Chicago and Boston: Different endings, same beginning

Drawing parallels is irresistible: Yesterday, the Boston Teachers Union reached a tentative contract agreement with the Boston Public Schools. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of striking teachers picketed outside Chicago public-school buildings as that city’s strike entered its third day. Two large urban districts serving predominantly poor and minority students, months of contentious negotiations between district and union officials that had sputtered over disagreements about teacher evaluation and pay; yet in Beantown a pact was reached that increased the use of student achievement in teacher evaluations while 350,000 CPS students waited on adults so they could return to class. True, crucial differences exist—for one thing, teacher strikes are illegal in Massachusetts. But remember one key similarity: In each case, the union-district squabbles are really the conclusions of battles fought years ago at the state level. The use of student achievement in teacher evaluation was already guaranteed in both states by Race to the Top-driven changes before these contracts came up for renegotiation. As union and district leaders quarrel over specifics of student-data use for teacher evaluations (the core of both disagreements), it bears remembering that, however the struggles in cities around the country like Boston and Chicago play out, the spark that ignited them was lit two years ago by a certain teacher-union-backed president and his Department of Education.

RELATED ARTICLE: “Teacher evaluations at center of Chicago strike,” by Sophia Tareen, Associated Press, September 13, 2012.

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