FIRST PERSON | CHICAGO -- The bell signaling the start of first period did not ring for Chicago schoolchildren on Monday, and many parents were left scrambling for daytime child care. The Chicago teachers union went on strike for the first time in 25 years, affecting 350,000 children across the city.
As the daughter of a public school teacher in Wisconsin and sister of a teacher in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood, I proudly stand with the teachers union. School administrators spent the summer blocking negotiations with union officials, demanding that teachers be evaluated on the basis of standardized test scores. What the administration fails to acknowledge is that students' standardized test performance depends on dozens of factors outside an individual teacher's control.
My sister, who teaches junior high, regularly sees students who have gone hungry the previous day. Others suffer physical abuse at home. Many skip school, join neighborhood gangs, and fail to show up to class. Do you think these students perform well on standardized tests? Should their teachers be made to suffer because of it?
Every teacher I know in Chicago schools feels passionate about the job. These men and women say they feel called to help children in need and give each child the chance to achieve success. But even the best teacher cannot break the chains of poverty, gang culture, or broken families. They cannot be evaluated on a metric that is so closely tied to these factors.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel argues that reforming our school system is essential to improving educational outcomes. I agree. But tying teacher pay and job security to standardized test performance is not the way to create better lives for our children.