As the strike in Chicago enters its second day there is a lot of uncertainty but here are some early takeaways events in Chicago should probably remind us of:
Seriously, it’s not all about the kids. Saying it’s ‘all about the kids’ is education’s version of a routinized benediction. You hear it all the time – and often just preceding or just after some decision that’s actually not that good for kids. The system is more or less still set up for the benefit of adults – and that’s not just teachers unions, it’s management, vendors, and so forth, too. In this case, if the kids really mattered most then almost 400K of them wouldn’t be without places to go today because the adults charged with teaching them decided to strike.
This is a clash of values. This Ed Trust statement calls out the teachers union for low-balling expectations for kids. It’s a good illustration of how underneath the posturing and rhetoric and the substantive disagreements Chicago is really about what kind of school system they city is going to have – the old kind, which was a quasi-jobs program or the new type where performance and execution matter most. In that way the strike is an important national moment.
Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:
“Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk – the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It’s as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands.” Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI’s vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the “impossibility” of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars (“Similar to GM”; “worry” about the children given this situation).