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Chicago Teachers Union Remote Learning Guidance

Under the direction of Governor Pritzker, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) filed emergency rules that allow the state superintendent to require Remote Learning Days while schools are closed due to COVID-19​.

CPS expects educators to plan for virtual instruction or remote learning. Educators should have evidence of their planning in a format that works for them, which could include existing lesson plan formats or templates provided in the CPS Remote Learning Guidance. CPS remote learning went into effect starting April 13, after Spring Break.

The week of March 30 was a planning week. CPS wants teachers to share their activities, plans and lessons with one another to ensure collaboration around best practices. CPS says they will not necessarily expect all components of a traditional lesson plan, but educators should be able to make their planning documents available for review by principals upon request or via the usual mechanisms so administrators can better understand what remote learning teachers are trying to implement. Plans should have the minimum content requirements as demonstrated by the templates in the CPS Remote Learning Guidance, even if teachers do not use those templates.

What Schools should have provided by April 6

What you must complete for posting on school websites by April 6 are high level plans for the school that include:

  • How teachers can be reached
  • Schedules of teacher availability when students will interact with them for two hours per day
  • Overall goals for engagement; not every detail of every day of instruction needs to be included in the remote learning plan posted on the school’s website
  • Which specific key learning platforms the school will focus on using for remote learning
  • Where parents can access remote learning materials for students and teachers
  • When and how parents can reach additional school personnel (i.e., office hours). We will be in further talks with CPS regarding additional details and guidance.

Templates are available, but not required. High school teachers and administrators will have to collaborate the most around how to stagger teacher’s virtual availability to work for maximum students.

Important assurances the Union secured from CPS

CPS assured us they have no plans to lay off any educators during this closure and that they will not reduce or stop pay. We still anticipate that CPS will revisit its budget for SY 20-21, and we will guard against possible layoffs in advance of next school year.

Tenure acquisition is already decided by ISBE guidance, and both the “act of God” days and the remote learning days will count toward the minimum days needed, so this year will count toward tenure acquisition for most untenured teachers. We will guard against CPS trying to change that understanding, but we do not anticipate a problem right now. CTU leadership is in discussion with CPS about the annual untenured non-renewal process (where untenured teachers are released from their current school and must look for a new position) and are guarding against widespread loss of positions by untenured teachers.

CPS has agreed that administrators must still participate in Professional Problems Committees (PPCs). CPS has agreed that school PPC members can request that admin meet with them virtually up to twice a month to first try to work out challenges and issues arising from remote learning locally. If an administrator is concerned that an educator is not regularly trying to complete the remote learning requirements to the best of their ability, CPS said the principal should try to reach the educator first, assess if they need help, and if necessary provide a warning that the teacher is not regularly participating in their required work.

High school teachers who have a 6th class are to be paid their overtime pay during remote learning. CPS says they made a mistake and left off this overtime pay on the April 10th paycheck for the initial weeks of school closure and that this will be corrected on the April 24th paycheck and then pay will be included going forward. Please continue to engage with your additional class per the remote learning guidance. CTU continues to advocate for all regular stipends for ongoing work to be paid (e.g. coaching, NBCT, etc) and will share updates as soon as negotiations with CPS address additional issues.

If educators are seemingly intending and making an effort to regularly participate, they will be afforded “grace, flexibility and empathy,” according to the district. We should, however, expect CPS admin to still use progressive discipline in this period. CTU leadership is still in discussions with CPS about assurances about the disciplinary processes in this period. CPS is most concerned about members who are not participating or not communicating with admin, colleagues, students, and families. As union members, we need to check on our colleagues to make sure they are ok and that we’re supporting one another during this period. We don’t want any member to face discipline inappropriately and members need to do their best to meet minimum expectations. It is important for Contract Action Teams (CATs) and PPCs to be in touch with colleagues and raise issues with admin before they get out of hand. We will also be meeting with CPS more frequently during this new phase to sort out issues at a district level.

Grace, flexibility and empathy: Minimum expectations

CPS says that the approach of their Office of Teaching and Learning is to provide everyone with “grace, flexibility, and empathy.” We must do our best to hold them to this reasonable approach.

