Sunday, May 15, 2011

Letters to the editor: Accountability Is the Crux of Serious School Reform

 Here are some letters to the editor, most notably by Joel Klein, in response to Randi Weingarten's op in the WSJ:

·         LETTERS

·         APRIL 28, 2011


Accountability Is the Crux of Serious School Reform

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten ("Markets Aren't the Education Solution," op-ed, April 25) misses the obvious point when she argues that top- performing countries "revere and respect teachers," and that all would be right here if only America did the same. Top-performing countries revere teachers because they get great results (that's why they're top performing). Those countries recruit teachers from the top of their graduating classes, insist on excellence and don't protect underperformers. America does precisely the opposite, largely recruiting from the bottom half of our graduates and protecting even the worst of them. If you have any doubt about that, read the four-part series in this week's New York Post or Steven Brill's seminal 2009 New Yorker article, "The Rubber Room."

As long as unions continue to protect low-performing teachers, the solution for America's families is to give them choices so they can escape dead-end schools staffed by poor teachers. The middle class insists on choice; why should the poor—who typically bear the brunt of low-performing teachers—get less? Exhorting people to "reverence and respect" is no substitute for insisting on excellence. When will the unions do that?

Joel Klein

New York

Mr. Klein was chancellor of New York City public schools from 2002 to 2010. He is CEO of the educational division of News Corp., which owns this newspaper.

Let's examine why U.S. spending on elementary and secondary schools is 50% more than in Finland and Korea—two countries which Ms. Weingarten claims have things to teach us—while our kids are learning less.

James Rath

Lafayette, Calif.

Contrary to Ms. Weingarten's assertions, parents and taxpayers admire good teachers. We are just fed up with teachers unions. The real demon is the union-backed tenure system which keeps bad teachers in the classroom. Back in the 1950s, before unions and tenure in public schools, America's education system was the envy of the world. Ms. Weingarten predictably ignores this fact. It's not surprising that Ms. Weingarten's takeaway from an elite international conference of teachers and union presidents is that we frustrated parents and reformers are all uninformed zealots. Who is demonizing whom?

Richard Osborne

Greensboro, Ga.

Why does Ms. Weingarten assume that educational choice—markets—amounts to demonizing teachers? Currently, teacher pay largely depends on the number of years of experience and educational credentials obtained—factors that may not be strongly correlated with student achievement. Instead of a one-scale-fits-all pay approach, teachers, at least the good ones, should benefit from a more competitive labor market in which school administrators could offer salaries commensurate with expected student performance rather than being determined by an arbitrary salary scale.

E. Frank Stephenson

Mount Berry, Ga.

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