Teachers and Unions

A comprehensive look at teachers, tenure, and unions. Learn how unions impact school performance. Explore the impact of education reform on teaching qualification standards, traditional unions and controversial tenure rules.
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Updated December 01, 2017 |
Are Teacher Unions a Help or Hindrance to Public Education?
In light of all the finger-pointing occurring in the education reform movement, we’ll look at the good and bad of teachers unions – and whether these organizations really work in favor of students and/or teachers.
Teacher unions have been a part of American education for well over a century, beginning with grass roots efforts to support teachers through improved salaries, benefits and working conditions. The two national organizations, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), have paved the way for dozens of state and local teacher associations, often referred to as Independent Education Associations (IEAs). In light of education reform gaining speed nationwide, these teacher unions have recently been put in the spotlight – either as the major hurdle standing in the way of true reform, or a potentially valuable tool in bringing about the sort of change needed in education today.


History of the Teacher Union


According to the PBS website, the early beginnings of the teacher union can be traced all the way back to the early years of the 20th century, when city boards of education began the first efforts at education reform. While this early focus was positive in some respects - including raising the standards of teaching, ensuring student achievement and rooting out corruption - teachers at the time did not feel like a significant part of the reform process. Teachers rebelled against the changes implemented by business leaders and education bureaucrats, and they began forming local associations that eventually grew into the teacher unions present today.
In Chicago, the Chicago Federation of Teachers was formed in 1897, and leaders of the movement like Margaret Haley and Catherine Goggin rallied other teachers in the
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Published March 23, 2012 |
A new survey from MetLife shows teachers are less satisfied with their jobs than they were in 2009 and provides suggestions from teachers for improvement in student achievement.
In the midst of budget cuts, dismal performance ratings and other challenges, it does not appear public schools need any more bad news. However, a recently released survey indicates school districts have yet another worry on their plates: teacher satisfaction across the country is at its lowest point in two decades. Why are teachers feeling less-than-loving toward their career choices? It appears the answer may be somewhat complex, but there is a bright spot in the news as well – some teachers have provided insight into how to improve classroom environment and teacher satisfaction ratings at the same time.

The MetLife Survey
The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher has offered input from educators, administrators and policy makers since the first survey was conducted in 1984. The survey is done annually by Harris Interactive, and it examines views about the teaching profession and the economic impact on teaching and learning in schools, according to the MetLife website. The views of teachers, parents and students are all accounted for in the yearly research.
The first survey was introduced after the Reagan administration issued its “Nation at Risk” report, which was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying, “The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity.” This report set off sweeping education reform that left many teachers feeling less than secure. At that time, the survey emerged amidst ideas that discussions about education should include the voices of teachers.
In this year’s
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Updated December 10, 2014 |
The recent Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll shows that three in four parents trust school teachers over unions and believe effective teachers are the key to improving quality in public schools.
A new Gallup poll suggests that while most adults in this country are not thrilled with the state of public education today, they are supportive of the teachers responsible for the education of their children. The survey showed that three in four Americans have “trust and confidence in public school teachers,” but do not think much of teachers’ unions or the government when it comes to the current quality of education. The poll comes at an interesting time in public education history, when tight budgets, concern over academic performance and teacher layoffs have become commonplace across the country.
About the Poll
The recent survey was conducted by Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa International, a professional education association. The poll interviewed 1,000 people on some of the most compelling topics in the education world today, including teacher quality, the role of unions and school vouchers. The results were announced and explained at a news conference at George Washington University last week.
Support for Teachers
The survey found that of the 75 percent who said they have confidence of public school teachers, the highest rates of trust were found among parents, those with college degrees and people who were younger than 40, according to a report at the Huffington Post. The same number also believed that teachers should have more control over their lessons. Two-thirds would support their children becoming public school teachers, and even more thought that high-achieving high school students should be aggressively recruited into teaching careers.
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Published May 26, 2011 |
The controversy about Washington DC test scores under Michelle Rhee gets some resolution, as standardized test scores are invalidated due to questionably high erasures. Learn more about what the official investigation found.
Standardized tests have come under fire once again in Washington D.C., as the results in three schools have now been thrown out due to testing procedure violations and allegations of impropriety. The city has also implemented tighter security guidelines and is monitoring more schools for testing irregularities each year, according to a report at WAMU. The results of this investigation have resulted in specific measures being taken to ensure the integrity of the testing process in the future. However, questions still remain about how Washington D.C. schools ended up in this position in the first place and whether high stakes testing is to blame for the problems.

A History of Washington D.C. Test Issues
Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington D.C. schools, sang the praises of many of the schools that raised their standardized test scores by astronomical numbers under her watch. Rhee used the test results as evidence that her sometimes unpopular methods of education reform were working. One school in particular, Noyes Education Campus, showed two-year gains that were nearly unheard of in the public education system. However, the school also displayed an unusually high number of erasures on their tests, which raised the eyebrows of some education officials and the media.
USA Today was all over the concerns and looked at other schools within the city to see if questionable results could be discovered. The publication performed an extensive investigation into test results in Washington D.C. and found that as many as 103
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Published April 07, 2011 |
Michelle Rhee is in the hot seat once again, as concerns about cheating abound during her time as chancellor of Washington DC schools. Learn about the high incidences of erasures and why the accusations are flying.
Michelle Rhee is a controversial figure, to be sure. During her brief tenure as chancellor of Washington D.C. schools, Rhee managed to ruffle more than a few feathers. She also developed a loyal fan base that has followed her to her latest project, StudentsFirst, a non-profit committed to education reform. Since her exit from Washington schools, some questions remain about whether Rhee's approach to education reform really does put students first. Case in point: there are recent questions in an in-depth report by USA Today about a high number of changed answers on standardized tests in some Washington schools.

Details of the Report
An investigation by USA Today exercised D.C.'s Freedom of Information Act to obtain data that documented test scores for one of Washington's schools for the past three years. Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus was considered a "shining star" by Washington's public school officials, after the school was able to raise standardized test scores by record-breaking numbers. In 2006, only 10 percent of Noyes students scored "proficient" or "advanced" in math. Just two years later, as many as 58 percent scored that high, and reading scores shot up as well.
Michelle Rhee was particularly interested in Noyes, and she used the school as an example of how her implemented changes could transform struggling schools into academic powerhouses. The school was rewarded by Rhee in 2008 and 2010. Both of those years, teachers and the principal received hefty monetary bonuses by the state. However, the fact that Noyes
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