Thursday, May 12, 2005

Sloths With Tenure

Liberty Files friend Don Hawthorne at Anchor Rising put up a post that followed my post last week on the NEA and Social Security reform, and gave a very specific real-life example of how the teachers' unions' interests are sometimes adverse to the actual teaching of young minds.

Having helped some 200 inner-city students do better in a special charter school than in other public schools, Rick Landau has announced that he will step down as chief executive officer of Providence's Textron Chamber of Commerce Academy.
The reason? Teachers'-union leaders are furious at him for trying to protect his school's role as an engine of innovation. In struggling to keep together a team of excellent teachers, Mr. Landau took aim at the sacred cow of "bumping" -- a practice in which public-school teachers with seniority hold on to their jobs during a layoff through the dismissal of teachers with less seniority, even at other schools, regardless of how well they perform.

Mr. Landau asked his Textron Academy teachers to explore setting up a separate bargaining unit after it seemed that six of them -- a third of the teaching staff -- might be laid off so that teachers from other Providence schools could be shipped in. The teachers'-union leaders made it clear that they would allow no such innovation...
Mr. Landau had argued, correctly, that his school could not fulfill its mission unless it had the best teachers possible -- regardless of their status in the public-school bureaucracy...under Mr. Landau's leadership, Textron Academy established standards, raised test scores, and improved literacy.

Now all this may be at risk...


Read the whole thing, but I find it to be an inexcusable but fairly typical abuse of power. I remember when my wife was a public school teacher. Tenure was granted as a result of time in service, not quality of service. Just hold out for two years with satisfactory audits and you're in for life. But that doesn't make you a good teacher. And the further you get from accountability, the more quality blind you become.

I've always been a supporter of teachers being held to account for actually teaching their students, and for objective measurements of student performance, such as the students' ability to read, form a sentence, tackle math problems, understand history, and to understand and apply the basics of the sciences. Sure, some students will be stronger in some areas and weaker in others, but that will be expected. But the Rhode Island story above shows that the teachers' unions put the interests of teachers over the students, and put quality second to turf protection. The power that these organizations wield is great, but it will diminish the more folks talk about the real and very anti-student attitude that the NEA and local unions take towards education reform.

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