LISA GUISBOND, [email] A policy analyst for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), Guisbond said today: “The Chicago strike is the tip of the iceberg of teacher frustration with so-called ‘reform’ policies, which place the blame on educators for problems largely caused by the impoverished settings in which their students must live. Instead of punishing front-line teachers, policy makers at the city, state and federal levels must be held accountable for their failures to create conditions in which all children can learn.” Guisbond recently wrote the piece “New School Year: Doubling Down on Failed Ed Policy,” for the Washington Post.
KEVIN KUMASHIRO, [email] Kumashiro is professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago, past chair of the Department of Educational Policy Studies, and president-elect of the National Association for Multicultural Education. The author of the new book, Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture, he said, “Today the Chicago Teachers Union goes on strike, and the American public deserves to know the real reasons why.
“In contrast to the spin by ‘reformers’ that teachers are striking because they are greedy, the reality is that the school district and the union actually came close to agreement on salary talks. So let’s be clear: the teachers are not striking primarily for more money — they are striking to change the ‘reforms’ that have made their jobs nearly impossible. Leaders from both political parties who are scapegoating the teachers should be ashamed of themselves for not doing their own homework. Leaders who have been quick to blame and distance themselves from teachers for shutting down schools and supposedly hurting Chicago’s children just to make a few more bucks are ignoring the reality that, if the teachers did not stand their ground, if they did not strike, they would be allowing harmful ‘reforms’ to continue unabated.
“At stake are ‘reforms,’ driven by corporations (like the Commercial Club of Chicago and the Business Roundtable), philanthropies (like the Gates, Broad, and Walton Family Foundations), and conservative think tanks (like the American Legislative Exchange Council), that have spread across the nation, despite compelling research that shows that such ‘reforms’ not only are ineffective, but have already proven to be harmful, including right here in Chicago. Schools are being closed or turned around without sound research and community input, with disastrous consequences. Teachers are being evaluated and disciplined based primarily on student test scores, despite that testing experts have long argued that test scores are neither valid nor reliable ways to assess teachers. High-stakes testing in a narrow range of content areas results in excessive time and money spent on testing and test preparations, leaving little or no time for a broad, rich, and effective curriculum. And profiting from all this are corporations that manage the new schools and sell the tests and related curriculum and services, siphoning dollars away that could otherwise be used to fix leaking roofs and improve air quality in classrooms that are too hot for anyone to reasonably expect young children to work, much less thrive, in.
“Strikes seem to be less common these days in America, but a quick glance around the world shows that teachers are pushing back against ‘reforms’ that are driven more by profit than by research and the welfare of children: examples include in Australia, Canada, Columbia, India, Kenya, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, to name just a few. With the CTU strike — the first in a quarter century to rattle the third largest school district in the nation — teachers are leading the way in demanding that reforms be based in research, that reforms address what is really happening in our city’s schools, and that reforms reflect the highest ideals of our democracy.”