If I Had A Million Dollars…

Politico’s Ben Smith breaks the news that the American Federation of Teachers spent a million dollars to defeat DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and most likely send their longtime nemesis Michelle Rhee packing. I just assumed their intense involvement in the race was common knowledge, ads even carried their tag line.

To give some sense of this, with approximately 4200 Washington Teachers Union members that’s about $238 per member.  Sounds expensive.  In fact, it was a bargain for the AFT.  That amount per-member would be completely unaffordable in most large cities. So forget the public rhetoric, at a price they could afford the AFT was just able to send a powerful message to politicians everywhere about their willingness to go after dissenters.  In a lot of places they won’t even have to spend nearly that much next time.   That $1 million will probably continue to pay dividends for some time.

60 Responses to “If I Had A Million Dollars…”

  1. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Not only do teachers have lots of money (as a group) but they have relatives, neighbors, friends, students, parents, former students and many politicians joining them in their efforts to bring a quality education to every child.

    And they teach, too.

    God bless teachers, the true heroes in American education.

  2. edconsumer Says:

    Yes clearly heroic to spend one million dollars getting back their right to a lifetime job, even if the kids can’t read, don’t graduate and don’t have a chance to go to college. True heroes, that’s my takeaway, Linda.

  3. Jokefest Says:

    If that is your takeaway, edconsumer, it proves you reaaly don’t know very much about the issues at stake.

    My advice would be to read some education experts who are not sold on the notion that all we need for kids who attend schools in impoverished urban areas are more standardized tests and test prep and more emphasis placed on whether teachers raise students’ test scores to determine whether or not they have “added value” to their students’ lives.

    Also, you might look into tenure and learn about how it does not assure a person a job for life.

  4. phillipmarlowe Says:

    edconsumer should consume a greater variety of sources.

  5. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Here’s a post over at Bill Truque’s blog for edconsumer:
    I know the solution to all of the education problems in every single inner city, where obviously only people who hate children go to work, and obviously do their best to prevent their charges from learning to read, write or do math, according to writers like MattBlanc.

    Here’s the solution: replace all of the teachers with lawyers, bankers, pundits, and other assorted corporate types who are just dying to smash all unions anyway, especially teacher unions.

    Obviously, these new replacements are so smart, and really care about the children so much, especially the poor black and hispanic ones, that they will do a super-fantastic job for one-tenth of what they are currently earning.


    Of course, the only problem is that they would last, perhaps, 2 days in a classroom at Coolidge, Dunbar, Anacostia, Moten, before they quit, screaming, and ran back to their wealthy NW digs.

  6. edconsumer Says:

    Well Jokefest, my takeaway is pretty simple: either teachers do have an impact on kids’ lives and outcomes, in and of themselves. In which case we should pay them a lot more, hold them accountable, eliminate tenure (which is in fact a job for life despite all the protestations that it is due process – come on, I’m in the private sector, nobody believes that line outside of your industry). Or they don’t have an impact and results are in fact determined by parents and families etc. In which case we are over-spending dramatically for schools, we should claw back those raises that the union took in DC, pay teachers half as much since they don’t impact outcomes, and invest in social services. Oh, and while value added test scores may not be the be-all and end-all, I can tell you that when kids can’t read and aren’t on track to be able to go to college, as indicated by test scores, they have not received an education.

    That’s my taxpayer perspective. and I’m a lifelong democrat. Of course, I actually believe the first piece – that teachers do have an impact and therefore we should treat it like a real job with real pay and real consequences for performance (measured in what the students do).

    I also think that the unions, having lost the war of ideas, are going to resort to simple power politics in the form of money. That’s what they have left, and it’s not particularly surprising. Hey, the NRA lost the war of ideas a long time ago and they still get their way because of money, so it’s not a bad strategy. Just don’t expect the parents to support it because we don’t.

  7. Billy Bob Says:

    Edconsumer–its not an either or question. Parents have the largest influence on student achievement, yet teachers still have a relatively large influence. Not as large as parents, but the greatest within-school impact on achievement.

    How can teacher unions be the evil drag on achievement that everyone says it is when the majority of states don’t have unions and achievement tends to be lower in non-union states? Unions just aren’t the problem. Schools operate generally the same in union and non-union states.

    Also, schools do rid themselves of bad teachers. They just don;t fire them. Another myth perpetuated by people who don;t understand schooling.

  8. edconsumer Says:

    Sort of, Billy Bob. Schools sometimes do weird off-the-books stuff to get rid of bad teachers. Yet and still, every year I and other parents walk to school the day before school to look at the class list, desperately hoping that our kids don’t get certain teachers who remain on the rolls, year after year, despite every parent knowing that the teacher is not good. And that’s in a middle class area.

    I don’t think we are going to stomach that notion any longer, and telling us that people could do some unofficial thing to push teachers out isn’t good enough either. I also love the logical inconsistency of supporting tenure (due process, that’s all it is!) while also claiming that bad teachers leave (no process – all off the books!).