CPS expects educators to make their best effort to meet the minimum expectations:

  • Four hours of daily interaction/remote learning:
    • Two hours per day of live virtual engagement (e.g. Google Meet or other methods of live engagement) with students to best of ability; teachers determine the schedule, but it should be at reasonable times of day that work for students and families. There are guidance documents for sample remote learning plans and specific content (computer, PE, Art, library, CTE, IB, AP, dual credit) and grade level (by grade bands) guidance available in the MemberLink portal.
    • Two hours per day of other availability:
      • Giving students feedback (could include further live interaction)
      • Planning time with colleagues
      • Parent interaction
      • Regular participation in meetings held by admin and/or with colleagues (e.g., grade level or content team, ILT or PPLC)

Beginning April 13 with the implementation of remote learning, teachers who cannot participate in the four hours per day of remote learning on a given day (because they are sick or need to care for a sick family member) will need to communicate the use of a benefit day using their school’s regular procedures. Teachers taking a sick day will likely need to notify their students and parents to the best of their ability as well. And schools without a workable process should develop electronic protocol for notification of admin, students and parents as part of their remote learning plan.

If an educator is sick or needs to care for a sick family member for an extended period, they’ll need to work with CPS to request to take the appropriate leave must be taken (e.g. emergency COVID-19 leave, FMLA, or Short Term Disability). If a teacher needs to take longer formal leave, principals will be expected, in that case, to communicate to students and families that the teacher will not be available.

If an educator contracts COVID-19, CPS has waived eligibility criteria for short-term disability and will provide a special emergency leave.

Bereavement Leave

»NEW April 27, 2020«
CTU members who lose or have lost loved ones will be able to use bereavement leave days at a future date outside of the normal window as we anticipate many services being delayed due to the pandemic.

For deaths occurring since March 17, 2020 and until the end of the period of CPS remote instruction, for which a bargaining unit employee may use bereavement leave under Article 33-4, the leave days may be taken non-consecutively in no more than two installments at any time until June 26, 2020. In administering this benefit, the Board may request a record of the date of death or the associated services. The parties agree that they will revisit and strongly consider extension of the deadline based on relevant changes to the school calendar and social norms related to safety and social distancing.

Communication

You may have to miss meetings from time to time. Communicate proactively with your admin and you should be fine, but you need to make the effort to regularly participate and be available on a regular basis. The district is concerned about teachers who appear to be non-responsive, regularly fail to participate in meetings, and do not respond to admin attempts to check in. We will guard against harsh discipline and continue to talk with CPS about this, but being a “no show” or non-communicative with admin or colleagues could be a red flag.

Make your best effort to be communicative and participatory, and immediately communicate personal and/or family needs if you cannot comply with something.

Evaluation

We have come to an agreement with CPS on how to move forward with evaluation for teachers and PSRPs. Unfortunately, CPS retracted its original agreement to not issue any ratings for school year 2019–2020 and claimed it was a miscommunication. We were able to bargain for an agreement, however, where no one will be punished with a bad rating without adequate observation.

There is also additional protection in place for vulnerable Probationary Appointed Teachers (PATs/untenured teachers), and also for tenured teachers. The vast majority of those teachers will simply extend their current evaluation cycle through next school year 2020-2021. The breakdown for all is below, and CPS has provided SY20 Teacher Evaluation Reference Table for additional guidance.

Read more about Evaluation under remote learning.

PSRPs

We are in ongoing conversations with CPS about PSRP, clinician and special education duties and responsibilities. Our member leaders, staff and officers are advocating for the most fair and appropriate outcomes as we are at home trying to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PSRPs are essential to our school communities, and we continue to demand their safety and guard against the possibility of future layoffs. Clerks are to remain at home, and CPS is working with principals on ways to provide them the resources to work remotely. Continue to request devices from principals, and log into the MemberLink portal for additional remote learning information provided to principals from CPS on school clerk duties.

  • PSRPs will
    not receive new evaluation ratings for SY2019-20.
  • For the purposes of determining layoffs (Appendix I Section 1(c)), CPS will use employees’ most recent evaluation rating. Employees who have no prior rating, including new PSRPs this year, will be assumed to be Proficient.
  • Otherwise, all other provisions of Appendix I remain in effect.

PAT Ratings

  • PATs who received three contractually required observations and post-conferences by March 13, 2020, will receive a summative rating based on 100% practice.
  • PATs who did not receive three contractually required observations will default to a Proficient rating, except PAT3s who have two consecutive prior ratings of Excellent will default to Excellent (to preserve their path to expedited tenure).

