No education reform rock start can get through a few sentences without playing the “union” card. Walt Gardner makes mince meat of the argument by pointing to those NAEP results they quote so much:
……if teachers unions are responsible for low student achievement, then students in states where teachers unions are weak should do much better than students in states where teachers unions are strong. This is not the case. In Massachusetts and Minnesota, where teachers are heavily unionized, students post the highest scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the nation’s report card. Conversely, in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas, which have few teachers union members and virtually no union contracts, students have the lowest NAEP scores (“Beyond Silver Bullets for American Education,” The Nation, Dec. 22, 2010).
We’ve been finding out that using test data to justify a policy position in education is quite the slippery slope, but it is eduction reformers who have made them matter so much. Its fair to wonder what likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney – a former governor of one of those states might say about this. Education reform rhetoric has become narrowly thematic. Gardner sites liberal journalist Juan Williams as an example:
He claims that teachers unions are “formidable opponents willing to fight even modest efforts to alter the status quo.” Their obstructionism is responsible for the one million high school dropouts each year and for a graduation rate of less than 50 percent for black and Hispanic students. Williams says that when schools are free of unions, they succeed because they can fire ineffective teachers, implement merit pay, lengthen the school day, enrich the curriculum and deal with classroom discipline.
Perhaps Williams wasn’t aware of the Minnesota and Massachusetts examples. Or even a state like Florida which has one of those loathsome teacher unions, too. Williams education policy naiveté is demonstrated when he found a way to say unions are somehow an impediment to classroom discipline or responsible for the narrowing of curriculum.
But no matter. Ed reformers have acquired another mind-numbed, liberal mascot in Williams as he, too, has been intoxicated by their predictable talking points. For them, “status quo,” “union obstructionism” and “merit pay” are among the go-to, Semper fidelis rhetorical flourishes to invoke when anyone questions the wisdom or motives of their policies.