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Richard Kahlenberg Is Making Sense

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The whole thing is essential reading, but a teaser:

But if the strike has been bad for Democratic presidential politics, it may ultimately be good for Democratic education policy, which for too long has aped right-wing rhetoric in the name of education reform. It can’t hurt to force a leading Democrat like Emanuel to spend a little more time negotiating with actual teachers and a little less time wooing hedge fund managers, many of whom passionately back the education policies that rank-and-file teachers despise.

Applying business school principles to the education of young children, Emanuel and his wealthy supporters favor firing teachers based heavily on student test score results and deregulating education by expanding the number of charter schools. But while much of the press equates standing up to unions with education reform, key reforms that unions opposed have not worked out as planned. Although 88 percent of charters are nonunion, giving principals in those schools the flexibility that reformers prize, the most comprehensive study of charter schools (backed by pro-charter foundations), concluded that charters are about twice as likely to underperform regular public schools as to outperform them. During the strike, nonunion charter schools have bragged that they remained open, but the lack of teacher voice in these schools helps explain why charters nationally have extremely high rates of teacher turnover.

The theory that a nonunion environment, which allows for policies like merit pay, would make all the difference in promoting educational achievement never held much water. After all, teachers unions are weak-to-nonexistent throughout much of the American South, yet the region hardly distinguishes itself educationally. Indeed, the highest performing states, such as Massachusetts and New Jersey—and the highest performing nations, such as Finland—have heavily unionized teaching forces.

Firing Marty Peretz really has done wonders for the New Republic!

It’s also good whenever someone can carefully distinguish the truth from union-busting non-sequiturs. In particular, believing that teachers should not be promoted or fired based on solely on standardized test scores is not at all the same thing as saying that bad teachers shouldn’t be fired.

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