MEDIA WATCH: New York Times catching up to Chicago strike story a little bit with today's front page profile of Karen Lewis, but still ignoring all of the year's context and history.... Are Obama and Duncan are letting Rahm 'pirouette in the wind'?...
The New York Times, which still sports the motto "All The News That's Fit To Print", was caught flat-footed when the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 began on September 10, 2012, and the failure of the Times to cover CPS news (following its abrupt cancellation of the "Chicago News Coop" which did) was in stark contrast to its rival, The Wall Street Journal, which had veteran Chicago education reporter Stephanie Banchero (once of the Tribune) lurking around Chicago for months. The result was that on September 11, 2012, the Journal made the Times look limp, as far as news went. The Times was caught with most of its sources being one source, a violation of one of the oldest rules in the book: The Times version of reality was a variation on Rahm's reality, which was pirouetting into oblivion even as the front page stories came out.
By September 12, 2012, the Times was catching up, but still committing some Journalism 101 mistakes. One of the things reporters are warned to do is "Quote source and context." By the third day of the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012, the Times was getting closer to the story, but was still missing the historical context. (See below). But with the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 becoming front page news in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal on September 11, 2012 (in both, Chicago took up more space than the 9/11 memorials), it was also becoming clear that Rahm Emanuel's strategy and tactics were not about to get the support of two of the most powerful men he had worked with. Arne Duncan is playing neutral. And the President of the United States is saying nothing. One reason might be that Arne Duncan negotiated two contracts with the CTU under Mayor Richard M. Daley, and there was no strike. Then Rahm came to town and within four months of his inauguration told the world that Duncan and Daley had let the kids get "the shaft" for those contracts. And within a month after he appointed his school board, Rahm had broken the final year of the contract that Duncan and Daley had brought to the city (2007 - 2012) and cheated the teachers and other union workers out of roughly $100 million claiming, fraudulently, that the school system couldn't afford it (out of a budget of more than $5 billion).
Duncan and the Daley family (which acts very clannish when under attack) kept their mouths shut while Rahm trashed their work. When I asked Arne Duncan (at Schurz High School on September 9, 2011) why he hadn't gotten the "Longer School Day" Rahm was running around (and running his mouth) about a year ago, Duncan tried to evade the question, and finally told me, "We were not successful on that." In fact, during the contract negotiations between Duncan's administration in 2003 (when Deborah Lynch was CTU president) and 2007 (when Marilyn Stewart was CTU president), Rahm's version of reality â€” the "Shortest School Day in the USA" claim â€” was not a bargaining table issue because, frankly, it was a lie. Rahm's people made it up, much as D.C. strategists create "Wedge Issues" during election campaigns. The complex realities of schools serving children from ages three and four to 19 and 20 were ignored by Rahm and his team, and Hollywood hype was substituted for reality.
Meanwhile, at every turn, the Chicago Teachers Union continued organizing, always using the attacks by Rahm and his Board of Education as examples of why the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 was going to be necessary. On June 15, 2011, the new Rahm Board lied and stole $100 million from the teachers and other union workers. In September 2011, Rahm's Board, which had claimed it was broke, offered tens of millions of dollars to schools that would "volunteer" to do the Longer School Day during the 2011 - 2012 school year. Throughout the Fall and Winter of 2011 - 2012, Rahm deployed a cadre of paid preachers, paid protesters, and Astorturf supporters like Stand for Children and Advance Illinois to push his line, but that collapsed in January 2012, when other reporters finally caught up with the story and caught Rahm's mercenaries in the lucrative lies they had been telling since August 2011.
