Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Effort vs. Effectiveness

There is an interesting story in the Washington Post about the District of Columbia’s teacher evaluation system, known as “IMPACT.” The Washington Teachers’ Union hates IMPACT, as it allows administrators to more ably determine which teachers are succeeding and which teachers are failing — and gives schools a tool to get rid of the failing teachers.

What’s interesting about the Post piece is a conversation between a teacher and his evaluator at the end of the story. It neatly encapsulates the way that teachers unions and their members entirely miss the point of evaluation systems:

Bethel gave him the final score, which was low. If the trend continued, Harris realized, he could lose his job.

“It’s just — I don’t feel that I’m putting in ‘minimally effective’ effort at all,” he said.

For Bethel, this was most excruciating part of the job. He began shutting off his computer.

“This does not measure your effort,” he said, packing his bag. “But I do see your effort, Mr. Harris.”

“So — what is this measuring?” Harris asked.

It’s measuring the effectiveness of that effort,” Bethel said. “This is not a reflection of your passion for education, your love for students. Not at all.”

Teachers unions often make the argument that their members are working as hard as they can and they shouldn’t be held accountable for their successes and failures — they should just get an “A For Effort” and continue moving up the pay scale and seniority ladder. This mentality has failed: Prior to the implementation of IMPACT, almost every Washington, D.C. teacher received a satisfactory rating and very few were fired for performance. What did that get our nation’s capital? Abysmal graduation rates and children who couldn’t read or do math. Giving effort is commendable, but getting results is what matters.

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