July 24 2012

Teachers Seem More Open to Reform than their Unions

Vicki E. Alger

Teachers unions aren’t generally considered beacons of innovative reforms, but their members may be moving in that direction.

The Atlantic reports on a new survey that finds:

The teachers interviewed for the survey were also in strong support of unions getting more involved in identifying weak teachers and either helping them to improve or guiding them out of the profession. Only about 10 percent of teachers said their unions are already doing it. Of the teachers whose unions aren't involved in such efforts, nearly 70 percent said they would favor it.

Education Sector’s Tending Toward Reform survey also found:

Teachers think evaluations are improving. In 2011, 78 percent said their most recent evaluation was done carefully and taken seriously by their school administration.

Three out of four teachers—76 percent—say that the criteria used in their evaluation were fair.

Teachers are warming to the idea that assessing student knowledge growth may be a good way to measure teacher effectiveness, with 54 percent of 2011 teachers agreeing. This compares with 49 percent in 2007.

Teachers are still opposed to including student test scores as one component of differentiated pay, with just 35 percent supporting that idea.

Teachers do support differentiated pay for teachers who work in tough neighborhoods with low-performing schools (83 percent support). Teachers also support differentiated pay for teachers who have earned National Board of Professional Teaching Standards certification or for those who teach hard-to-fill subjects. 

Given the steep membership decline in the country’s largest teachers union, the NEA, it will likely have to do better than dole out close to $2 million in advertising cash to state affiliates if it wants to keep teachers happy.

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