"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

LA Schools - So this is what unions are for?

Interesting story in EdWeek this week about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s latest vision for overhauling LA public schools. Villaraigosa says that teachers would be given an “authentic and central role” in selecting curriculum and instructional materials for the nation’s second-largest district. This sounds great.

But look a bit more closely at what is being said.

“Right now, teachers are held accountable for the success or failure of students, yet we have no meaningful say over curriculum,” said A.J. Duffy, the president of the 48,000-member United Teachers Los Angeles, which is affiliated with both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. “We want to give teachers an equal say to administrators when it comes to deciding what happens in the classroom, but we are not talking about giving every school the right to have its own curriculum.”

God forbid that teachers should have their own curricula!

According to the EdWeek piece:

The school board and the superintendent would retain their authority to “make decisions about instruction as a whole,” said Mr. Saenz, “but would have to leave some flexibility for involvement at the school site.”

"Some flexibility for involvement at the school site"? What the hell does this mean?

So which is it? Giving teachers an “authentic and central role” in selecting curriculum and instructional materials? Or paying lip-service to the professional judgement of teachers and the individual needs of children by going with "Open Court Lite"?

It's precisely these kinds of compromises worked out with the unions that disturb me the most. Instead of standing up and fighting for teacher autonomy, the union forces teachers to surrender their professional status in order to reach a settlement. Instead of standing up and fighting for the individual needs of children, the union bargains and decides that one-size-fits-all education is not so bad after all. Instead of demanding that Open Court be thrown out, the union wants to adjust the pace for teaching with it.

These kinds of "victories" only serve to prolong the slow death of public education by trashing the role of teachers as professionals and by sacrificing children at the alter of "efficient modes of educational delivery systems."

There is one glimmer of hope. According to the article, the compromise between the mayor and the union "has drawn sharp criticism from many teachers who are angry that union leaders made a deal without consulting UTLA’s representative body."

Then again, there's a name for this kind of activity: it's called "union busting." Get the teachers to turn against the union as the union is forced into Faustian bargains with the administration and watch what happens . . .

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