The Policy Shop: How the Chicago Teachers Union benefits from failure

The Policy Shop: How the Chicago Teachers Union benefits from failure

This edition of The Policy Shop was written by policy analyst Hannah Schmid

Here’s a word problem for Chicago students: Which is greater? Classroom A, where 1% of students can do 8th-grade math, or Classroom B, where 91% of students can do 8th-grade math.

If you picked Classroom B, you are WRONG – that is, if the test is being given by one of those Chicago Teachers Union bosses who spent about 5 minutes in a classroom. (Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, become teachers union bosses.)

Less is more. So based on its vast expertise in education theory, CTU is demanding Chicago Public Schools adopt its “sustainable community schools” model. It wants 200 of these as part of its upcoming contract negotiations.

The problem is there are already 20 of them, and they don’t work.

All but one of the 12 elementary community schools fall below the district average for reading proficiency. All have lower math proficiency than the district average, which is already lower than the state average.

All eight of the community high schools performed below the district average in both reading and math during the 2022-2023 school year.

So why would anyone want a 10-fold increase in an education model that doesn’t work?

Cha-ching! Because they cost more, and CTU is all about the Benjamins. Remember, they are the ones who put their lobbyist in the mayor’s office and are backing a “first we get the money” philosophy.

The average per-student spending across CPS’ 20 sustainable community schools in the 2022-2023 school year was $22,604. The district average was $18,287.

And here’s a surprise: CTU, their co-worker Mayor Brandon Johnson and his appointees on the Chicago Board of Education are already in the midst of killing the only schools in the district that really work: selective-enrollment schools. Here’s another surprise: they turn out top scores for a lower cost. The average across CPS’ 29 selective enrollment schools was $17,922.

It figures. Up to 94% of elementary students at the 20 selective enrollment schools in CPS can perform math proficiently. CTU’s community schools? The best sustainable community school was only able to get 13% of its elementary students doing math at grade level. So if you have 100 students, promote 13 of them because they can meet the basic standards in math, how many students are left behind? 87 kids. And, again, that’s at the best of CTU’s sustainable community schools.

Reading disparities are similar between the two education models. The top selective school had 96% of the students reading at grade level. The top community school had 28%. Again, that’s 72 of 100 kids left behind.

For high school students the gaps were even greater. The worst selective-enrollment high school outperformed the best community high school.

The top selective high school’s students were 93% proficient at reading and 94% at doing math. The best community high taught 10.3% of students to read and 6.9% to do math.

Where are the kids? Another claim by CTU is that community schools encourage students to come to school more often. Wrong again.

Ninety-five percent of sustainable community schools in CPS had more than one-quarter of their students chronically absent in 2022-2023. At selective enrollment schools, 45% had more than 25% of their students chronically absent.

CTU: Cash Through Underachievment. Chicago’s schools appear to only be sources of cash for CTU bosses. Why else would the radical union head into contract negotiations demanding a massive expansion of a failing system? Plus, CPS administrators have noted the district expects a budget shortfall of $391 million next year when federal pandemic relief runs out. That’s before their guy “negotiates” with CTU this summer on demands such as bumping the average teacher pay from $93,000 to $145,000 and adding housing subsidies for those teachers.

Higher costs, students learn less and skip school more. That’s a recipe for disaster, or for a CTU educational model.

Too bad the children whose educations that will be stifled by the self-serving union’s worship of underachievement will be paying for this betrayal of their best interests throughout their lives.

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