Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Unions Are Barrier to Better Teachers

August 29, 2017 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Education Week Teacher blogger Nancy Flanagan recently wrote about how some states require a higher score on state certification tests for teacher-licensing exams—which makes it “unreasonably difficult” to get into teaching—while others eliminate licensing requirements to fill classrooms (“The Many Ways We Are De-Professionalizing Teaching,” Teacher in a Strange Land blog, July 20, 2017). She argues that both policy strategies are deprofessionalizing teaching. It is quite the opposite. These are two different policy levers used as a means to achieve the same end: attracting more talented teachers.

Without high cutoff scores for licensing exams, many teachers enter the classroom without sufficient content knowledge. We repeatedly face this issue in my own district in Connecticut. Our teachers often express discomfort with the content they are expected to teach, especially those who must teach math. How have they managed to get licensed if they’re not comfortable with elementary math? Additionally, there are young people with strong content knowledge who want to teach (including myself), but feel the teaching salary doesn’t justify the time and money required for certification. I began teaching math in a public high school as a consultant when I was 21, and six years later, I still do not feel that completing a credential before teaching would have improved my expertise or practice.

If anything has harmed the professionalism of teaching, it’s the unionization of the teaching force. The system values experience over talent, limits hours and responsibilities, and makes it difficult to terminate ineffective teachers. While these policies are intended to protect teachers from wrongful termination and overexertion, they have unfortunately smeared the reputation of the profession with no signs of recovery. I guarantee that policymakers are not desperate to rip off teachers. In fact, they are desperate to attract talent. Though some try to achieve this through raising teaching standards, while others eliminate the hurdles to entering a classroom, the goal is the same: getting competent teachers where we need them most.

Lauren Seymour

Data & Performance Management Analyst

New Beginnings Family Academy

Bridgeport, Conn.

A version of this article appeared in the August 30, 2017 edition of Education Week as Unions Are Barrier to Better Teachers

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Nearly a Million Kids Vaccinated in Week 1, White House Says
Experts say there are signs that it will be difficult to sustain the initial momentum.
4 min read
Leo Hahn, 11, gets the first shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. Last week, U.S. health officials gave the final signoff to Pfizer's kid-size COVID-19 shot, a milestone that opened a major expansion of the nation's vaccination campaign to children as young as 5. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Education How Schools Are Getting Kids the COVID Shot, and Why Some Aren’t
Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to helping overcome hesitancy.
5 min read
A girl walks outside of a mobile vaccine unit after getting the first dose of her COVID-19 vaccine, outside P.S. 277, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
Education Biden Administration Urges Schools to Provide COVID-19 Shots, Information for Kids
The Biden administration is encouraging local school districts to host vaccine clinics for kids and information on benefits of the shots.
2 min read
President Joe Biden, and first lady Jill Biden walk to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Rehoboth Beach, Del. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Education Civil Rights Groups Sue Tennessee Over Law Against Transgender Student Athletes
The state law bars transgender athletes from playing public high school or middle school sports aligned with their gender identity.
3 min read
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Amy Allen, the mother of an 8th grade transgender son, speaks after a Human Rights Campaign round table discussion on anti-transgender laws in Nashville, Tenn. on May 21, 2021.
Mark Humphrey/AP