There is no "war on teachers" - WSJ

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naranjaynegro

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There Is No 'War on Teachers'

There is a growing bipartisan agreement on the importance of rewarding good ones.

By ERIC A. HANUSHEK

No longer is education reform an issue of liberals vs. conservatives. In Washington, the Obama administration's Race to the Top program rewarded states for making significant policy changes such as supporting charter schools. In Los Angeles, the Times published the effectiveness rankings—and names—of 6,000 teachers. And nationwide, the documentary "Waiting for 'Superman,'" which strongly criticizes the public education system, continues to succeed at the box office.

All sides of the educational policy debate now accept that the key determinant of school effectiveness is teachers—that effective teachers get good achievement results for all children, while ineffective teachers hurt all students, regardless of background. Also increasingly accepted is that the interests of teachers unions aren't the same as the interests of children, or even of most teachers.

Until recently, the unions asserted that they spoke for teachers and that they should judge which reforms are good. Any proposal they didn't like, they labeled part of a "war on teachers." Their first response to the Los Angeles Times and to "Waiting for 'Superman'" has been to drag out that familiar line. According to the American Federation of Teachers, "The film's central themes—that all public school teachers are bad, that all charter schools are good and that teachers' unions are to blame for failing schools—are incomplete and inaccurate, and they do a disservice to the millions of good teachers in our schools who work their hearts out every day."

What's really going on is different. President Obama states that we can't tolerate bad teachers in classrooms, and he has promoted rewarding the most effective teachers so they stay in the classroom. The Los Angeles Times published data identifying both effective and ineffective teachers. And "Waiting for 'Superman'" (in which I provide commentary) highlighted exceptional teachers and pointed out that teachers unions don't focus enough on teacher quality.

This is not a war on teachers en masse. It is recognition of what every parent knows: Some teachers are exceptional, but a small number are dreadful. And if that is the case, we should think of ways to change the balance.

My research—which has focused on teacher quality as measured by what students learn with different teachers—indicates that a small proportion of teachers at the bottom is dragging down our schools. The typical teacher is both hard-working and effective. But if we could replace the bottom 5%-10% of teachers with an average teacher—not a superstar—we could dramatically improve student achievement. The U.S. could move from below average in international comparisons to near the top.

Teachers unions say they don't want bad teachers in the classrooms, but then they assert that we can't adequately judge teachers and they act to defend them all. Thus unions defend teachers in "rubber rooms"— where they are sent after being accused of improper behavior or found to be extraordinarily ineffective—on the grounds that due process rights require such treatment. (In a perverse way, rubber rooms are good as long as it is not feasible to remove teachers that are harming kids; it is better to pay these teachers not to teach than to have more children suffer.)

So we are seeing not a war on teachers, but a war on the blunt and detrimental policies of teachers unions. If unions continue not to represent the vast numbers of highly effective teachers, but instead to lump them in with the ineffective teachers, they will continue doing a disservice to students, to most of their own members, and to the nation.

There is a place for an enlightened union that accepts the simple premise that teacher performance is an integral part of effecting reform. As the late Albert Shanker said in 1985, when he was president of the American Federation of Teachers: "Teachers must be viewed . . . as a group that acts on behalf of its clients and takes responsibility for the quality and performance of its own ranks."

The bottom line is that focusing on effective teachers cannot be taken as a liberal or conservative position. It's time for the unions to drop their polemics and stop propping up the bottom.

Mr. Hanushek is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.
 
Aug 3, 2004
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#2
"It's time for the unions to drop their polemics and stop propping up the bottom."




But isn't that what unions do? After all, the good employees in any work setting would rarely need a union. Only the bad ones need the shelter of the union.
 
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"It's time for the unions to drop their polemics and stop propping up the bottom."




But isn't that what unions do? After all, the good employees in any work setting would rarely need a union. Only the bad ones need the shelter of the union.
LOL, go tell that to a commercial airline pilot.
 

panhandler62

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#5
If teachers were made actual State employees (instead of working on contract) then I would support disbanding the union. Until that time it is a totally unreasonable proposition.
 

naranjaynegro

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most are, in effect, state employees. Because for the most part you can't fire them for performance issues as it stands now. So, you are on board for the status quo?

I'll say it again...until we can start getting some common sense back into government, we're going to have a fairly difficult time of pulling out of the fiscal nosedive this country is in the midst of.
 

panhandler62

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most are, in effect, state employees. Because for the most part you can't fire them for performance issues as it stands now. So, you are on board for the status quo?

