mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Fixing the Schools
On Education Reform, Teacher Unions Are Outliers

How far out on the fringe are the teacher unions fighting education reform and charter schools? So far out that one of the liberal flagship papers in the country roasts them in a no holds barred editorial. The Boston Globe takes a closer look at how education reform and charter schools have helped, not hindered, Massachusetts:

…Taking children by lottery, charter schools have produced markedly better test scores than traditional public schools. This is usually ascribed to the highly motivated principals and teachers, longer school days, and intensive tutoring at the most successful charters. […]

Not only that, the Globe debunks some of the arguments critics frequently use against charter school success stories:

In Boston, critics of charter schools like to point out that if students drop out or flunk out of charters, they return to traditional public schools — making it unfair to compare the test scores of students at charters with those in the regular system. Traditional public schools, the argument goes, take all comers; charters can quietly dump the unsuccessful kids. But this charge isn’t borne out to any significant degree in Boston’s own statistics. During the 2011-12 school year, a grand total of 73 students left charters and returned to Boston Public Schools. Not all had flunked out. But even if they had, they still represent only 73 kids in a system of 57,000 students — way too few to skew any test scores.

Moreover, between school years, there is only a slightly higher attrition rate at charters than at Boston Public Schools, 9.7 percent to 8.7 percent. So if unsuccessful students are returning to traditional schools with their tails between their legs, they aren’t showing up in the statistics.

Massachusetts’ most recent education reform bill would extend some of the turn around reforms instituted in 2010 and extend them to more schools; it would also allow more charter schools to open. The bill has yet to pass the legislature, hampered by teacher unions who argue that the measures punish teachers and unfairly remove public school funding.

Overall, education reform shouldn’t pit teachers against legislatures, but instead bring these groups together to come up with the most innovative and effective means of preparing students for their future. As we’ve seen, charter schools allow administrators to experiment without running into bureaucratic red tape, and they are making admirable strides in improving quality of education which benefits everyone in the long term. We need real reform supported by lawmakers and teachers to improve outcomes across the board. As the Massachusetts case study demonstrates, charter schools can prompt discussion and even healthy competition to jumpstart education reform.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Bruce

    “Overall, education reform shouldn’t pit teachers against legislatures, but instead bring these groups together.” What you are fantasizing about it is an impossibility given the situation with the unions. You know this – so why the simplistic platitude?

  • free_agent

    You write, ” bring these groups together to come up with the most innovative and effective means of preparing students for their future.”

    Certainly that’s true in some way. But I don’t see it as possible, and maybe not even legal — after all, the union’s *job* is to advance the well-being of its members. That’s like asking the UAW to come up with the most innovative and effective means for making cars. Or while we’re talking, asking GM to do so.

    The only people who care about the customers’ well-being are the customers. The only people who might care about the students’ well-being are the students, their parents, and those who they elect. And given the track record of American education, I’m not even sure about them. A lot of education reform seems to be driven by coalitions of big employers who are driven insane by their inability to hire large numbers of people who have the skills high-school graduates should have.

  • Gary Hemminger

    Mr. Mead and is his staff have to pretend that civility is the best way forward, but they are aware, as are most people, that the unions are not civil. They care about nothing but themselves.

    • Corlyss

      The unions’ chosen party are nothing but ruthless street thugs when it comes to politics. Conservatives usually think interaction with opposition is promoted by civility and playing by the rules. Street thugs don’t know from rules and etiquette; they know from savagery, ruthless single-mindedness, and winning in a zero-sum game. They always bring the latest weaponry to a conflict and don’t hesitate to use it; Conservatives bring Roberts’ Rules and Emily Post and end up lying in a pool of blood on the pavement, wondering what hit ’em.

  • WP IL News Digest

    There’s a particularly insidious campaign underway by the American Federation of Teachers, which raises serious questions about First Amendment violations and other legal issues. So far, the media hasn’t noticed those legal issues raised by the the AFT ‘enemies list.’ Hopefully, American Interest will.

  • Corlyss

    Well, okay. Even if true, the unions still own the Dem pols. Vide De Blasio’s election and his promise to destroy charter schools. As long as the Dems dance to their tune, it don’t jolly well matter if they are outliers or not. They win; education, children, parents, and society lose. That’s how rent-seeking works.

  • Rachel Patton

    According to this report the Education Department has recently discharged an early draft of its want to breaking point elected help to schools, and revenue driven schools are solidly in the spotlight. From the statistics shared by under the new proposal, revenue driven universities and profession preparing projects at group schools whose normal graduate obligation surpasses certain benchmarks will get ineligible for pell gifts and different manifestations of elected support.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service