Urban educators across the country ask: How is it that the public, the press and the politicians have decided that they are indeed the enemy? That they should be replaced with cheaper, less experienced and less well trained staff in schools and school systems serving the neediest students, students who deserve that expertise and experience the most?
These questions led to the survey and interviews undertaken during the 2011-2012 school year in Chicago by Deborah Lynch, Assistant Professor of Graduate Studies in the Chicago State University's (CSU) College of Education. Her study, approved by the CSU Institutional Review Board, was designed to understand the challenges facing urban teachers today, to detail their response to the changing public perception of urban school and teachers, and to capture their recommendations from the front lines for improving and enhancing and improving urban public education.
Over 2300 teachers responded to the survey, about ten percent of Chicago's teaching force. From March through June, 2012, over one hundred of the respondents were interviewed. Though the survey was completely anonymous, the last survey question invited respondents to provide their contact information if they were interested and willing to participate in an interview to further discuss the survey questions. Over 600 respondents (25 percent of the 2,300) indicated their willingness to be interviewed.
By June 2012, 101 of those teachers were interviewed in one-on-one interviews averaging 40 minutes each. Interviews were conducted either by telephone or in person, based on the respondent’s preference. While approximately 60 percent of the interviews were conducted by telephone, the rest were conducted in schools, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and even in teachers’ homes. The very large percentage of respondents willing to be identified and interviewed suggested a strong desire to participate and be heard, which was confirmed in the individual interviews. Teachers specifically reported a desire to “being heard”, “to have an opportunity to have a voice” and “to take advantage of any venue to be heard.” They expressed sincere hope that the public would be willing to listen to what they had to say.