News Center

February 14th, 2011

Classroom Accountability

By Sam Clovis

Teacher unions are a gift to conservatives that just keeps on giving.  Just two weeks ago, the people of Sioux City sent a signal to the local school board and administration that the citizens were not interested in seeing their taxes being any higher than they have to be by voting down the extension of a mill levy that was about to expire.

Much of the angst expressed by the folks was focused on the stewardship of resources.  The administration and the board could not make the case that more revenue was needed.  Now, the board and administration have entered into contract discussions with the local teachers’ union.  Already, a sticking point has arisen.  The board wants to make sure teachers are rewarded for outstanding performance and the union wants nothing to do with classroom accountability.  This time the board has it exactly right and the union has it all wrong.

All over the country, teacher unions are finally getting the scrutiny they have needed for decades.  Over time, these collective bargaining bodies have done more to damage public education in America than any cultural or societal change may have wrought.  One needs look no further than the absolute disintegration of public education in our largest cities.  With the notable exception of San Jose, CA, none of the ten largest cities in the country can brag about a graduation rate of over 50%.

According to Terry Moe, education policy scholar from Stanford, much of the declining performance can be traced directly to the protectionist policies found in collective bargaining agreements.  The pitiful fact is that those hurt the worst are minority students, the very children these democrat money laundering enterprises are supposed to be supporting and protecting.  So much for branding conservatives as institutional racists in this country.

There are ways to bring accountability into the classroom that would seem to be compatible with collective bargaining arrangements.  Rather than focus on the individual teacher and creating a system that rewards those who deliver the best scores on standardized tests, why not make performance a “collective” endeavor?  Districts should have no trouble establishing past performances for their students based on assessments and standardized tests.

As each school district is different, each school inside the districts is different.  Like it or not, socio-economic conditions influence learning, so schools should be indexed based on such factors as students on meal programs or other indicators that might correlate to lower performance.  The measure of performance should be on the school, not the individual teacher.  The school should show improvement as a measure of merit.  This approach puts the faculty, administration and staff all in the game.  If the district establishes benchmarks for each school, then incentives can be established that brings everyone into the mix.  Competition is a wonderful thing.  But that is exactly what the teacher unions do not want.

Recent scholarship reinforces what we already know in that charter and parochial schools are far out-performing public schools in America.   Though it might not be a fully equitable comparison, something in those charter and parochial schools is going right.  Add to this the performance of home-schooled children and someone had better start paying attention to why public employees, working for elected boards, cannot seem to achieve at the same level.  If there are structural issues that make these comparisons unfair for unionized teachers, why are they not demanding a change to those structures in their collective bargaining agreements rather than continuing to seek more money and benefits with even less accountability in the classroom?  Maybe it has something to do with the mentality of the teacher union leadership in the country.  Consider that a past president of the American Federation of Teachers once said that he would start worrying about the children when they start paying dues.

These contract negotiations are going on all over Iowa and the rest of the country.  This is a golden opportunity for citizens to demand of their elected officials that they represent the interests of the children and the taxpayers and not be rubber stamps to further erosion of accountability in the classroom.  Go to the meetings.  Contact board members.  Do that one more thing to make a difference.  Demand classroom accountability.

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About the Author

Sam Clovis
Sam Clovis is college professor, retired Air Force fighter pilot and former radio talk show host. He has been active in republican politics in Iowa for quite some time and is a highly visible and outspoken conservative. He has run for office in Iowa and remains a popular conservative figure.

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