Education

Teachers Union Head Wishes Everyone Could Just Get Along

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Randi Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers, has a piece up at HuffPo complaining that bad school reformers are causing all of this telegenic conflict. Collaboration is vastly preferable, says Weingarten, even if it doesn't make for heart-wrenching documentary footage.

And collaboration has its place. But all of the instances of successful collaboration Weingarten cites are merely successes in creating collaborative projects.

Because the district and the union had built a relationship based on trust, they…took on the very difficult task of crafting a new form of school governance, and, together, have taken promising steps to turn around these schools.

Working with other Appalachian Ohio school districts, [the union ahe the district] have joined forces to create a comprehensive model to transform rural education and improve student outcomes.

She offers no direct evidence that student outcomes have actually improved—not even links to outside sources. There are two reasons for this: 1) Teachers unions around the country have systematically opposed data-driven analysis, so she can't cite improved test scores as a simple way to convey improved quality of education because that would imply that test scores could also be used in hiring and firing decisions, as well as teacher pay. 2) Despite repeated claims that the goal is to produce better outcomes for students, that goal is often subordinated to the task of making sure all of the relevant grown-ups are getting along nicely—without all of that conflict Weingarten deplores.

Those who are serious about improving schools recognize that conflict is a destructive force, especially in the lives of children. Indeed, in my many years as a teacher and union leader, I have never seen a district that produces great results for students in an adversarial, us-versus-them environment. And mass firings, school closures and attacks on teachers are not the formula for successful schools.

Conflict does not automatically yield destruction, and the kind of "adversarial, us-versus-them environment" that Weingarten laments is only possible when both sides decide to tangle. When it comes to education, both sides are quite often acting in good faith, trying to do what's best for kids. But there is legitimate disagreement about the best methods. Conflict isn't a sign of dysfunction in education reform. It's a sign that both see that there is a lot at stake, and are unwilling to go along to get along.

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  1. “When it comes to education, both sides are quite often acting in good faith, trying to do what’s best for kids.” – citation needed

  2. “Indeed, in my many years as a teacher and union leader, I have never seen a district that produces great results for students in an adversarial, us-versus-them environment. And mass firings, school closures and attacks on teachers are not the formula for successful schools.”

    I guess you could invent a more transparently self-serving comment, but it would take some work.

    1. I dunno, I have not seen many successful workplaces with a great deal of acrimony between the employers and employees.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m very unimpressed with most teachers, but where are you going to find incredible people who want to spend their days reading the Little Lost Puppy to six year olds?

      1. You don’t go into programming to have fulfilling human relationships as part of your professional career, and you don’t go to ed school to get rich. That used to be the deal, and it was fair. The new deal is that the ed majors are still dumb as rocks but want to be paid like they went through a real college program.

      2. where are you going to find incredible people who want to spend their days reading the Little Lost Puppy to six year olds?

        Believe it or not, the free market quite often results in such arrangements.

        Your question seems to assume that all other employment is glamorous and rewarding. Like tax planning.

        It may surprise you, but some people view interacting with children as ‘fun’.

        1. I think it is fun to interact with kids too, but I would find eight hours a day of teaching them to be akin to torture, and I imagine most people with adult thoughts would feel the same…

          1. How do you feel about tax planning?

            1. I think tax planning would be boring, but not “stupid inducing.”

              1. “stupid inducing.”

                Art Linkletter made lots of money pointing out the fallacy of that idea.

          2. I would find eight hours a day of teaching them to be akin to torture

            Possibly, but then again without the archaic system forced by government mandate, the process might be enjoyable for all involved.

          3. This is as much an indictment of our ‘teaching’ methods as the people we are paying to babysit kids in institutions of ‘learning’.

            Perhaps people who would like to interact with kids in an enriching and fulfilling way for both the teacher and the kids are driven out of teaching because of the stultifying methods they’re forced to use.

          4. I think it is fun to interact with kids too, but I they would find eight hours a day of me teaching them to be akin to torture, and I imagine most people with adult thoughts would feel the same…

            1. Kids have adult thoughts. Their problem is lack of experience. Unless they have some form of mental retardation, they are just light on data. Treating that problem — presenting them useful and appropriate chunks of data/experience — rather than “curing” their stupidity/inability goes a long way towards everyone enjoying the time more.

          5. How many schools are open 9-5?

            Six hours minus lunch/music/library/art/gym was the norm when I went to school.

