Union Comfort Would Be Evidence of Danger

My main argument against looking toward centralized levers — whether in Providence or Washington — to reform education has essentially been that national teachers’ unions are better situated to manipulate higher tiers of government than are concerned residents acting through democratic processes. Within the scope of town politics, an active group can have some hope of countering union propaganda, legal, and bullying tactics — not the least by changing the composition of elected bodies. At the state level, the excess funding that the union system creates for activist administration and lobbying will be of greater value.
That’s not to deny that voters and a handful of forward-looking government officials could throw an important curve into the game, before the unions adjust their focus to those officials’ offices. That possibility is perhaps what evoked union concern about RI Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s application for federal Race to the Top funding, and its absence is what ought to concern voters about the shift in tone for the second round of competition for those dollars. It’s now clear that union support was critical for the causes of the two states that won initial funding, and that support will require that unions have an advantage in the centralization process:

During frank discussions, several speakers said fear and a sense of alienation kept most of the state’s teachers union locals from supporting the first application. Of particular concern was a pledge to make student test scores and other evidence of student growth count for more than half of a teacher’s evaluation. But the application was vague about exactly what factors would be used to assess a teacher’s performance.
“There was a tremendous sense of fear,” said Mike Crowley, president of the Rhode Island School Committees Association. “There was fear not knowing what this evaluation will look like. I think [teachers] want to come to the table, and we, as school committees and superintendents, also need to understand it, since we will be expected to carry it out.”

The only way toward substantial reform is from the bottom up. Town residents must insist on evaluations that take student achievement into consideration, implemented by accountable administrators with the authority to make substantive changes. State and federal strategies that have any hope of winning union support will only tie the hands of local school administrations.

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trip
trip
11 years ago

What test would be used to measure a teacher’s effect on students in phys ed, or art, or tech ed, or severe and profound special ed,?What about autism where much of what needs to be accomplished cannot be measured with standardized test.? Maybe teachers would feel better if we were included in this important process.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Posted by trip at April 17, 2010 5:36 PM
“What test would be used to measure a teacher’s effect on students in phys ed, or art, or tech ed, or severe and profound special ed,?What about autism where much of what needs to be accomplished cannot be measured with standardized test.? ”
Why do I suspect that Trip teaches on of the listed subjects? I think this is what is known as pettifoggery, in the sense that it front loads a proposal with details. I think the basis of education, the Three R’s, are amenable to standardization.
I cannot say that the issues raised are not of consequence, but let us see the basis of the proposal fully formed before we quibble over the details. Let us produce a workable plan, then amend it for the details.
This does not mean that I want to se another Health Care Reform where no one knows the outline, never mind the details.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

I seem to have lost a few “e’s” in the post above, I am not blaming a teacher.

rhody
rhody
11 years ago

Somebody’s obsession with unions continues to get the best of him.
Then again, maybe it really IS the NEA’s fault the weather sucks this weekend.

trip
trip
11 years ago

Yes Warrington, I do teach one of those subjects. I work with the severe and profound and the autistic. We have students in our program who have no ability to write and whose best means of communication is an eye gaze or a blink. I think testing them may on the three R may be a bit of a challenge. What about the teacher who works with students with severe behavioral needs in public and private setting. Progress and goal for that student may not be truly measurable and those that are may not be an example of the teachers best work.
You are asking teachers and the union to sign onto a program that has no details. We should trust the commissioner to be fair and honest and not have any desire to have input into our own professional standards.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Privatization solves all of these problems. Just sayin’.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Posted by trip at April 17, 2010 10:29 PM “Yes Warrington, I do teach one of those subjects. I work with the severe and profound and the autistic. We have students in our program who have no ability to write and whose best means of communication is an eye gaze or a blink. I think testing them may on the three R may be a bit of a challenge.” The situations you describe are not details, they are the extremes. Given the matters you describe, there is a question in my mind that they are even educable. Are there valuable things they can learn? Or is it extended day care? If they are teachable, there must be a manner in which it can be determined if they are making progress. “What about the teacher who works with students with severe behavioral needs in public and private setting. Progress and goal for that student may not be truly measurable and those that are may not be an example of the teachers best work.” I have recently been disallowed permission to develop a piece of land where it has been determined that the ground water contains “2 parts per billion” of a chemical which the law allows only “1 part per billion”. If science can differentiate between “2 parts per billion” and “1 part per billion”, surely it can manage to measure whether the students you refer to are making any progress. “You are asking teachers and the union to sign onto a program that has no details.” I suppose that depends on whether or not you favor it. Congress just passed a Health Reform Act which they admit no one had read and had no idea of the details. America applauded. More to my liking, the Constitution was ratified while almost… Read more »

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

Posted by rhody at April 17, 2010 7:06 PM
“Somebody’s obsession with unions continues to get the best of him.
Then again, maybe it really IS the NEA’s fault the weather sucks this weekend.”
If this is directed at me, I will confess that I do not believe the NEA is responsible for the weather. But, I do believe that if they could gain control of the weather and thereby create jobs and collect dues, they would.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Privatization solves all of these problems. Just sayin’.
Posted by Dan at April 17, 2010 10:47 PM
Would that be like the final solution?

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“Would that be like the final solution?”
Certainly not. Government can never keep its big grubby hands out of a good thing, Phil. It’s constantly creating new problems through clumsy anti-economical interventionism that it can then correct and play the hero, while simultaneously creating even new problems to ensure its own future.

Trip
Trip
11 years ago

“The situations you describe are not details, they are the extremes. Given the matters you describe, there is a question in my mind that they are even educable. Are there valuable things they can learn? ”
Who would then be the judge of the level of educable. The children, no matter how extreme the disability have a right to a free and public education. If you think these things are extremes then let me tell you that they exist in every school and in every grade level. The amount of kids with severe behavioral problems has reached such a high level that a cottage industry of private schools funded by the towns sending students just to teach these kids. Look at Valley School in Cranston, Middletown, and Pawtucket, The Bradley School,and Harmony Hill.

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