EDUCATORS across America have undoubtedly watched what happened in Chicago the past several days with more than passing interest. Perhaps with all the changes facing public education, a teacher strike was a predictable response. Think about that: The going gets tough … and teachers strike.
It's no good for teachers and it's certainly no good for students that the education establishment has lost so much of its voice and its credibility. But that's what happens when every change — no matter how small — is met with resistance. Is it any wonder so many have stopped listening to the complaints?
Teaching is the noblest of professions. In nearly every school, that's obvious. Fair or not, this country asks teachers to carry a heavy load. The burden is especially heavy for the best teachers determined to make up for their weaker colleagues. Those stellar teachers deserve better than what they typically get from a system that for so long has valued equity and seniority over value. Of course, that system is anything but equitable for students stuck with bad teachers.
The truth is that policymakers should be listening to the great teachers and maybe even some of those middle-of-the-road teachers who want to get better. But how can they find them? Teacher evaluation systems that look at student achievement gains are, at this point, inevitable. But that's happened only after continual resistance from the establishment. The very people who want policymakers and taxpayers to listen to teachers have fought a system that rightly separates the achievers from underperformers.
Now that the new evaluation systems are upon us, policymakers shouldn't squander the opportunity to listen carefully to teachers with proven records of improving student achievement. They can't afford not to listen.