The "Track E" Effect

While CPS and CTU are still negotiating away (and I don’t have any specific inside information), it seems to me like a strike is less and less likely.  Here are four reasons why, including among them the dynamics that are being created by Chicago’s staggered school start schedule (Track E v. Track R). Take a look and let us know what you think about my reasoning and the likely outcome.

Last week, you had CTU warning members once again to be ready to strike, which seemed awfully theatrical.  If the teachers weren’t ready to strike already…Just as noteworthy, there was none of the past talk from CPS or City Hall about how the teachers shouldn’t strike for the good of the kids, etc.  Either they’re not worried about a strike anymore, or realized that wagging their fingers at the teachers wasn’t helping things.

Monday night’s WTTW segments didn’t seem like they were the interviews that JCB or KJL would have given if they thought that a strike was going to happen — or (in the case of CTU) wanted one to happen.

CTU has already won, in terms of rolling back the extended day, protecting jobs, and rubbing Rahm’s nose in it. They’ll get 8 or 10 percent over four years and be correct to declare victory.  They’re the toast of militant teachers union locals nationwide.

But the biggest reason I don’t think there will be (can be) a strike any more is that a third of CPS is already back to school now.  Those teachers have started the year, met their kids, are settling into their schedules (not without a little grumbling).  Getting them out on strike wouldn’t be impossible, if Brizard or Emanuel did something stupid, but it wouldn’t be nearly as easy as it would have been over the summer, or closer to the actual strike vote.

There’s nothing nefarious in this, it’s just a function of the increase in Track E schools.  CPS has been pushing Track E for years — as have other districts (LA schools started Tuesday for the entire system).  But the staggered schedule does have the effect of dividing teachers into two groups.

What do you think?


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  • What do I think? You're wrong- which is an increasingly common occurrence. There are still MANY issues which have not been resolved in negotiations. You know this. The only way to get Emanuel to move on a number of important issues is to push him. A strike would also be one more nail in the coffin for his future political ambitions. The real victory will come in 2 1/2 years when his career as an elected official is over and he is goes back to Washington or Wilmette or Wall St. or wherever.

  • I'm not sure what the district and /or union are trying to pull at this point but I would be interested to know how many actual jobs their little agreement saved. Of the "applicants" that our school received for this extra position over half, maybe more, called back to say that they already had jobs and never applied for the position. Is someone cooking the numbers to make everyone look good? Or is CPS really that disorganized? Neither answer makes me confident that this year will be any different for our children.

  • Two things you can be sure of - someone is cooking the numbers AND CPS is really that disorganized.

  • i doubt that the fact that we now have track e and track r schools will have an effect of whether or not teachers strike. as to the comment that school year already starting is a deterent, it actually makes more sense to begin and then go out on strike. you want to make sure teachers are covered for insurance for the month.

  • Alexander, there is still the possibility of a strike. Not only will Track E schools be in session but Track R schools will do the same. This is a fact that has been discussed over and over so the start of the new school year doesn't mean a strike is not going to happen. All schools will start, which means teachers are working without a contract, and if negotiations, which of course are being minimized by JCB and others at CPS is because they don't want to talk about it. If you make things appear to have worked out by not showing angst, which I would think the Board and the mayor should be doing right about now, but of course they are putting on the face of "Everything is fine and dandy," with huge smiles that really cover up the panic we all know exists under those false veneers of CPS transparency.

    As for the cooking numbers, of course they are and yes are they are incredibly disorganized, even more so now than ever. I applied for every newly created elementary school position that was listed and have not received one phone call or email. Hopefully this will be looked into as well and possibly become grounds for more legal action.

    Good to see that pressure is being put on CPS and Rahm and they are trying to find ways to deflect, or should I say hide, the truth of the situation. We'll keep our eyes on coming developments in the negotiations as Track R schools come closer to starting in the next two weeks.

  • Trust when I say this, track E teachers will not be divided against track R. At my Mom's school, 3 teachers have already called off. Schedules have changed multiple times, recess is a mess, materials are not available, and teachers have to digest the new curriculum (modules) while teaching it at the same time. It seems like at her school, no one openly complains, but passive/aggressively speaks w/their actions....taking off within the first week of school.
    Once we're back (track R), this will place more stress on a system that is truly a fragile house of cards. I believe some of the Principals are quietly hoping for a strike to give them time to understand the directives that have been dictated to them.