        2. I am completely aware that my last sentence is an easy opportunity for a pedophile joke.

          1. Nahh, not like the line from School of Rock: “I have been touched by your kids…and I’m pretty sure your kids have been touched by me.”

      3. “…but where are you going to find incredible people who want to spend their days reading the Little Lost Puppy to six year olds?”

        Last I saw, there was not shortage of applicants or those in ed-school.

        1. Sure there are, but MNG was asking about “incredible people.”

          1. Yeah, since we have so many now……….

      4. I dunno, I have not seen many successful workplaces with a great deal of acrimony between the employers and employees.

        I dunno, there’s GM, Chrysler, Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel, oh, nevermind.

        1. Mike, another reminder:

          Based on your view of smoking, you should just refer to yourself as “Mike’. Or “Tool”. Your choice.

        2. Mike|1.6.11 @ 4:04PM|#
          “I dunno, I have not seen many successful workplaces with a great deal of acrimony between the employers and employees.
          I dunno, there’s GM, Chrysler, Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel, oh, nevermind.”
          According to Krugman, the ‘treaty of Detroit’ made all the auto workers pleased as punch. And with they’re pensions, they should be.
          Got any evidence otherwise?

  3. I had a beef with one of my son’s teachers a few weeks back, and told her that I expected her to step up her performance or we’d be having a frank talk with the school’s principal. Said principal called me a couple of days later and said that was no way to “build bridges and relationships.” I told him, as an engineer, I build bridges and they aren’t made from vague, empty rhetoric and that I wasn’t interested in a relationship, I was interested in the teacher doing the job she was paid to do.

    It was a short conversation, and the teacher seems to be doing better.

    1. “I had a beef with one of my son’s teachers a few weeks back, and told her that I expected her to step up her performance or we’d be having a frank talk with the school’s principal.”

      Did you have a beef with the teacher’s performance or your kid’s performance in the teacher’s class? In the latter it’s probably better to tell your kid to step up their performance.

      1. No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.

      2. My senior English teacher (and head of the department) didn’t understand the difference between nihilism and existentialism. She didn’t really even have a grasp of what existentialism was. If I had been my parent, I would have looked at her printouts and lectures and given her a Jeffersonian-esque talking to.

        1. That’s an honest mistake, many people’s “existentialism” looks a lot like “nihilism” (look at Hem’s Clean Well Lighted Place).

          1. “It was all nothing, and a man was nothing, too…Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it was nada y pues nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada nada be thy name thy kingdom nada they will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee…”

          2. Can you blame anybody? Existenialism is what it is. And it doesn’t really fucking matter what nihilism is, does it?

    2. Now I’m curious.

      Was she…
      sleeping in class?
      not assigning/grading homework?
      assigning too much homework?
      hitting on your son?

      I am genuinely curious as to what, specifically, needed to be stepped up.

      PS–I assume that, as an engineer, you do work occasionally as part of a team and therefore must possess some minimal skills at getting results without making everyone else into implacable enemies. Of course, I could be wrong.

  4. Do you know who else hated conflict with his ideas?

    1. Any random Randroid?

      1. Yessssss…

  5. And mass firings, school closures and attacks on teachers are not the formula for successful schools

    Sure they are. Perform or you’re gone, you lazy fucks, just like the rest of us.

    1. Horizontal class envy seems just as interesting as vertical class envy…

      1. I have no idea what “horizontal” class envy is supposed to mean. Please explain, because if you think I’m envious of teachers, you’re in Fantasyland, and if you think I’m envious of someone who can do a shitty job and not get fired, you’re also in Imaginationland. And if you can’t understand what I meant, you’re obviously in Uncomprehensionland, because it’s pretty fucking clear.

        1. What I’m getting at is this “Perform or you’re gone, you lazy fucks, just like the rest of us” attitude. Are you saying you like living under a strict perform or you are fired mentality at your current job? Shit, I’d like to have more job security and I’m not going to shit on anyone because they got it.

          I am not in Uncomprehensionland, but during my last visit I saw quite a bit of “John for President” yard signs.

          1. I absolutely want “perform or you’re fired” at my job, and we in fact have that. I always perform, and anyone who can’t needs to be gone, immediately, because we are a startup and we can’t afford non-performers.

            And frankly, fuck “job security” in the way you’re describing it. Why the fuck should you get paid if you can’t perform? I mean, are you shitting me?!?

