Chicago Teachers Benefit From School Staffing Policies, Study Finds

Although schools in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district face many challenges common to urban school districts in their efforts to secure high-quality teachers, they also benefit significantly from an unusually effective set of school staffing policies, a report from the New Teacher Project finds.

Funded by the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, the report, Hiring, Assignment, and Transfer in Chicago Public Schools (68 pages, PDF), includes a detailed examination of the Chicago Teachers Union contract with CPS, as well as interviews with school principals and district administrators, and surveys of principals, teachers, and prospective teachers. While the report is critical of Chicago's teacher evaluation system, noting that only three in a thousand teachers are rated as "unsatisfactory" and that 88 percent of CPS schools — even those in which students are not succeeding — have not issued a single unsatisfactory rating in the past four years, it commends CPS for hiring teachers based on "mutual consent," meaning teachers cannot be slotted into jobs unless they fully accept the position and principals are not forced to hire teachers they don't want.

The report also suggests that Chicago is able to attract a large applicant pool of prospective teachers, though it loses quality candidates who grow frustrated with a late hiring timeline. According to the report, while the majority of teachers and principals are satisfied with the current transfer and reassignment processes, top-performing teachers are vulnerable to being displaced because of a reassignment policy based on seniority rather than teacher quality or school fit. Moreover, the current CPS teacher performance evaluation system does not distinguish strong performers and is ineffective at identifying poor performers and dismissing them from Chicago schools.

"We commend Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union for their hard work on behalf of teachers and students," said Ariela Rozman, CEO of the New Teacher Project. "Although there is certainly room for improvement, in our judgment Chicago is one of the nation's leading urban school districts in terms of the implementation of staffing policies and procedures that put the needs of students first. Chicago's success in this respect is the direct result of the commitment and collaboration of CPS and the CTU."