The Elephant in the Room in Chicago Teacher Strike

Sep 13, 2012 by

Donna Garner

by Donna Garner –


The “elephant in the room” in the Chicago public school teachers’ strike is Common Core Standards (CCS). Diane Ravitch failed even to mention the CCS in yesterday’s article (link to her article posted below).

Because Texas spent from 1997 until Spring 2012 locked into the same type of curriculum standards that are found in the CCS, I know from personal experience why the Chicago teachers are frustrated.

Being held to a fixed standard at least gives teachers definite goals to reach; but being held to nebulous, winding, indecisive, mushy, and generic curriculum standards (as in the Common Core Standards) is a sure way to arouse frustration in both students and teachers alike.

Please read my recently published article entitled “Obama’s Inferior English Common Core Standards” —

The Chicago public school teachers undoubtedly knew last year that their administration had locked everyone into the Common Core Standards because of taking the Race to the Top federal dollars ($42.8 Million for the entire state of Illinois); but I imagine most of the teachers had not actually seen the CCS until a few weeks ago. After seeing the confusing mish-mash of hundreds of generic and hard-to-understand CCS elements that teachers are now required to teach, I feel sure this incited them to join the protest as a way to vent their frustration over the CCS.

In Diane Ravitch’s article published yesterday, she failed to mention that when Arne Duncan was the Chicago Schools Superintendent, he lost credibility with the teachers because his initiatives, some of which were to create gay-themed schools for LGBT students, failed to raise students’ academic achievement.

Now Arne Duncan is the U. S. Secretary of Education and is close friends with both Obama and Rahm Emanuel.  It is Duncan working with the Obama administration who has launched the Common Core Standards Initiative.  The CCSI requires schools to implement national standards; national curriculum; national assessments; national teacher evaluations; teachers’ salaries tied to students’ test scores; teachers teaching to the test each and every day; national indoctrination of our public school children; and a national database of personally intrusive information about students, families, and educators.

The Chicago teachers have probably just begun to realize that the student assessment results upon which teacher evaluations (40%) will be based are tied to the CCS curriculum and assessments.  Unfortunately, the entire CCS agenda is based on subjective factors.

Both the CCS curriculum and assessments will be delivered online.  In Chicago, 160 Chicago public schools do not even have libraries; and the cost of providing all students in the Chicago public schools with adequate technology and maintenance support will be prohibitive.

The Chicago teachers know that the assessment results upon which they will be evaluated will be dependent upon such subjective factors as how computer literate the test takers are, how well-disciplined the students are, how well the technology works at their schools, how much time students have to spend on operable technology, and most importantly – how objectively those nationalized assessments will be scored by unknown people with unknown agendas in Washington, D. C.

The cost of the administration and implementation of CCSI (computers, maintenance, upgrades, support staff, professional development, textbooks, instructional materials, enhancing of technology infrastructure and support, etc.) falls squarely on the backs of the local and state taxpayers.  The Pioneer Institute estimates these costs over seven years will be $15.8 Billion across the participating states  ( ).

The few federal dollars that Chicago has received from Race to the Top are long gone, having been spent undoubtedly on administrators, grant writers, vendors, and other such nefarious budget items that have no real impact on local classrooms.

Illinois received $42.8 Million for Race to the Top; and with 2.1 million public school students in Illinois, that is a mere $20.40 per public school student.

If the CCS were truly good standards built upon knowledge-based, academic, grade-level-specific, objectively tested curriculum standards, the Chicago teachers would not have so much to fear. However, academic achievement is not the goal of the CCS. The goal is to push Obama’s social justice agenda to the detriment of students’ academic gains.

The CCS are so politically correct that they will dumb down classrooms instead of boosting students’ reading and writing skills which are required for students to do well in all of their other courses. This politically correct aspect will mean that students’ answers on their assessments will be graded subjectively to enhance the social justice outcomes.

I wonder how any of us would like having a job in which our rehiring and our salaries are dependent upon the politically correct way that 14-year old students answer assessment questions and then how those answers are evaluated by unknown graders who probably have never taught a day in their lives.

For those of us who have spent time with hormone-driven, unstable teenagers who are “up” one day and “down” the next, the idea of having our entire future depend upon how well those teenage students score on the nationalized assessments would be a pretty fearsome prospect.

When I taught (33+ years), I never minded holding myself as well as my students accountable to a clear, reachable standard that all of us understood from the first day of school.  In fact, I chose to make the results of my diagnostic grammar test (administered at the beginning and at the end of the school year) available to my students’ parents, administrators, and school board members. The diagnostic grammar result sheet clearly showed the percentage of student improvement from the beginning of the year until the end. However, if I were in the classroom today, I would heartily disagree with being forced to follow a nationalized and subjectively assessed social justice curriculum as found in the Common Core Standards.

Interestingly enough, even the Chinese people recently protested their leaders’ attempts to force a national education plan onto their school children:

9.8.12 — HONG KONG — Faced with tens of thousands of protesters contending that a Beijing-backed plan for ‘moral and national education’ amounted to brainwashing and political indoctrination, Hong Kong’s chief executive backpedaled on Saturday and revoked a 2015 deadline for every school to start teaching it. (Hong Kong Retreats on ‘National Education Plan’ New York Times  —

Why then have we as Americans sad idly by while the Obama administration has ripped this and future generations of children out from under us by allowing the Common Core Standards and Race to the Top to indoctrinate our children? We are supposed to be a nation that stands for individual freedom and independence – not complete and total government control!

Link to Diane Ravitch’s 9.12.12 article entitled “Two Visions for Chicago’s Schools” —

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