Evaluations at heart of Chicago teacher strike also issue in NC

Posted September 11, 2012 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated September 11, 2012 6:55 p.m. EDT

— One of the main sticking points in negotiations for a new contract for Chicago school teachers is also an issue in North Carolina.

Some education reformers, including President Barack Obama, want teachers to be evaluated in part on how much their students improve. Critics say that relying too much on standardized test scores doesn't take into account other factors, including poverty, that could affect student performance.

"When you put that pressure on teachers, some teachers who are unethical feel like we need to do whatever we can to keep our jobs," said Kathryn Bauman-Hill, a third-grade teacher at Swift Creek Elementary School in Raleigh.

Bauman-Hill used to work in the pro-union states of New Jersey and Maryland and said she misses the rights that teachers unions in those states helped secure.

"We can't get raises. We can't get rights. If you're supposed to work overtime, then you have to work overtime, or you lose your job," she said.

North Carolina is one of the few states that prohibits collective bargaining by public employees and makes strikes by teachers or other public workers a misdemeanor crime.

House Majority Leader Paul Stam said the time has come for North Carolina to treat teachers more like private-sector employees and provide successful ones with merit pay linked to performance evaluations.

"We've done very well by our teachers not to reduce their salaries (during tight budgets)," said Stam, R-Wake. "Public school teachers have been protected more than any others."

Stam criticized the striking Chicago teachers, saying, "Professionals don't abandon their clients, their patients, their customers."

North Carolina Association of Educators President Rodney Ellis agreed that the 2-day-old strike "paints a bad light on educators and the work we do."

Still, Ellis said, "At the end of the day, we always have to make the best decisions for the students."

Bauman-Hill said she wouldn't take to the streets like the frustrated educators in Chicago.

"We are not in this professional to make money. We are in this profession because we love children," she said, adding that she respects the stance the Chicago Teachers Union has taken.

"The unions are creating an environment where it is acceptable to teach and where you feel valued as a professional," she said.