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Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Fact Checking Randi

Last night, American Federation of Teachers union president Randi Weingarten appeared on FOX News to defend her union against charges leveled in our full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times.


Listening to the segment, it became clear that Weingarten was more interested in spin than an honest conversation about improving America’s global educational competitiveness.

Let’s take her point by point:

Weingarten: “The big difference is poverty… In the United States of America, if you actually factored out poverty and looked at the schools with less than 20% poverty, we outflank everybody.”

Fact Check: That’s right. If you look at the schools with the high-performing students, we have the smartest kids around. Pretending that poverty is unique to America is an easy dodge.

There’s little evidence that poverty rates are the cause of the U.S.’s poor performance. In its analysis of the PISA results, the OECD finds that “The share of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in the United States is about average.”

But let’s assume for the moment that Weingarten has a point, and low-income students’ bad performance drags the whole average down. That would actually make the AFT look even worse, because they represent bad teachers in inner-city school districts. Public schoolteachers in Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles are among the districts organized by AFT. If those kids aren’t learning, the AFT has to bear some responsibility for failing to teach them.

Weingarten: Yesterday’s protests were the “biggest actions of frankly parents, students, and teachers all across America.”

Fact Check: Right out of the gate Weingarten’s spinning. Parents and students? Nice try.

Let’s be frank, Randi, this was not a parent-led effort. And if there were a handful of students at your protests, wouldn’t they have been skipping class? Yesterday was a school day, after all. Does the AFT really support students skipping class to attend political protests?

At best, Weingarten’s claim is Astroturf. At worst, its a fabrication. Claiming that parents and students are rising up to protect the teachers union is the same con game being played by worker centers like OUR Walmart and Fast Food Forward, both of which claim to have a following of employees, but in reality are largely comprised of union leaders and the community organizations unions fund to do their dirty work.

Weingarten: “If somebody shouldn’t teach—if somebody can’t teach—they shouldn’t be there.”

Fact Check: There are two ways of interpreting this.

If we take Weingarten at her word, then she’s just made an groundbreaking commitment to end her decades-long effort to protect incompetent teachers by creating byzantine processes to terminate poor-performing teachers under the guise of “due process” (a.k.a “tenure”).

If, on the other hand, we judge her by her actions, its clear she’s saying one thing, and doing something entirely different.

Weingarten’s union has fought tooth and nail to preserve teacher tenure systems that make it nearly impossible to fire teachers who “shouldn’t teach.”

Over a three-year period spanning a portion of Weingarten’s reign as head of the AFT local in New York, The New York Daily News reports that “just 88 out of some 80,000 city schoolteachers have lost their jobs for poor performance.”

Most recently, the New York state Department of Education imposed a system on the city that gave “ineffective teachers” two years to improve before they could be fired. The AFT did not approve the policy.

Still not convinced? Just take a moment to read about the 8 year long, $1 million odyssey New York schools took to finally terminate Yvonne Chalom after she was convicted of 32 counts of aggravated harassment in 2005.

Actions speak louder than words.

Weingarten: “The [New York] Daily News basically said that the ad was wrong.”

Fact Check: Couching her answer with the word “basically” doesn’t work when the Daily News didn’t mention our ad whatsoever (we searched high and low). That’s about as accurate as saying The New York Times “basically” called on the union to impeach Weingarten.

 

Weingarten: The top ranked countries don’t rely on standardized testing to judge educational effectiveness.

Fact Check: We went to the source, Volume 4 of the OECD’s 2012 PISA Results. It turns out that schools in the top ranked countries are either on par with the U.S. or more likely to use tests to monitor teachers’ performance.

Percentage of students in schools whose principal reported that tests or assessments of students achievement have been used to monitor the practice of mathematics teachers at their schools (page 158)

Rank in Math

Country

Tests or Assessments of Students Achievement

#1 China 92%
#2 Singapore 96%
#3 Hong Kong 95%
#4 Taiwan 82%
#5 South Korea 84%
#6 Macao 90%
#36 United States 89%

While we were looking at test score use, we came across an even more shocking statistic.

Percentage of students in schools whose principal reported that appraisals of and/or feedback to teachers lead directly to change in salary.

Rank in Math

Country

Assessments led to salary change

#1 China 41%
#2 Singapore 61%
#3 Hong Kong 30%
#4 Taiwan 28%
#5 South Korea 47%
#6 Macao 62%
#36 United States 11%

You read that right. Students in China, which is not exactly well-known for employing free market principles in the public sector, are almost four times more likely to have a teacher who has received merit-based pay.

 

Categories: AFTCenter for Union FactsTeachers Unions