As a nationwide parents group, Parents Across America (PAA) does not take a stand on union issues. We regret that Chicago families had their schedules disrupted and Chicago children lost valuable learning time during the recent Chicago strike. However, the teachers in Chicago have highlighted important challenges in public education that resonate with families and communities across the country.
In addition to issues of pay and benefits, Chicago teachers chose to spotlight flawed policies that are hurting students in our nation’s public schools. We applaud their advocacy of common-sense improvements that include school libraries, small class sizes, humane learning conditions, and adequate social services for students. We are delighted that so many parent voices joined their strong call for better schools.
We also agree with the teachers’ critique of the flawed use and overuse of standardized testing. As parents we know that scores from “bubble” tests, however statistically manipulated, cannot adequately measure teacher performance. As parents we oppose the current obsession with high-stakes standardized tests, which narrows the curriculum and fuels punitive policies that diminish student, teacher and school morale without improving achievement. It is critically important that educators, school boards and policy makers nationwide rethink these damaging policies.
The widespread support that Chicago parents gave their children’s teachers indicates the many points at which the interests of parents, teachers and students go hand-in-hand. Our teachers deserve respect, and PAA uniformly rejects the teacher bashing which has become all-too-frequent in educational debates. Parents and teachers need to work together to advocate for better schools for all students. PAA applauds alliances which strengthen the bonds between teachers and parents.
PAA promotes education policies that are backed by research and common sense, and opposes the harmful experiments passing as “education reform” nationwide. We hope the national spotlight on Chicago’s schools refocuses the nation’s attention on building connections between schools, parents and communities, backing research-based reforms and beginning the important pushback on damaging practices such as high-stakes testing, school closings, and flawed teacher accountability measures.
We must continue to put our children over politics, flawed policies and profits. Parents Across America supports the broadened dialogue and analysis that Chicago teachers and parents have helped bring to the forefront of the national debate on our schools. We encourage all parents and teachers to come together and speak out in local communities on behalf of our nation’s students and their future. Our voices are critical to any meaningful debate over ways to improve our public schools.