'Teach Plus' Chicago began sucking up to Brizard from first moments

More than a month before Jean-Claude Brizard was to become the CEO of Chicago's public schools, Teach Plus, the astroturf organization exposed in The New York Times (May 22, 2011) as a front for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was in the news, sucking up to Brizard via a letter to the Chicago Tribune.

But don't take our word for it. Here is the letter written by a person who identifies herself as Kristen Novy, a CPS teacher.

Importance of schools CEO, 3:24 p.m. CDT, April 25, 2011

As a Chicago Public Schools teacher and Teach Plus Policy Fellow, I am keenly aware of the importance of our school CEO, and have seen firsthand the ways in which the decisions this leader makes directly impact our schools and students on a daily basis. We would like to welcome Jean-Claude Brizard to Chicago and let him know the teachers are excited to work with him to make our schools the top-quality institutions we know they can be. We are excited to see what changes are possible with an educator in charge, who understands classrooms and schools and the great complexities involved with making and keeping them outstanding places of learning. In particular, we are hoping to work with Mr. Brizard on the following challenges:

1. With the historic legislation that may be passed Monday in Illinois, which simplifies the dismissal process for teachers who have been deemed "poor" and rewards tenure only to excellent teachers, it is imperative that a thoughtful, transparent evaluation system be put into place that identifies these teachers carefully. Deciding who is an excellent teacher is not as simple as test scores, since No Child Left Behind only tests students in basic skills in reading and math in grades 3-8. We need a comprehensive system that is applicable to all teachers, from preschool to high school calculus, and that creates opportunities for experienced instructional leaders to evaluate teachers on the myriad of levers that contribute to successful outcomes for our students.

2. A good teacher needs support and effective feedback in order to become great. We are hopeful that our school system will include ways to support good teachers so that we can retain our talent here in the city, where it is most needed. A strong curriculum, aligned assessments that give us a snapshot of our students’ progress but do not diminish us to focusing only on basic skills, and thoughtful evaluation are the components that drive great teaching.

The Teach Plus Fellows are rolling up our sleeves to get to work on the changes that are necessary to make our schools great for the children we love. No one person or single initiative will help make our schools great citywide. For this reason, we are looking forward to working together with a talented and experienced educator on the policy changes our schools need and our students deserve.

-- Kristin Novy, Chicago


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