As union battles for contract that enshrines smaller class sizes, well-resourced schools and real equity, CTU calls on board to end discriminatory measurement instead of revising failed formula.
CHICAGO—Among the items on the agenda today of Mayor Lighfoot’s new CPS’ board of education is revisions to CPS’ School Quality Rating Policy, the district’s policy for measuring annual school performance. It’s a contentious topic in the CTU’s bargaining for a new contract, because the policy—which ranks schools on a scale from 1+ to the lowest score of three, is based on flawed metrics that undercut some of the city’s most under-resourced South and West Side schools.
At today’s board meeting, the CTU will call on the board to not just reject CPS’ proposed revisions to the flawed metric, but move to abolish it altogether.
CTU teachers, PSRPs and clinicians will join students, parents and allies at a 9:30AM rally and press conference TODAY, Wednesday, June 26 before the board meeting at CPS headquarters at 42 W. Madison St. Demands are anchored around the call to the new board to take immediate steps to provide the educational equity that voters were promised during the mayoral campaign. And while the CTU bargains with CPS to enshrine equity-based policies in the union’s contract, which expires on June 30, nothing prevents the board from ending both SQRP and the former mayor’s deeply regressive student-based budgeting scheme today.
SQRP measures a limited number of outputs—primarily test scores and attendance—but ignores inputs like poverty or overcrowded classes. Results correlate with socioeconomic status and race, and are silent on critical issues like school culture or how children are learning. A few extra days of student absence, for example, can push a school into a higher—or lower—ranking.
The district’s own data shows more higher-ranked schools in wealthier neighborhoods, where critical issues like housing instability have less impact on measures for attendance. Yet while SQRP is supposed to provide lower-ranking schools with “targeted or intensive support”, that ‘support’ often never comes, and scores can instead put schools at risk of even less resources or even closure.
CPS recently awarded 32 schools “expanded” programs like International Baccalaureate, STEM, World Language, Fine and Performing Arts, and Career and Technical Education, touting these initiatives as “high-quality academic programming”. Yet for 110 schools whose SQRP identified them as needing intensive or provisional support, only four were among the 32 schools chosen for these ‘high-quality’ academic programs.
Most low-ranking schools also lack librarians—or even libraries—in neighborhoods where few parents can afford to bankroll home libraries. Most of these schools will be visited by a school nurse at most only one day a week, despite students’ high level of risk for health problems that range from asthma to lead exposure. And most of these schools struggle with severe shortages of social workers, school psychologists, special education teachers, bilingual education instruction, counselors and other critical frontline staff for Black and Brown students with high levels of trauma, poverty and disadvantage.
The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability analyzed the difference between actual school budgets for 2017 and what the state’s funding formula indicates individual schools actually need. For schools needing “intensive” or “provisional” support according to CPS’ SQRP measure, CPS spent $233 million LESS on those schools than the state assessed as necessary.
High stakes testing has also forced teachers to ‘teach to the test’, robbing some of the city’s most disadvantaged students of access to genuine instruction.
The CTU is bargaining instead for an expansion of the Sustainable Community Schools pilot that the union won in its current contract—a proven program for helping struggling schools rather than forcing them into a cycle of disinvestment and closure.
The CTU is also demanding that the board of education immediately end Emanuel’s student-based budgeting scheme, which defies the state’s 2017 equity-based school funding formula. The new state formula is structured to direct more funding to students most in need. Ending SBB would channel more funds and support to high-poverty schools—often the same schools targeted by low SQRP rankings.