While I never thought I would see the day that I would side with a teachers union, the day has come so while I'm agrivated at the dispute, I'm going to enjoy that I, for once, actually see eye-to-eye on an issue with a striking union while it lasts....
The problem with education in Chicago has little to do with teachers and concequently, teachers do have a legitimate issue when it comes to performance based evaluations. As in any profession, I'm confident that there is always that 10% that really need the negative motivator of do it better or lose your job, in the Chicago public school system, the problem isn’t in the teaching quality, rather the real problem can pretty much be ascribed to the inordinate number of children being raised in single parent homes.
While African-Americans comprise the 45% of the student population in Chicago, 75% of African-American students attending Chicago Schools are being raised in single parent homes. Single parents are more likely to work multiple jobs with odd shifts that do not necessarily lend themselves to a schedule where parents can sit down and work with their children, not to mention, as the kids enter high school and begin to exert their independence, being home and available to ride roughshod over their schoolwork. Hispanics or Latinos comprise 43% of the student population in the Chicago public school system and 36% of these students grow up in single parent families – roughly half that of African American students in the system.
According to Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, children growing up in such a family structure are more likely to struggle with hardships such as delinquency or teenage pregnancy. “Most kids who are raised by single parents turn out OK. The flip side of that coin is kids who are raised in single-[parent] families are two to three times more likely to drop out of high school…” [Emphasis Added]
The high concentration of students in the Chicago public school system being raised by single parents correlates to the dismal statistic
that only about 40 percent of students in Chicago public schools complete high school, compared with a national average of 75 percent and more than 90 percent in some affluent Chicago suburbs, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. Take away a parent’s involvement and supervision when it comes ensuring that the children complete their homework assignments and believe me, comming from the father of one son and two step sons, and I can assure you that at least two out of my three would have never finished high school had we not been there to encourage, and enforce homework assignments. And there are two parents in our home!
Here's a hard truth. You could double teacher’s salaries in Chicago and it won’t improve anything much... Not at least until the school system recognizes that the problems are not so much rooted in teacher’s abilities or performance, but in at least some homes – many homes with single parents. But there is a solution I think!!! I suggest that we take the incremental wage increase the teachers are demanding and use it to develop programs that require that students stay in school - after school , supervised by teachers and tutors ensuring that their homework is done before they are dismissed for the day. At least this way, the kids are supervised and productive and not failing life before their life really gets started... Hell at leaste they would have half a chance at a successful life when they graduate with a high school diploma… It just takes a little political courage to identify the problem for what it is and get it out in the open that at least in Chicago, the problem is centered mainly among African American and Latino students.
Bottom line? If you want to hold teachers accountable for student performance, then you need to give them the authority and the assistance required to ensure their students complete their lessons consistently and diligently every day. It’s not fair or reasonable to hold teachers accountable for a 60% drop-out rate when it is so apparent that the problem resides outside of the classroom and not within a teachers reach... We can't expect that of teachers. But keeping kids after school and making sure they complete their homework is a pretty good idea with several other positive benefits...
We got to start thinking out of the box folks... Think about my idea and critique it, add to it and lets see if collectively we can come up with a solution to a 60% drop out rate in Chicago... I believe we can make things better, just one good idea at a time... Peace!!!