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Chicago Teachers Union to unveil comprehensive plan to strengthen the quality of education in Chicago Public Schools

02/15/2012

Fifteen years of school closings, “turnarounds,” excessive standardized testing and other failed reform experiments have had no positive impact on student learning for a vast majority of Chicago Public School (CPS) students.  Yet the mayor and Board of Education executives insist on implementing the same status quo methods that have contributed to instability in our neighborhood schools.

A new report from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) makes a compelling argument that the education children receive should not depend on zip code, family income, or racial background. Students from all communities deserve a high-quality education with equitable learning experiences and resources tailored to children’s success.

“Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve,” argues for immediate district-wide implementation of 10 educational solutions to dramatically improve the academic performance of more than 400,000 students in a district of 675 schools. CTU’s proposals are desperately needed and can help Chicago provide the world-class educational system its students deserve.

A news conference to unveil the plan will be held on Thursday, February 16 at 9:30 a.m. at CTU headquarters, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, 4th Floor.  Participants will include Union officials, parents, Local School Council leaders, clergy and educators from across the city.

“For far too long, our students have been short-changed, their teachers have been undermined and their schools have been financially starved of the resources they need,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Today we release our vision of what a CPS education should look like for every student, not just those from higher income brackets.  We need fresh and innovative ideas, not the same old status quo and failed policies of the past 15 years. 

“Although we don’t control the policies, curriculum or purse strings of this District, educators must be in the forefront of developing education policy not politicians and venture capitalists,” she said. “Parents, teachers, paraprofessionals and community leaders can no longer afford to wait for the Board to give us educational justice. We must advocate for the schools our children deserve.  This is our plan.”

After months of analysis and consideration of the city’s education needs, the release of “Schools Chicago’s Student’s Deserve,”  is being released at a time when CTU is in the middle of tense negotiations with CPS for a new contract and at a time when CPS plans to only lengthen the school day without an education plan.

The major policy recommendations in the report call on the Chicago Board of Education to:

Recognize Class Size Matters: Drastically reduce class size. We currently have one of the largest class sizes in the state. This greatly inhibits the ability of our students to learn and thrive.

Educate The Whole Child: Invest to ensure that all schools have recess and physical education equipment, healthy food offerings, and classes in art, theater, dance, and music in every school. Offer world languages and a variety of subject choices. Provide every school with a library and assign the commensurate number of librarians to staff them.

Create More Robust Wrap-around Services: The Chicago Public Schools system (CPS) is far behind recommended staffing levels suggested by national professional associations. The number of school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists must increase dramatically to serve Chicago’s population of low-income students. Additionally, students who cannot afford transportation costs need free fares.

Address Inequities in Our System: Students and their families recognize the apartheid-like system managed by CPS. It denies resources to the neediest schools, uses discipline policies with a disproportionate harm on students of color, and enacts policies that increase the concentrations of students in high poverty and racially segregated schools.

Help Students Get Off to a Good Start: We need to provide age-appropriate (not test-driven) education in the early grades. All students should have access to pre-kindergarten and to full day kindergarten.

Respect & Develop the Professionals: Teachers need salaries comparable to others with their education and experience. They need time to adequately plan their lessons and collaborate with colleagues, as well as the autonomy and shared decision-making to encourage professional judgment. CPS should hire more teaching assistants so that no students fall through the cracks.

Teach All Students: We need stronger commitments to address the disparities that exist due to our lack of robust programs for emergent bilingual students and services for students faced with a variety of special needs.

Provide Quality School Facilities: No more leaky roofs, asbestos-lined bathrooms, or windows that refuse to shut. Students need to be taught in facilities that are well-maintained and show respect for those who work and go to school there.

Partner With Parents: Parents are an integral part of a child’s education. They need to be encouraged and helped in that role.

Fully Fund Education: A country and city that can afford to take care of its affluent citizens can afford to take care of those on the other end of the income scale. There is no excuse for denying students the essential services they deserve.

Chicago Teachers Union