View Poll Results: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

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  • Yes, entirely.

    7 10.29%
  • Yes, partially

    19 27.94%
  • No, partially

    10 14.71%
  • No, entirely

    29 42.65%
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    3 4.41%
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Thread: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

  1. #21
    Advisor Rassales's Avatar
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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by The Mark View Post
    I don't know much about teachers unions, but do they have any say over what curriculum is taught?
    No, but individual teachers and groups of teachers in schools sometimes do. Unfortunately, the trend is to take control away from them and make them simple functionaries--this will tend to drive down teacher salaries because the need for well-trained teachers goes down when you take curriculum out of their hands.

    For that matter, I don’t know what limitations most (or any) schools put on their curricula.
    Depends on the school. It used to be that states created curriculum frameworks that described, generally, what needed to be taught. Then local districts (in conjunction with teachers) developed more specific curricula (often tied to the books and other materials they'd purchased) to guide classroom teachers, and then teachers had to develop actual lesson plans (under the supervision of a principal) that met those standards and followed those frameworks.

    More and more today, school purchase curricula from the book publishers and mandate that teachers follow the lesson plans provided. Often every teacher in a school must be within, say, three days of the canned curriculum. More and more, teachers do the job of a trained monkey.
    Personally, I think schools should be more focused on results. If a teacher can teach his/her students the subject, and they pass a test on such (obviously without any teacher knowing what the test questions will be), that should be the end of it.

    Perhaps teachers should be given a budget, some reasonable “don’t go here” guidelines, and let loose upon the various providers of school supplies.

    A few checks during the school year, via tests…

    And teachers should have ongoing classes/seminars that they must attend, put on by various persons who study the art of teaching (and it is an art).

    Just a few ideas off the top of my head.

    Thoughts?
    There are some elements of this that have merit, particularly the idea of concentrating on professional development and giving teachers some opportunity to budget and compete with each other for student performance. But we have to remember that students are not equal, and some teachers will have better performing students either because they teach higher "tracks" of kids or because of luck. The best plan I've seen would keep track of student performance on a sort of "leading average" of a three year period. Teachers would then be compared on how their individual students do compared to the last three years' progress. At least then you're comparing apples to apples.

    That's not to suggest that standardized tests alone are particularly good measures of student learning. They test basic stuff (like memorization of discrete facts) fairly well, but higher cognitive functions (what Bloom's taxonomy calls "synthesis," "evaluation," and "analysis") are not well-evaluated by standardized tests--and those higher skills are what we really want for our future workers and citizens.

    By the way, the standardizing of the curriculum is something pushed by conservative politicians, not teacher unions. And at least one union, the American Federation of Teachers, has bought into the idea of measuring the quality of teaching and holding teachers accountable. See this story from last month:
    Facing criticism that her union makes it too hard to get rid of bad teachers, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on Tuesday announced a union-backed effort to develop a new model for how public school teachers should be evaluated, promoted and removed.

    The effort will be run by Kenneth R. Feinberg, the federal government’s special master for executive compensation.

    In a speech at the National Press Club, Ms. Weingarten sought to present a more flexible, cooperative face for her union as she announced Mr. Feinberg’s new role and called for sweeping changes in how school districts evaluate teachers and work with teachers’ unions.

    She scoffed at the predominant method of evaluating teachers — visiting their classroom a few minutes each year and then giving an evaluation at year-end. Instead, she proposed a system of year-round evaluations as part of an effort to improve teaching and weed out ineffective teachers.

    [....]

  2. #22
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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rassales View Post
    Probably not. If you look at the things schools are doing in order to reform schools (standardized curricula that take lesson planning out of the hands of teachers, for example), they generally take the opportunity to BE good out of the hands of classroom teachers.
    A good teacher adapts their lesson plan to fit the students in the classroom. There isn't any one size fits all lesson plan. What you are referring to is poor pedagogy.

