CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel secured an extension of Chicago's school day and empowered principals to hire the teachers they want. Teachers were able to soften a new evaluation process and win some job protections.

As students returned to the classroom Wednesday after a seven-day teachers strike, both sides found reasons to celebrate victory. But neither the school-reform movement nor organized labor achieved the decisive breakthrough it had sought. And whether the implications extend beyond Chicago may depend on the next case having a similar cast of characters and political pressures.

Unions hoped the walkout would prove they were still relevant, and some reform groups were disappointed with the city's concessions.

At times, the contract talks seemed overshadowed by personalities, with the mayor and union leaders occasionally trading insults and questioning each other's motives.

Still, everyone involved in the dispute emerged with an achievement to trumpet: Teachers said the strike sparked an important national conversation about school reform. Union activists said it helped inspire public employee unions that have been losing ground. Emanuel declared it a boon for students trapped in failing schools.

The president of the American Federation of Teachers said the strike showed that teachers want a voice in improving schools rather than shouldering the blame for those that are failing.

"The bottom line is ... you had teachers standing up for what they need to teach and what students need to learn," Randi Weingarten said, citing concerns about school closings, standardized tests and a lack of classroom resources that are common across the U.S.

But in lots of places, the circumstances that led to Chicago's walkout don't apply. For one thing, many states forbid strikes by teachers and other public-employee unions. Some teachers unions and school districts have been able to work collaboratively to achieve changes, in sharp contrast to the clash in Chicago, a union-built town where organized labor still wields considerable power but new mayor is seeking more control over education.

"I think a lot of what went on to a certain extent is peculiar to Chicago," said Martin Malin, director of the Institute for Law and the Workplace at the Kent College of Law in Chicago.

Thomas Hatch, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, said the strike focused attention on teacher evaluations and fears of closing neighborhood schools. But he agreed that some factors, such as the combative personalities, are unlikely to affect other districts.

A report that characterized the relationship between the teachers union and Emanuel as "toxic" was on point, Malin said. Now that a deal has been reached, the challenge for both parties "is to seize that and work on rally transforming the relationship."

Meanwhile, Chicago children returned to school Wednesday, a day after union delegates voted overwhelmingly to end the strike, which idled 350,000 students. The proposed contract will now be put to a vote of the full membership of more than 26,000 teachers and support staffers.

Iquasai Carpenter, a home health care worker with two children in elementary school, said her kids did homework packets at home during the strike.

"They missed school. They missed their teachers. They missed their friends," she said as she dropped them off for class.

She sympathized with teachers and said they deserved pay raises. She didn't like the idea of the new evaluations that take student test scores into account, but she was glad the union negotiated down what percentage would be factored in. If students don't progress, she said, it isn't always the teachers' fault.

Reform advocates were not all impressed with the deal Emanuel agreed to.

B. Jason Brooks, director of research at the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, said Emanuel did not win much reform "and unions clearly came out the winners."

Other states, he said, base up to 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation on student performance, while Chicago's evaluation is limited to 30 percent, the same amount set in state law. He believes a provision allowing teachers whose schools close to follow students to the receiving schools was a bad idea.

"I don't really feel like this moves the needle in a significant way," he said, saying the union chose to strike – and Emanuel to settle quickly – because President Barack Obama, a Chicagoan and Democrat, is counting on union support to win re-election.

Brooks said unions nationally "were looking for something to claim as a victory, and I think this gives them what they looking for," he said. "But as the country looked at this, it might have reinforced the notion that unions are standing in the way of turning around the lowest-performing schools."

The nation's last big-city teachers strike happened in Detroit in 2006. Chicago teachers had not walked out since 1987.

"It's been a really long time since a major urban district went on strike," said Christine Campbell, a policy director at the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education.

As for unions, "It certainly gave them attention and power that two weeks ago people weren't really considering."

She said the improvements will make the mayor look good in the long run and demonstrated that unions still matter.

She wasn't sure that such a strike could be replicated in other cities, something she attributed to the local figures involved.

"The personalities are spiciest in Chicago right now," she said.

___

Associated Press Writer Jason Keyser contributed to this report.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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    Leslie Sabbs-Kizer, right, walks her children Nkai Melton, 8, Akaira Melton, 7, and Khaymya Smith, 3 to Bond Elementary school in Chicago, for the first day of classes Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Students gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy , Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012 in Chicago, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Two students hug, right, as they gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Students walk through the gates outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy, Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Students gather outside Benjamin E. Mays Academy Wednesday morning, Sept. 19, 2012, after Chicago teachers voted to suspend their first strike in 25 years. Union delegates voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to suspend the walkout after discussing a proposed contract settlement with the nation's third largest school district. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Rahm Emanuel, Jean-Claud Brizard, David Vitale

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  • Karen Lewis

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  • Members of the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates celebrate after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city's teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Tennille Evans

    Tennille Evans, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates, celebrates after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city's teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Mary Edmonds

