Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Student's First- a take on evaluation

Michelle Rhee's new advocacy group, Student's First,  just came out with a rather extensive list of priorities.  I don't always like the tone- but I unfortunately find that much of what her organization says contains too much truth in it.   These are criticisms that unions should not take lightly.   Viewing this simplistically as a war on teachers might galvanize some, but will hurt the political clout of unions in the long-run.   There are valid criticisms here.  And to simply ignore them does a disservice to the majority of teachers unions pruport to represent.   I believe the following: that teacher unions will be better politically situated if they do not simply do what is best for teachers, but when they do what is best for teachers and students.   The public is perfectly willing to pay teachers more for what they do.   But they have reached a boiling point- they want to pay effective teachers more, not ineffective ones.   And until we acknowledge and address our faults- we willl  leave not only the public wanting- but the profession.   We will also in effect turnover political muscle and decision making to reformers- those who often have little educational experience.   This is not the fault of those reformers, as some would like to argue, but rather this is due to our own failure to address valid criticisms in a forthright and proactive manner.

The following  provocative ideas come from the Student First website.   Ideas that as I said, contain too much truth.  I can only imagine the union response to these "attacks."

Union leaders are legally obligated to represent the interests of all of their members, including ineffective members. Although union leaders express an interest in quality, they have a fiduciary responsibility to their organization to enhance unity and protect low performers. As a result, union leadership, or the vocal minority of teachers, disproportionately influences the evaluation process to skew toward interests that conflict with those of high-performing or promising teachers. The majority of rank-and-file teachers deeply value strong colleagues and a culture of excellence. The ethic of high standards becomes lost in the process when the union dedicates time, effort, and money fighting for the lowest performers. Simply put, labor leadership has a conflict of interest when it comes to evaluation of their members. Recognizing this conflict, steps should be taken to balance the mission of school districts against the collective interest of district employees. A school should not be impaired in its ability to serve families by an evaluation system negotiated to protect the jobs of poor performers.

In school districts across the country, superintendents have no choice but to accept the teacher evaluation system codified in local teacher union contracts. This practice has become the norm over the past 20 years, resulting in weak evaluation systems in district after district. Meanwhile, even the most forward-thinking superintendents rarely have the political backing to negotiate better systems, since school board elections can be easily influenced by highly motivated union organizers. In this way, unions often hold a controlling interest in both sides of the negotiating table. This conflict of interest creates a barrier to developing and implementing meaningful evaluations that are based on what practices will most benefit the students. By including teachers in the evaluation process and simultaneously taking it off the bargaining table, districts will have new opportunities to build on teachers' strengths, drive professionalism, and demand great results for their students.

No comments:

Post a Comment