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Chicago Public Schools, like much of the nation, is in the middle of an acute labor shortage. Educators are already desperately overworked and do not need the additional burden of high-stakes, high-stress teacher and clinician REACH evaluation or PSRP evaluation. While the Illinois State Board of Education said that school districts are under no obligation to engage in evaluation under the extraordinary circumstances of this academic year, most districts are still running evaluations in some form.

But there is no such thing as “normal” evaluation in a year that is anything but normal, and through bargaining and your advocacy, CPS moved from its original position, which was to evaluate all Chicago Teachers Union members. The district will instead limit the scope and impact of REACH evaluation for the majority of rank and file this year.

Here’s a snapshot of what CPS has agreed to with regard to evaluation for this 2021-2022 school year:

Teachers/Clinicians

  • A small number of tenured teachers and clinicians (under a dozen) who received an Unsatisfactory rating in SY 18-19 will begin the contractual remediation process (Article 39-8), which has been on pause since the pandemic began in the spring of 2020.
  • Any tenured teachers or clinicians who received a Developing rating in SY 18-19 who choose to go forward with REACH this year and be evaluated — because they want to be evaluated, believe they can get a Proficient this year and then move off of their Professional Development Plan — will be evaluated. Watch for details on how to indicate if you choose to be evaluated this year.
  • All untenured teachers (i.e. PATs) will be evaluated this year under REACH. Only PATs who are projected to receive a Developing or Unsatisfactory rating at the end of the year will be eligible for non-renewal (per existing contract Article 23-4.2/4.3) and must be notified of such non-renewal no later than May 10.
    • Remember that untenured teachers must work 150 days for this school year to count toward tenure.
    • Untenured teachers who do not receive all of their required REACH observations this school year will still receive a default Proficient rating (which counts toward tenure per Article 39-2.4).
  • There will be no value-added student growth measure in any REACH ratings this year (as NWEA is not in use this year). All teachers being evaluated (per above) will have student growth scores from their two REACH Performance Tasks.
  • The CPS, CTU/CTUF Quest and CTU-CPS Joint REACH Committee will work to support individuals being evaluated by the REACH teacher/clinician evaluation process.
  • The CTU-CPS Joint REACH Committee will also have power to establish best practices that ensure educators are not evaluated under unfair extenuating language (including, but not limited to, not being observed the day after a class returns from quarantine, during any remote instruction or after disruptions due to community violence).

PSRPS

  • Probationary PSRPs will be evaluated this year under their evaluation procedure as well.
  • Additionally, PSRPs may CHOOSE to be evaluated this year by submitting a self-assessment. Only those tenured PSRPs who submit a self-assessment will be evaluated this year. Details to come on how to indicate if you choose to be evaluated this year.

Finally, and importantly, CPS has agreed to allocate $10 million to address staffing and classroom coverage, including compensation for missed teacher prep time, compensation for teaching covering additional classes, miscellaneous employees, cadre positions and expanding the substitute teacher pool (with a priority on cadre positions) — all through strategies developed by agreement with the CPS-CTU Joint Staffing Committee on Equity.

This means that CPS must spend money on additional solutions to the ongoing and acute substitute teacher crisis.

Be clear: REACH is inequitable at its core. It is arbitrary, punitive and unfair, and has a disproportionately negative impact on Black teachers. We will continue to advocate for changes to the law that requires evaluation, and to REACH contractual processes. But, even still, we have tools to protect members’ rights and support our rank and file, ranging from pulling together and supporting one another and ensuring our colleagues who are evaluated are embraced and mentored by members not being evaluated, to grievances when principals abuse the Process and Appeals rights that remain in our contract.

The CTU Grievance Department has more than a decade of experience in dealing with unfair REACH evaluation, and you can find your field rep on our website at ctulocal.org/reps.

We’ve created the We Care New Teachers/Clinicians Coaching and Mentoring Program to support and sustain new educators and clinicians as they sharpen their teaching and clinical skills in the early years of their careers. Share information about this program with your PATs so we can get them the support they need. We’ll also be organizing support for members who are undergoing evaluation this year, so watch your email for more information.

The mayor is pushing punitive policies that do nothing to address the critical needs of our school communities. Instead, her CPS leadership team should focus on collaborating with educators to support and sustain students and families. This is a struggle we shouldn’t have to undertake in a pandemic. Fortunately, we have years of experience in successfully fighting to support our members, through our unity and commitment to the schools our students deserve.