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The slogan of teacher unions – leave no union member behind – was on full display when the state’s Advisory Committee on Educator Evaluation met. By contrast, at best any interest in children’s education was feigned.
This panel was formed as a result of enactment of Act 54 of 2010 that changed the way teacher evaluations occur. The legislation specified scoring half of an annual evaluation (formerly conducted every three years) on the basis of student improvement in a subject area from the previous year, with the other half being on subjective assessments of teaching. However, not every subject area lends itself to objective subject-area testing and details of the subjective half remained unspecified, hence the purpose of the committee, comprised of 23 members, mostly teachers, with slots for representatives of both of the state’s major teachers’ unions, to figure out the details of assessment.
Rather than do that, unions whined how they were not being allowed input into the process, even though they had plenty during the legislative process that created it and through their panel membership – and then proceeded to make suggestions outside of the scope of the law that represented a desire to reverse a battle already lost. That input consisted of – surprise – reducing the objective portion of the evaluation as that will make clearer who cannot sufficiently improve students.
One union leader attempted to justify making the legal change by arguing the system “the long run it really hurts effective instruction and student learning,” offering no proof because it doesn’t exist. While it is fashionable (adherence to education “fashion,” of course, began America’s long slide into mediocrity in educating decades ago) to denigrate giving standardized testing results in general, in fact they measure well knowledge and serve a useful pedagogical purpose. And other countries that rely heavily on instruction measured by standardized testing do significantly better than American students in subjects that require critical thinking easily measured by objective testing, such as science and mathematics.
More tellingly, another union official asserted, “we [unions] have never been anti-reform. We are very much in favor of moving the profession into a whole new arena.” Perhaps so, but the arena in which they have not been in favor of moving into is that of putting children’s education before teacher’s jobs. They know the current system allows the coddling of substandard teachers, or discourages administrators from trying to weed them out. More objectivity using valid measures, as the law mandates, will expose the coddling and give administrators committed to quality increased ability to discharge the incompetent.
Unions resist this because their leaders draw paychecks from teachers who join because they believe the union provides some kind of service. One such service in the minds of the teachers that are incapable, either because of native skills or because the system encourages lack of effort, is protecting their jobs. If the law makes unions less able to cover for the inadequate, there’s less reason to have them. That explains the trench warfare practiced by the unions on this issue, to save not just the jobs of low performers, but theirs as well.
Understand that a considerable ethos has developed in American society in the past few decades that has attempted to substitute psychological well-being for commitment to achievement. Only by allowing meritocracy to flourish, where some reap great rewards for their contributions to society and others find them reminded they are not very capable of contributing to society, can quality of life advance for all. Yes, self-esteem will be hurt among those teachers and students who perform poorly, and it will cost them their jobs and desired careers, but the motivation to achieve better will be stronger, which will prompt others to succeed who might otherwise would not have, and society will be better off as a whole as a result by their increased efforts to succeed.
Unfortunately, unions prey on this psychological need for some to avoid being reminded they are low achievers and need to put forth more effort or find another career in response. Children are better off if policy-makers continue to resist suggestions based primarily upon somebody’s job protection.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 08:45