It's been 16 years since the Mayor's Office took control of the Chicago Public Schools. And while reforms have been enacted, they haven't gone far enough. Polls suggest that the voters want action and they want it fast.
There are some concrete steps that can be taken immediately; some of which Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has proposed himself:
Extend the school day.
Almost 80 percent of the voters polled in a Chicago Tribune poll were in favor. It can have immediate impact on student performance. Emanuel has suggested that by extending the school day two-and-a-half hours, that time could be focused on academics and the arts. The teachers union must agree to extend the day to a full eight hours.
Name an effective superintendent.
Appoint an individual who can drive the major reforms that are needed, and organize and effectively run this large school district with major budget cuts looming.
Improve teacher performance in the classroom.
Let's develop a fair and comprehensive evaluation process, which will reward our strong teachers and move out the ineffective ones more quickly. And if we must make difficult lay-off decisions, let's make them on performance, not on "first in, first out."
Appoint a new school board.
Let's get effective reformers that can represent the strong feelings of parents, teachers and principals -- and ensure that these people can move the needle.
Fulfill the stated goal to incentivize every school principal.
We must re-invigorate our principals to improve their individual school's program.
Get parents involved in school reform.
Lastly, and most importantly, Emanuel has emphasized that the parents must play a major role in school reform. His idea? For our city to institute a parent-teacher contract at the start of every year.
In my opinion, it's time for the city leaders and the mayor-elect to demand action and stop the years of lip service. It's time to create an environment for success in the city schools of Chicago.