    Mary Edmonds, a member of the Chicago Teachers Union's House of Delegates, celebrates after the delegates voted to suspend the strike against the school district Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in Chicago. The city's teachers agreed to return to the classroom after more than a week on the picket lines, ending a spiteful stalemate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that put teacher evaluations and job security at the center of a national debate about the future of public education. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Teachers picket outside Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, as a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union continues into its second week. CTU members in the nation's third-largest city will pore over the details of a contract settlement Tuesday as the clock ticks down to an afternoon meeting in which they are expected to vote on ending a seven-day strike that has kept 350,000 students out of class. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Patty Westcott

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  • FILE - In this Sept. 14, 2012, file photo Madison teachers hold a unity rally for striking Chicago teachers at the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin's attorney general planned to ask a judge Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, to put on hold his decision issued last week repealing major parts of Gov. Scott Walker's law effectively ending collective bargaining for most state workers. The request comes as school districts and local governments attempt to understand the ramifications of the decision and whether it opens the door to new negotiations previously barred with unions. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, M.P. King, File)

  • Chicago Teacher's Strike Enters Second Week

    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Tyler Whitaker watches from a distance as teachers from the Jose De Diego Community Academy, where he is a third grade student, walk the picket line on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Smaller, more subdued groups of teachers picket outside Morgan Park High School in Chicago, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, as a strike by Chicago Teachers Union members heads into its second week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will seek a court order to force the city's teachers back into the classroom. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Chicago Teacher's Strike Enters Second Week

    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers attend a press conference by The Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in City Hall on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Teacher's Strike Enters Second Week

    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers attend a press conference by The Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign outside the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in City Hall on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • A handful of teachers picket outside Shoop Elementary School in Chicago, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012, as a strike by Chicago Teachers Union members heads into its second week. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he will seek a court order to force the city's teachers back into the classroom. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Chicago Teacher's Strike Enters Second Week

    CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Striking Chicago public school teachers picket outside of George Westinghouse College Prep high school on September 17, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Karen Lewis, Jesse Sharkey

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  • A young boy holds a placard in support of striking Chicago school teachers as they march after a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in west Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Striking Chicago school teachers march after a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 in Chicago. Thousands of striking Chicago public school teachers and their allies packed a city park Saturday in a boisterous show of force as union leaders and the district tried to work out the details of an agreement that could end a week-long walkout.(AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A young girl plays a toy horn as striking Chicago teachers rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Union president Karen Lewis reminded that although there is a "framework" for an end to their strike, they still are on strike. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Karen Lewis

    Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union addresses the crowd during a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Lewis reminded that although there is a "framework" for an end to their strike, they are still on strike. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Karen Lewis

    Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union addresses union menbers during a rally Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, in Chicago. Lewis reminded that although there is a "framework" for an end to their strike, they still are on strike. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Karen Lewis

    Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago teachers union , left, and vice president Jesse Sharkey stand before a meeting of the union's House of Delegates Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Karen Lewis

    Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis arrives for a meeting of the union's delegates Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Chicago. The city's nearly weeklong teachers strike appeared headed toward a resolution Friday after negotiators emerged from marathon talks to say they had achieved a "framework" that could end the walkout in time for students to return to class Monday. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • David Vitale

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  • Public school teachers rally at Chicago's Congress Plaza to protest against billionaire Hyatt Hotel mogul Penny Pritzker, who is also a member of the Chicago Board of Education on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Protesters said that $5.2 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds being used to build a new Hyatt hotel in Hyde Park would be better spent on meeting basic student needs. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A large crowd of public school teachers rally at Chicago's Congress Plaza to protest against billionaire Hyatt Hotel mogul Penny Pritzker, who is also a member of the Chicago Board of Education on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Protesters said that $5.2 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds being used to build a new Hyatt hotel in Hyde Park would be better spent on meeting basic student needs. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters rally following a march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Teachers picket outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Striking Chicago public school teachers and their supporters rally before a march down Michigan Avenue on September 13, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off the job on September 10 after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Thousands of public school teachers and their supporters rally outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel to protest against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from being a board member of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Children in strollers join thousands of public school teachers rallying outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel, protesting against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Two-year-old identical twins Colton and Lucas Jordan join thousands of public school teachers and their supporters as they march along Chicago's Michigan Avenue, protesting against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Thousands of public school teachers and their supporters rally outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel to protest against Penny Pritzker, whom they accuse of benefiting from her position on the boards of both the Chicago Board of Education and Hyatt Hotels on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • Teachers and their supporters rally in downtown Chicago on day four of the strike Thursday, Sept. 13.

  • A large group of public school teachers marches past John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A large group of public school teachers rally at John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A family waves at a large group of public school teachers as they march on streets surrounding John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Chicago public school student Natalia Segal joins the picket line outside of Marshall High School on September 12, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. More than 26,000 teachers and support staff walked off of their jobs on Monday after the Chicago Teachers Union failed to reach an agreement with the city on compensation, benefits and job security. With about 350,000 students, the Chicago school district is the third largest in the United States. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • A large group of public school teachers marches past John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A young boy in a cart is pulled along by his mother at the tail of a group of public school teachers marching on streets surrounding John Marshall Metropolitan High School on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012 in West Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Thousands of public school teachers rally for the second consecutive day outside the Chicago Board of Education district headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 in Chicago. Teachers walked off the job Monday for the first time in 25 years over issues that include pay raises, classroom conditions, job security and teacher evaluations. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)