Tuesday, November 10, 2009
AFT on charter schools and partnerships
I know most of you can't believe I'm doing this, but to be fair, I want you all to see what the American Federation of Teachers says about charter schools.
I have to admit that I like a lot of what is on the AFT web site on this issue. The AFT talks about innovation, empowering teachers in the classroom, accountability and transparency. These are all good things.
Not surprisingly, here is where I strongly disagree. The AFT says that charter schools should "Hire well-qualified teachers—either certified teachers or those on a pathway to certification." The problem is that there is absolutely no research that demonstrates that certification makes a teacher a better teacher. The charter school that I used to work for had great teachers. Most of the best teachers were not certified. One is a retired instructor from the US Air Force Academy. One is simply a great teacher with a long history of teaching in private schools and charter schools who is passionate and well educated in his subject. Another, my daughter's AP Chemistry teacher (Linda Cummings) who educated her students so well that my daughter who ended up as class salutatorian and is now at the Colorado School of Mines is breezing through chemistry while many of her classmates struggle.
What is it that keeps unions after the idea of charter schools as long as they don't hurt unions? Is it about the kids? Excuse me for being skeptical, but I'm glad that unions are beginning to recognize the strengths of charter schools. The problem is that they continue in self-protective mode.
In business we see that those who succeed are those who create value. It seems to me that if the unions really wanted to convince people like me that they are all about the kids and education rather than simply protecting themselves through legislation, they would do things that created value--that they'd be passionate about creating value. The reason I'm skeptical is that I don't see that happening. I don't see the unions saying, "Hey, the way we are going to justify our existence is to make sure that all of our teachers are as good as they can be. If a teacher wants to be in the union in good standing, he or she must demonstrate the skills that make students better. In fact, we'll self-police our union members and get rid of members that don't meet our high standards." Has anyone heard a union leader say any of those things? If you have, I haven't.
I urge you, AFT leaders, if you are reading this blog. Convince me. Show me. Demonstrate that you really want to create value in education. Then I'll get on your side. Thank you for writing so many positive things about charter schools. I hope that you are honest about wanting to partner with charter schools rather than destroy them. I hope that in your partnership, you strive to make them better by making your members be better. Don't let slackers maintain union membership. Encourage those who are not good teachers to find other professions. Public charter schools need great teachers just as public non-charter schools do. Help create those teachers. Can we be partners?