  • I'm a Track E high school teacher, and I would have no trouble walking out. The REACH assessment learning tasks are garbage. Alexander, do you have the learning tasks yet? If you don't, I'll create a dummy email account and email them to you through a proxy server, so you can post them.

  • If anything, returning to my Track E elementary school which is now operating under the leadership of a new principal has strengthened my resolve to strike. I had little doubt beforehand that it would be necessary, but just this small taste of the new brand of chaos and disrespect makes it crystal clear to everyone. While CPS may hope that putting people on two tracks will also keep us divided, there is no division between Track E and Track R teachers on the strike issue. Solidarity forever!!

  • Alexander,
    Your ideas-while thoughtfully made- don't matter, they will have no effect on the outcome. The only thing that matters is what happens in the negotiating sessions. This is totally in the hands of the teams negotiating. The CTU already has the green light from its membership to authorize a strike. The HOD will- no doubt- move to set a date if negotiations stall. The only thing that will avert a job action is a contract proposal that is fair and agreeable to all parties involved, that's it. Good luck

  • WRONG. There is more at work then a "warning" to bank your dollars and cents. We, track E are working the longer day with no greater compensation. We started the year knowing full well that we might get the call. You missed the see of red on our first day back. There are no scabs in track E and we have (in a resounding voice) authorized our union leadership to take action, no matter what the time of year.

    Check it out!

    Chicago Teachers vs. astroturf billionaires.

  • There will be no strike and Emanual will be the next mayor unless he decides to leave. Teachers do not have the balls to go on strike, but they can talk about a strike and hope they are not bluffed out by the mayor. If there by chance there is a strike (rather slim) you can bet that there will be more charters in the system next year. There will also be the start of new pension reforms in Springfield sooner before later. At 12 million a day bleeding the system, that has to and will be done. Any substantial raise will just be removed from the property tax increase and the health insurance increase. There are many people gaming the pension already in the system. Those are the people who should ashamed and singled out by the union for immediate reform. This is money in the bank that these things will happen.

  • In reply to reality101:

    "Reality 101"- bwahahaha. Wow, you must be Emanuel's head cheerleader. Money in the bank"? You probably said CTU would never get 75%. You probably said Emanuel would make us work longer for pennies. You probably said merit pay was a cinch. You probably said Emanuel would ride high approval ratings. You probably said crime would drop under an Emanuel administration. After countless failures you still are rahrahing Emanuel and predicting success? The data says Emanuel is failing, why are you so confident he will turn it around now?

  • In reply to reality101:

    "Any substantial raise will just be removed from the property tax increase and the health insurance increase."

    What does that mean? Am I missing something, or is that total gobbledygook?

  • I'm a Track E teacher, both my parents are Track R teachers and we've all been ready to strike since day 1 when we were told to be prepared. There is no division between Track E and Track R teachers, and I don't think there is less of a possibility of striking because we've started the school year. I actually think they want all teachers to be back before we more week! Solidarity!

  • fb_avatar

    Good teachers can always see a pattern -- What's the downside of a strike vote held before the end of school, besides teacher distraction? Well for CTU it's the possibility that they don't meet the threshold, and for CPS it's the possibility that they do. For the rest of us, perhaps the biggest concern is that CTU gets the numbers it needs but then goes too far in the negotiations and Chicago ends up with yet another pricey contract that doesn't address contract changes needed to make the schools better.
    That would be a short-term victory for CTU and for individual teachers but a long-term loss for Chicago schools. Or perhaps I'm getting it all wrong and you can explain it better for me.
    By Alexander Russo, May 25, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Today's news is really just an extension of Friday's news -- that CTU is going to start a strike vote on Wednesday, how that's going to work, and whether they should or not. For what it's worth, I have nothing against CTU calling the vote (or CPS decrying it). I'm not sure what I'd do if I were a rank and file teacher, however, given the possibility that CTU could then call a strike even after winning concessions from CPS. Do I trust my delegate?
    By Alexander Russo, June 4, 2012 at 7:56 am

