Saturday, November 16, 2013

Chicago should guarantee each child a great teacher--without firing any teachers

Chicago sounds a lot like Chiapas to me. At the bottom of this post is a plan for effectively utilizing all teachers. I think Chicago schools would benefit from the same plan I suggested for the teachers in southern Mexico.

Illinois Pension Reform
By Rosita Chatonda
Chicago Alliance of Urban School Educators

To be delivered to: The Illinois State Senate
Senator 13th District
111 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706

Dear Senator Raoul,

My name is Rosita Chatonda and I am the Founding President of an upstart organization called C.A.U.S.E.., Chicago Alliance of Urban School Educators. CAUSE organizers teachers that are non-union and union members as well as parents and community. Since you are Senator of the 13th District and Pension Reform Sub-Committee Chair, I am contacting you with a pressing and urgent problem due to pension reform.

Please find enclosed information regarding the crisis facing many veteran teachers. In the last year there have been over 3,000 veteran teachers terminated. Many of these teachers pay into the pension system. Of the over 50 schools closed and 6 turn-arounds, 90% of the schools closed last year and 99% of the schools closed in previous years have been in the African American communities on the South and West Sides. In the last 4 years at least 6,000 African American teachers have lost employment. In addition, since these firings were spontaneous many teachers were left with the only option of survival, pulling their pensions down. Most of these teachers were near retirement will never be able to accumulate substantial years of service again. Hardest hit by this crisis are single parent educators.

The option for paying back into the pension fund and buying back years of services is that teachers will work in reciprocal systems in the State of Illinois for two years to buy their pensions back. Many teachers have reported trying to get jobs but cannot be rehired by CPS or any other reciprocal system. Many have the money to pay back but cannot find work for two years to fill the requirement under the pension contract.

We at CAUSE have been asked to bring this matter to the attention of the Illinois General Assembly and the Chicago Teachers Fund. We would like the two year restriction for buy-back of service to be lifted. We are asking that if teachers have the monies and are able to pay back, that they would be allowed to do so without working in a reciprocal system for two years. We would like teachers to have that option of buying back their pension since jobs in these reciprocal systems are virtually non-existent for thousands of veteran teachers.

As I have stated above, the African American Community has lost many teachers, since the late nineties, when Jackie Vaughn was CTU President, we have lost over 12,000 teaching slots. Our community has suffered a tremendous economic loss and well as the cost of human dignity. Please consider amending the pension reform laws to include a buy back for teachers needing to recover their pensions.

Rosita Chatonda
Founding President of C.A.U.S.E.

All Kids Can Have Great Teachers (Without Firing Any Teachers)
By: Maura Larkins
Voice of San Diego
September 7, 2012

No one really knows what’s going on in individual public school classrooms. Observations by principals tend to be fleeting and few. We don’t need to fire anybody, but we do need to use highly-skilled teachers and ordinary teachers where they can do the optimal good.

The truth is that the critical moments in learning don’t happen continuously five hours a day. They add up to at most a couple of hours each day, and probably much less. The rest of the time an ordinary teacher can handle lesson reinforcement, computer activities, art projects, silent reading, etc.

The best teachers should be able to rise far above average teachers on the salary scale — and they should have far more responsibility. In my plan, each classroom would have a full-time regular teacher. Several classrooms would share a master teacher, who would be responsible for student progress, teaching lessons part-time and guiding the regular teacher. Gifted regular teachers would be eligible to become master teachers. Instead of bringing in vendors selling the latest gimmick for tens of thousands of dollars, master teachers would do all necessary training.

Here’s the comparison for four classrooms and one extra salary (in thousands):

Currently: $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 + $60 = $300

New plan: $100 + $50 + $50 + $50 + $50 = $300 (minus exorbitant cost of education vendors)

If we add more money, we could have more master teachers. Meaningful evaluations of teachers would have to be instituted. Current evaluation systems are worse than useless. My plan would call for frequent observations by both master and regular teachers, who would observe classrooms in other districts to keep school politics at bay. The observations would have a beneficial side effect: they would allow teachers to pick up new ideas.

See more of my plan in the yellow column on the right of this page.

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