A defense of teacher unions

January 27, 2007

Diane Ravitch comes to the defense of the much-maligned teachers’ unions in the AFT’s journal, American Educator (here). Ravitch, an unpredictable thinker who typically has interesting things to say about the state of schooling, points out that teachers too often take the blame for the failures of others. As Ravitch says,

Some academics blame the unions when student achievement remains stagnant. If scores are low, the critics say it must be because of the teachers’ contract, not because the district has a weak curriculum or lacks resources or has mediocre leadership. If some teachers are incompetent, it must be because of the contract, not because the district has a flawed, bureaucratic hiring process or has failed to evaluate new teachers before awarding them tenure.

We can’t let unions completely off the hook for what’s wrong in schools today. There are simply too many examples of unions fighting educational changes that would benefit kids. But Ravitch’s article is a good corrective to some of the thoughtless union-bashing that has become commonplace in some school reform circles.

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