This article was written by Dean Baker, a macroeconomist. It appeared in Al Jazeera. Baker is in no way influenced by the big-name pundits who disdain teachers.
To give you a flavor of the wisdom here, this is how it starts:
“We don’t know the final terms of the settlement yet, but it appears that the Chicago public school teachers managed to score a major victory over Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s business-oriented mayor. Testing will not comprise as large a share in teachers’ evaluations as Emanuel had wanted; there will be a serious appeals process for teachers whom the school district wants to fire, and laid off teachers will have priority in applying for new positions.
“If these seem like narrow self-interested gains for the teachers and their union, think again. Teaching in inner city schools is a difficult and demanding job.
“Most of the children in Chicago’s public schools are poor. Their families are struggling with all the issues presented by poverty. Many of the schools are in high crime areas and serious crimes often take place on school premises. It can be a lot harder job than working for a hedge fund.
“It will not be possible to get committed and competent people to teach in the public school system if they cannot be guaranteed at least a limited amount of job security and respect. The $70,000 annual pay that was ridiculed as excessive by so many pundits would not even be a week’s salary for many of the Wall Street types who do nothing more productive than shuffle paper.
“The widely held view in the media, that the school teachers and their union are an anachronism, turns reality on its head. The so-called “school reform” movement is by now old news. These people have been more or less calling the shots in public education for the last two decades. Their policies have been tried and failed.
“The reformers have made great promises about the potential of charter schools that would be free of the encumbrances of teacher unions and government bureaucracies. It turns out that charter schools are more likely to underperform public schools than to out-perform the public schools they replace.
“The story on high stakes testing for keeping and promoting teachers is mixed at best. High stakes testing encourages teachers to teach to the test. It also can and does encourage cheating. When scores have risen because teachers have taught to the test, it doesn’t mean the same thing as when scores rise because students are actually getting a better education.”
This is a thinker who hits all the crucial points.
Now if only some of our major pundits would stop, look, and listen.