Friday, September 4, 2009

Joel Klein vs. New York City teachers : The New Yorker

Joel Klein vs. New York City teachers : The New Yorker

This is a disturbing piece about the nearly 1,500 New York teachers who are paid to not work. I generally support our teachers' unions and think they're necessary to preserve academic freedom. I observed some countries during my time in the Peace Corps where the staff changed at high schools as determined by national elections. Tenure does and should protect and preserve academic freedom from these kinds of political gyrations.

However, the unions undermine their own position when they defend incompetent teachers at all costs. In order to improve education in any sane time frame there must be a mechanism to move consistently poor teachers out of the profession. One teacher in this article implied that poor teachers would realize they couldn't do it and voluntarily leave the profession. While this does sometimes happen, I think we all know there are folks who stick around for decades when they don't deserve to.

The difficulty comes in how to judge teachers. Do we trust administrator evaluations? Test scores? I'm not sure either of these are accurate measures, but to claim that there is no possible way to judge teachers fairly, and therefore all should keep their jobs no matter what, is intellectually dishonest.

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