Union Boss: What’s the Rush on Increasing Teacher Quality?

Kyle Olson

12/30/2012 12:01:00 AM - Kyle Olson

When American Federation of Teachers President Rhonda “Randi” Weingarten proposed a “bar exam” of sorts for teacher prospects, it was hailed as a step forward in improving teacher quality, EAGnews.org reported.

But some of Weingarten’s underlings don’t know what all the fuss is about. She either didn’t run the idea past her deputies, or they didn’t approve and she trotted it out anyway.

Norwalk Federation of Teachers President Bruce Mellion said if teachers would be subjected to such a test, they better get a pay raise.

"What we're doing is testing, testing, testing, testing. At some point we need to run schools with quality administrators, Central Office and let teachers teach in classrooms and stop making them crazy. It's over-evaluation. It's paralysis by analysis," Mellion was quoted as saying by The Hour.

He also said the process of testing an evaluation should be “slowed down.”

Weingarten’s proposal seems reasonable on its face. The concept certainly has merit. But it could only likely be administered by the federal Department of Education, furthering a national power grab over what should be a state and local responsibility.

A 2009 McKinsey and Company study quoted former AFT President Sandra Feldman as saying, “You have in the schools right now, among the teachers who are going to be retiring, very smart people. We’re not getting in now the same kinds of people. It’s disastrous. We’ve been saying for years now that we’re attracting from the bottom third” of their graduating class.

But there’s little urgency from some union bosses like Mellion, a leader of a school district that received a “4 out of 10” rating from GreatSchools.org.

GreatSchools.org also reported only 68 percent of third-graders and 73 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in reading.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the Norwalk School District has a 13.52 student-to-teacher ratio, well below the national average. Apparently class sizes aren’t the problem. Norwalk spends over $19,000 per student as well, so money isn’t an issue, either.

But to Mellion, teacher quality is definitely not the culprit. Then what is?

Teacher quality is indeed a major issue that must be addressed. But that process will be painfully slow as long as there are union leaders who fight accountability every step of the way.