Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicago Teachers' Strike & Service Delivery Models

     Two notes before I begin. One, is that I had not intended on posting on this highly politicized event because I am not a CPS teacher, or a public school teacher in general, but as the strike enters its second week, I need to post. Also, while I do not have any children in CPS, I am a Chicago resident. Second, I used "Teachers'" in the title, because the strike belongs to the teachers. Teachers who want to be in classrooms.

     No matter what the issues are, or how they are portrayed in the media, CPS suffers from serious funding issues. Furthermore, at the end of the day, many of the issues would be alleviated if more funding is available. Obvious, right!? But how about this. How about instead of worrying about how money is allocated, let's look at empirical systems structures that would alleviate a lot of tensions on staff resources, and therein money.

     If CPS had a formal School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (SWPBS) system in their district, they could spend less money on reactively fixing discipline issues, suspending and expelling students, wasting money on non-evidence based interventions, and be more preventative as a whole. The fact that specific schools need to implement these interventions on their own, usually requiring consultative help, is time and cost "frustrating."

     If CPS had a formal Response to Intervention/Multi-Tiered System of Support (RtI/MTSS, the terms are interchangeable), they could move away from the wait to fail models of the current special education systems, thereby freeing up monies and staff time. Instead, schools sit around waiting for students to "need" more help, rather than addressing core curriculum and special education issue more rapidly and effectively. RtI/MTSS is just good teaching, and it begins and ends in general education. Instead, each school needs to undertake these issues independently, thereby running into the same resource issues as are with SWPBS.

     While these initiatives may seem like fads to some veteran teachers and administrators, these are empirically-based service delivery models. In the beginning, they may require some diligence for teacher buy-in, but if staff is trained appropriately and to capacity and to train incoming teachers and staff, could go a long way in reducing strains within the district. This would free up money to put air conditioning in the schools that need them, keep the promises for benefits for teachers, and most importantly, increase student achievement. Achievement that, if it were happening, would require less of a focus on arbitrary standardized testing and unfair teacher evaluations.

     CPS needs to set-up ALL school environments for success.When students are successful across the board, we can spend more money on much needed enrichment programs without having to justify them at every turn. When all students are successful, we don't need to loose sleep over achievement gaps. And this is not only true of CPS, it's schools across the nation. SWPBS and RtI/MTSS are not fads, they are school management and teaching methods perfected that have an efficacious basis in data.

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