Friday, December 3, 2010

Avoiding the ideological divide

When former Florida governor and presidential aspirant Jeb Bush convened his annual Foundation for Excellence in Education summit in Washington, D.C. , ideological fault lines trumped education reform. The evidence is in this article by Tom Marshall in the St. Pertersburg Times.

In part, the line fell along a pro- and anti- teacher union divide. As one of Bush's Florida colleagues put it, "There is no way in our state right now that the dadgum unions are going to agree with this kind of stuff. So you either bring them to the table and tell them what you're going to do, or you run over them."

The speaker, State Sen. John Thrasher, was the author of a "reform" bill that was universally despised by teachers and was ultimately vetoed by Bush's successor.

His comment might be great for red-meat conservatives, but the more reasonable tone was struck by an actual educator, Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia, who said of her district's new teacher evaluation plan, "This entire plan was developed with our teachers union. I can tell you that we work very hard and very collaboratively with our teachers."

It is, of course, better to work collaboratively with teachers and their unions than to try to "run over them." That's a lesson already learned in Louisiana, which is in the midst of an experiment with value-added teacher evaluations.

This EdLog post from last May, followed by this one, demonstrates how lawmakers and the union can work together if they are willing to ignore the ideologues and look for better solutions to real problems.

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