Debating the Gap
I just finished reading “The Union Gap” (Understanding the Times, Daniel Kinnaman, March 2003, p. 53). How right you are. The complete and utter destruction of the public education system is clearly at the hands of teachers’ unions. As an educator and building administrator, I can’t help but to agree with all you said. One thing I would add is the assistance unions receive from politicians, whose coffers are filled by disillusioned and misguided union reps.
I love your challenge to unions and will forward this article to our local union presidents. As you suggest, they will slither away from this like the snakes they absolutely are.—Eric Tracy Assistant Principal, Peabody (Mass.) High School
In response to "The Union Gap," I believe you severely misunderstand what goes on in the nation’s classrooms day-to-day. I am one of those expert teachers, pro-reform, and I react positively to many of the suggestions you mention—and so does the association.
If you sat in on negotiations with district administration as I have, you would see that many of these efforts are stymied by administration, not the association. Too often, it is the politicians and education establishment that play politics, ignoring what teachers know best benefits students and families.
Just try non-graded class groupings in most districts and see who opposes it; it won’t be the association. It is rarely, if ever, that I have seen the association protect “mediocre” teachers. If they are being protected, it’s because the district can’t seem to understand due process, rules that are easy to follow without being arbitrary.
Let’s face it, most of the current efforts at “reform” aren’t about improving public education, they are about dismantling it. I am proud to be part of an organization that will not allow that to happen. —Curtis D. Holmes Science and Social Studies Teacher, WC Hinkley High School Aurora (Colo.) Public Schools
Just finished the column “The Union Gap” and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve echoed the same sentiment to deaf ears. If we want true reform in education, take the unions out of it and get rid of teacher tenure. Legislators need a copy of this article, but I doubt they would want to read it. —Steve Bogan Superintendent, Armona Union (Calif.) Elementary School District
New Math, Fewer Teachers
I read with interest the story regarding Florida’s need for 20,000 teachers (Update, April 2003, page 8). I was especially interested in Gov. Jeb Bush’s mathematics regarding the cost of these teachers. Obviously, if you extend any program indefinitely, you could reach $28 billion. The reality is that if the state paid these 20,000 teachers $100,000 per year, the cost would be only $2.8 billion for the first year.
It would take 10 years to reach Jeb’s $28 billion figure. Based on some knowledge of salaries in Florida, $100,000 per year might be a tad high for a teacher.
There must be something defective in the math gene in the Bush family. Jeb has a propensity to make the cost of education sound exceedingly expensive while his brother [President George Bush] tends to make the cost of war in Iraq virtually free.
If Jeb could have talked his brother into putting the money for war into education, those 20,000 teachers would be mere pocket change. —David Paulson, Executive Director, School Safety Research Institute Deephaven, Minn.
Missing the Point
I recently read the article “Are Desktops Dead?” (April 2003, p. 30). I think it misses the point with the choice between laptops and desktops. It never discussed the impact that instructional model and assessment model has on the integration of both desktops and laptops.
Time and time again, we have read reports that demonstrate the impact of activity-based student learning on student performance. We know that students who learn a skill in lab training retain less than students who learn and apply a skill in an instructional task. This “begs the question” why anyone would buy fixed desktop units.
Traditional instructional models and traditional assessments limit the implementation of laptops, handhelds and PC tablets. —Joseph Reilly, Director of Technology, Corning-Painted Post (N.Y.) School District