‘we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others’

by Grace

The public has become increasingly unhappy with what teacher unions have come to represent. – rigidity, mediocrity, and a sense of entitlement.

The notion that seniority drives every decision — assignments, promotions, layoffs — is unsustainable.

Frank Bruni in the New York Times recounts how teachers are being put on the defensive.

  • President Obama is not seen as a strong champion of teacher unions.
  • Democratic mayors like Antonio Villaragosa of Los Angeles, who calls teachers’ unions “the most powerful defenders of a broken system.”
  • Popular media – One example is the upcoming movie, “Won’t Back Down”, about a mother fighting against the public education bureaucracy.
  • “Grim economic times” that find many struggling parents who believe teachers are enjoying cushy jobs and benefits rarely seen in the private sector.
  • Tight government budgets mean curtailed spending for public schools, where staffing is typically the greatest expense.

Bruni says we need “constructive dialogue and  real flexibility from unions”.

We have to find a way out of this. Weingarten noted that most public school children are taught by teachers with a union affiliation, if not necessarily a union contract. That won’t change anytime soon. So a constructive dialogue with those unions is essential.

But so is real flexibility from unions, along with their genuine, full-throated awareness that parents are too frustrated, kids too important and public resources too finite for any reflexive, defensive attachments to the old ways of doing things.

“Our very best teachers ought to be treated much, much better than they are today,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “But in order to get there, we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others.”

These latest tenure decisions from the New York City school district are good evidence that administrators are now willing to “say out loud that some teachers are better than others”.

Only 55 percent of eligible teachers, having worked for at least three years, earned tenure in 2012, compared with 97 percent in 2007.



3 Comments to “‘we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others’”

  1. Evaluating teachers is a huge challenge. I think a reasonable start would be to identify the horrible ones, which I think can be done now with some accuracy.


  2. Sounds like a horrible environment, with a very low interest in academic achievement.


  3. “Our AP Physics teacher spent the year showing us photos of his trip across the country in a VW microbus. He was there because they couldn’t hire anyone else who could teach physics at the abysmal salary they offered.”

    My Biology II teacher liked to mostly shoot the breeze with his players (he was a basketball coach). He’d have us do labs, show some relevant science movies, and give tests, and that was it. I don’t think he ever actually explained anything. You could have replaced him with a janitor and a Scantron machine and nobody would have been the wiser.

    I am increasingly mortified to have physics on my high school transcript. My physics teacher was a nice lady who was running a local political campaign at the same time. She was enthusiastic, but not within light years of what a physics teacher should be. Last year in 4th grade science, my 9-year-old learned way more physics than I ever did in my high school physics class. So embarrassing! I would have learned a lot more in home ec, but the colleges wouldn’t have understood that.


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