But December, January and February and February 2011-2012 were probably the turning points. Rahm decreed that the Board of Education would close "failing schools" and the Board did despite the evidence and massive protests. The negotiations for the new union contracts had begun, but the mayor's appointed Board ignored the context again, voted to close the schools. The Board also voted to expand the city's failing charter schools â€” yes, they are failing; not all of them, just the majority; and many are guilty of major frauds, too â€” as fast as possible. But by the second day of the strike, the Times was catching up, as the following interview, which is coming out in print on September 12, 2012, begins to show:
NEW YORK TIMES PROFILE OF KAREN LEWIS BELOW HERE:
Teachersâ€™ Leader in Chicago Strike Shows Her Edge. By MONICA DAVEY and STEVEN YACCINO
CHICAGO â€” When it comes to demanding, pushing and sparring, few people could even begin to compare with Rahm Emanuel, the famously foul-mouthed mayor whose no-holds-barred tactics once included sending a dead fish to someone whose work he found lacking.
Then came Karen Lewis.
In Ms. Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, which on Tuesday completed a second day on strike from public schools across this city, Mr. Emanuel may have met his match.
She is biting, pushy, witty, unwavering. He is biting, pushy, witty, unwavering. Like him, she appears to hold almost nothing back â€” a quality that in recent days has infuriated City Hall and thrilled tens of thousands of teachers. She has called Mr. Emanuel a â€œbullyâ€ and a â€œliar,â€ someone whose â€œbillionaire friendsâ€ are driving his educational philosophy. And that was only last week.
In the view of some here, the toxic relationship between Mr. Emanuel and Ms. Lewis helped push the cityâ€™s teacher contract talks to the point of a crisis, forcing 350,000 students out of their classrooms in the nationâ€™s third-largest school system not long after the new academic year began and showing no sign of quick resolution. In stubbornness, defiance and moxie, Ms. Lewis and Mr. Emanuel are, some here say, equals in what now looks like a toe-to-toe fight.
â€œThe only way to beat a bully,â€ Ms. Lewis said to a sea of teachers at a rally down the block from Mr. Emanuelâ€™s office days before the strike was called, â€œis to stand up to a bully!â€
Closed-door talks over a new teachersâ€™ contract were expected to continue on Wednesday, but there were growing signs that the strike may linger.
Schools officials said that more than 100 schools being staffed by nonunion workers as alternative care for children would expand their hours as of Thursday. A union representing 1,500 janitors in the schools gave notice that beginning Friday some may join the teachersâ€™ protests and no longer cross picket lines to go to work.
And at a buoyant rally downtown of teachers and union supporters, including Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Ms. Lewis described as â€œlunacyâ€ suggestions that the two sides might be close enough to resolve things immediately. Of 49 articles in the contract, she said, the union had so far signed off on just six.
Elsewhere, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who was once the chief executive of the Chicago Public Schools, issued a statement calling for a settlement. But like President Obama, he chose no particular side in the fight between labor and Mr. Emanuel, Mr. Obamaâ€™s former White House chief of staff.
â€œIâ€™m confident that both sides have the best interests of the students at heart,â€ Mr. Duncan said, â€œand that they can collaborate at the bargaining table â€” as teachers and school districts have done all over the country â€” to reach a solution that puts kids first.â€
Around the city, the standoff between Mr. Emanuel and Ms. Lewis has become a point of conversation, with some suggesting that the sheer size of the personalities involved had exacerbated the substantive divide over issues like teacher evaluations, the rehiring of laid-off teachers to new jobs and pay. There was wide disagreement about which of the two was more at fault, but unanimity in the notion that neither was likely to back down.
â€œPersonality has definitely come into play,â€ said Dick Simpson, a political scientist and former Chicago alderman.
Ms. Lewis, 59, a former chemistry teacher who attended Chicago public schools and is a daughter of teachers, was elected union president in 2010. She is now being lauded by teachers as a fearless defender of a profession under siege.
â€œIf anyone is going to stand up to Rahm Emanuel, sheâ€™s the right person,â€ said Cynthia Cazares, a union member from Fairfield Elementary Academy on the South Side, whose protest sign read: â€œThereâ€™s the right way and then thereâ€™s the Rahm way.â€
Lately, Mr. Emanuel has said little about Ms. Lewis publicly. He has not personally attended any of the schools negotiations and has instead sent an aide.
