Anyone who watches the news, reads blogs or the editorial pages of magazines or newspapers knows without a doubt that all teachers are incompetent, and teacher unions are the root of the problems in modern society.
Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but, as an educator, I find it hard to take the constant beating our profession receives from the media and politicians.
Imagine my surprise upon reading that a nationwide survey by Phi Delta Kappa International found that the overwhelming (78%) majority of public school parents have trust and confidence in public school teachers. Sixty-six percent of those polled also say that they would support their own children’s efforts to become public school teachers.
I’d say that sounds suspiciously like approval of public educators and the job they do.
In addition, the survey found that Americans felt that adequate funding of schools is the most important issue in education.
You’d never know it from listening to political-posturing politicians pushing issues such as alternative teacher licensing, vouchers, eliminating tenure and teacher unions, and massive firings of teachers in struggling schools.
While the experiment with non-union charter schools (lauded by many education reformers as the ultimate cure for our country’s woes), has produced a few schools which have raised student achievement, non-union charter schools as a whole have not lived up to their promoters’ expectations.
When unionized urban public schools are compared with charter schools in their markets, students at unionized public schools are more than twice as likely to achieve at higher levels in spite of the fact that many charter schools serve lower percentages of special needs and ELL students than their local public counterparts, according to a national study of charter school students’ achievement done at Stanford University.
The U.S.’s own Department of Education found in 2004 that charter schools were not, as a group, raising student achievement.
Politicians, who seem much more interested in sound bites rather than workable solutions, demonize unions and the security they bring to those in the education profession when, in fact, the inconvenient truth of the matter is that student achievement is higher in states which have strong and active teacher unions than in those states which don’t.
Are there improvements to be made in public education? Of course, there are. But they won’t come from abolishing teachers unions, establishing a voucher system or holding the carrot of incentive pay in front of the noses of those in a few select schools. They will come from within the education community, the result of years of best practices research accompanied by the support of our government rather than the dictates of politicians.