    These are lean times. There are no school levies. But at some point, there will be again. And democratic parents across the country who were solid yes votes in the past aren’t going to be there for funding any more absent serious, significant concessions in how teachers are evaluated. That’s the reality of the changed climate just in the last 2 years.

  9. Attorney DC Says:

    Edconsumer: I understand your perspective that there are teachers who remain in the school “despite every parent knowing the teacher is not good.” However, I don’t think it’s quite that simple. As a student, I know there were certain teachers that many students (and parents) didn’t like, but sometimes they were the same teachers that other students (and parents) did like.

    For example, a tough physics teachers at my high school intimidated many of the students (especially those without a flair for math) and really was not a very good teacher of these kids. However, he was beloved by the math-whizzes, who appreciated his intense instruction and thorough knowledge of the material.

    It’s important to note that there are teachers who have good personalities (but low subject knowledge), who are good at teaching honors students (but not at teaching low performers), who have great subject knowledge (but poor classroom management skills), or who have great classroom management skills (but boring lesson plans). This gets back to the difficulty of evaluating a teacher. In addition, if the school ultimately gets rid of a teacher (either through firing him/her or by using more subtle means), will the replacement teacher be better or worse than the one who left?

  10. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Hey, the NRA lost the war of ideas a long time ago and they still get their way because of money, so it’s not a bad strategy.

    Lost the war of ideas?
    It’s pretty hard to get around that second amendment.
    And the recent support from the Supreme Court.

  11. Billy Bob Says:

    Whats wrong with due process? I think unions support firing teachers that are incompetent. The teacher orgs in my state work closely with school districts to rid bad teachers from the profession. They encourage districts to get rid of such teachers–because they know keeping them is bad for everyone.

    We just need due process protections from crazy administrators at all levels firing people willy nilly.

  12. Marktropolis Says:

    Let’s see here, Gray raised something like $1.5M. Fenty raised $4.7M (give or take a $100K here or there, depends on what newspaper you read). So Fenty had more than twice as much money to spend as Gray. And you’re going to blame the it on the AFT? I guess all that money Fenty raised from his corporate buddies didn’t help much when it comes to the will of the people.

    Also, you need to re-think your math. The accusation is that the AFT spent the money, not the DC local. So if you are going to try and split that money across the members, you’d need to include AFT members nation-wide. Also, the piece isn’t really clear how much of this money was the AFT’s and how much came from other unions in DC (almost all of whom came out against Fenty – and not just because of the teachers issues, but in large part because of how Fenty treated the rest of the public employee unions in the city).

  13. Bob Calder Says:

    edconsumer thinks the public has been bought on one hand but teachers have lost the “war of ideas” presumably because the public can’t be bought and has been persuaded by the cogent arguments of ed reform.

    A $200.00 donation is perhaps the most common one from an individual. At least it was back in 1980 when I was a campaign treasurer. OMG $238.00! Do you think the additional eight did it?

    What part of: “The mayor did, however, manage to spend more than Gray during the same period, with expenditures totaling more than $1.8 million, compared with $393,000 for Gray.” is unclear? How about this: “Fenty allocated more than $976,000 of the $1.8 million to advertising, including a set of six 15-second television ads…” Or even this: “As to whether Fenty’s campaign will shatter fundraising records in Washington, D.C., Williams said, “That might be a possibility.” ”

    That “job-for-life” stuff has to stop. It’s offensive. Folks that are firmly against using even a single mediator to prevent abuse are misguided. Mediation is common as dirt.

  14. American Says:

    Just moved to DC from Minnesota and am confused about the union argument. I don’t know much about DC education except that its near the bottom. I do know that K-12 public education in Minnesota is excellent and the teacher’s unions are strong. So unions in and of themselves, or the ATF as a whole, is clearly not the problem. I won’t foreclose on the idea that perhaps the DC union in particular has some problems, but it’s clearly more than that.

    I came from a city with slightly above-average income for the state and a school system that was generally ranked as slightly above-average based on Minnesota state standards which are higher than the national standards. I recall the teachers threatening to strike a few times in the 1990s. Never happened because they got their way. Oh, and the kids kept learning…

    The notion that a student could graduate from high school and not be qualified to at least go to community college or trade school (like in DC) is completely foreign to me. Maybe they should try holding kids back or something. That’ll light the fire under the kids.

    I’ll never claim to be an education expert, but the simple bottom line is that strong union, public schools are successful all across the country. The notion that anti-union, school choice system is on the whole better is pure poppycock. Maybe someone can give me a reason why DC is so much more unique than, say, Minneapolis that it needs to take the radical step of deunionizing…

    Unions certainly have won the battle of ideas. They are a pillar of American society, and looking at life 100 or so odd years ago, we’re far better off with them!

  15. thenofunzone Says:

    I don’t know if you went to a public or private school but along the way you certainly failed to inculcate the simple notion that correlation does not equal causation.

