Sunday, April 24, 2011

Extended comments from Nick's blog: the role of unions in reform

I just liked all the points that Nick was making this week so I wanted to build off the questions he was asking this week, and the points he was bringing up.  As he explains, Shor pretty much sums up everything else we have been reading this past semester, “Shor talks a lot about what we've already heard so much about: the educational system we have is a broken system that works more often for those who have social or economic blessings than minorities and other students.”  So how do we fix this?  Shor highlights several key areas, notably participation of students in the classroom. 
Nick mentioned another, related approach: the fact that teachers, as a group could really make a huge difference because there are so many.  I agree with Nick in theory.  Teachers should be able to make great changes in public education.  Yet sadly, this is not always the case.  Teachers do make change on behalf of students, but it seems to be generally on an individual basis.  Individual teachers might do great things, but in general it seems that teachers do not unite and successfully advocate for large scale reform. 
Yet we know that teachers are capable of uniting and advocating.  They do it famously – for themselves.  Teachers unions are able to do amazing things, but it is very rare that these unions do anything directly for the benefit of students (sometimes changes benefit both groups, for example, advocating for limited class sizes).  Sometimes changes like higher pay, aren’t really related to learning, but other positions are.  For example, the protections unions give to teachers are incredible.  Sometimes that is a good thing (and I’m sure I will live to appreciate that), but as this Newsweek article points out, “Moe: We're not saying that unions are responsible for every problem of the public schools, but they are major obstacles to reform. An obvious example: the teachers' unions have fought for protections in contracts and in state laws that make it virtually impossible to get bad teachers out of the classroom. On average it takes two years, $200,000 and 15 percent of the principal's time to get one bad teacher out of the classroom. As a result, principals don't even try. They give 99 percent of teachers satisfactory evaluations. The bad teachers just stay in the classroom. The unions are also responsible for seniority rules that often require districts to lay off junior people before senior people. It's happening all around the country now. And some of these junior people are the best teachers in the district, and some of the senior people being saved are the worst. Would anyone in his right mind organize schools this way if all they cared about was what's best for kids?
I think that is a problem.  Teachers should unite, as Nick suggests.  But as teachers, maybe we should do more than just advocate for ourselves.      


  1. Wow. That's a lot of effort to kick out just one teacher. I never knew that. And that's a good point with seniority. some teachers do deserve it, but a lot of the older teachers are set in their ways and can't perform at the same level newer teachers can, with their methods.

  2. Hey I did an extended comment off you!

  3. I'm trying to think of a good metaphor for an extended comment off my extended comment. Um...I can't think of a not lame metaphor, but yeah for extended comments! :)

  4. I agree that Shor pretty much sums up everything. He does a great job in hittng on topics that we talked in depth about. As for the teachers who have senoity, I think more needs to be done to ensure that the teachers are doing there job. Just because they get 10 year shouldn't mean that they can stop pushing their students and working hard. I think that is why the Providence Schools did the massive firing because then everyone becomes equal. I don't know if that is the best solution but whatever it takes for the students to get the best education is worth the effort.