Recently I visited a teacher friend of mine who used to work at Marquette Elementary School on the southwest side of Chicago. Upon hearing the news that Marquette was to be turned around by AUSL, she felt compelled to write the following letter.
On Behalf of my Former Colleagues at Marquette Elementary,
I am a 2001 graduate of CPS, and Marquette Elementary was my introduction to teaching in the Chicago Public School system. In my time there, the most inspiring and helpful people were my fellow teachers. CPS’s decision to turnaround this school belittles and dismisses the fact that the faculty there is a hardworking and dedicated group and ignores the true needs of the community.
While there, I was surrounded by colleagues who arrived early and left late. Colleagues who used their own money to help their students be successful in class. Colleagues who visited students’ homes to help build better relationships with students, parents and the community. I was always encouraged to search for and continue my professional development. My colleagues taught me how to use data to plan engaging and responsive lessons, as well as how to keep working in spite of the overwhelming odds against my students and by extension, myself.
If it hadn’t been for my colleagues, I wouldn’t have learned how to deal with an often demeaning administration or how to meet the area office requirements (which often had more to do with how my classroom looked physically, rather than how it operated as a learning environment).
By turning around Marquette, CPS is getting rid of its most valuable assets in the community: the teachers who have built bonds and an understanding of the problems Marquette students face every day. They do not sit in an office and make policies based solely on numbers; they see the actual students affected by those numbers and policies.
Dismissing the faculty also validates the -politically valuable and acceptable, but completely inaccurate- idea that if a school is performing poorly, those to blame must be the teachers. Yet, CPS has failed to acknowledge that at Marquette, poverty and violence make education secondary to survival.
Closing this school, dismissing its teachers and making it harder for students in the community to get to their place of education will only make things more difficult for every student affected. CPS must look beyond the numbers at the real people and children whom your policies are supposed to be helping.