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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Scapegoating unions for systemic problems?

Many believe that problems relating to the school system and especially the quality of teachers are squarely on the backs of the unions.  After all, unions protect bad teachers don't they? In a recent "letter to the editor" of Education Week, Richard Berman stated "America's national teachers unions - the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers - are notorious for protecting underwhelming teachers through generous tenure policies and last-in first-out firing procedures"  (Education Week, April 27 2016)

Although this may be the artificial consensus of many, it is essential that we take a deeper look at the process.  Having been a teacher and a school administrator, I have seen both sides of the issue.  My first thoughts are that if Principals would do there homework, they would be better able to hold teachers accountable.  The unions job, first and foremost is to assure an even playing field as well as insist on due process.

Of course scapegoating Principals would be another artificial quick fix.  Principals rarely have time to properly assess teachers not to mention provide needed support.  And without those two ingredients, neither the even playing field nor due process could be done effectively. By eliminating tenure, we simply eliminate due process.  And by eliminating last-in first-out simply allows a sneaky way to fire without due process.

But the question still remains, how do we provide teacher support as well as a thorough assessment to assure parents that their children are receiving the best education possible?  After retirement I served as a mentor and assessor for first year teachers.  I found my colleagues were of the highest integrity. Passionate about supporting quality teaching and just as passionate about keeping ineffective teachers out of schools.

The big difference between what we did and what Principals do now, is that we had the time to do an accurate assessment as well as provide a strong support system.  And when it came to due process, all of our ducks were in a row.  And that's what unions want, fairness.

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