That reality is this: The top performing school systems in the world have strong teachers unions at the heart of their education establishment. This fact is rarely discussed (or even noted) in reform circles. Yet anyone who’s intellectually honest and cares about improving our schools has to acknowledge it. The United States is an outlier in having such deeply adversarial, dysfunctional labor-management relations in schooling.
Why is this?
My hypothesis runs as follows: The chief educational strategy of top-performing nations such as Finland, Singapore and South Korea is to recruit talent from the top third of the academic cohort into the teaching profession and to train them in selective, prestigious institutions to succeed on the job. In the United States, by contrast, we recruit teachers mostly from the middle and (especially for poor schools) bottom third and train them mostly in open-enrollment institutions that by all accounts do shoddy work.
As a result, American reformers and superintendents have developed a fetish for evaluating teachers and dismissing poor performers, because there are, in fact, too many. Unions dig in to protect their members because . . . that’s what unions do.
When you talk to senior officials in Finland, Singapore and South Korea, it’s as if they’re on another planet. The question of how they deal with low-performing teachers is basically a non-issue, because they just don’t have many of them. Why would they when their whole system is set up to recruit, train and retain outstanding talent for the profession? [emphasis added here]
Whose approach sounds more effective to you?
Miller suggests, among other things, raising starting pay for teachers — $65,000 to $150,000 — and greatly boosting the rigor of training for teachers.
Any such hopes for effective reform could not occur under the “austerity budgets” proposed in Utah, Wisconsin, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and the U.S. Congress.
- Teacher: Am I Playing in the Band on the Titanic? (dianeravitch.net)
- Twigg considers teacher debt plan (bbc.co.uk)
- How Are Teachers in Finland Evaluated? (dianeravitch.net)
- More Idaho teachers leave profession (ktvb.com)
- Naked Capitalism on Charter Schools (seniorsforademocraticsociety.wordpress.com)
- Want to Fix Education? Fix the Economy for the Students and Teachers (crooksandliars.com)
- Teachers union files grievance over pilot program (KOB.com)
- Chicago Teacher Strike Ends (dianeravitch.net)