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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Chicago Teachers Fight Back After Announced Cuts To Wages and Benefits

Hooray for Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Association!

My prior post on this horrible situation created by Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's close ally:
1000 Chicago Public Schools' Employees, Teachers, and Support Staff Are Laid Off

The Chicago Teachers Union spoke out against the draconian layoffs and budget cuts imposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Karen Lewis
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact Stephanie Gadlin

August 9, 2016 312/329-6250 (office)
CTU President Karen Lewis warns of inevitable strike should CPS enforce cuts to wages and benefits of public school educators
CHICAGO—The following is a partial transcript of CTUPresident Karen Lewis’ remarks from Monday’s news conference in response to the new Chicago Public Schools budget:
“I am Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. I am joined by fellow officers, Vice President Jesse Sharkey and Financial Secretary Maria Moreno. We are also joined by a group of rank and file teachers—all who are obtaining their national board certification, which is one of the highest distinctions in the nation for our profession. And contrary to the governor’s beliefs, all of whom can read, write, add, think…and vote him out of office.
“On Monday, August 29th, CTU members—teachers, paraprofessionals and clinicians—will report to their schools and classrooms. They will be returning to work without a labor agreement amidst severe budget cuts and threats to their profession, income and benefits.
“Our members are returning to more than 500 school buildings that are filthy due to bad CPS outsourcing; with contaminated pipes that may have exposed children and employees to lead poisoning; and in a climate where random gun violence and neighborhood conflicts have gripped significant parts of our city in fear.
“Our members are returning to campuses where their colleagues have disappeared, by no fault of their own, but because of mandates from the Board that principals reduce positions and cut school budgets to the marrow. Fewer employees—including teachers’ aides—mean enormous class sizes. The more students in a classroom mean fewer minutes of personalized instruction for each student.
“And, though educators have already returned about $2 billion in salary and benefits to the district, with $100 million being returned this year alone, we are being asked to give more when there is nothing left to give. Understand that budget cuts impact students; they include cuts to programming, staffing and services.
“Our special needs students have been hit the hardest, and CPS continues to gut special education at record speed. Even as children are impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder due to rampant violence and death—including police shootings caught on video—CPS reduces social workers, school psychologists and nurses.
“Veteran educators, many of whom are nationally board certified, have been driven out of the district, out of our city, and some, out of the state. Just as highly skilled public university professors are being driven to smaller school districts in Florida and elsewhere, we are seeing teachers and good principals leaving CPS in record numbers. People go where they can engage in their profession, have significant impact on students and where their careers aren’t threatened at every turn.
“The Chicago Teachers Union has been clear. If the Board of Education imposes a 7 percent slash in our salaries, we will move to strike. Cutting our pay is unacceptable, and for years, the ‘pension pickup’ as the Board has called it, was part of our compensation package. This was not a perk. This was negotiated compensation with the Board of Education.
“The CTU has also been very clear—CPS is broke on purpose. Instead of chasing phantom revenue in Springfield and in between the seat cushions of Chicago taxpayers, Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago City Council can show true leadership and guts by reinstating the corporate head tax, declaring a TIF surplus and fighting for progressive taxation that would pull in revenue from the uber-wealthy in our city and state. The rich must pay their fair share.
“Chicago’s teachers are required to live in the city of Chicago. This means the mayor is telling us that even though he has stolen our raises, cut our benefits such as steps and lanes, and now threatens an even further pay cut of 7 percent, as taxpayers we must pay more and more and more for everything under the sun. None of that new revenue, however, will even go toward schools. This is absurd thinking.
“That is why the Chicago Teachers Union will attend all CPS budget hearings and call for truthful and fair taxation for CPS schools. Our members will do what they do best—educate the public, including parents, about the lies within CPS’ funding formula, the Board’s budgeting process and why the school district continues to cry broke.
“Cuts to our pay and benefits must be negotiated. We have been bargaining in good faith since the middle of last year and we have yet to come to an agreement. At some point a line has to be drawn in the sand.
“Chicago teachers do not seek to go on strike. We want to return to clean, safe, resourced schools. We want a fair contract. We will continue to partner with parents and community residents in fighting for the schools our students deserve.
“But we will not accept an imposed pay cut.
“To parents, play close attention to what is going on over the next few weeks so you can be prepared should CPS force educators back on the picket line. To CTU members, we’ve been telling you for months now to save as much money as you can.
“We do not know if Mayor Emanuel can stand another teachers strike, especially at a time when confidence in his leadership is at an all-time low, and when the city is in an uproar over another police shooting of an unarmed African-American youth.
“Do not force our hand.”

The Personalized Learning Plan Platform Will Change the Teaching Environment

Dr. Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook Helps Develop Software That Puts Students in Charge of Their Lesson Plans

AUG. 9, 2016
Facebook is out to upend the traditional student-teacher relationship.
On Tuesday, Facebook and Summit Public Schools, a nonprofit charter school network with headquarters in Silicon Valley, announced that nearly 120 schools planned this fall to introduce a free student-directed learning system developed jointly by the social network and the charter schools.
A screen image of the Personalized Learning Plan platform.
Rather than have teachers hand out class assignments, the Facebook-Summit learning management system puts students in charge of selecting their projects and setting their pace. The idea is to encourage students to develop skills, like resourcefulness and time management, that might help them succeed in college.
“As parents and kids and teachers get access to this type of learning, I think more and more will want it,” Diane Tavenner, the co-founder and chief executive of Summit Public Schools, said in a telephone interview.
The Facebook-backed platform is entering the public school software market when rival tech giants like Google and Microsoft have already established big footprints in education, in an attempt to build brand loyalty among students early.
In June, Google said more than 60 million students and teachers worldwide used Google Apps for Education, a suite of free products that includes Gmail and Google Drive for document-sharing. Many other schools use Microsoft productivity tools and Skype, the videoconferencing tool, in classrooms. Amazon also plans to soon introduce Amazon Inspire, a site where teachers can share free instructional materials.
But the Summit-Facebook system, called the “Summit Personalized Learning Platform,” is different.
The software gives students a full view of their academic responsibilities for the year in each class and breaks them down into customizable lesson modules they can tackle at their own pace. A student working on a science assignment, for example, may choose to create a project using video, text or audio files. Students may also work asynchronously, tackling different sections of the year’s work at the same time.
The system inverts the traditional teacher-led classroom hierarchy, requiring schools to provide intensive one-on-one mentoring and coaching to help each student adapt.
This summer, more than 1,500 educators and leaders of public, private and charter schools participating in the program, called Summit Basecamp, attended sessions to learn how to use the system. Among the 19 schools that introduced the new learning approach last year, at least a few educators and administrators reported a steep learning curve.
“There were many points where we weren’t sure the Summit Basecamp model was what our students needed,” said Claire Fisher, the principal of Urban Promise Academy, a public middle school in Oakland, Calif., which introduced the platform in its sixth-grade classes.
By the end of the school year, however, 31 percent of the school’s sixth graders were reading at or above their grade level, compared with just 9 percent in the fall. That was a larger improvement in reading than students in seventh and eighth grades, which did not use the platform, Ms. Fisher said.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, were the catalysts for the partnership. It is the couple’s most public education effort since 2010 when they provided $100 million to help overhaul public schools in Newark, a top-down effort that ran into a local opposition.
The Facebook-Summit partnership, by contrast, is more of a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools. Facebook announced its support for the system last September; the company declined to comment on how much it is spending on it. Early this month, Summit and Facebook opened the platform up to individual teachers who have not participated in Summit’s extensive on-site training program.