    Just because Minnesota, or northern states more generally have higher-performing schools on average (while having strong unions), than other places in the U.S. with weaker unions tells us nothing about the impact of teacher unions on education performance. Let me reiterate. It tells us NOTHING.

    For starters you can’t draw conclusions about the causal influence of teacher unions (either positive or negative) on student performance without first accounting for literally hundreds of other confounding variables or factors. Even sophisticated regression analysis can only tell us so much here, but it’s at least more accurate than just saying okay well school or state x has strong unions and test scores are high ergo unions don’t impact student performance. that’s lunacy. it wouldn’t get you published in a heritage foundation press release let alone a rigorous academic peer reviewed journal.

    the thing that people forget is that theoretically its not unionization in and of itself that would potentially hurt student achievement – it’s the political influence of the unions and restrictive contracts that can come about when unions have excessive power over school policy. one excellent study in this regard is terry moe’s 2009 AJPS piece that essentially codes the restrictiveness of contracts in nearly every California school district and then runs sophisticated multivariate analysis to show that districts with less restrictive contracts oversaw most improvement in student learning over the past decade. it’s a rigorous – though imperfect study – published in one of the discipline’s most respect academic journals (not some right wing think tank).

    this is a complex issue, and no one is ever going to prove with undue certainty that the unionization of teachers crushes student performance or that it helps it. we can get some inkling, but trying to say the debate is over because Minnesota unions are strong and lo and behold their kids do well compared to the nation. come on dude I can think of at least 2 omitted variables in my head that stand out:

    -Minnesota is very racially and ethnically homogenous
    -Minnesota is not as poor as many of the worst performing southern states

  16. edconsumer Says:

    Calder, it’s a job for life. When a system like NYC can have a handful of actual dismissals each year, it’s a job for life. When 200-some teachers get dismissed in DC and the union challenges all of the dismissals – not a few, not most, but all – they are treating it like a job for life. Absent doing something criminal, it’s almost impossible (and I mean this literally) to lose your job after tenure. Whereas most of the rest of us can walk into the office tomorrow and get fired.

    On the question of whether unions are the cause of all this, of course they aren’t. There are so many problems beyond the unions and I know that there are places that aren’t unionized that still stink. So no I don’t lay the systems’ woes at the union’s feet. But this thread started with Eduwonk noting that the national union spent $1 million (or fully half of the campaign’s money) on the DC mayor’s race because they don’t like the schools superintendent. Followed by Linda making some inane comment about how teachers are heroes – hey, I think most of my kids’ teachers are heroes. But don’t shove that at us in a post about the union trying to buy the mayor.

    As for the money, I don’t think the public was bought with a million dollars. Doesn’t seem like ads played much role at all in the DC outcomes. But I know politicians can be bought with a million dollars -easliy. Huge difference, hence my NRA point. You don’t have to buy the public – just the politicians.

  17. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Actually, Michelle Rhee destroyed the “job for life” myth. She found out what due process was (ninety-day plan) hired more administrators to help with teacher evaluations and voila, the teachers were gone. If some of these people were dismissed illegally, the courts will reverse the decisions. Otherwise, the dismissals will stand.

    Unions do not evaluate, hire or fire teachers. Administrators do.

    Teachers are almost never “fired.” If they are not tenured, they are told that their contracts will not be renewed and that’s that. In my state they have no recourse, and the dismissed teachers can’t even demand a reason. These people are listed as “resignations” if they agree to resign, which most do. A veteran teacher is “pushed out” by being told that the process toward termination will begin. Or else they are given a radically different assignment. In my old district last year, quite a few teachers were moved from the primary grades to high school and vice versa (if they had the right credentials). This was done mainly because of budget cuts and to avoid dismissing all the new teachers. Many (over 100) of these veterans “retired” or “resigned.” Again, no one was listed as “terminated” or “fired.” I believe this is the main source of the myth, in addition to the much publicized rubber rooms where teachers are placed until administration can get around to giving them their legally required hearing. In my area there is one speech therapist in a “rubber room.” When I asked a colleague why the district didn’t just dismiss this person, my friend said, “They can’t get an administrator to do it. No one wants to fill out the paperwork.” Many people want the administrator to be able to say “You’re fired” as they do in the private sector. Well that’s not going to happen to teachers, police officers, soldiers, firefighters, city librarians, social workers, congressman, the president, or any government worker in the near future. Many laws stand in the way of that, along with the will of many citizens to offer public servants a measure of protection from patronage.

    In teaching, only those commiting crimes are “fired.” Teachers have contracts. (If you want to check up on this yourself, go to a school board meeting in June and look at the number of teachers listed as “retired,” or “resigned.” If you do some detective work, you’ll find that among those are those who were asked or pressured to leave).

    Yes, it is difficult to dismiss a tenured teacher. All these people are government employees and they have due process under the law. This is to protect them against patronage, arbitrary and capricious dismissals and other things. It’s also a way to entice people to take jobs that pay less than the private sector.

