Warm and fuzzy in the Windy City?
Whereas other noisy Midwestern states have been audibly discordant of late, the education buzz emanating from Illinois has been positive—from both sides of the education-reform divide. That’s because the Land of Lincoln is currently advancing a negotiated education-reform bill, painstakingly constructed to reflect the desires of both traditional education groups and reformers. In fact, both Stand for Children and the Illinois Education Association (IEA) endorse the measure—and all fifty-nine out of fifty-nine state senators signed it. At first glance, this new legislation seems to be a wholesale win for Illinois’s reform community: It rewards teachers for good performance, eases the process for dismissing poor performers, ties tenure to performance evaluations, and removes seniority as the sole basis for determining layoffs. Maybe Illinois reformers—who unleashed an avalanche of political donations last fall—backed the IEA into a corner, sending the message: Either join us or get steamrolled. But dive a little deeper and other features emerge that ought give reformers pause. For example, when budget cuts force teacher layoffs, though seniority can no longer be the sole determinant, proxies for it such as certification and relevant experience can take its place. Regarding teachers’ performance evaluations, they’re to be locally approved, with neither a state-based student-achievement requirement nor a deadline for implementation. We’re all for consensus, but sooner or later Kumbaya has to yield to some butt-kicking if real change is to take place. And we’ve got a feeling that, with a firecracker like J.C. Brizard stepping into the role of Chicago schools chief under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Windy City at least won’t be tranquil for long. (
|Click to listen to commentary on Jean-Claude Brizard and Illinois from the Education Gadfly Show podcast
“Powerful unions key to education reform package,” by John O’Connor, Bloomberg Businessweek, April 15, 2011.
“Illinois Senate passes education reform bill,” by Cheryl Burton, ABC Seven Illinois, April 14, 2011.
“Chicago Mayor-elect Emanuel names schools chief,” by Staff, The Associated Press, April 20, 2011.
“Teaching: Reform—Or “Reform Lite”—in Illinois?,” by Alexander Russo, This Week in Education, April 19, 2011.
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