    Today's news is mostly about the strike authorization announcement and not enough (in my opinion) about what happens next -- though Progress IL and Catalyst have some interesting tidbits on that front. CPS may yet challenge the vote, which was unaudited. (CTU will have to prepare to show excellent documentation of the process if its vote is to survive such a challenge.) Meanwhile, we're told that the strike vote may actually reduce the possibility of a prolonged contract dispute and/or an actual call to strike. (No one but a few of you really wants a strike, but it's in some ways harder not to strike having roused the rabble and now with the authorization vote in hand.) The Lewis team will have to win enough concessions to justify not going on strike, or face the wrath of those members who have become most radicalized.
    By Alexander Russo, June 12, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Over 98% of CTU voters authorized a strike!! Yes, 98% of all who voted!! district299reader said June 11, 2012 at 12:00 am

  • "They're the toast of militant teachers union locals nationwide." Russo.

    I will fly my "militant" flag proudly in that I know and understand its source: a need for a greater moral compass in our school system. If this defines combative or aggressive behavior of our members we should wear the label with pride.

  • They haven't even started to talk about PSRPs yet and our part of the contract. The extra two weeks of the school year is being ignored, the 4% from last year that went to the police officers working in high schools doing CPD paperwork is also being ignored. Then, there is the other hand, the kids, we as care givers, nurses, SW, ST,SP etc we are spread so thin we go out to the car and cry at night because "we just can't do it". Still the pressure grows. Alex, do you know how angry you have to get a nurse or social worker before they strike? Well, we are there, it's about the kids , it's about us, and it's about our families.

  • what do you make of this, just from CTU?

    CHICAGO – Labor negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools continue, but in the meantime, the union says it must prepare its members for the worst. “On Strike” protest signs are currently being printed, although no decision has been made whether or not teachers, school clinicians and paraprofessionals will issue a work stoppage in coming days. State law requires the Union to give a 10-day notice before a strike. "We do not want to strike," said CTU President Karen Lewis, "but if we cannot reach an agreement we might. We cannot wait until the day of a strike to print signs and prepare over 25,000 members for a work stoppage. We have to be ready one way or another. We will do what we have must to ensure our rights are respected and our students get what they deserve."

  • I am willing to strike, just over the schedule they gave my high school. We are going to go 8:30 to 4, this school year. I really can't see how this is going to be good for attendance since many of our students work after school. I also can't see how teams are going to practice, travel to games, etc.. This is also pushing our evening recovery program to very late hours.

    In addition to attendance concerns, I also fear that this could make safe passage to and from school more hazardous for our students as they will be traveling in both the morning and evening rush, not to mention that in the winter months it is pretty dark already after 4 pm.

    For a mayor that is so supposedly concerned with student safety, I question the logic behind this schedule.

  • I'd start looking at Caterpillar strike if I were you. Their factory in Canada is closed down, and Joliet workers after several months have accepted pretty much the same agreement they rejected in April. And unlike CPS, Caterpillar actually has the money in their coffers. They simply chose not to give in to union demands.

  • First, District 299 reader, why don't you explain to some of the new/younger teachers in the system how property taxes are affected by CPS budget. You will find that the property tax bill increase and mirror raises that teachers will receive. As the education budget is approx 50% of our property tax bill. So with that said, increase in education spending only increases the amount of taxes Chicago residents will pay, whether through their own property taxes or from rent increases by landlords. Facts are facts and those are the facts since the 1990's. There is a correlation to property taxes. Possibly some of the teachers grandfathered in the system prior to 1998 are avoiding the property tax increase by living in the suburbs. This practice will end when the state evens out the property tax vs. district stand-off from pension in the reform that will eventually come out of Springfield. Second, at this point there is no other viable mayoral candidate that can compete and win against Emanual. That is a fact also. Have you read the results from the last election or any poll of contenders in the current political system. As far as a walkout on a strike, that will be avoided because it if a strike happens, there will be more charter schools in the system next and then a weaker union in the future, which will then eventually hurt barganing after the next contract. Lower union enrollment and less at the barganing table means less success for the union. And that is a fact, too. Voting for a strike last year was a tool used to help at the barganing table. As in our last contract, when it come down to walk out, no one can afford to walk out, when the outcome will be a lose-lose for both sides and any significant raise will in turn reflect an increase in property taxes. If you think the raise will help your pension, think again, eventually, pension reform will give you a choice, take the yearly bump-up or pay for health insurance, at best. The fact is all you have to do is look at models from the privat sector that had unions before to see that will happen, auto, airline, etc, And that is a fact, too.