    Now that the recession has solved the teacher shortage in almost every community in the United States, I imagine we’ll see many more teacher dismissals. These districts will hire more administrators to do the job, or else states will loosen teacher due process laws.

    As an aside, almost 50% of all new teachers resign during the first five years, making K-12 teaching the most self-selective of all the professions. Once this recession is over, the conversation will once again return to “How do we hire and retain enough teachers to staff our classrooms?”

  18. edconsumer Says:

    “Yes, it is difficult to dismiss a tenured teacher. All these people are government employees and they have due process under the law. This is to protect them against patronage, arbitrary and capricious dismissals and other things. It’s also a way to entice people to take jobs that pay less than the private sector. ”

    - that’s kind of my point. the process to ostensibly protect tenured teachers, is based on an assumption that legal protections provided to everyone in the country in the form of civil rights laws are insufficient – that there is something so inherently evil in school administrators that would lead them to, more than any private sector bosses, act in an abritrary way. And frankly the pay is artificially held down by the fact that the general public isn’t psyched to pay more into a one size fits all pay regime.

    We have a vicious circle right now. Work rules make it almost impossible to fire. Therefore, administrators do crazy things to try to force out bad teachers. This (based on all the posts I read) contributes to an incredible lack of respect that teachers feel toward their bosses. And the taxpayers feel increasingly annoyed about the entire process. Hence the demand for change.

    Caught up in the mess are the 90% of teachers who are good at their jobs, deserve more respect and more pay, but aren’t going to get it as long as the other 10% linger with the full backing of their union. It’s a sad state of affairs. I love my kids’ teachers (most of them), but don’t believe in the policy positions of their union.

    As for the Rhee argument, the head of the AFT has spent considerable energy explaining that in fact DC is an unusual case, and NYC will NEVER operate the same way as DC in evaluations and tenure. You can’t both claim that DC proves something and that it proves nothing.

  19. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    As I tried to explain, not successfully I see, the situation with teachers and other government workers is under the jurisdication of the law. Unions only provide legal representation after the fact of discipline or dismissal. Many people believe as you do. You need to try to change current laws because that’s what you’re actually fighting.

    Here’s an actual situation to demonstrate how complex this problem of the “weak” teacher is:

    In 2005 I was asked to find a teacher to speak to the school board about getting a raise. I asked a good friend who doesn’t mind public speaking. My friend accepted and spoke to the board of education and asked for a raise for the teachers. The very next day the principal called her in and angrily chastised her for embarrassing him. He declared her an “unsatisfactory” teacher and required her to endure a humiliating year of close supervision despite many years of successful teaching. With the help of the union, (basically this means the union pays for the attorney) she took this to court. It’s important to note that she could have done this without the union, but the cost might have prevented her from doing so. The district kept losing and appealing until at last the Court of Appeals ruled against them. In addition to that, the judge scolded the district for retaliating against this teacher. This is the sort of thing that happened all the time before teachers (and other government workers) were given due process. If not for that, the principal could have said “You’re fired” to my friend and she would have had little recource. Yes, that’s how it is in private industry but why take this protection away from public employees? Wouldn’t it be better to fight for all employees to have due process?

    I want to reiterate my point: if you don’t like due process for government employees, you need to write to your representatives at the state level because this is a matter of law and not of unions.

  20. Billy Bob Says:

    And don;t think that using a value-added methodology for teacher evaluations would fix the problem of a bad principal going after a teacher for reasons other than poor teaching and learning. Indeed, a principal could easily rig the students a teacher is assigned to teach in a way that would make a teacher more likely to be deemed ineffective under a value-added methodology.

    See: http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/value-added-and-favoritism/

    This is apart from the fact that is not entirely accurate under the best of circumstances, thus should be only a small, but important, part of a teacher evaluation strategy.

  21. Billy Bob Says:

    If unionized work rules make it impossible to fire, then theoretically non-union states should fire more teachers, thus have more effective teachers, and thus have greater scores. But NAEP scores certainly don’t bear that out.

    The entire “evil unions” are the root cause of school failure is ludicrous given that we have all these non-union states that don’t act or score differently to any large degree.

  22. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    I thought of another aspect too. Why do you think many people want to take due process protections away from (mainly female) teachers but not from (mainly male) police officers or firefighters? I rarely, if ever, hear a demand for a police chief to be able to say “You’re fired!” to a subordinate. An officer can be placed on immediate leave (and so can a teacher) but he has due process before dismissal.

    Is this because many women are not aggressive? What do you think?

  23. Billy Bob Says:

    The same happened when females became the majority in education leadership programs–as soon as that happened, a bunch of corporate males decided we should no longer require teaching or principal preparation to become a principal.

  24. thenofunzone Says:

    “If unionized work rules make it impossible to fire, then theoretically non-union states should fire more teachers, thus have more effective teachers, and thus have greater scores. But NAEP scores certainly don’t bear that out.”