PAT Non Renewal

  • PATs who received three contractually required observations and post-conferences by March 13, 2020, who are projected as Emerging Developing (REACH score of 210 – 250) or Unsatisfactory (209 and below), and PATs who received
    two observations and associated post-conferences by March 13, 2020, who are projected as Unsatisfactory, are eligible for non-renewal by the principal.
  • Principals are
    not required to non-renew these PATs. Non-renewal is an annual process where untenured teachers can be asked to leave their school, and must look for another position. Principals choose whether an eligible PAT is asked to leave their school or not.
  • Under normal conditions, all PATs with any Developing and Unsatisfactory ratings are eligible for non-renewal. The Union fought to severely restrict which PATs are eligible, and for additional options for employment (below).
  • Even though eligible for non-renewal, if a teacher has fewer than three completed observations per “PAT Ratings” section above, their rating will be Proficient and the year will count toward tenure attainment.
  • In all cases, non-renewed PATs in SY20 will be offered a position as a cadre substitute for the duration of the SY21 school year. Cadre substitutes are eligible for pay every day, plus benefits. This is a new benefit secured by the Union that is normally not afforded for any non-renewed PATs during this pandemic. Non-renewed PATs may still look for full-time teaching jobs and be hired at different schools as well for SY20-21.

Tenured Annual Plans

  • Tenured annual teachers who received three contractually required observations and associated post-conferences on or before March 13, 2020, will receive the higher of (a) their summative rating based on 100% practice (observations only) from SY20 observations, or (b) their most recent rating from the previous year.
  • Tenured annual teachers who did
    not receive three contractually required observations and associated post-conferences on or before March 13, 2020, will receive their summative rating after SY20-21 (a full year later), using the two highest formal observations and highest third observation from SY19-20 and SY20-21. Principals will be required to complete at least one additional observation in SY20-21.

Tenured Biennial Plans

  • Tenured teachers on Year 1 of their plan:
    • If teachers received at least one contractually required formal observation and associated post-conference on or before March 13, 2020, during SY19-20, their evaluation plan will move to Year 2 in SY20-21, per normal practice.
    • If teachers did not receive a contractually required formal observation and associated post-conference on or before March 13, 2020, during SY19-20, their biennial evaluation plan will
      restart in SY20-21, also per normal practice.
  • Tenured teachers on Year 2 of their plan:
    • If teachers received all contractually required observations and associated post-conferences on or before March 13, 2020, their summative rating will be issued based on SY19 and SY20 available data, per normal practice,
      but in no event less than a Developing rating (so no final summative Unsatisfactory ratings will be issued). The teacher will start a new evaluation plan next SY20-21.
    • If teachers did
      not receive all contractually required observations and associated post-conferences on or before March 13, 2020, they will receive a summative rating in SY20-21 (a full year later) using the two highest formal observations and highest third observation from SY18-19, 19-20 and 20-21. Principals will be required to complete at least one additional observation in SY20-21.

4b-4e Ratings

  • Completion of 4b-4e remains optional. Educators who will receive a final summative rating for SY 19-20, based on the above, are encouraged—but not required—to enter 4b-4e evidence. Educators who will not receive a final summative rating for SY 19-20 based on the above may enter evidence which CPS will archive for review by their evaluator next school year when these educators are due to receive a rating.

Contact With Students and Parents

CPS changed its Google Meet policy and sent new guidance documents. Via Google Meet, members now have access to live, group two-way video with students and families, and also to one-way lecture-style streaming video. Social workers, psychologists, nurses, SLPs, OTs, PTs and counselors have been given permission to use live two-way video tools 1:1 with students. These members should, of course, use these tools to enable their ability to support students and also should exercise caution. Video is not required and phone or Google calls are acceptable in addition to email and other platforms for written communication. Teachers are not supposed to use two-way video 1:1 with students and should work to have another appropriate adult present (e.g. parent, TA, SECA) if a 1:1 setting might occur.

CPS is working on expanding the platforms available for parent contact, and you should receive updated information soon.

Live instruction & Recording of virtual meetings or instruction

Two hours daily of live or in real time student instruction is required, however, how teachers engage with students and one what live platforms is still up to them. It is not required that teachers use live two-way video to conduct live daily instruction. Obviously, connecting with students and maintaining relationships is of the utmost importance so educators should consider what two-way live instruction they are comfortable doing, however it is not required.

Recording of meetings and instruction is not required. No virtual meetings should be recorded without the consent of all participants. CPS is encouraging teachers to record instruction to the extent possible and comfortable for students who may not be able to participate live, but could watch a recording later. Educators, however are not required to record instruction but should ensure they are trying to support students who cannot participate live.