    One exception to this trend is charter schools, who often innovate and give individual teachers opportunities to do good work (and who mostly don't have unions) but those teachers' salaries are heavily influenced by union scales.
    What a lot of charter schools do is recruit the best students in the nearest district to inflate performance, and at the same time deflate performance in the surrounding schools. A charter school district here in LA, called Green Dot, specifically targets public schools by surround it by placing 3 or 4 small schools that systematically take away students with higher SES. Thus leaving the unwanted students in the public school. But as soon as this public school closes "for reform" the unwanted students saturate those charter schools and we're back to square one. It's like nothing happened, we're just playing musical chairs.

    There are good charter schools, but there are very bad ones as well...just like public schools. Some good, some bad.
    Quote Originally Posted by UtahBill View Post
    Let the public school provide the basics, you as the parent can do the fine tuning.

  3. #23
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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightdemon View Post
    A good teacher adapts their lesson plan to fit the students in the classroom. There isn't any one size fits all lesson plan. What you are referring to is poor pedagogy.
    Yes, you're right, but if you don't know what I'm talking about, chances are you haven't been near a public school in an economically challenged area recently. This is a fairly recent trend I'm citing, but it's going on many places. In my opinion, it's ruining K-12 education--and it's a response to regimes like No Child Left Behind.



    What a lot of charter schools do is recruit the best students in the nearest district to inflate performance, and at the same time deflate performance in the surrounding schools. A charter school district here in LA, called Green Dot, specifically targets public schools by surround it by placing 3 or 4 small schools that systematically take away students with higher SES. Thus leaving the unwanted students in the public school. But as soon as this public school closes "for reform" the unwanted students saturate those charter schools and we're back to square one. It's like nothing happened, we're just playing musical chairs.

    There are good charter schools, but there are very bad ones as well...just like public schools. Some good, some bad.
    I don't doubt you're right, but those charter schools (and I mean publicly funded charters) have to qualify for approval by local school boards, so those boards have control over their pools of students, etc. If other schools suffer in the ways you've suggested, its the fault of local boards.

  4. #24
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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightdemon View Post
    No they don't, that is decided by the state (if it is a public school).
    I thought it might be.
    Is there any way a given public school Teachers Union could take issue with some outlandish curriculum?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightdemon View Post
    If they're private schools, they can put whatever limitation they want to.
    True.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightdemon View Post
    Pedagogy is so much more than knowing the content material. Teaching strategy and methods is necessary. There aren't any "tests" that can analyze any single teacher's pedagogic style, simply because each teacher have their own different style.
    Well, yes.

    But you could still test on knowledge/skill, such as “do the students know how to do X, Y, and Z”.

    Basically, a general test to see if they know the subject, to make sure there isn’t a teacher completely slacking off. Perhaps end of school-year would be better, as I suppose different teachers would have different ways of reaching the end goal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightdemon View Post
    Speaking as a teacher, we already go to seminars about once a year, and usually these seminars are a waste of my time. It's just a rehash of the information that we already know: "we need to motivate our kids", "we need to come up with more creative lesson plans", "we need to incorporate technology in our lessons", all of these things we already know.
    Sounds like they need to send you to better seminars…I mean there is ongoing research in that area, I would think.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightdemon View Post
    Most of the teachers I work with are what I would call "good teachers". And there are a few "problem teachers" too, who makes things very difficult. There are many reasons why they are the way they are. I won’t give out much detail, but one teacher here is waging a war with the administration and has been doing so for over 7 years (as far as I know). S/He feels that she has been mistreated and out of retaliation s/he is not cooperating with what the administration wants. So as a result, the previous principal and superintendent decided to assign the "worst" students (as s/he calls them, and actually it's not far off from the truth) for all of her classes. This forces s/he to have a hard time, and the result of that is forcing her classes to have more failing students.