    Billy Bob, thanks for your hard-cutting analysis. If I were giving out grades for Kindergarten finger painting you would certainly get an “A.” However, in college-level Intro to Research Design you would get an “F” for fail.

    In your razor sharp logic above you forget that NAEP scores might be influenced by a host of variables (ah let’s see, things so obscure like family income, racial diversity), that are also correlated with unionization and teacher labor markets which make concluding anything about the CAUSAL impact of unions on test scores impossible to deduce.

    Seriously, the posters on this Web site should really go read some basic stats books and brush up on research design before trying to make arguments that wouldn’t pass muster in a Heritage Foundation briefing paper, let alone a peer reviewed journal.

    The ignorance is astounding.

  25. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    The person who resorts to personal attacks is the one who lost the argument.

  26. thenofunzone Says:

    The attack wasn’t personal. I pointed out a flaw in the argument as to where causality was not established. Sure I called him a fool for making the mistake in his analysis, but it’s not as if my response did not contain an argument focused on replying to Billy Bob’s contention that NAEP scores can or can not be explained by teacher unionization.

    I raised the issue of confounding variables that he does not account for in his assertion. I did it snidely sure, but he’s a big boy and can either provide a response back explaining how his research methods in making claims are legit, or not. He can even call me names, but only if he backs it up with scientific logic.

  27. Billy Bob Says:

    As someone who has taught quantitative analysis, so I am quite aware of the flaws. My post was part in jest and part to use teh same stupid “logic” that the anti-union folks use. Generally, those making the case that unions are the real problem actually use NO data. But I don’t see you flogging them for that.

  28. thenofunzone Says:

    Moe, T. M. (2009), Collective Bargaining and The Performance of the Public Schools. American Journal of Political Science, 53: 156–174. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2008.00363.x

    Caroline Hoxby (1996), How Teachers’ Unions Affect Education Production. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1996, vol. 111, issue 3, pages 671-718

    These are two prominent examples of research that

    1) is quantitative
    2) published in top journals in the fields of political science and econ respectively
    3) frequently referenced by me in my posts on eduwonk whenever a discussion of how restrictive contracts and unions impact student achievement arise

    The bottom line is that there exists serious scholarly work demonstrating a causal connection between restrictive labor agreements and powerful teacher unions with decreased educational production, controlling for a myriad confounding variables.

    I’d love to have a conversation about the scholarly literature on this subject, but alas most posters on eduwonk prefer to tell narratives about how they know the facts support their views based on personal experiences on the frontlines. good science is clouded by such an approach to generalize based on particulars.

  29. Billy Bob Says:

    The Hoxby article does not have student achievement as an outcome variable. The only educational output variable was dropouts which were not collected consistently ever. Further, she has some omitted variable bias since she does not control for minimum competency testing in the 1980s and has no characteristics of the schooling systems in the states.

    Nice try though.

    Moe actually looked at contract restrictiveness rather than unions. SO, no over-arching conclusion about unions can be made from that article. I would agree that overly restrictive contracts are generally a bad thing, but that does not mean unions are.

    Moe says research is mixed in the area of unions and student achievement.

    You can generally tell what Moe and Hoxby will conclude before reading the article. If you do quant work, you know that you can generally find anything if you look hard enough.

    Grimes and Register (1990) found positive effects on actual student achievement in HS economics in unionized districts.

    In reviewing the research for his article on unionization, Carini (2002) finds that the preponderance of the evidence suggests unionization mas a modest, positive effect on student achievement.

  30. thenofunzone Says:

    Dropouts aren’t one way of measuring student achievement? Really. Okay, would you say more or less dropouts are a good thing? The data wasn’t collected well enough? Well it was collected well enough for QJE peer reviewers to go ahead with publishing it- a hugely important journal in the field. Even in the left-wing EPSL review that you cite the author admits that of all the literature Hoxby’s is the strongest – even if her study has “problems” as he called it because her sample only covered 60 percent of U.S. School districts.

    Now, quibble with a publication in QJE all you want, but the very fact that you concede that restrictive contracts are bad for student achievement is a huge admission given that strong unions typically argue for restrictive – not flexible – contracts.

    How often do you see unions asking school boards for more flexibility for school leaders in hiring, firing, and pay? I sure don’t see that much. So fine, if you want to say that the existence of a union per se does not lead to bad student achievement okay, but what unions actually attempt to obtain politically (restrictive contracts) are linked to worse achievement.

    Grimes and Register published in the Journal of Economic Education, not nearly as prestigious or selective a journal as QJE which Hoxby’s paper appears in. Grimes and Register also fail to cluster their standard errors – not exactly a minor omission.

    You can quibble with Hoxby, but if it was good enough for the reviewers at QJE, you should have a higher standard than to cite work in the Journal of Economic Education.

    Carini’s 2002 EPSL pamphlet? Are you kidding? This shit isn’t even published. EPSL!?!? That’s like saying something done by Heritage Foundation is high quality.

    Dude, QJE and AJPS are THE TOP JOURNALS in their field. Caroline Hoxby is Harvard now Stanford, TM is Stanford.