CPS sent in an email on Sunday, April 12, suggestions for privacy caveats during live instruction including that no participants should take photos or record without consent and that visitors should not participate in live instruction with students. CTU continues to have concerns about member, parental, and student rights and encourages members to reach out with specific issues needing to be addressed.

Parents should consider the advice of our ally parent organization Illinois Families for Public Schools about student privacy rights, which can be found on the IFPS website.

Attendance

There is no expectation to take attendance for students, but do try to touch base with students weekly. If you cannot reach certain students, make note so you know who is not in contact if admin asks.

Specials teachers with many students should try to make contact and interact on a schedule more like their in-person school rotation.

Devices and Internet access

We know how challenging this period is in so many ways, but particularly because the digital divide continues to be real. We know that remote learning will not solve inequities and we do want more of our students able to access remote learning in this period to the best of their abilities. CPS has tasked individual school principals to plan and coordinate distribution of approximately 100,000 devices to students for remote learning. Distribution includes that of existing devices already in schools and will eventually include some new devices that are on order. CPS expects distribution to continue over the next 2-3 weeks. The district also reported that it asked principals to report student needs, and we offered to be helpful in this regard, pointing out that our members can also help identify students and families with needs. If you know of a student or family with device needs, please communicate it to your administrator and request support for them.

Some schools have already rolled out device distribution plans and others are in the works. According to the CPS guidance document on Device Distribution, principals may ask 2-3 people to volunteer (no additional pay will be offered to staff who volunteer) to help with distribution of devices. We know that in most cases principals asked Technology Coordinators to help with distribution and Technology Coordinator may certainly volunteer, but it is up to them as to whether they can volunteer. A staff member who is not comfortable with volunteering should not be compelled or required to do so. We appreciate the need for help to accomplish this, and it is important to share that CPS does not, at this time, have a plan to provide or distribute face coverings or gloves to schools for device distribution. Volunteers may want to bring their own or work with the local school principal on safety protections and materials not already outlined in the CPS guidance document. The CPS guidance includes how distribution should be staged to support social distancing and hand sanitizer will be provided by schools to use as needed during distribution.

Teachers or other educators needing a device should also contact their administrator. CPS says it has been empowered to redistribute “existing assets” for loan to teachers needing, for example, a working laptop. We are still concerned there will not be enough devices available for educators who need to shift to remote learning, but please make sure you make the request using CPS email to your administration so we can track responses.

Hard copies of remote learning materials: CPS has centralized learning packets that principals can copy for families without devices. Teachers can also work with admin to provide materials that admin can copy every 2-3 weeks to provide for families to pick up at food pick-up (can be discussed in PPC). CPS has compiled some recommendations on how to acquire free or nearly free internet during this period.

Grading

Grading

Fourth Quarter Grades

»NEW April 27, 2020«
We have been in dialogue with CPS about fourth-quarter grades. CPS continues to equate grades with learning and motivation. While we know there is a relationship between these things, they are not equivalent.

In a global pandemic, we should seek the maximum grace and support for our students, whose lives and circumstances vary widely. We have advocated that district grading policy be set to meet the need of

Training

CPS provided a link to a training calendar for educators in the CPS guidance document on page 20 or in the Professional Learning and Support Opportunities for Remote Learning spreadsheet. The district says training will be available ASAP on Google Suite platforms, among other supports. We know it will not be enough. The CTUF Quest Center is offering online courses at discounted rates as well.

Other educators and topics

CTU leadership and staff have been working with rank and file non-teacher members about what guidance during remote learning would be appropriate and is continuing to talk with CPS about how these CTU members can best contribute right now. The CPS Remote Learning guidance encourages teachers, teacher assistants and SECAs to stay in contact and continue to collaborate around staying in touch with the students and families on their rosters. CPS has not planned any detailed guidance yet for PSRPs, clinicians and counselors at this time, but the Union agrees that PSRPs should be included, and we are making sure their ability to contribute to remote learning is respected.

CTU nurses, counselors and clinicians are working together to make recommendations for their work and are available to colleagues to help support student and family needs. We know our members will try to reach students, parents and colleagues who could benefit from their support and services. We will continue to talk with CPS about how these CTU members can best contribute right now.

With CPS SEL guidance currently limited, members in a position to make recommendations to their admin and colleagues via PPC or other means should offer how they can support while further guidance is developed. We have encouraged all members to do well-being checks with their students and families, and we welcome our clinicians and counselors taking the lead on that.

The Union suggested school clerks be contacted for office and admin support for the “office hours” that CPS is trying to provide. This will aid families in reaching someone from a school community who can register their question or concern, and either answer it right away or ensure that their issue is passed on to the right person to address in a timely manner. This is not final, and we continue to be in discussion with CPS.

