Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nero fiddles while Rome burns

Schools, teachers consider new evaluations

"It’s considered a political hot-potato, however, because no one wants to label teachers as “bad,” and also because it’s subject to the technical machinations of bargaining." Therein lies much, if not all, of the problems with Portland's school district, and maybe most any school district, teacher unions.

It is one thing to have a union to battle (and it usually is a battle) the administration for pay and benefits, but it is another to have the unions standing in the way of disciplining and firing incompetent teachers. It seems that the unions want to control every aspect of the school system.

This goes beyond the typical management - workers' collective bargaining situation. History has demonstrated that unions fill a need of leveling the playing field when it comes to workers' pay and benefits. But when workers are not doing doing their job they ought to be fired. 

And, this is more than the ordinary employer - employee situation where bargaining does not affect the product's quality or purpose. A school system is charged with using public investment to produce students prepared to enter the work force or to obtain additional education. Maintaining incompetent teachers detrimentally affects the value of the educational process and results.

While much of the information available does not place the Portland Public Schools at the bottom of anyone's ranking of schools - it is nowhere near the top. Decent performing schools are the exception. [See the Oregonian's Your Schools or check out Great Schools.] 

There are too many schools that effectively ought to be shut down and the teachers let go. Their performance is dismal at best, and despite that they try to persuade otherwise, it is not the students, teacher pay, class size, buildings, etc. to blame - it is the teaching. 

The school system - not the teachers and their union - ought to be able to establish teacher performance standards and if they are not met - those teachers are fired. Teacher unions are stalling any meaningful educational reform with their self interest. The students who only get one chance at quality education are losing that opportunity.

Graduation from high school ought to have value other than that of that piece of paper called a diploma. Students should have been prepared to go to work, to college, to professional school - but not to find themselves either without employment or with a long term, dead end job that offers no opportunity to be a productive individual.

The connection between the educational system and employment is not casual - it is a causal. The Portland School System has failed and continues to fail to produce students graduating with a quality education needed to be gainfully employed.  [See also my post Nearly 1 in 4 fail military exam.]

Thus, while there is the continual bargaining over incompetent teachers, the educational system in Portland continues to burn to the ground.