By Victor Skinner
CHICAGO – Chicago school officials unveiled a new five year plan to encourage more involvement from parents and others in the community, and the Chicago Teachers Union already hates it.
Chicago Public School CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett wants to create a district report card to gauge the performance of teachers and principals, require adults employed by the district to mentor students one hour per week, and encourage parents to make sure their children are coming to school, among other things, ABC reports.
The plan would also create a way parents can improve their own skills to help their children succeed.
“Our vision is we intend for every student in every neighborhood a rigorous and well-rounded instructional program,” Byrd said at a recent meeting, according to ABC. “We can engage parents and work with them by developing a district supported parent university, a place where parents can learn math and literacy.”
That sounds like a well-meaning and creative plan to improve education for children stuck in a financially challenged school district. But, of course, the union is not impressed.
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said the new five-year plan is “a bunch of corporate mumbo jumbo” that’s intended to draw attention away from the district’s massive $1 billion deficit.
The union contends local school budgets are being cut 10 to 15 percent and the new plan doesn’t address that.
The union’s complaints are nothing new. Sharkey and other CTU leaders are focused on what the district’s plan might mean in terms of dollars. That’s typical. Teachers unions always worry about money first, and how much they can get out of any particular situation.
We have to wonder if union officials ever stop to think about what the plan might mean for Chicago families.
We have no doubt parental involvement is sorely lacking, largely because parents feel shut out of the learning process. If the district can engage more parents in their child’s education by helping them better understand what their children are learning, the results can only be positive.
The same can be said for adult-student mentoring, and holding schools accountable with regular report cards on their staffs’ performance.
But positive results are secondary to the CTU. Positive cash flow into the union’s coffers is the top concern.
Thankfully, others in attendance see the value and need to engage more people in helping Chicago Public Schools students.
“In the past, CPS has said, ‘Oh, here comes this program, ah, here’s this program,” said Barbara Radnor of DePaul University’s Center for Urban Education, who attended the CPS meeting. “They’re saying it’s not a program, it’s an approach.”
And a new approach may be exactly what Chicago students need.