Teacher strike felt at home

ROCK ISLAND – Rock Island High School teachers discussed a new teacher evaluation coming for all Illinois public teachers Monday.

The teachers are concerned about The Performance Evaluation Reform Act or (PERA). It passed the Illinois legislature in January of 2010. It’s one of the things Chicago public schoolteachers are striking about as well. It will check part of a teacher’s performance on his or her student’s standardized test scores.

“So who’s suffering because of all this? The teachers or the students?” Rocky teacher Rachel Landsness said.

The strike is disappointing to area teachers, but they also understand why the Chicago teachers are striking. The teachers want better salary and benefits for Chicago Public Schoolteachers alone, but the evaluations will also affect public school teachers in all of Illinois.

“Teachers aren’t the only factor into the equation,” Illinois Educator’s Association Member Bob Smith said.

But some teachers think this new evaluation puts too much emphasis on a child’s test score. They also think not as much emphasis is being put on the child’s background or upbringing.

“We have the kids from when they come here in the morning and until they leave here in the afternoon,” Smith said. “That’s it.”

Smith has worked at Rocky for 20 years now. But under PERA, even tenured teachers who score poorly on the evaluation could lose their jobs. That’s why some tenured teachers are worried.

“But I guess if you’re not doing the job, then I guess you shouldn’t be getting paid for it either,” Landsness said.

Many tenured teachers did not want to speak about the issue Monday. Many do not want the current system changed. Landsness believes there’s a better way to grade a teacher’s performance than PERA though.

“I see teachers getting in at 6 o’clock in the morning and then staying until 6 o’clock at night,” Landsness said. “But yet, are those people getting paid more than the one who gets right in before the bell rings and leaves right after the bell rings?”

The Chicago Teacher’s Union along with Chicago Public Schools are supposed to go back to the negotiating table Tuesday. PERA does not have to be in effect until 2015-2016.

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