CN February 9, 2012

It’s a one-on-one conversation with CPS CEO J.C. Brizard this week. We discuss  the CTU, turnaround schools, Mayor Emanuel’s comments in the Juan Williams “documentary” about the Chicago school system, and lots more.

Some selected quotes from today’s show are included below.

Here are some quotes from Mr. Brizard:

The schools are better today than they were 50 years ago. But the perception is that they’re worse today than they were 50 years ago.The dropout rate was actually higher than it was in the 50’s. The difference was that there was an industry for a lot of the kids that we lost. The world’s changed. We say very simply that back in the 70s or 80’s – if only half the kids got it we moved on… We are now in a world where every single kid has to make it… So the structures that we created back in the arly 1900s don’t work any more.

We are in real trouble as a nation. We used to be number one in college graduation, we’re now number 13, falling behind very quickly. Something has to give. The model we’ve created simply is obsolete.

I actually had my staff read one of the Harvard case studies on Arnie Duncan in his years – it was 2006. And one of them came back and said, I’m depressed. And I said why? He said what is being talked about in this case study is what we’re talking about doing… When you take a look at what’s happened over the three eras of school reform which is what the report talks about, you can begin to see the disconnected nature of the school reform efforts in Chicago.

We’ve had a litany – we’ve had a thousand different initiatives – but no coherent strategy. So, good stuff, but not connected well.

Teachers want their union to be strong, I completely support that. But the one thing we have to help unions do is evolve. The world’s changed a bit. The rules that currently exist around teacher pay, etc., were put in place for good reasons.  We had over-zealous administrators back in the 60’s, maybe 70’s. When you look historically at who became teachers, there were women, African Americans, etc., who needed protection from over-zealous administrators. Take a look at who’s coming into the profession now. We have young people who have great options. They can become lawyers, doctors – the glass ceiling has gone way up or disappeared in some cases… People who want to come into the profession are looking for something different. They want agency in their profession, they want to be paid according to their skill set, what they do, not just be in lock-step, how long you’ve been there, how many college credits you have – so somehow, I’ve got to help my teachers’ union, and others, evolve to really understand what the membership is asking for, what today’s young teacher demands of the system.  I fear if we don’t do that we’re going to discourage a lot of bright young people from entering the profession.

Already I’m hearing it. I’m watching it in the research coming out of Harvard who are saying a lot of young teachers do not want to come into teaching because it is not perceived to be a noble profession…

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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