Obama’s Education Secretary Far From Neutral When It Comes to Chicago Teachers Strike | The Dissenter
The Chicago Teachers Union went on strike on September 10. At least twenty-six thousand educators have been taking a stand in the streets, for a fair contract and for reductions in class sizes, the provision of social services for children, a halt to the expansion of charter schools and an end to “turnarounds” and school closings.
The Associated Press reports President Barack Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, “isn’t taking sides in the Chicago teachers’ strike that is keeping more than 350,000 students out of the classroom.” The AP notes Duncan’s statement,“I’m confident that both sides have the best interests of the students at heart, and that they can collaborate at the bargaining table — as teachers and school districts have done all over the country — to reach a solution that puts kids first.” And it concludes, without any context, that Duncan is neutral in this fight.
Obama’s education secretary is only neutral if one believes he has no prior experience in the management of education. He’s only neutral if you gloss over and omit his history as “former chief of Chicago’s public school system” and then leave it there.
Catalyst Chicago, an independent news magazine created in 1990 to document, analyze and support school-improvement efforts in the Chicago Public Schools, covered Duncan’s record as CEO of Chicago’s public schools. When he was in charge, he wanted to create the “best urban school district in the nation.” To fix high schools, he implemented a program called Renaissance 2010, which involved closing schools down to “replace them with new, smaller schools.” School staff was fired and schools were reopened under new management (turnaround schools). Classrooms were infused with new curriculum and materials. Education experts celebrated the attention given to “often-ignored high schools,” but “problems with high schools” were “so entrenched and intertwined with poverty that it [was] difficult to predict whether these efforts” would be enough for students.
A report published in October 2009 by the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute sought to determine what effect this policy of closing schools was having, whether it was positive for students or not.
The report states, “Since 2001, CPS has closed 44 schools for reasons of poor academic performance or underutilization. In 2006, CPS modified its school closing policy to focus on “turning around” academically weak schools instead of closing them. In a turnaround school, students are allowed to remain in the same building while all or most of the staff is replaced. As of 2009, there are 12 turnaround schools in Chicago.”
Researchers concluded school closings had few effects, positive or negative, on “the achievement of displaced students.” Closings did not negatively affect students’ learning nor did it improve achievement of students displaced. Only the small number of students that “transferred to academically strong receiving schools and found supportive teachers at these schools made significant gains in their learning.”
Full Story here: http://dissenter.firedoglake.com/2012/09/12/obamas-education-secretary-far-from-neutral-when-it-comes-to-chicago-teachers-strike/