The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Teachers Given Permanent Recess

By Amanda Dickman in News on May 1, 2007 6:50PM

2007_4_classroom.jpgLast Friday, 775 teachers in the Chicago Public School system were given the ol' heave-ho. All involved are Probationary Appointed Teachers, or PATs, those who have been in the system less than five years. Unlike last year, these firings are not budget-related; they were let go for "various reasons," with the emphasis on teachers that were not performing well.

According to their current contract, PATs can be let go at any time in their first four years, and they don't have to be given a reason. This does not sit well with the PATs or with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), who disagree with this clause, stating (per their site) that they "remain committed to obtaining language in the new Union-Board contract that eliminates onerous section 23A, which allows for the arbitrary dismissal of PATs each spring."

While nothing can be done at the moment to stop these arbitrary dismissals (it's in their contracts), the CTU pushed the School Board to notify those being fired as early as possible to give them more time to find a new place to teach. Originally, the Board agreed to send out notices of non-renewal by April 19, but when CTU president Marilyn Stewart called for the resignation of school Chief Arne Duncan over the release of teachers' Social Security numbers and addresses, the Board took their early notification agreement off the table. Big surprise, it all comes down to politics.

Speaking of which, it's no coincidence that the current firings are occurring right before the teachers are due up for contract negotiations, where they will be fighting for changes to the clause that allows such arbitrary firings. Maybe we're getting a little too conspiracy theory on your ass, but it does seem a bit suspicious.

Despite all of the political mumbo-jumbo, it must be said that, first and foremost, we think that if a teacher isn't performing up to par, and the children's education is suffering as a consequence, then a replacement is necessary. But what about the teachers who are doing just fine? Like the teacher we know who, last year, received a "Superior" rating on his performance evaluation (the highest rating possible), and his third graders scored in the top percentage (100% of the students in the class tested at or above grade level) in math and 90% in reading on their ISATs. The reason given for his dismissal, and only given after he asked, was "restructuring of the school." He believes that his firing is mostly politics, making way for a teacher that the principal can hand-pick. We wonder, how is that beneficial for the students? Chicagoist is getting all fired up.

School Chief Duncan feels that the new crop of recruits are a promising bunch, fit to fill the vacant spots. Which chaps our ass even more considering the bigger issue here — the fact that new teachers are not given satisfactory guidance and mentoring once they are hired. In most cases, they show up, are given keys to their classroom and told, "good luck."

How would bringing in new recruits solve anything? If teachers aren't receiving the mentoring and guidance necessary in the first place, why just keep replacing the competent teachers gaining experience with ones with less experience? Sounds like they're just shooting themselves in the foot.

There are multiple issues at play here, and we're not so naive to think that politics and money aren't key players in every business. But we can't help but notice that with all of this talk, we're not hearing much about those who are impacted most, the kids.