of adults to be in charge. Union teachers have to go, even if it means closing 100 schools, at great inconvenience and danger to minority children.

Honestly, researchers in computer-based learning for K-12 have already seen that 20% of kids drop out of computer-based courses. That's a very big problem with that particular "ed reform," because it represents so much profit for the privatizers -- charter schools, textbook publishers, technology companies. All can make money replacing teachers with technology.

It is the same with the discredited statistical methodology behind teacher evaluations -- it is junk science, universities have shown that and one such study was even done at the request of CPS! (They ignored it, of course.) Evals are another big problem for privatizers, who pride themselves on running a business-like operation and criticize schools not run that way. And it opens them up to years of litigation for firing teachers unfairly. It is clearly a failed "ed reform," and the real failure has yet to be publicized. But already parents are complaining about the harmful over testing of our kids, required as part of the effort to judge teachers based on student scores. But it doesn't slow the privatizers down.

Moreover, test scores -- by which privatizers want to judge every student and teacher every year -- are lower for computer-based schools than in traditional public schools, because the process of computer-based learning is so painfully boring. But it doesn't slow the privatizers down.

They have an agenda. It is profit. And teachers' jobs stand in the way.

All of this is going to come crashing down on their heads. They figure hope that the poor, minority students and their parents won't ever realize that the shiny new laptop or tablet can't actually teach their children, can't coach basketball, can't help inspire a child when he is down.

It is no coincidence that the new CEO shows up with a calm manner but continues to push very hard to close 100 schools -- only now she won't tell parents which schools will close until March, in contradiction of state law. She continues to want to open 60 charters, at a time when she say overcapacity forces the closing of 100 schools.

This is not logical, if the true reason is overcapacity.

And groups like AIR hope to make it all palatable to teachers and parents, whom the mayor does not want marching in the streets again.

The mayor wants to achieve the kind of union busting that Gov. Walker had without having the big fight he has on his hands. The mayor wants to steal our children's schools right from under our noses. And we are supposed to be placated by a new think tank and the nice manners of BBB?

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