    Who is Robert M. Carini? He’s a jv scholar at the University of Louisville. I don’t event think this merits a response.

  31. Billy Bob Says:

    blah blah blah–Hoxby does crap work. She makes up her conclusions before she starts on the paper. Everyone knows this. And journals publish stuff even when data is bad because its the only data available. I can take her data set and show that unions had no effect.

    It was a book, not their pamphlet–and you can call it shit all you want, but the methodology looks pretty decent to me.

    And yes–shit work gets published even in good journals.

    And no–dropping out is not achievement. And, as Moe points out, data aggregation is problematic in such a study.

    And thanks for being a dickwad. You and Chris SMEAR are two peas in a pod.

  32. Billy Bob Says:

    And where do you live? Probably a union state. Move to a non-union state if unoins are so terrible and see what schools are like there. Not any better or worse. Anyone who says unions are the real cause is not looking at the issue objectively.

    WHy don;t you move to say, Miss. or Alabama and see what not having unions does to a state.

  33. Billy Bob Says:


    Read that. Those guys run circles around Hoxby.

  34. thenofunzone Says:

    so you admit that restrictive teacher union contracts – restrictive in the sense that they limit school leader autonomy per Moe’s study – are a bad thing? That’s a huge admission. Why? Because the sole purpose of unions in contract negotiations is to take school leader autonomy in setting pay, promotion, assignment away!!!!!!

    thenofunzone 1, billy bob 0

    “run circles around Hoxby”

    Hoxby: tenured at Harvard, now an endowed prof at Stanford
    ESLP Arizona State: ummm yea

  35. thenofunzone Says:

    oh yeah and billy bob – once again here’s a question. would i move to Alabama because their teacher unions is weak and influential in setting school policy? hahah that’s laughable. the Alabama Education Association is always ranked as either the 2nd or 1st most powerful interest group in the state. it’s former leader Paul Hubbert almost won the Dem nomination for governor. It is the leading contributor in $ to candidates for state office most years. you can’t just say that unions have power or do not have power as a result of collective bargaining. there is a major flaw in thinking about how unions influence school policy by just thinking about the right to bargain.

    AL teacher unions have power. They are one of the reasons the state can’t pass a good charter school law.

  36. phillipmarlowe Says:

    Highlights from the Politico article:
    The national union spent roughly $1 million in contributions to a labor-backed independent expenditure campaign — also supported by the public workers union AFSCME — and on its own extensive political operation, a Democratic political consultant familiar with the details of the spending told POLITICO. The spending suggests that the vote — while not a referendum on Fenty’s attempt to shake up the school system — was deeply shaped by that policy

    Weingarten declined to comment on the sum the AFT spent, but the consultant said that most of the money went to unlimited and unregulated communication with union members, intense outreach to the union’s more than 2,000 members in the district and to the between 30,000 and 40,000 AFL-CIO members in Washington, D.C. Each group received three mailings and several live calls; the union also did its own polling on the race.

    Without AFT this race might have been a coin flip,” said the consultant.

    “is it me or are there daggers going back [and] forth [between] Rhee & Weingarten on this panel?” tweeted CNN’s Ed Henry.
    Henry sounds like he’s back in middle school.

  37. phillipmarlowe Says:

    And highlights from the comments:
    The Union is presicely what’s wrong with the Demoncrats. Those parasites have done really good job detroying educational systems and the city budget. Congratulation, the residents of D.C. for voting against your self-interest. How studpid you are.

    I ar a youyun membr anna praduck ov publick ejukashun. I ar a teechur.

    Fenty’s loss is a loss for the children & parents of DC. The teachers union is about their own selfish self-interest. This should be a wakeup call to the electorate that they must actively oppose special interests that harm the welfare of society.

    The slave masters are not about to let the slaves receive the benefits of private education with their children. By the way, where do you think the Democrats in Congress and the White House send their kids?

    Somebody needs to DESTROY these unions b4 they destroy the country!

    Alot of education reform talk.

  38. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    Yes, teacher unions have great power and lots of money too. They affected the DC election and they’ll do the same nationally! Watch for a change in tone coming from politicians in the coming weeks. Go, Teachers!!!

    As for educational research, “everyone” knows it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Even studies at Harvard or Stanford are quickly contradicted by other studies at Harvard or Stanford. We’re not talking math or physics. Billy Bob is right. Many of these “researchers” decide on the outcome even before they conduct the study and then they “guide” the data in the direction they want it to take. This is easy to do because it’s almost impossible to control all the variables.

  39. Chris Smyr Says:

    Billy Bob:

    “You and Chris SMEAR are two peas in a pod.”

    This is great, bringing it back middle school style. I can’t wait for the poop jokes, are they next? The irony almost made me fall out of my chair, though, when Phillip criticizes ed reformers for poorly thought-out comments just slightly down thread.