  • In reply to reality101:

    Problem is your "facts" aren't facts. I can say "Sasquatch lives and that is a fact" or "Socialized healthcare is nothing more than communism and that is a fact" but that still doesn't make them facts. Most of your "facts" are loaded opinions... and that is a... wait for it...






    ... yes, that is a fact.

  • In reply to reality101:

    It takes a community to fight out-of-town billionaires

  • In reply to reality101:

    School Closures: A Shell Game with Students

  • In reply to reality101:

    Longer School Day has already failed, as schools open in the midst of chaos, costing a full week for most “Track E” students…CPS officials disrupt schools through incompetence, then push a cover up by ordering principals to ‘rat out’ teachers who object to constant crazy changes.

  • there should be no doubt now as to the purpose of this blog

  • Taxpayers I talk too ask about their Return on Taxes. What am i getting for supporting public schools? Can kids read, write, and do arithmetic? They don't, so why don't they? Is it bad principals? Why can't we rid of them? Is it bad teachers, why can't we get rid of them? Is it bad curriculum, why can't we get rid of it? Is it bad district leadership, why can't we get of it? I think unions can help themselves if they can proactively police themselves. Then the taxpayers will support wholeheartedly, and start trying to get answers to those other questions. But the public at large is comparing public sector unions to what is happening to private sector unions and saying, why should you be any different?

  • Teachers are taxpayers too! I teach in Chicago. I live in Chicago. I pay taxes in Chicago. I raised a child in Chicago who is a well-educated CPS graduate with a college degree and a professional job.
    The students that I teach are no less intelligent and capable than my own child, and if resources were distributed equitably among schools and communities, many more of them would have similar opportunities for success. I would like my hard-earned tax dollars to be used to equitably fund our schools, and to allow teachers a chance to be more successful with our students. Good teaching conditions look a whole lot like good learning conditions, and these are what the teachers are willing to go on strike for.

  • CPS wants principals to Rat-Out employees:

  • I don't understand what teachers will realistically strike about.

    1) Teachers are NOT working one minute longer. 7 hours. Status quo. You can ask for a small raise and anything above 1-2% is not realistic. We are still in a horrid economy and the state is on the verge of bankruptcy. Which your pensions will push over the cliff in the next few years.

    2) There are more specials teachers being hired from your pool of displaced teachers. Good or bad for the students, this is what your union demanded and got. As a parent, I do like the hiring of more gym, art, music, language teachers, etc. Not crazy about hiring from the pool, but can live with it.

    3) Heathcare costs go up for everyone. Talk to others out there and on average, family coverage is about 700-1000 per month with a $5-7K deductible BC/BS. Striking over heathcare? Really? If this is your true cause, then your strike is misplaced.................this is a much bigger national issue and push congress and the president, not the cash strapped cps system and taxpayers.

    4) Strike over merit based pay? This is the call for the good teachers to rise up and be recognized. The good teachers should be recognized and supported, the mediocre and lousy teachers need to go! Your union's job is to cater to the lowest common denominator teacher, which is probably the biggest reason things are so hard to change. The CTU will call for unity, brotherhood, sisterhood, anti-union busting.................all this really means is the need to protect the worst teachers in the system and make sure the best are treated the same as the worst. I just don't get why good teachers tolerate this and pay dues for this push for mediocrity. Good teachers, think about it.

    5) What is left? I know a lot needs to be fixed. I do not deny that a lot is very messed up right now. Change has to start somewhere. Right now, the teachers are looking like a bunch of pouting kindergarten kids having a tantrum. You need to give Karen Lewis a time out and look at reality.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    What do you mean I'm not working any longer? I have to be in the building from 8 to 3:15. Last year it was 8 to 2:36. That means I'm there longer.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The longer day compromise was a compromise. Teachers don't love it. Neither does Rahm. But it doesn't solve much. There are still issues with the calendar and the length of the year. It was mostly a way to allow Track E to start and schedules to be made so that they don't have to be remade once we finalize a CBA.

