At the recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayors from across the country endorsed so-called “Parent Trigger” laws which allow parents to “takeover” failing schools and lead to remedies such as firing every teacher in the building or turning the school over to a private charter management organization.
Instead of calling for new investments in schools or attempting to address growing urban poverty, Mayors are taking the now-popular blame teachers’ union approach.
Let’s think about this for a minute. Is it possible that some or most of the teachers in a “failing” school are doing a good or even great job of teaching? Certainly. In fact, that’s likely the case.
Do unions benefit when schools fail? Obviously not. They get the blame these days. And who makes up the unions representing teachers? Well, teachers. Do teachers want kids to fail? No.
And what’s the likely outcome of firing all the teachers in a building? The assignment of new teachers — some of them literally brand new to the profession — who are unproven.
Is it possible that in some failing schools, 5th grade teachers are getting kids who read at a third grade level and then moving those kids forward up to a year and a half? Yes! And what’s the end result of that equation? The kid starts out 6th grade behind by a lot. And still can’t pass the 5th grade reading test. So, a teacher does miraculous work and then gets fired because Mayors don’t want to address poverty?
Do you blame the doctors in hospitals where patients don’t take their medicine or don’t exercise or don’t eat right and then get sick? Are doctors in the South failing because so many people there have diabetes and other chronic diseases? Or, is there a responsibility to be placed on the community and the individual?
And why not collaborate with the teachers?
Rahm Emanuel (cited in the story) has so disappointed the teachers of Chicago that nearly 90 percent of them have voted to authorize a strike. 9 out of 10 employees think the relationship with their employer is so bad they are willing to walk off the job. This is the first authorized strike in 25 years. So much for the myth that unions are holding cities hostage. Teachers rarely strike because they WANT to be helping kids.
How about instead of parent trigger, school system leaders and Mayors go into the schools and ask the teachers WHAT THEY NEED to help turn the school around?
Mayors: Stop being cowards and start putting kids first. It’s tough, but teachers do it every day.