    Billy Bob and yourself share the interesting debate tactic of setting up long-winded diatribes of sh*t you’ve made up. All anyone else usually has to do to cut your arguments down is to shine a two-dollar flashlight on your evidence, in this case, that you think “many of these “researchers” decide on the outcome even before they conduct the study and then they “guide” the data in the direction they want it to take”.

    Linda, I know you think this stuff happens, but thinking it doesn’t make it so, especially when you’re in need of evidence to support your commentary. Give something substantive that we can read and appreciate.

    And believe me: the physical sciences have seen their share of contradicting results. To my knowledge, no one has subsequently thrown up their hands and given up on the prospect of doing good science because of it.

  40. edconsumer Says:

    The one thing I know when I read Billy Bob, Linda, et al: theirs is an increasingly marginal perspective. The entire Republican party and half of the Democratic party believes something different. It makes playing in a place like DC very logical for the unions (all democrats, see if you can influence the race). But it makes it increasingly unlikely that their views will carry the day nationally.

    Linda, I anticipate a lot of lip service from the administration to unions over the next year. But when push comes to shove, the president, the chief of staff and the secretary of education believe in measuring teachers based on student gains, believe in getting rid of teachers who are bad at their jobs, and believe in overhauling schools that fail. They have no reason to abandon that perspective when the majority of Americans believe the same thing. And they have no reason to believe that the unions are going to turn on them. Where would you go?

    Most importantly, we can believe all those things and still love most of our kids’ teachers and still believe that their work conditions and pay should be better.

  41. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    You might be interested in knowing that I too believe in measuring teachers based on student gains , believe in getting rid of teachers who are bad at their jobs, and believe in overhauling schools that fail. I just want each child to be tested carefully so that the results are valid. I want fair and careful evaluation of teachers, preferably by a committee of professionals and I want ALL schools to receive the help that they need to be successful.

    I also believe strongly in the innate sense of fairness in the American people. Yes, the majority wants what I want, and they will make certain it is done fairly. What I am against is the shameful treatment of teachers, invalid testing and charter fraud. Isn’t everybody?

  42. Linda/RetiredTeacher Says:

    One more point:

    Edconsumer, you will find this difficult to believe but during my 42 years of teaching I never knew that principals were NOT basing their evaluations of me on student progress. I was the type of teacher who loved sharing student work with colleagues and administrators and would frequently say, “Look how much Jr. has learned” or “Look at these compositions. Isn’t this great for first grade?” My last year of teaching, when the superintendent came to my room, I proudly showed him my students’ writing and asked, “Don’t you think it’s as good as the work at Affluent School?” He agreed that it was. Every spring I would visit the school across the street from me to make certain that my own low-income students were achieving at a level close to their privileged peers. No one ever accused me of having low expectations.

    My principals always had access to my student files, where they could look at benchmark tests (We didn’t give standardized to first grade) at any time. I always assumed that principals kept careful watch on the progress of all students in a school. Isn’t this one of their responsibilities?

    So, no, I am not against evaluating teachers based on their students’ progress but I want accurate testing of that progress. Don’t you?

    As an aside: my son, an elected official, just called to ask me to help with our state’s campaign for governor. I said yes, and suggested his candidate should emphasize gratitude for teachers and fairness and accuracy in testing. So it’s looks as though I might be in a good position to encourage positive change in education in my state!

  43. phillipmarlowe Says:

    The irony almost made me fall out of my chair, though, when Phillip criticizes ed reformers for poorly thought-out comments just slightly down thread.
    In Chris’s World, if you point out something he doesn’t like, he calls it criticism.

  44. Billy Bob Says:

    Edconsumer–yes, our perspective is dwindling to the point that Rhee was removed. I hope it keeps dwindling then.

    And great straw man argument implying none of us want to seriously evaluate teachers. I actually run value-added analyses for a school district to help identify strengths and weaknesses. But I know the limitations of such analyses, while most people do not.

  45. Chris Smyr Says:


    The irony was lost on you. I’ll be more direct:

    Billy Bob (9:25 pm): “You and Chris SMEAR are two peas in a pod.”

    Phillipmarlowe (10:26 pm): *gives examples of childish or poorly thought-out pro-reform comments from another thread*

  46. phillipmarlowe Says:

    I guess that what I lose out on not going to grad school.

  47. Billy Bob Says:

    Hmm–wonder if you got kicked out for stupidity since you used to be a banana slug. Probably couldn’t hack real discussions and critical thinking.

  48. Chris Smyr Says:

    Billy Bob:

    Playground taunts about someone’s last name aren’t usually indicative of a desire for “real discussions and critical thinking”.

  49. Billy Bob Says:

    Hey dude–read the posts. You are the one who let the decorum slip. I just followed your lead.

  50. Chris Smyr Says:

    Nearly all of your comments for the past couple months have been speckled with all sorts of ad hominem and insults, so don’t even try to claim otherwise. At the very least own up to your propensity for vitriol.

