Occupy Education: Teachers, Students Fight School Closings, Privatization, Layoffs, Rankings

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democracynow.org — As students across the country stage a national day of action to defend public education, we look at the nation’s largest school systems — Chicago and New York City — and the push to preserve quality public education amidst new efforts to privatize schools and rate teachers based on test scores. In Chicago, the city’s unelected school board voted last week to shut down seven schools and fire all of the teachers at 10 other schools. In New York City, many educators are criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration after the release of the names of 18,000 city teachers, along with a ranking system that claims to quantify each teacher’s impact on the reading and math scores of their pupils on statewide tests. “The danger is that if teachers and schools are held accountable just for relatively narrow measures of what it is students are doing in class, that will become what drives the education system,” says Columbia University’s Aaron Pallas, who studies the efficiency of teacher-evaluation systems. “The effects of school closings in [New York City] is one of the great untold stories today,” says Democracy Now! education correspondent Jaisal Noor. “The bedrock of these communities [has been] neighborhood schools and now they’re being destroyed.” Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union says, “When you have a CEO in charge of a school system as opposed to a superintendent — a real educator — what ends up happening is that they literally have no clue how to run the schools.” Lewis recounts a meeting where she says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told her that, “25 percent of these kids are never going to amount to anything.”

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