    HELL YES I am willing to strike over the elimination of steps and lanes. Merit pay means no pay. You have no clue what the CTU has become in the last 3 years. We have discarded the service model you rant against in favor of a social justice model. We intend to do what is right for our students, ourselves and society as a whole. Our union protects us from an abusive and arbitrary system. Protecting teachers protects students.

    Let me let you in on a secret, the best teachers (Mind you I believe we are all good.) are the most pro-union. They are the most in favor of protection from the Board. They are the most in favor of recall rights. They are the most in favor of standing AGAINST merit pay and charter schools.

    Shocker I know.

    Your child's teacher, the one you love the most, he/she is going to be the first one on the picket line, wearing the reddest shirt, and carrying their "ON STRIKE" sign proudest.

    What's left? What's not left? Evaluations, class-size, sick days, recall rights, compensation, our 4% from last year, work rules for special ed teachers that don't violate state law, supports for our students who live in war zones, a fair contract that protects me from the whims of the Board. That's just off the top of my head.

  • fb_avatar

    Not really accurate.
    1. We are working longer. The economy is terrible because the people who are profiting off of CPS and our tax dollars broke the economy. If you are resigned to that, you are part of the problem. They are all richer than ever. There is no "shared sacrifice"--only scam artists doing their thing with billions of taxpayer dollars.
    2. It remains to be seen if the recall policy will be adhered to. We need district-wide seniority, it would lower the ridiculous amount of teacher turnover that hurts students.
    3. Health care costs go up for everyone because governance is in bed with pharm and big medicine.
    4. Merit pay injures students. It's a ridiculous concept that runs counter to our mission as teachers. If you want to call me a bad teacher, please give your identity too.
    5. A lot is left. How about fixing the real problems? We started by elected a leadership that is trying to improve schools. What have you done?

  • In reply to Xian Barrett:

    I have to give REACH assessments to my classes on Tuesday. I am a high school teacher. These performance tasks the students are being given are ridiculous and do not assess all the students should be learning. Also, do you think any student is going to work all out on this initial test that is meaningless to them and tells me nothing? Of course not. And I have to grade these worthless things myself? I can't believe I'm having to spend time that I should be unit planning on these things. Also, if these is the initial measure of what my students know, then how do you think I am going to grade them? And in June when they take the follow-ups, don't you think I will incorporate those into the grading scale so that my students will bust their butts on them? And, if student growth is being used to measure my pay, how do you think I'll grade that last exam? This is ridiculous, a total farce that should be used on the Boondocks for comedic effect.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Copies of and instructions for administering the performance assessments have not been distributed to teachers at my school. It's a bit challenging to plan backwards from an assessment if I haven't even seen it.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    C'mon now. That's just wrong headed. We're not supposed to teach to the test. Besides, it's not as if planning is very important for teachers in Chicago.

  • NYT's Bruni on mischaracterizations of Wont' Back Down & the need for better solutions from unions

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    So now we have to deal with the blathering "expertise" of the restaurant critic's views on education? At least he took the time to quote Diane Ravitch and not just a bunch of AstroTurf groups.

    He asks, "What's so bad about that?" Everything. We are NOT extrinsically motivated to teach. You do not have to manipulate us with rewards. It makes us feel less valued. It will drive the best teachers out because they will feel disrespected and manipulated. Please read _Punished By Rewards_ by Alfie Kohn. The pop psychology of rewards is killing us.

    Where is this army of bad teachers? I used to believe they existed too. I also believed in Santa Claus. When I became a CPS teacher in 2008, I started to look for all the horrible teachers. I've been looking and looking and looking. I can't find them. No one stays in this profession if they aren't in it for the students. There is TOO MUCH CRAP foisted upon us from above to just stick around and clock in and out.

  • In reply to BillyTurtle:

    I want to say I fully agree with you that there are really few "bad" teachers out there. It is generally wrong to place the blame on teachers, and too often that is the case. There are a few bad ones, yes, but there are so many factors that come into the issues facing education. We need to attack the issues... not our teachers.

