Chicago teachers have been on strike for a few days now, after a “failed” attempt to negotiate between The Chicago Teachers Union and the public schools of Chicago.

Keeping 350,000 students out of school has been a hot topic, especially for parents and poor grandparents who have had to babysit for the past days.  Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated, at the beginning of the strike, that they would make sure to keep all kids safe and work out a way to get them back to school as soon as possible.  The Mayor also stated that since they had made progress on negotiations with teachers, the strike was totally unnecessary and avoidable. Paul Ryan, agreeing with Rahm Emanuel, stated that “this teachers’ union strike is unnecessary and wrong.” On the other hand, Obama’s main concern seems to be the students and the parents who are being tremendously affected by the strike. Ryan stated that President Obama needs to stand up in issues like this and speak out, without it being a matter of dividing the two parties. Romney, looking out for the kids and parents’ best interest (we hope) said that the Union’s decision to strike disregards the affects it has on the students. By not saying that he supports Emanuel and Ryan, he did say that Obama silently supports the Union’s decision to strike.

One of the major issues is the teacher evaluation system, which focuses on standardized test scores. According to the teachers, this system emphasizes the scores way too much while unfairly penalizing teachers. Teachers unions argue that this system disregards a lot of external factors that affect the performance of students (such as poverty, language skills, etc). Or, as Dean Refakes, a teacher in Chicago put it: “You are going to judge me on the results of the tests where there could be some extenuating circumstances that are beyond my control?”

This evaluation system is a result of Obama’s reform efforts. The Obama administration has given states incentives to use student performance as a component of evaluations, though the issue has been most contentious in Chicago.

While the strike still continues today, there are some questions worth thinking about: Do you agree with teachers that it’s unfair to use test scores to evaluate them, considering that there are many external factors, beyond their control, that affect student learning? How should teachers be evaluated?

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