It's now been six years since Chicago Public Schools officials began plowing forward with the Renaissance 2010 school reform initiative. As the dust begins to settle, the effects of closing and reorganizing dozens of troubled schools is starting to come to light. The ...
It's now been six years since Chicago Public Schools officials began plowing forward with the Renaissance 2010 school reform initiative. As the dust begins to settle, the effects of closing and reorganizing dozens of troubled schools is starting to come to light. The independent Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE) has pointed out repeatedly that one of the major byproducts of the plan is the loss of experienced teachers (as they've been replaced with younger and cheaper hires). As Howe Charter School Principal Keisha Campbell recently explained it, these new teachers "best fit the school organization we are trying to build." Some of those young teachers at the city's largest charter school operator, Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS), have gone to great lengths this year to move towards union representation and workplace protections. But one point that's gotten lost in the conversation over the "turnaround" strategy is what's happening with the veteran teachers who are being replaced.
CORE recently did some research of its own and discovered a troubling hiring pattern that's emerged under Renaissance 2010; since the initiative was adopted in 2002, the number of African American teachers in Chicago fell from 39 to 32 percent, meaning that there are now 2,000 fewer black teachers in the classroom. That prompted three CORE teachers to file a joint complaint (PDF) with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday, alleging that hiring under the Renaissance 2010 system is discriminatory. Specifically, they argue that the hiring pattern demonstrates a violation of Title VII, which prohibits "practices that are fair in form but discriminatory in operation." One CORE member explains the complaint via a release:
For Karen Lewis, a teacher and co-chair of CORE, the turnarounds have undermined an entire sector of black teachers in the Chicago Public Schools. “Since the beginning of the year, I’ve met black teachers who are working as substitutes. They are in tears, not just about the loss of their jobs but also about the loss of their status in the community. These school and position closings are insidious and Draconian. They are based on only one measurement -- test scores -- which say more about socio-economic status than they do about teaching and learning.”
Here's an important point to consider: even at Howe, which has been lauded as a national example of turnaround success, test scores remain subpar, according to a recent feature in U.S. News & World Report. During the turnaround process at Howe, in the South Austin community, the number of African American teachers fell to 14 from 22. At the same time, the number of white teachers increased from 10 to 14, according to the complaint. With this evidence in hand, the Chi-Town Daily News reports, the ball's now in the EEOC's court to determine whether there's a case in the stats:
It may be several months before anything happens with the complaint, which must be reviewed by a federal investigator. The EEOC could decide to launch its own lawsuit or could give CORE permission to do that, [Jennifer Purcell, an attorney representing the teachers caucus] says.
“The more people who can call us or talk to us about who they are and how they were impacted by the turnaround, the more detail we can get,” Purcell says.
Both the Daily News and Mechanics' Ramsin Canon found that CPS isn't commenting on the allegations.