In an op-ed piece roundly attacking teachers’ unions, economist Erik A. Hanushek argues that recent school reform manifestations—e.g., Race to the Top, the L.A. Times teacher-effectiveness rankings, “Waiting for Superman"—constitute not a “war on teachers” but a growing recognition of the importance of effective teachers over highly ineffective ones. He writes:
My research--which has focused on teacher quality as measured by what students learn with different teachers--indicates that a small proportion of teachers at the bottom is dragging down our schools. The typical teacher is both hard-working and effective. But if we could replace the bottom 5%-10% of teachers with an average teacher--not a superstar--we could dramatically improve student achievement. The U.S. could move from below average in international comparisons to near the top.
The unions’ tendency to “lump” teachers together regardless of performance distinctions, Hanushek continues, is a “disservice to students, to most of their own members, and to the nation.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.