Warm and fuzzy in the Windy City?


Chicago Bean by DrBacchus, on Flickr

Whereas other noisy Midwestern states have been
audibly discordant of late, the education buzz emanating from Illinois has been
positive—from both sides of the education-reform divide. That’s because the
Land of Lincoln is currently advancing a negotiated education-reform bill,
painstakingly constructed to reflect the desires of both traditional education
groups and reformers. In fact, both Stand for Children and the
Education Association
(IEA) endorse the measure—and all fifty-nine out of
fifty-nine state senators signed it. At first glance, this new legislation
seems to be a wholesale win for Illinois’s reform community: It rewards
teachers for good performance, eases the process for dismissing poor
performers, ties tenure to performance evaluations, and removes seniority as
the sole basis for determining layoffs. Maybe Illinois reformers—who unleashed
an avalanche of political donations last fall—backed the IEA into a corner,
sending the message: Either join us or get steamrolled. But dive a little
deeper and other features emerge that ought give reformers pause. For example,
when budget cuts force teacher layoffs, though seniority can no longer be the
sole determinant, proxies for it such as certification and relevant experience
can take its place. Regarding teachers’ performance evaluations, they’re to be
locally approved, with neither a state-based student-achievement requirement
nor a deadline for implementation. We’re all for consensus, but sooner or later
Kumbaya has to yield to some butt-kicking if real change is to take place. And
we’ve got a feeling that, with a firecracker
like J.C. Brizard stepping into the role of Chicago schools chief under
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Windy City at least won’t be tranquil for long. (Photo by Rich Bowen)

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Click to listen to commentary on Jean-Claude Brizard and Illinois from the Education Gadfly Show podcast


unions key to education reform package
,” by John O’Connor, Bloomberg Businessweek, April 15, 2011.

Senate passes education reform bill
,” by Cheryl Burton, ABC Seven Illinois, April 14, 2011.

Mayor-elect Emanuel names schools chief
,” by Staff, The Associated Press, April 20, 2011.

Reform—Or “Reform Lite”—in Illinois?
,” by Alexander Russo, This Week in Education, April 19, 2011.