Teachers unions are obviously getting nervous about education reform. In an effort to get in front of the movement and lead it instead of standing athwart history, yelling “stop” (and getting trampled for the effort), both the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) have released plans that they claim are good-faith efforts at “reform.”
“As more states and districts seek to improve teacher evaluation, the risk is that reform is done to teachers rather than with them,” said the head of the NEA in a statement accompanying the organization’s “Proposed Policy Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability.” In a similar document released earlier this year, Randi Weingarten, the head of the AFT, released recommendations for “a procedure for teacher discipline that could be utilized as a framework for processing fairly and expeditiously allegations of teacher wrongdoing.”
Though both the AFT and the NEA proposals touch on issues of tenure, they are dealing with two entirely different subjects. The AFT is proposing a system that will, after a 100-day process replete with multiple hearings and meetings, allow for the termination of teachers guilty of “wrongdoing such as criminal offenses in the classroom, abusive practices toward students, and discrimination.” It quite explicitly ignores “allegations of teacher effectiveness.” The NEA proposal, on the other hand, is (supposedly) designed to improve the process of getting incompetent teachers out of the classroom.
These proposals come in reaction to nightmarish stories of dismissals that take years and cost school districts hundreds of thousands of dollars. Are they superior to the status quo?
Short answer? No, not at all. Longer answer? See below.