I'll say it again...until we can start getting some common sense back into government, we're going to have a fairly difficult time of pulling out of the fiscal nosedive this country is in the midst of.
They are contracted by (I think it is actually the county in most cases) and, as such, are not employees. There are no benefits, legal protections or other considerations beyond what is provided through the union.
 

panhandler62

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Obviously; teachers are not the only profeshionals who work via independent contract vehicles.

Unlike people I know in my industry though; their pay is insufficient to cover insurance and tort protection, especially in cases where graduate degrees (and the tithing to Sallie Mae that often implies) are required.

The best way to break the union os to make the workers a better offer.
 

bleedinorange

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I taught for 20 years and was never aware of a single benefit provided by the union that I couldn't better provide for myself. Left to one's own devices and abilities, most teachers could (if they dared) move into private industry and better themselves (financially) exponentially. My case is not different from many others I know who, after a mediocre paying teaching career, put their education to a different use and created a financial stability far beyond what the union claimed to provide. People make choices to lead or follow. Following might be safer, but the view is always the same when you're the second elephant in the parade. Unions are not the answer, and rely on the underachievers in their ranks to need representation as equals to the truely gifted educators. (IMHO)
 

naranjaynegro

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Obviously; teachers are not the only profeshionals who work via independent contract vehicles.

Unlike people I know in my industry though; their pay is insufficient to cover insurance and tort protection, especially in cases where graduate degrees (and the tithing to Sallie Mae that often implies) are required.

The best way to break the union os to make the workers a better offer.
I'd be more than happy to privatize education. The private sector would do exponentially better if not tied down by government bureaucracy grounded in a lack of common sense.

Private education will elevate and pay appropriately teachers who excel while sifting out those that do not......all while raising the standard of students education across the board.

BTW, I'm an employee but I work in a "right to work" state and therefore can be terminated without cause anytime, for any reason. This system, while seemingly harsh to those safely ensconced in a government job with no fear of losing their job, has worked well for this state and, I believe, is a model for growth across the nation. It's not perfect, for sure, as some employers are too quick to pull the trigger on terminations......but looking at those states without it, it is a pimple on the elephant's butt of problems.
 

panhandler62

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I taught for 20 years and was never aware of a single benefit provided by the union that I couldn't better provide for myself. Left to one's own devices and abilities, most teachers could (if they dared) move into private industry and better themselves (financially) exponentially. My case is not different from many others I know who, after a mediocre paying teaching career, put their education to a different use and created a financial stability far beyond what the union claimed to provide. People make choices to lead or follow. Following might be safer, but the view is always the same when you're the second elephant in the parade. Unions are not the answer, and rely on the underachievers in their ranks to need representation as equals to the truely gifted educators. (IMHO)
So, in other words... teachers should just quit teaching and get worthwhile jobs?
 

bleedinorange

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So, in other words... teachers should just quit teaching and get worthwhile jobs?
No, not at all. There is not a more worthwhile job than educating our future leaders. They should just quit whining about the poor situations their unions have allowed them to be in, or have the initiative to do something to change it. Personal responsibility for one's position in life is much more admirable than dependence on either unions and/or government. (once again, IMHO)
 
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In an ideal world, teachers would embrace the market economy.

The best teachers would apply for and get the jobs in states that pay the highest salaries.

And states or districts who do not pay at least the prevailing wage would be left with the lower-achieving or lesser-qualified teachers that they deserve.
 
Jun 18, 2010
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In an ideal world, teachers would embrace the market economy.

The best teachers would apply for and get the jobs in states that pay the highest salaries.

And states or districts who do not pay at least the prevailing wage would be left with the lower-achieving or lesser-qualified teachers that they deserve.
In other words, we need to count our blessing this isn't the ideal world, because many good Oklahoma teachers apparently aren't leaving the state for higher pay?
 

panhandler62

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No, not at all. There is not a more worthwhile job than educating our future leaders. They should just quit whining about the poor situations their unions have allowed them to be in, or have the initiative to do something to change it. Personal responsibility for one's position in life is much more admirable than dependence on either unions and/or government. (once again, IMHO)

I don't think thre are many supporters of the status quo.

Teachers want to teach. While they are not universaly perfect, they are, for the most part, dedicated individuals who are doing a job rather short on matterial reward.

Given the task of inventing the whole thing; I would opt for a free market system with some sort of basic oversight and a voucher system to partialy offset tuitions so that education remains a universal opportunity.

I don't know how we get from here to there or how we deal with the equal outcomes croud who demand that all people aquire the same rewards regardless of native talent and/or industry.