Monday, August 30, 2010

Lake Wobegon vs. Gold stars

From the LA Times story about the most effective teachers in their value-added analysis (here):

"No one is ever really singled out, neither good nor bad," said Pinto. "The culture of the union is: Everyone is the same. You can't single out anyone for doing badly. So as a result, we don't point out the good either."

"When I worked at a bank, I was employee of the month," he added. "For LAUSD, for some reason, it's not a good thing to do."

What do y'all think: is this a fair portrayal of teacher union culture? If so, would you rather live and work in Lake Wobegon, where all the teachers are above average, or in a world where it's possible for a really excellent teacher's work to be pointed out (with the logical corollary that some of the teachers are not as excellent)?

My previous life as a business consultant biases me away from the traditional union philosophy that all workers are interchangeable and should only be distinguished based on seniority -- I've seen it sap any incentive to be creative or original or excel. On the other hand, unions exist for very real and legitimate reasons -- if that business consulting company had unionized, we might have had a livable work-life balance instead of barn-burner hours because the drive (internal and external) to excel was always greater than the drive to sleep.

(Also interesting in that story -- the teachers who get the best standardized test score improvements do NOT see themselves as teaching to the test; it's a byproduct not a goal.)

1 comment:

  1. New article in the continuing LA Times LAUSD story (but a warning, it's not much of a story):,0,5296646.story

    I forget in which article, but Duffy (the union leader of LAUSD) had a quote about how someone (her name escapes me but you've mentioned her and I think she's in charge of something national, I tried to look it up really quick but I don't have time and have to run) couldn't tell the union what to do because they were too big and powerful, and that was why they didn't have to do anything. I found his attitude. . . kind of obnoxious. Very party-line and not interested in any type of dialogue. So I'm not sure how it will play out.

    Oh, and two more that I missed from yesterday:,0,6990340.story

    and teacher's responses:,0,1043774.story