Mark W. Hendrickson

At that same school, kids would tear pages out of books to get out of doing assignments. At least a dozen seventh-grade girls were pregnant at any given time. A fulltime teacher there (a former college linebacker) told me that a good day was when nobody got hurt. The priority at that school was safety, not education. That school should have been euthanized and something else done in an attempt to salvage a decent education for those children.

Similar to Mayor Emanuel’s decision to pull the plug on a few failed schools in Chicago, there are similar moves afoot in California, where a majority of parents could sign a petition that triggers a major reform of an unsatisfactory public school, up to and including shutting it down if it can’t be reformed or restructured satisfactorily.

That is the good news. The bad news is that union operatives and allies, some from outside the area, used a combination of intimidation and lies against parents who had signed petitions to trigger reforms, causing the petition to be rescinded. It remains for the courts to determine whether the original petition is valid or not, but in the interim, reform is being blocked. This may be a short-term victory for the teachers’ union, but in the long run, they may find (as in Wisconsin) that their aggressiveness may turn people against them.

In New York City, teacher evaluations were made public at the instigation of The Wall Street Journal and other media organizations. This is problematical, and I’m not sure I agree with it. Yes, without a doubt, teachers should be held accountable for their performance and irremediably ineffective teachers should be canned. But can’t this be done without making public spectacles of inferior teachers? Perhaps a small committee of parents could be allowed to see the evaluations on the condition of confidentiality being maintained as long as the school district acts to replace bad teachers. In short, remove them, but don’t make them wear a scarlet letter.

There are signs that significant upheavals are beginning to occur in public education. Let’s hope they gain traction and momentum. We owe it to our young people. A decent education is an integral part of the American Dream.


Mark W. Hendrickson

Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson is an adjunct faculty member, economist, and fellow for economic and social policy with The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.
 


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