Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Myths the teachers unions bank on

I found an interesting article on FrontPageMag by Jay Greene of the American Enterprise about the myths of the teaching profession that the teachers unions have a vested interest in propagating. Some of you teacher-readers out there may disagree with Greene on a couple points, but overall, I think he is dead on. I won't summarize any part of the article; you can go and read it yourself. Instead of the myths, I will give a list of what Jay Greene says is the reality:

1. Schools receive plenty of funding; more than they ever have before.

2. Teachers receive better pay than many comparably paid professions.

3. Poverty and social pathology are not automatic impediments to learning.

4. Class size reduction does not improve performance enough to justify its hefty price tag.

5. Teacher certification doesn't necessarily produce a better teacher.

Read the article.

Good Day to You, Sir


Darren said...

I read that piece after someone sent it to me, claiming that the author is one of the best thinkers out there about educational issues. I replied that he must have written that particular piece on a bad day, then.

There are a few kernals of good stuff in there, but the rest isn't gonna grow any corn.

Bill said...

Greene's suppositions don't make sense.

For instance,"One suspects that high-performing graduates tend to stay away from teaching because the field's rigid seniority-based structure doesn't allow them to rise faster and earn more money through better performance or by voluntarily putting in longer hours. In any case, it's clear that the primary obstacle to attracting better teachers isn't simply raising pay."

Well if teachers have it so good and are paid more and work less according to Greene, how come "smart" people don't jump at the opportunity and become teachers? They mustn't be that smart!Or, teachers don't have it so good!

And, according to Greene school funding has gone up. "At the end of World War II, public schools in the United States spent a total of $1,214 per student in inflation-adjusted 2002 dollars. By the middle of the 1950s that figure had roughly doubled to $2,345. By 1972 it had almost doubled again, reaching $4,479. And since then, it has doubled a third time, climbing to $8,745 in 2002."

Well, let's consider that since 1970 the price of a loaf of bread to make those peanut butter sandwiches has gone from 30 cents to more than $1.30. The price of fuel has gone up more than 10 times, etc etc. So the argument about school spending has to be tempered with the concept of the dollar's current buying power.

I think Greene is way off base.

Chanman said...

Well, nothing like questioning the sanctity of the teaching profession to open raw nerves.

Sorry Bill, but the pay issue makes perfect sense. You are confusing how much someone is paid with the method by which their pay is determined. A complaint heard often about the teaching profession is how the ineffective curmudgeon with 28 years on the job, makes a lot more than the shining star teacher who has been on the job for 5 years. In other professions, one's pay is not just based on seniority but what they contribute to an organization. The complaint is that teacher pay is based too much on seniority and not job performance. You won't disagree with that will you?

A prime example of this is the shortage of math, science, and especially, special ed teachers. Why aren't they paid more? Why doesn't the NEA acknowledge the existence of the law of supply and demand and realize that if you have a shortage of a certain type of teacher, you are going to have to raise the pay in those areas to fill the gap. The Teacher Unions refuse to accept this. It is this inflexibility that drives people from the profession or makes one not want to enter it in the first place.

As far as the per-student money ratio, it appears that your position is that spending on education hasn't kept up with everything else. By that logic, you are saying that if spending did keep up, then things would be better. If you look at the per-student spending in each state, you will find that money is by no means the deciding factor. Washington D.C. spends more money on its students than anywhere else, and they have the worst student performance in the nation. A judge in Kansas City decreed that schools there be given billions of dollars to improve their schools. Test scores stayed stagnant and even went down. Catholic schools, which spend way less per student than public schools do have a much better student performance record, and no, they do not skim the creamy students; they operate in the same inner-cities, and receive essentially the same students as the public schools.

Besides, when the public schools whine that they have to keep the disruptive students while the private schools have the option of kicking them out... isn't that exactly one of the big freaking problems with our public schools? Like I always say, actions kids do that used to get them expelled, today might get them only a five-day suspension, and sometimes even a lot less. The state legislatures and the courts have made it damn near impossible to maintain an orderly public school campus. This factor wasn't mentioned in the article, but it sure should have been.

The bottom line of all this is that the status quo isn't working. Mr. Greene added his two cents. What would you do to fix it?

Thanks for reading my blog!