Statement by Amy Wilkins, Vice President of The Education Trust, On The Chicago Teachers Strike

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Publication date: 
September 10 2012

WASHINGTON (September 10, 2012) — Overall, the Chicago teachers strike is deeply upsetting. But it is especially tragic for the low-income students who don’t have a moment of academic time to waste. 

This strike needs to end now. And the agreement that ends it needs to be one that creates conditions to boost Chicago’s dismal achievement, particularly among its low-income students. 

In announcing the strike, Karen Lewis, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, argued that children living in poverty or other difficult circumstances cannot be expected to perform well. But reams of evidence and a growing number of high-performing, high-poverty public schools tell us that is just not true. When children — including poor children — are taught to high levels by strong, well-supported teachers, children achieve at high levels.  

There’s no denying that poverty does matter. But what educators do in the face of poverty matters a lot. And when educators give in to myths of low academic potential for poor students, they not only condemn those students to limited futures but abdicate the enormous power that they have to change their life trajectories. 

For too long, too many Americans have accepted the myth that poor performance in schools is just a natural byproduct of impoverished neighborhoods. That Lewis would perpetuate that myth strongly suggests that she fails to take seriously the high price the city’s most vulnerable students are paying during this strike — or the costs they will pay for an agreement that fails to create better learning opportunities for them.

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