Teachers union defends teacher, not student, interests

As I noted last week, the LA Times used official data to judge teachers by their effectiveness through a value-added analysis. The union in Los Angeles is not amused. It issued a statement, saying in part, “It is the height of journalistic irresponsibility to make public these deeply flawed judgments about a teacher’s effectiveness.”

Note the emphasis on teachers. How about students?

Give the Times credit for asking an important questions: Which teachers are having a measurable impact for the good, and which are not? Apparently the public wants to know; the Times says traffic to its website has soared. Even the education establishment has responded; the administration in LA has started efforts to do its own analysis–though it promises to keep the results confidential, which is to say, hide them from the public.

I’d agree that value-added analysis should be but one tool used to evaluate teachers. But for too long, teacher unions have resisted any and all efforts to use such an analysis. How important should a value-added analysis be in teacher evaluations is an open question, given the state of the art. But avoiding it altogether is something that shouldn’t be done.

The other question is “to whom should the information be disclosed?” Randi Weingarten, the president of the second-largest teacher union in the country (and ironically, the one most open to reform), says “not many people.”

“Although she said parents should have the right to know whether their child’s teacher received a satisfactory evaluation, she said the public should not have wide access to the scores.”

But if the public is paying the teacher salaries, shouldn’t it have access to the information? The local union, for its part, said releasing the information to the public, “could also have long-lasting impact on the careers of teachers.” Perhaps. But then again, are we running schools for the sake of teacher–or of children?

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