Tenure and Unions

Back in the early ‘80s, I remember sitting in my mother-in-law’s kitchen while she explained why she was against a teacher evaluation system that allowed principals and administration to award bonuses to teachers they felt were demonstrating superior teaching. She was concerned there would be favoritism that would outweigh ability when it came time to pay out this extra money. At the time I was in a different career, banking, and I remember thinking “well, welcome to the real world. Why should teacher pay be different from any other industry?”

I’ve been reading quite a bit about Michelle Rhee lately, most of them in the “emperor’s new clothes” vein. Reading about her desire to get rid of unions and to give full power over teachers to administrators, those thoughts come back to haunt me. Because now I have been a teacher. Now I have seen what can happen when a single administrator is given power over teachers, and I have seen the difference between the career field I was in, and my career as a teacher.

In banking I did have a boss who decided salaries. However, he also had a boss who was generally aware of my productivity and accomplishments and he reviewed the raises as well. Both bosses knew what my job consisted of, what skills were required, and how the job duties should be conducted. The same is not true for the school administrators. My administrator did not know what a productive science should look like, or how to identify whether students were learning while they observed my class. Sitting quietly taking notes, talking only when asked a question, and not straying from the question one iota were the expectations. There was no one above my administrator who knew what science learning looked like either, or if there was, that person was not aware of me. And this can be said for several other subject areas throughout the school. I finally understood why my mother-in-law was so concerned. She was not “in the real world” and it is different from other industries.

The state I live in does not allow true unions to exist (except for police and firemen somehow, they always seem to organize so much better than anyone else). Therefore we have an association rather than a union. Which means no striking or any other activity that might actually result in action that benefits teachers. Administrators therefore have even more power over teachers, as teachers have nowhere to turn for any type of protection.  

About Cynthia Clark

I hold a doctorate in curriculum & instruction, with an emphasis in educational technology and science education. I work for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as the Evaluation and Assessment Specialist for the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment. My current research interests include qualitative responses to course evaluations, both the development of open-ended items and their subsequent analysis.
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