The Political Future of the Teaching Profession
Despite the unified Democratic Party and teachers' union support for the re-election of President Barack Obama, a philosophical divide over how to strengthen teaching quality in the United States remains. Will teaching and learning be improved through increased regulation, mandated standards, standardized testing of students, and test-based teacher evaluation, as the administration favors, or through more-rigorous selection, development, quality control, and peer oversight of teachers, as favored by the unions? What are the consequences of each approach for what and how teachers teach and students learn?
A highly visible bipartisan political coalition reached consensus, resulting initially in the No Child Left Behind Act and subsequently in a reform agenda that consists of test-based teacher evaluation and charter schools. With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates and Eli and Edythe Broad foundations, this agenda, which was initiated by the George W. Bush administration's NCLB testing requirements, was strengthened by the Obama administration's Race to the Top, among other initiatives. Teachers' unions and other education groups had little influence. The noneducator-driven reform movement has cast considerable doubt on teachers' unions and teachers themselves.
Teachers' unions, on the other hand, argue that the countries that currently lead the world in educational achievement do not depend solely on standardized tests and their use to evaluate students and teachers. The unions believe that teachers should be held accountable for the performance of their students. The controversy is over the mechanism of...
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