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Education Mon Aug 31 2009
The Sun-Times and the Chicago Teachers Union conducted a joint survey of Chicago Public School teachers that revealed that a shocking percentage--among High School teachers, more than half--have felt pressure to change a student's grade. Given the high stakes of the "percent graduating" statistics as a metric of public schools, it makes sense that the heaviest percentage would be among High School teachers. Still, more than a quarter of middle school teachers also reported feeling pressured to change a student's grade.
Of seven thousand teachers in CPS, fourteen hundred responded to the survey; while that provides more than enough for a statistically valid survey, it should also be considered or understood that the fact that it was self-selected to some degree could have altered the results.
With that in mind, this is still absolutely shocking, and adds yet another piece of evidence to the (well, my) on-going case that Arne Duncan was hardly qualified to be named Secretary of Education.
Obviously it was not Duncan pressuring teachers. According to the survey, the pressure came primarily from principals. But as the "CEO" of the schools, the buck must stop with him. And if principals felt the need to put the arm on teachers, that did not come from nowhere. There must have been in-turn pressure on them to meet statistical standards no matter what the cost.
While that pressure may have gotten Mr. Duncan the press needed to ascend in his career, it has done nothing for students.
Of course, this is not Duncan's school district. Many of these teachers had been teaching well before Duncan came on the scene--but the vast majority (64%) of teachers reporting have been teaching less than ten years, which puts them under either Duncan or Vallas, and certainly inside the Amendatory Act, Daley-control era.
Have our schools made progress since William Bennett described them as the worst in the nation in 1987? Perhaps; but with each new revelation and report, we seem to be getting further away from being able to actually answer that question.