            I am not in Uncomprehensionland, but during my last visit I saw quite a bit of “John for President” yard signs.

            I have no fucking clue what this means.

            1. The only problem with that Epi is that governments don’t go broke and go away. When idiots run a private company and fire the competent people to surround themselves with toadies, the company eventually goes bankrupt. That doesn’t happen with governments. Governments just linger on forever in incompetence.

              I am all for firing incompetent people. But I have absolutely no faith in those in positions of authority in any government to reward competence or anything beyond toadyism. For that reason, I think you are pissing in the wind if you think making it easier to fire government workers is going to increase the quality of said workers.

              1. This is what I was trying to get across to you the other day in our discussion about police unions. Making it easier to fire cops doesn’t empower citizens, it empowers police administrators.

                1. The fewer cops the better.

            2. If someone found a way to be paid while not doing much or anything I would not begrudge them, and in fact if I could find a way to do that so would I, this is just being naturally self-interested I would think.

              It’s different with teachers because I, as a taxpayer, am their boss. As a boss I would expect people doing that kind of a job to come in and give it an honest try. I would not want anyone fired because amazing results did not occur. Universal education is, as libertarians often note, a huge social engineering feat, and those things rarely come off with high levels of success…

              1. Yup. And paying mediocre people more doesn’t bring it off any better.

              2. MNG, the problem is not that ‘amazing’ results aren’t being universally achieved. It’s that in the granular measurement of the results from things like public schools there are far too many results of ‘abject failure’ with no accountability.

                I think people are plenty reasonable in adjusting their expectations to the circumstances. So people can be expected to take issue when appropriate progress isn’t made. It’s not about expecting amazing results. It’s about expecting result commensurate with the costs.

                1. True. But there never will be any “amazing results” until parents take some responsibility for their kids’ educations. Education is hard. Learning is hard work. If parents don’t understand that and expect schools to magically educate their kids, no teacher no matter how good is going to succeed.

                  1. “But there never will be any “amazing results” until have the freedom take some responsibility for their kids’ educations.

                    FYP.

                  2. “But there never will be any “amazing results” until parents take some responsibility for their kids’ educations.”
                    I have no doubt of this; it is the prime determinate.
                    But that study in LA buried by the teacher’s union showed that for a given level of parental involvement, some teachers manage to get the kids involved and educated. Others flat don’t, and the need to find another job.

            3. You’re posting that from work, right?

          2. “Are you saying you like living under a strict perform or you are fired mentality at your current job?”

            I don’t, but it’s there so I just suck it up. BTW, how do you earn a living?

      2. That would indicate Epi wanted to be lazy and get away with it like bad teachers. Not everyone wants to be that way.

      3. Interesting. So, when you pay a guy to come do a job, and he either doesn’t do it or does it in a half-assed manner that suggests he doesn’t care and he doesn’t care that you know that he doesn’t care because he already has your money, that feeling is “envy”? I learn more about the English language every day!

        Hating someone for what they are is prejudice. Hating someone for what they believe is bigotry. Hating someone for what they have (that you don’t) is envy. Hating someone for the wrong they did to you is grievance.

    2. But teachers are special, Episiarch. You can’t expect them to educate the childrens in conditions like that!

  6. Celebrate collaboration!

    Because responsibility is hard.

    1. +100. If it is everyone’s fault, it is no one’s fault.

  7. Working with other Appalachian Ohio school districts, [the union ahe the district] have joined forces to create a comprehensive model to transform rural education and improve student outcomes.

    Yea, it’s still a turd, but see the pretty ribbon we put on it!

    1. “Working with other Appalachian Ohio school districts, [the union ahe the district] have joined forces to create a comprehensive model to transform rural education and improve student outcomes.”

      The union and the district join forces every time the union asks for a raise; what’s new?
      And I’ll be knocked over with a feather if the ‘student outcomes’ are actually measured in terms beyond ‘self-actualization’ or some such horse-pucky.

      1. I’ll be knocked over with a feather if the ‘student outcomes’ are actually measured

        Period.

      2. Please. Teachers in FL bitch all the time about having to ‘teach to the test’ rather than educate because a huge chunk of the funding is tied to pass rates on standardized tests. And you know what, if they hadn’t spent a whole generation lying about their performance, they might have a leg to stand on. As it is, I have zero sympathy. If you can’t teach fucking MATH and READING such that kids pass a standardized test, what the fuck else are you doing in class? Facts can be learned after the fucking skills are developed.