CPS guidance has some recommendations for support that STLS liaisons can offer, and we have some on the CTU website as well. This is critical work right now, and we encourage liaisons to take this on and ask for help from social workers and counselors.

Stipends/Coaches

»NEW April 27, 2020«
We have also secured with CPS (as already affirmed by ISBE) that stipended work will continue to be paid including coaching stipends, 6th high school class overtimes, STLS and interpreter stipends and more. CPS encourages these educator to make “reasonable efforts to continue associated duties for those stipends.” CTU members should do their best to conduct virtual stipends work, but you are entitled to your payments. We will continue to be in communication with CPS to ensure payments are made appropriately.

Union activities

  • Each school should engage in twice-monthly (or as needed) PPC meetings to address any administrative overreach or unrealistic application of remote learning guidelines.
  • Delegates, PPCs and PPLCs should engage in courteous and professional email communication with administrators to clarify administrative directives and to suggest alternatives when those directives are onerous or unrealistic.
  • Engage in virtual union meetings using platforms like Zoom, conference calls, etc.
  • School communities should consider re-activating their CATs to ensure regular support and communication with each member.
  • The CTU COVID-19 resource page is full of resources to assist and support parents and families experiencing hardship, loss of income, illness, etc.

Reimbursement of $250 for Supply Funds

»NEW April 27, 2020«
Many CTU educators have had to buy extra resources to stay effective during remote learning. Remember that all teachers, counselors, clinicians and speech-language paraeducators in district-run schools can still be reimbursed up to $250 in supply money, thanks to Article 7-6 of our contract.

Submitting receipts

Within 60 calendar days of purchase or before the end of this fiscal year (whichever comes first), you must both submit your reimbursement request to your administrator and enter it into SAW—”Service Anywhere.” The Act of God days and Remote Learning Days do not change this requirement.

As remote learning continues through the end of the school year (and is fast approaching), we suggest you immediately turn in any receipts you may have for reimbursement. If you haven’t spent the full $250 and plan to spend those funds going forward, then you must submit those receipts for reimbursement within 60 days of the date on the receipt. If you do miss the 60-day window, we can file a grievance for the money, but your payment will be delayed.

Specific updates and notable reminders

  1. If your receipts are in your school building because you made the purchase before March 17—when the schools closed—you should contact your administrator to ask how they can be retrieved. If you’re denied access to the building or told that the receipts can’t be found, make a note of that and contact your field representative.
  2. If you bought cleaning and hygiene supplies for your school or classroom, CPS says they will provide reimbursement for those supplies in addition to the $250. If you haven’t submitted those receipts, do so immediately. Please complete our short survey so we can track the issue throughout the district.
  3. If you haven’t spent the entire $250 yet and aren’t sure how much of the $250 remains for reimbursement, contact your School Clerk or administrator to verify the remaining balance.

Advocating for Policy Updates

CTU continues to advocate for CPS to modify the reimbursement policy to accurately reflect educators’ needs during remote learning:

  1. Since many educators submit reimbursements for the full $250 within the first few weeks of school, the CTU urged CPS to provide additional funds for purchases made during remote learning. We recommend that PPCs work with staff to track staff purchases during this time and discuss with administration how they can provide reimbursement. With schools closed to traditional programming, some school funds may be eligible for redistribution to supply reimbursement.
  2. Similarly, CTU has asked CPS to temporarily expand the list of approved reimbursable expenses to cover any purchased made during this time that may be necessary due to remote learning. CPS has not provided a formal response to this request, so we are recommending that staff hold onto receipts in the event they are eventually eligible for reimbursement.
  3. Regarding planning for supply money purchases for the 2020–21 school year, until CPS announces an official date for schools to re-open, it may be advisable to delay purchases for next school year unless they are for items that can be used for either in-person or remote-learning.
  4. CTU will post any additional supply money and other updates on the COVID-19 Information and Advocacy Page.

Article 7-6. Supply Money

Each Fiscal Year, the BOARD shall appropriate sufficient funds to each school or unit to reimburse teachers, counselors, clinicians and speech-language paraeducators up to $250.00 per employee for instructional supplies and materials, classroom library books and therapeutic materials purchased by them for student instruction and support. Principals and head administrators shall approve the reimbursements in accordance with the procedures developed by BOARD, and such reimbursements shall be paid by the end of the semester in which the receipts were submitted.