Within the negotiations, though, the strains of relations are apparent even in small ways. Negotiators for the schools complained that in the hours before a strike was announced on Sunday night, Ms. Lewis, who has been at the table during negotiations, refused to answer their text messages calling for a last-ditch meeting even as they waited in a nearby office thinking that talks were about to resume. The way they learned of the likely strike, they said, was when she never returned, but instead announced a news conference. Hours later, after a strike was announced, a spokeswoman for Ms. Lewis issued a release announcing that Ms. Lewis had just sent a text message to the school board president saying that â€œwe are STILL HERE ... COME ON DOWN!â€
Asked on Tuesday about Ms. Lewis and whether he believed discussions were proceeding in good faith, Mr. Emanuel said only: â€œI donâ€™t know. You asked a question about Karen Lewis. Ask Karen Lewis. I have no idea. I know what I want, which is for the kids to be back in school learning.â€
In months gone by, though, the pair sparred, with Mr. Emanuel pressing for a longer school day. At one point Ms. Lewis complained publicly that Mr. Emanuel used a curse word during a difficult meeting last year in his City Hall office. Mr. Emanuel did not contest the claim, though he later said the meeting had ended with a hug â€” but by then the two seemed pitted one against the other.
â€œI think that was the beginning of a relationship that went really bad,â€ said Vincent Iturralde, a principal at Tarkington School of Excellence, whose wife is in the teachersâ€™ union. â€œThat was a telltale of this whole saga so far.â€
For their part, both Mr. Emanuel and Ms. Lewis insist that the standoff here is not about them at all, not about personality and not about some dueling match between two tough contenders.
â€œThis is not about Rahm Emanuel versus Karen Lewis,â€ said Sarah Hamilton, Mr. Emanuelâ€™s spokeswoman. â€œThis is about the kids in the city of Chicago and making sure that they have a full school day, a full school year and an education that meets their full potential.â€
At a rally the other day, Ms. Lewis sounded a surprisingly similar note. â€œThis fight is not about Karen Lewis,â€ she called out. â€œLetâ€™s be clear â€” this fight is for the very soul of public education, not just only Chicago but everywhere.â€
As the crowd roared with approval, she went on, â€œWe did not start this fight, but enough is enough.â€
A SECOND NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE (ON THE LINE ON SEPTEMBER 11; IN PRINT SEPTEMBER 12) MADE SOME EFFORT TO PLACE THE STRIKE IN ITS VERSION OF A 'NATIONAL' CONTEXT BUT MADE NOT EFFORT TO REVIEW THE CONTET IN CHICAGO:
National Schools Debate Is on Display in Chicago, By MOTOKO RICH, from The New York Times, Published: September 11, 2012
CHICAGO â€” What started here as a traditional labor fight over pay, benefits and working conditions has exploded into a dramatic illustration of the national debate over how public school districts should rate teachers.
At stake are profound policy questions about how teachers should be granted tenure, promoted or fired, as well as the place standardized tests will have in the lives of elementary and high school students.
One of the main sticking points in the negotiations here between the teachers union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a new teacher evaluation system that gives significant and increasing weight to student performance on standardized tests. Personnel decisions would be based on those evaluations.
Over the last few years, a majority of states have adopted similar systems, spurred by the desire to qualify for the Obama administrationâ€™s Race to the Top education grants. The Education Commission of the States says that 30 states require that evaluations include evidence of student achievement on tests, and at least 13, and the District of Columbia, use achievement measured by test scores for half or more of a teacherâ€™s rating.
Proponents say these measures are needed to improve teaching in a country where 33 percent of fourth graders are not reading at grade level and about one-quarter of public high school students do not graduate on time, if at all. They say the new rating systems will help districts identify the best and worst teachers.
These efforts are stirring skepticism and anger among teachers, some of whom express a sense that those behind the new evaluations know little about what it is like to be in a classroom. Others fear that heavy reliance on scores will turn schools into test-taking factories.
That sentiment certainly permeated the picket lines and rallies in Chicago this week.
