Study: Collective Bargaining Partially to Blame for Education Stagflation

Yeah this isn’t every­thing that is to blame in what’s wrong with America’s pub­lic edu­ca­tion sys­tem.  Bro­ken homes and fam­i­lies have a lot to do with it too in my opin­ion, but this is some­thing that pol­i­cy­mak­ers can actu­ally pro­vide pos­i­tive change in.

From NRO’s Andrew Stiles at the Corner:

In a new paper released on Wednes­day, Sally Love­joy and Chad Miller of the Amer­i­can Action Forum argue that teach­ers unions’ and their collective-bargaining poli­cies are at least partly to blame for both issues.

The authors cite an array of stud­ies exam­in­ing the impact of teach­ers’ unions and their nego­ti­at­ing strate­gies. The major­ity of these stud­ies have found that collective-bargaining agree­ments typ­i­cally focus on higher teacher pay and ben­e­fits and greater job secu­rity, with lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion given to stu­dent per­for­mance. In fact, teach­ers’ unions have his­tor­i­cally resisted most efforts to hold teach­ers account­able for the aca­d­e­mic per­for­mance of their stu­dents, and have suc­ceeded con­sis­tently. Tenure poli­cies, for instance, make it vir­tu­ally impos­si­ble to fire unqual­i­fied or inef­fec­tive teach­ers. Most states award tenure auto­mat­i­cally after about three years, and do not test a new teacher’s mas­tery of even the most basic read­ing and math skills. Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, this has had a largely neg­a­tive impact on the stu­dents them­selves, espe­cially those in large urban school dis­tricts with a high per­cent­age of black and His­panic students.

The paper com­pares student-performance data from two such dis­tricts, New York City and Chicago (both of which require col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing), with data from Char­lotte, N.C., and Austin, Texas, urban dis­tricts in states where col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing is banned for pub­lic employ­ees. The two dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions reveal how col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing is inflat­ing salaries, com­pen­sa­tion, and job secu­rity while it’s stran­gling poli­cies that could help stu­dent achievement.

Public-school teach­ers in New York and Chicago recently signed collective-bargaining agree­ments that increase pay and ben­e­fits, but place lit­tle empha­sis on stu­dent per­for­mance. In Chicago, for exam­ple, the union fought to ensure that “stu­dent growth” counts for only 30 per­cent of teacher eval­u­a­tions to deter­mine per­for­mance pay. In New York, the union agree­ment offers pay and ben­e­fit increases for teach­ers based on expe­ri­ence and edu­ca­tion lev­els with­out any con­sid­er­a­tion for stu­dent performance.

Data from the National Assess­ment of Edu­ca­tional Progress show that stu­dents in New York and Chicago have con­sis­tently under­per­formed those in Char­lotte and Austin, and per­form con­sid­er­ably lower than the national aver­age. In 2011, only 20 per­cent of Chicago fourth graders per­formed at or above grade level in math, and only 18 per­cent were at or above grade level in read­ing, com­pared with national aver­ages that year of 40 per­cent and 32 per­cent, respec­tively. Stu­dents in New York per­formed slightly bet­ter, but are still below aver­age. Char­lotte and Austin, mean­while, saw much bet­ter results, beat­ing the national aver­ages. Nearly 50 per­cent of Char­lotte fourth graders per­formed at or above grade level; 36 per­cent did so in read­ing. Austin was close behind.

Research indi­cates that high-quality teach­ers have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on stu­dent achieve­ment both in school and beyond, mak­ing the teach­ers’ unions’ resis­tance to performance-based eval­u­a­tion all the more frus­trat­ing. One study by pro­fes­sors at Har­vard and Colum­bia found that stu­dents assigned to teach­ers clas­si­fied as “high-value added” instruc­tors attend bet­ter col­leges, earn higher salaries, and are less likely to have chil­dren as teenagers. Fur­ther­more, sim­ply replac­ing a “low-value added” teacher with an aver­age one can increase stu­dents’ life­time earn­ing by as much as $1.4 million.—

The authors note, opti­misti­cally, that more states appear to be adopt­ing poli­cies that at least include objec­tive student-achievement data in teacher eval­u­a­tions. Twelve states now require stu­dent per­for­mance to be the pri­mary con­sid­er­a­tion in such eval­u­a­tions. Not sur­pris­ingly, right-to-work states have proven to be most eager to do so — the National Coun­cil on Teach­ers Qual­ity lists Florida, Okla­homa, Rhode Island, and Ten­nessee as the most suc­cess­ful states in terms of iden­ti­fy­ing effec­tive teach­ers and remov­ing inef­fec­tive ones, and among those only Rhode Island man­dates col­lec­tive bargaining.

Act 10, you just keep look­ing bet­ter and bet­ter with age.

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