Jonathan Alter has an interesting piece in Newsweek on education reform. He says that Obama can solidify his support among moderates by going up against teachers unions on the issues of merit-pay and teacher accountability. He runs through some of the more depressing statistics about the state of education today, including US students’ math skills being ranked at 25th out of 30 industrialized nations.
Alter has some good suggestions, which range from KIPP schools (which boost college attendance dramatically) to firing bad teachers, and also recognizes that teachers unions are standing in the way of many needed reforms. The NEA and the AFT are immensely strong organizations with a vested interest in the status quo, whether that means opposing teacher accountability or blocking charter schools. Until the American public starts recognizing that teachers unions work for teachers, and not for students, we are going to continue giving them too much control over education reform, and they are going to continue to impede any real progress:
Obama’s right that the NCLB-inspired testing mania is out of control, but wrong to give teachers “ownership over the design of better assessment tools.” That’s a recipe for no assessment, because the teachers unions, for all their lip service, don’t believe their members should be judged on performance. They still believe that protecting incompetents is more important than educating children.