  • Better day.
    I also know of a High school going from 8:30-4:00
    next year.This was done by adding 10 minutes to every class
    and adding 15 minutes to the day at the beginning and end.
    How is this brilliant solution considered a better day?It is
    just longer.

  • This is the call for the good teachers to rise up and be recognized

    Be recognized how? By the Danielson rubric? Quarterly bubble tests? CPS has no plan for effective teacher evaluation. Go and read some of what Danielson qualifies as "distinguished" in her 19 sections of rubric and then tell me a principal can ascertain that viewpoint from an annual half hour visit. There is no way a principal and or the assistant could meet the observation time requirements for this thing to work, there is too much else to do. I'm not saying the previous checklist was that much better, but at least it didn't pretend to be thorough and accurate.

  • Our school has a new principal, and I made darn sure that we hired the candidate who did not work for a charter school. My son's school needs a new principal, and there is a candidate with a charter school background. I poisoned the well for him, and he will not get the position. I also work closely with 3 other school that are seeking principals. I've made sure their LSCs will not consider anyone with a charter school background. Let's make sure those who sold their souls to work for charters never find a home in the CPS, especially not in leadership positions.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Wait, are you serious? Lots of people are forced to take a charter school job because of lack of jobs in regular public schools. This is no different than teachers who are forced to take a job in Catholic schools working for barely more than minimum wage and they do so until they can get a job in a real school that pays a decent salary. I have never taught in a charter, but if I needed to do so to feed my family, I would. My children's best reading teacher came from a charter.

  • In reply to teacherparent:

    If you have taught at a charter, you don't belong in a CPS school. Simple as that. The charters are destroying democratic public education. If you are complicit in that, you deserve a horrible fate. I'm an administrator, and I will never hire someone from a charter.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to district299reader:

    I don't think it's useful to brand everyone at privatized schools in this fashion. It's the system, not the people inside. Before we can judge people on their choices, we have to fight to make other choices available.

  • I have run across bad teachers who come in unprepared and teach students very little. However, every single one of these teachers could have been removed from the profession. A couple were gotten rid of before they reached tenure. The tenured ones could have been E-3d, if the principal would just have taken the time to do it. Also, those teachers should never have gotten tenure anyway if the principal had some guts. The current system is just fine. Even if things changed, I still don't think principals would remove non-effective teachers. What really needs to change is the training of principals and a change in the management structure of schools. To believe the principal can be the instructional leader when he or she has to keep the community happy, recruit students, and satisfy network demands and central office mandates is not realistic.

  • It is a vicious cycle in CPS. The inept or lazy principals just love the inept or lazy teachers. The lazy or inept teachers do not question...anything- even principal malfeasance. They give everyone As or Bs and the parents think they wonderful. Then these teachers somehow become administrators and the cycle repeats itself.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    You don't talk about social promotion in a 299 forum. It's like Fight Club.

  • Reality Check

    To all those seeking educational nirvana all I can say is good luck.
    I think many of you have run across bad teachers,I know i have.
    the problem is how to get rid of them.The E3 method actually
    works but remember this is Chicago where clout rules.
    I ask you all how to deal with the worst teacher in the school
    when her uncle is a alderman? or perhaps a congressman?
    how about a state rep? Since all of these creatures seem to
    wind up in schools that are still functioning could there be a flaw in the selection system?

  • For example, the new principal at Social Justice high school is terrible. She did not give staff schedules until Sunday. Classes started Monday. All the AP classes at the school were cancelled. The students had a sit in and were on Univision. The principal is a former coworker of Theresa Placencia, Westside Network chief and bubble head. Perhaps she is trying to destroy the school in order to lead to a turnaround. MAS is a mess and that principal continues to screw up the school.

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  • Headache299
    Memo instructing principals to document and report union activities

  • What does it mean when we say we want the proper resources allocated to all classrooms in every school? Is this a dollar amount for supplies, equipment, computers, ipads, etc.? Is this training, PD, or support from CO or vendors to implement programs to fidelity? Is this having aides in every classroom, especially in those that have ell and sped students?
    How would these resources be different than that being supplied by the district today?

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