Chicago Teachers Strike: How much should student growth factor into teacher evaluations?

September 12, 2012 (CHICAGO)

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  • It's something many school systems in the city, including CPS, and suburbs don't do- but will soon be required by state law. That law requires student growth to account for about 30 percents of the teacher's evaluations. CPS reportedly wants student growth to count for around 40-percent of the teacher evaluation, which is significantly more than the union does.

    In Chicago, teachers are concerned they'll be taken to the woodshed for poor performing students when crime, poverty and broken homes may be blame. At Noble Charter School, teachers earn less and work more than their unionized counterparts.

    "Every kid can be taught and every teacher can teach every kid. I guess it goes back to motivation," Bernard Murray, Noble Charter School, teacher.

    Bernard Murray teaches U.S. history at Noble Charter School, where 90-percent of students are low-income. Academically, it's the highest performing non-selective enrollment public school in the city.

    "Approximately 10-percent of each teacher's salary is determined by whatever the principal sets up, that they feel is the most important: test scores or tasks. Sometimes it's the test scores of the entire grade level or the campus, which creates teamwork," Michael Milkie, Noble Network of Charter Schools, said.

    Across the country, 30 states require teacher evaluations, which include evidence kids are actually learning. In at least 13 states and Washington D.C., student achievement accounts for half of a teacher's rating.

    "In school systems that doing teacher evaluations thoughtfully, they are focusing on teacher improvement and are seeing, as results of that, improved student growth and test scores," Deborah Lynch, former Chicago Teachers Union president, said.

    As for pay, the latest contract offer proposes a 16-percent raise over the next four years. Chicago teachers already top their peers: The average Chicago public school teacher earns $74,836. That's more than the $73,000 average pay in New York. And well above LA's average: $68,000 a year.

    Also, in Chicago, the school system says it doesn't yet know how it'll pay for the proposed raises.

    "Where's the money going to come from? To pay for 16 percent on top of what is already highest teacher salary in the top 10 districts, it's going to come from the state revenue and as we know the state is broke, too," John Tillman, Illinois Policy Institute, said.

    The union says teacher evaluations and job security represent two of more than 40 issues left to hammer out. But, the two issues are significant -- and both sides are at opposite extremes.

    Currently, CPS says student performance is not factored into teachers' formal evaluations. Instead, the 40-year-old guidelines cover things like dress and bulletin board presentation.

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