Education sector has published a survey of teachers and their attitudes towards a number of issues, including their unions. Their top findings should come as little surprise to anyone who has been following the education policy debate in Ohio. Their report is titled "Trending Towards Reform", it might more appropriately be titled, "Leading Reform".
Since 2007, teachers have demonstrated strong and significant increases in their support for unions. In 2007, 24 percent of union members were involved and engaged in their local union; in 2011, 38 percent were. This isn’t surprising— with layoffs looming and constant policy changes, teachers are seeking security and turning to the one place they know they can find it: the union. Eighty-one percent of teachers say that without a union, teachers would be vulnerable to school politics or administrators who abuse their power.
In Ohio, this level of engagement has been even higher, due in large part to the significant budget implemented by the Governor, and of course the roll back of SB5 which sought to all but eliminate collective bargaining for public employees.
Teachers want more from their unions than traditional “bread and butter” basics. For example, among teachers who say their union does not currently negotiate evaluation, 75 percent say the union should play this role. Are teachers more supportive of union involvement because they view evaluation as important and in need of overhaul? Perhaps. Or teachers may want unions more involved in the negotiation process because they are concerned about the seemingly inevitable changes that are coming to evaluation.
Our experience has been that it is because of the latter. Indeed, education associations have been deeply involved in education reform. Around half of Ohio's school districts have engaged in some form of Race to the Top which requires association support, not to mention the reforms that teachers unions in Cincinnati and of course, Cleveland have embarked upon.
Compared to 2007, teachers’ overall assessment of their most recent formal evaluation improved. They are more likely to say that their evaluation was useful and effective by seven percentage points, and less likely to say it was just a formality by nine. Still, 35 percent continue to describe their evaluation as “well-intentioned but not particularly helpful” to their teaching practice. While the numbers show a notable improvement over the four years, it’s clear that evaluation must improve further.
This section of the survey is perhaps the most misleading. Evaluation systems such as the one being attempted to be implemented in Ohio are not yet off the ground, so attitudes towards their acceptance are yet to be determined.
As you can see from the results above, only 16% of survey respondents had student test scores used as part of their evaluation - that number is going to climb rapidly over the next few years, and along with it, we suspect, the number of teachers reporting a fair evaluation will fall.
Teachers are most in favor of pay reforms based on factors they can control, such as their school and the subject they teach. The less control teachers feel they have over performance measures, like student test scores, the less likely they will support proposals that tie pay to performance. In fact, only 35 percent favor financial incentives for teachers whose students routinely score higher than similar students on standardized tests. A much larger proportion (57 percent) support higher pay for teachers who consistently receive outstanding evaluations by their principals, indicating a pay-for-performance plan that may be more agreeable to teachers.
This is a response that corporate education reformers simply do not understand, and will no accept. Teachers are not looking for pay schemes that a Wall Street day trader would enjoy.
Teachers want to keep tenure—only one-third would consider trading tenure for a $5,000 pay bonus. But they are ready and willing to make changes to tenure-related dismissal policies to ensure that tenure is not, as AFT president Randi Weingarten said, “a shield for incompetence.” Seventy-five percent of teachers think the union should play a role in simplifying the process of removing ineffective teachers instead of leaving it to district and school administrators, compared to 63 percent of teachers in 2007.
This has been said by teachers over and over again, and yet opponents of teachers and their unions continue to deny it. The charge that teachers and their unions want to protect ineffective teachers is simply false, but what they don't want is a process whereby a capricious administration can dismiss teachers without reasonable cause.
The entire survey and it's findings can be found below.