While kids in D.C. head to school for just another normal day, their counterparts in Chicago are likely staying home as unionized teachers enter a third day of a strike.
Yesterday Washington Teachers’ Union President Nathan Saunders tweeted that D.C. public school teachers should wear red in solidarity with their colleagues in Chicago, who are fighting over the implementation of a controversial teacher evaluation system. In a statement, Saunders explained:
We support our fellow teachers and union members in Chicago as they take a stand against unfair compensation, inadequate benefits and punitive evaluations that place too much emphasis on student test scores which will undoubtedly lead to a less stabilized environment for teachers and students.
As the New York Times writes today, the fight in Chicago mirrors a national trend of cities and states pushing for more intense teacher evaluation systems. In D.C., the IMPACT evaluation system introduced under former Chancellor Michelle Rhee sought to better measure how well teachers are doing and reward them—or punish them—accordingly. Since IMPACT took effect, some 400 teachers have been let gofor performing below expected standards, 98 of them last month.
But while D.C. may have served as a leader in how teacher evaluations are implemented, it has also recently shown that the evaluations need to evolve beyond a heavy reliance on students tests.
In August Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced that she was changing how IMPACT worked, lessening the weight of student testing scores for rating teachers, increasing the standards to be judged an “effective” teacher and add a “developing” category for those teachers who aren’t doing very well but still show potential. According to DCPS, the changes are meant to allow teachers to “receive credit for all of their instruction, not just the elements assessed on the state test.”
Former Mayor Adrian Fenty, who battled with WTU during his tenure and has since spoken out against public sector unions generally, will be on WAMU’s The Diane Rehm Show this morning to speak about the strike in Chicago.
Teachers in D.C. haven’t gone on strike since 1979, when educators walked off the job in the wake of a fight between the union and school board over school governance issues. In 1972, half of the city’s 7,000 teachers went on strike for two weeks over pay disputes and class sizes, leaving 56 of 188 schools to close.