â€œChildren are so much more than data points on a grid,â€ said Elizabeth Coughlan, a third-grade teacher of gifted bilingual students, who was marching in a rally where teachers clogged downtown streets on Monday. Another teacher held a sign that read, â€œLetâ€™s teach kids to think outside the box not fill in circles.â€
Advocates of the new evaluation systems say test scores should not be the only measure of a teacherâ€™s quality. Even those who believe that such systems can work in theory say that it is important to get teacher buy-in.
â€œItâ€™s tough work because itâ€™s hard to get it to be fair,â€ said Kathy Christie, a vice president at the Education Commission. â€œWeâ€™ve only recently started getting student data that could be traced back to the classroom. Itâ€™s all very intertwined and complex, and it could fail very easily if people donâ€™t get it right. Teachers have very valid concerns.â€
Still, she said, efforts to reach a consensus could cause the rating systems to collapse in practice. â€œItâ€™s like trying to put a man on the moon by committee,â€ Ms. Christie said. â€œAt some point, decisions have to be made.â€
In Chicago, the teachers union has bristled at what it sees as a unilateral effort to install a system that will start by basing 25 percent of a teacherâ€™s rating on student achievement, going to 40 percent in five years.
The Illinois legislature passed a law in 2010 that requires all districts to develop teacher evaluations based in part on student performance, with Chicago being the first district to begin its system this year. The law, which passed unanimously in the Senate and received only one opposing vote in the House, requires that various test results be used for at least 25 percent of a teacherâ€™s rating in the first two years, growing to 30 percent. Classroom observations also figure prominently in the evaluations. A separate law passed in 2011 allows teacher evaluations to be used in tenure and layoff decisions.
Chicagoâ€™s teachers say they would accept a rating where 25 percent was based on student achievement on tests, but balk at the increase to 40 percent, higher than the state standard.
Across the country, critics have seized on the Chicago fight to blast the use of a teacherâ€™s ability to raise scores as an unreliable measure. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing put out a statement from its public education director, Robert Schaeffer, saying, â€œ â€˜Enough is enoughâ€™ to so-called reforms based on standardized exam misuse.â€
Several studies have shown that teachers who receive high value-added scores â€” the term for the effect that teachers have on student test performance â€” in one year can score poorly a year later. â€œThere are big swings from year to year,â€ said Jesse Rothstein, associate professor of public policy and economics at the University of California, Berkeley. But other studies have shown that students taught by teachers who achieve high value-added scores go on to have lower teenage pregnancy rates, are more likely to go to college and earn higher incomes as adults.
Some studies, including one that looked at a pilot of teacher evaluations here, have shown correlations between teachers whose studentsâ€™ test scores improve and those who receive high marks in classroom observations and on student surveys.
Sara Ray Stoelinga, senior director at the Urban Institute at the University of Chicago who conducted the study, said that using student test scores protects teachers from arbitrary decisions by principals. â€œThe theory,â€ she said, â€œis that if you have multiple pieces of information, it gives the most fair and accurate measure.â€
But with research at an early stage, other districts and states have stepped carefully. In Colorado, where a sweeping education law passed three years ago stipulating that half of a teacherâ€™s evaluation should be tied to student performance, the state is slowly introducing the programs, with training. â€œWe want to make sure to do it right rather than do it fast,â€ said Michael Johnston, a Democratic state senator who sponsored the bill.
And in New Haven, Conn., the district and the union spent more than six months discussing a new evaluation system, and union members felt their feedback was valued. â€œWe knew we were being treated as equal partners,â€ said David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers. â€œIt canâ€™t just be one test that the kids take one week in March.â€
Even those who say there is value in using test scores to measure a teacherâ€™s performance say there are plenty of other factors. â€œThere are other things that teachers do that arenâ€™t captured by test scores,â€ said Douglas Staiger, an economist at Dartmouth College who has studied the effects of teachers on student achievement. The debate over whether test scores accurately reflect a teacherâ€™s ability, he said, should ultimately be about â€œhow much importance we want to place on academic achievement defined by the test.â€
[A version of this article appeared in print on September 12, 2012, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: National Schools Debate Is on Display in Chicago.]