Become a Catalyst member

Celebrating 25 years of Catalyst


Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to by e-mail feeds

Current Issue

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.

In the News: CTU unveiling its education plan

The Chicago Teachers Union plans to unveil its comprehensive plan to strengthen the quality of education in Chicago Public Schools during a news conference at 9:30 this morning.

The plan, “Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve,” is being released at a time when CTU is in the middle of tense negotiations with CPS for a new contract. (Catalyst Chicago)

A day after Chicago Public Schools officials announced plans to revise a sick day policy that's allowed employees to accumulate sick days over multiple years, district administrators said they want to reduce the number of vacation days that can be accrued as well. The district says after paying more than $41 million in vacation day payouts over the last five years, the proposed limitations could add up to a savings of $2.5 million. (Tribune)

WBEZ has a lengthy piece on a middle school on Chicago’s West Side, Chicago Jesuit Academy that teaches—and grades— life skills right up there with book learning.

Sixteen years ago, an Oxford-trained economist, Charlotte Danielson, developed a method for evaluating teachers that became the foundation for attempts by federal and state officials and school districts to quantify teacher performance. The New York Times' SchoolBook visited  Danielson in Princeton, N.J., where she lives. In an interview, she explains how she became interested in education and how business has boomed since the Race to the Top program made evaluations a condition for federal money.

Campaigning in Idaho on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum suggested that he is opposed to a public school system overseen by the government. (CBS News)

The New York schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, met on Monday with about 500 parents at an Upper West Side elementary school and promised to determine whether “gaps” in the city’s administrative procedures had led to the hiring of a teacher’s aide with a troubled history, parents who attended the meeting said. (The New York Times)

PlayOn! Sports will be launching the first-ever nationwide, 24-hour high school sports network on TVs, mobile devices, and the Internet, the company announced Monday. (Education Week)

1 comment

Rod Estvan wrote 2 years 48 weeks ago

What I think about the CTU report

The Chicago Teachers Union is to be commended for developing its proposal titled "The Schools Chicago's Students Deserve." I thought the strongest chapter of the proposal was the one titled "Chicago's Students Deserve Social Justice." There is very little in this chapter I would argue with, but I did wonder what CPS teachers who work at schools with the majority of students from higher income white families might think of it. At points the chapter becomes racially charged, but it's honest which I liked very much.

The chapter concludes with this: "Merely equalizing resources between the children of the haves and have-nots is insufficient. Students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds require additional support services to supplement their learning and emotional growth." I guess the quantification of those "additional support services to supplement their learning," has been debated for years and limited agreement has been reached on the level of and extent of the supplement necessary to achieve a reasonable semblance of social equity. I wondered if CTU is here thinking about Harlem Children's zone on a mass scale with unionized public schools or what?

The chapter "Chicago's Students Deserve Fully Funded Education," got to many critical issues and contained a radical critique of the current tax system for education. But it was disingenuous on a fundamental level, many of critical tax reforms the CTU plan calls for would violate Article IX section 3 (a) of the Illinois Constituion that reads: " A tax on or measured by income shall be at a non-graduated rate. At any one time there may be no more than one such tax imposed by the State for State purposes on individuals and one such tax so imposed on corporations. In any such tax imposed upon corporations the rate shall not exceed the rate imposed on individuals by more than a ratio of 8 to 5."

So if the CTU is serious about taxing the rich, it must along with other unions work on getting a very major amendment to the Illinois Constitution. Unfortunately the consensus right now is that it would be impossible to get such an amendment passed in the state. Also the section on the TIF issue does not clarify that unallocated TIF funds do not reoccur each year and that this funding source is not sustainable to pay for the initiatives CTU has proposed for multiple years.

Now to the problems with the report. The section on smaller class sizes was very interesting to me because as an advocate for students with disabilities to be educated to the maximum extent possible with their non-disabled peers class sizes are critical. But I thought the comparative example used of Matteson ESD 162's lower class size ratio to the CPS ratio was problematic. I do think Matteson is in many regards statistically similar to CPS, but it is the outcomes that I question. In this part of the report the CTU writes: " For example, in the Matteson School District southwest of Chicago, the average class sizes per grade for elementary and high school are between 16 and 23, with most classes below 20. Compared to CPS, 15% more students meet or exceed Illinois standards in Matteson."

While it is true that overall Matteson's elementary school test scores are better than CPS for all students, they are virtually the same by eighth grade for students with disabilities. In 2011, 39.5% of Matteson eighth grade students with IEPs tested on the ISAT were able to read at state standards compared to 36.6% of CPS eighth students with IEPs. Using the NAEP data we find that both Matteson and CPS were only able to get exactly 9.9% of their eighth grade students with IEPs to read at the proficient or better level. Why with lower class sizes was Matteson just as bad as CPS in its special education outcomes when in both school districts the majority of disabled students are educated in regular classes for most of the day? Effectively both school districts are using failed models of special education instruction that are not working and are probably both under staffed.

This takes me to my last point relating to the CTU's report discussion of special education on pages 19 and 20. While very few can argue with the idea that students with disabilities in Chicago could use more early intervention which the CTU calls for, the discussion does not seem to understand that in truth early special education intervention is really for our more disabled students, not for those with moderate to mild disabilities. The problem is in truth that the majority of disabled students cannot be appropriately identified in pre-school and kindergarten, because it is virtually impossible to separate these students from those students who are simply struggling learners. This identification dilemma applies generally whether a school district uses a response to intervention approach or a more traditional psychological testing approach to identification.

In general the solution CTU presents for the current failure of CPS special education is effectively more staff and less paper work for special education teachers to do. More one on one aides, which the report calls for, are not likely to improve the pathetic reading outcomes for CPS students with IEPs where by grade 11 only 5.5% are reading at state standards. In fact one on one aides are not currently trained to remediate reading deficits for students with disabilities and only a small percentage of CPS special education teachers are also reading specialists. Clearly these aides are difficult to get for students and classrooms, but they won't solve the crisis CPS special education finds itself in.

CPS like many other school districts has a bifurcated approach to instructing its students with disabilities. Approaches like co-teaching while far better than pull out services for the majority of moderate and mildly disabled students that attempt to merge general and special education are difficult to implement and staff intensive. If we are going to improve out comes for the majority of students with disabilities the special education system needs far more than just additional bodies, and I am not disagreeing that in very many cases schools are overwhelmed by the numbers of students with disabilities. We need to move towards universal design in education for the majority of students with disabilities.

While the special education section of the report speaks a great truth on the difficult situation staff face in relation to students with more severe disabilities in terms of overall supports, it totally avoids the issue of transition services for these students that might allow them to prepare for some semblance of an independent existence after leaving the school system.

In my opinion the CTU did public education in Chicago a great service by issuing this report. The union showed great courage in doing so. Whatever disagreements I might have with aspects of this report they are secondary to the admiration I have for the CTU in attempting to put forward a progressive vision of public education within the context of the conservative narrative relating to education we are bombarded with daily in America today.

Rod Estvan

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more