Friday, August 20, 2010

teachers' unions: failure in action

Marginal Revolution pointed out that the L.A. Times has taken the extraordinary step of analyzing student performance data on 6,000 L.A. Unified School District teachers, and then releasing it. LAUSD could have done this, but (rightly) feared a union fight.

The union leader has called for a boycott of the Times.

Performance on standardized tests isn't a perfect metric, but it's the one we've got and it seems pretty clear that it's a lot better than nothing.

Publicly releasing individual data on 6,000 teachers is a little dodgy. But the thing is, this shouldn't be the Times's job. When you organize a union, you're taking some of the power of monitoring the workers away from management, who are usually incentivized to abuse that power. The tradeoff is that the union itself accepts the obligation of that monitoring: the union makes sure its members do sufficiently high-quality work.

Here is where teachers' unions have utterly failed. They've succeeded in keeping teachers from being fired, but in the process eviscerated the fundamental teaching mission of helping students to learn stuff. They can rant all they want about the unfairness of the modern educational reform movement and how it's an "assault" on the teaching profession, but that movement, and now the Times, is doing what the unions should have done decades ago and have refused to do: provide accountability for the quality of its members' work.

The unions had their chance and they blew it. Time's up.

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