    I understand why s/he would put those students in the middle of this war, because what happened to him/her was indeed unfair. But the administration is also at fault for putting those students in the middle of this. This is just a cluster**** of a situation. However, the administration changes every 3 years or so, which makes them weak. Incoming principals takes 1 year to get to know the teachers, 1 year to propose a solution, and the final year the problematic teacher just has to wait through before taking on the next principal.

    The origin of this problem isn't from the teacher, but it's a part of it. A lot of situations are like this, as I've heard. The war between teachers and the administration gets very vindictive, and the students are simply collateral. I think the first step to a solution is to realize that the problem in public education isn't always within the classroom. A lot of things are going on outside of the classroom and elsewhere on campus.
    Sounds like a ****ty situation.

    Don’t really know what to suggest…
    Education.

    Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought is staggering. ~ R. Buckminster Fuller

  5. #25
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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightdemon View Post
    Speaking as a teacher,
    Please forgive me if, in my earlier post, I implied you hadn't been around schools recently. I hadn't seen this post when I said that. I'm a teacher educator (I work in an academic department with undergrads before they go into teacher training programs but I teach methods courses as well as content courses) and the situation I described is the one most of my students enter in our local schools. I teach them a lot of stuff that they then aren't allowed to practice in local schools. I tell them that "the half-life of an idea in American education is about five years" but this trend does not seem to be abating.

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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    I'm against the teachers union. They advocate for candidates I don't support. They push for closed shops that force people to give a hefty contribution each month out of their paycheck, whether they like it or not. They only advocate for the lowest of the low and blow hot air for the rest.

    Teachers unions also fight mightily against alternatives to public education. Unions use intimidation tactics. They currently are pushing to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections, thus giving them access to who and who does not support them.

    They basically behave like mobsters, demanding protection money for their 'services'.

  7. #27
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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lightdemon View Post
    Speaking as a teacher, we already go to seminars about once a year, and usually these seminars are a waste of my time. It's just a rehash of the information that we already know: "we need to motivate our kids", "we need to come up with more creative lesson plans", "we need to incorporate technology in our lessons", all of these things we already know.
    I'm met very few teachers who don't disrespect about 1/2 of what the education establishment tries to inculcate in them, and I agree there's a lot of "same-o, same-o" (remember, I'm not in education per se, I work in an academic department). Have you ever done a summer with a National Writing Project affiliate?

  8. #28
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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by MyOwnDrum View Post
    I'm against the teachers union. They advocate for candidates I don't support. They push for closed shops that force people to give a hefty contribution each month out of their paycheck, whether they like it or not. They only advocate for the lowest of the low and blow hot air for the rest.

    Teachers unions also fight mightily against alternatives to public education. Unions use intimidation tactics. They currently are pushing to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections, thus giving them access to who and who does not support them.

    They basically behave like mobsters, demanding protection money for their 'services'.
    Unions are probably worst in situations where the labor market is very fluid--where people can move in and out of jobs easily. Unions are most advantageous where workers and employers benefit from long-term, stable labor relations. In general, teachers want to be employed at one school for a long period of time. The best teaching gig is one where you can spend 25 years at one school or district and become a kind of local institution, where the students you had earlier in your career have children who come into your classroom late in your career. Most people who teach (and certainly the best teachers) are in it for the kind of validation that only comes with long-term commitments--the money is less important.

    Also, there's considerable research to show that schools are better when they employ the same teachers, who work together closely for years. Generally, the longer term the staff, the better the school.

    Unions make sense in these circumstances. Unfortunately, there is one problem--it takes three to five years to become an effective teacher, but the probationary period for most teachers is 2-3 years. Schools have to offer continuing contracts to teachers before they really know how good they are.

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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    My mom said the union reps in her school district are also the two worst teachers.

    Ironic?

  10. #30
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    Re: Are Teacher Unions a good thing?

    Quote Originally Posted by kansaswhig View Post
    My mom said the union reps in her school district are also the two worst teachers.

    Ironic?
    Union reps are elected, no?

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