        1. Well, they generally can get most of their kids to pass the test. The problem (in my opinion) is that nobody is allowed to go on until *everyone* has gotten the stuff on the test, which is pretty basic. Kids who got it in September are still studying the same shit in january. They often act out (or tune out) because they’re bored. High school is somewhat better because they have some ability to take honors classes or something more advanced (and because high school is moving toward end of course exams rather than one-size-fits-all basic literacy junk).

          1. One has to wonder if many of the problems cited – i.e. boredom – couldn’t be solved by having the courses of instruction and the progress/advancement of the student more tailored to their ability, than their ‘age group’? If the kids demonstrate proficiency/mastery of a given subject, why are they not allowed to advance to the next level, per subject, instead of being shackled to the lowest/slowest performer, and only shedding the disadvantage of having someone like that around when the entire grade/age group advances (often times with some of the same slow learners who are merely shuttled through the system for appearances or number’s sake)?

            Yeah, you’d end up with a ‘system’ that would facilitate a few Dougie Howser prodigies, but you’d also weed out quite a few that basically waste everyone’s time (including theirs) who might be better suited to being directed into a skill or trade related educational track, instead of being ill served with notions that they’re ‘college level’ material. . .but hey, since I’m not a credentialed professional, what in the hell do I know about it, anyway?

            1. I agree completely. But, you know, No Child must be Left Behind and all that…

  8. There is a unique crisis in USA education because teacher training has been taken over by a cult. A lot of teachers were probably set to be great instructors till they got credentialed.

  9. “When it comes to education, both sides are quite often acting in good faith, trying to do what’s best for kids”

    This is patently false.

  10. “It’s time we started thinking seriously about considering a way to prepare ourselves to begin changing the way we think about the system.”

  11. ps- It’s not about the money.

  12. I have zero sympathy. If you can’t teach fucking MATH and READING such that kids pass a standardized test, what the fuck else are you doing in class? Facts can be learned after the fucking skills are developed.

    I had a somewhat acrimonious conversation one time with somebody who was wailing about how “We can’t teach civics and history and stuff because we have to spend all this time prepping the kids for the reading tests!”

    She didn’t like it when I asked, “Why can’t you teach them to read using history books?”

  13. The establishment defenders are so mendacious and absurd it is hard to believe George Orwell isn’t advising them.

  14. to my way of thinking, federal control of education is the single greatest threat to our country.I can’t believe people don’t understand the dangers of state sponsored er mandated education system
    http://oakparkrepublic.blogspo…..ia_04.html

  15. @ Pbrooks…That’s classic. They get so lost in there talking points that they are floored when someone asks a common sense question

  16. I dunno, I have not seen many successful workplaces with a great deal of acrimony between the employers and employees.

    I haven’t seen very many successful workplaces where there was virtually no link between an employee’s job performance and their compensation, either.

    Its possible to reward, discipline, and fire employees without creating a great deal of acrimony between employers and employees, you know. Although having a union on the premises makes it much more difficult, since they can only justify their existence by making sure conflict exists.

    1. “Its possible to reward, discipline, and fire employees without creating a great deal of acrimony between employers and employees, you know. Although having a union on the premises makes it much more difficult, since they can only justify their existence by making sure conflict exists.”
      *THIS* addresses the part of her comment that was self-serving; poor dear must get the vapors every time (once every ten years or so) a teacher is fired.

  17. Making it easier to fire cops doesn’t empower citizens, it empowers police administrators.

    I don’t care who it “empowers”, as long as we get rid of the bad cops.

  18. “And mass firings, school closures and attacks on teachers are not the formula for successful schools.”

    Pray tell, smart ass, what is the formula for successful schools?

  19. I’ve been seeing this tactic more and more these days. When you disagree with someone, you accuse them of divisiveness and partisanship.

    You call them a racist nigger and accuse them of being overly angry. That’s the tactic, in it’s essence: hypocrisy.

  20. MNG|1.6.11 @ 3:44PM|#
    “If someone found a way to be paid while not doing much or anything I would not begrudge them,…”

    Good!
    I’ll do nothing. Please send, oh, $75K/year.
    Sorry, bozo, I *do* begrudge them when it’s my money.

    1. Exactly. “begrudge” or not, whoever’s giving them that money is getting screwed.

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