  51. thenofunzone Says:

    i’m still waiting for Billy Bob to explain why unions are weak in Alabama given my response that had a few facts suggestion otherwise. also waiting to hear why we ought to dismiss arguments from endowed harvard and stanford professors in favor of a think tank of researchers at arizona state which is clearly known more for their prowess in ncaa sports than research… yawn.

  52. Billy Bob Says:

    I see nofunnzone ignored the article by some of the best researchers in the land–typical. You both criticize me for your exact behaviors. Therapists can help with that projection problem.

  53. thenofunzone Says:

    Best researchers Billy? Harvard and Stanford are FAR MORE prestigious places where economists work than Arizona State, Louisville, and the smattering of Tier 3 crapper schools where your cited folks have jobs. AND, my friend, might I remind you that Hoxby’s study was published in QJE – a consensus TOP econ journal with the highest standards of peer review. Every single article you cited was placed in a far lower-tier journal than either Terry Moe’s AJPS piece or Caroline’s QJE. Caroline’s research is generally always in AER, and QJE – the 2-3 best journals in the field. One of your cites that I indeed ignored was from a book publication put together by EPSL – this is not a top place to get published – not even Cambridge Press level let alone even peer reviewed. Dude I just took the woodshed to you and you have no facts to back up that Hoxby’s research is better placed by far. There is simply nothing you can say in reply. Deal with it.

  54. Billy Bob Says:

    My post with a “more prestigious” publication was pulled. And BFD that QJE is so mega-cool. Economists may know methodology, but they don;t know jack about how schools operate or what test scores mean. And you did not even have a paper that addressed student achievement. No student achievement. Not one article that addressed the relationship between the existence of unions and student achievement. Evidently you cannot read the articles you cite.

    Get someone to read these for you.

    R. W. Eberts and J. A. Stone, “Teacher Unions and the Productivity of Public Schools.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 40 (1987): 354-363.

    L. M. Argys and D. I. Reese, “Unionization and School Productivity: A Reexamination,” Research in Labor Economics, vol. 14, ed. S. Polacheck (Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1995), 49-68.

    M. Milkman, “Teachers’ Unions, Productivity, and Minority Student Achievement,” Journal of Labor Research 18 (1997): 137-150.

    L. C. Steelman, B. Powell, and R. M. Carini, “Do Teacher Unions Hinder Educational Performance? Lessons Learned from State SAT and ACT Scores,” Harvard Educational Review 70 (2000): 437-466.

  55. thenofunzone Says:

    “Economists may know methodology, but they don;t know jack about how schools operate or what test scores mean.” Pot meet kettle:

    R.W. Eberts: PhD in Economics from Northwestern University in 1978 (does not currently hold an academic appointment; previously taught at Oregon)
    J.A. Stone: PhD in Economics from Michigan State 1997 (W.E. Miner Professor of Economics at the University of Oregon)
    L.M. Argys: PhD in Economics from Colorado Boulder 1993 (Professor, UC-Denver)
    D.I. Reese: PhD in Economics from Cornell University (Professor, UC-Denver)
    M. Milkman: PhD in Economics from Oregon 1989 (Associate Professor of Economics Murray State Univ… umm where?)
    L.C. Steelman: Professor of Sociology South Carolina
    B. Powell: Professor of Sociology Indiana University
    R.M. Carini: PhD Sociology Indiana University 2003 (Associate Professor Univ. of Louisville)

    So other than your last article all of those were published by labor economists. Labor economists that I might add have far weaker C.V.’s, publication records, and academic appointments.

    Terry Moe: William Bennett Munro Professor of Political Science, Stanford University (Endowed Professor at USNEWS Top 3 Consensus University)
    Caroline Minter Hoxby: Scott and Donya Bommer Professor in Economics (Endowed Professor at USNEWS Top 3 Consensus University)

    Now, how about QJE vs ILRR, JAI Press? Wtf is that? Journal of Labor Research, and the Harvard Ed Review. A little work on the Google and you’ll find that ILRR is far far far below QJE.

    Now moving on from the prestige debate… you reject the idea that high school graduation rates, dropouts, college going rates – these are not good dependent variables because they aren’t test scores/achievement? I always thought we cared about test scores/achievement because success on those were linked to graduating from high school and college? Semantics. Clearly we all want lower dropout rates and its a completely reasonable measure for Hoxby’s DV… yeah I don’t think that they had NAEP broken out by states back in the 1970s when unions first started

    Now onto a charge you make that if you weren’t being disingenuous I’d have a little more sympathy for. You write: “Not one article that addressed the relationship between the existence of unions and student achievement.”

    The Moe piece is savvy on this regard because it shows how inflexible teacher contracts that restrict the principal’s authority over hiring/firing/pay policies (e.g. things like seniority-based transfers) have a harmful affect on growth in student achievement. You can’t just hide behind the crap reply that …”unions are not restrictiveness.”

    1. First of all just on the face that’s ridiculous. What percentage of local teacher unions sit down at the negotiating table and say that the principal should have maximum flexibility on these issues including letting go of seniority based transfers and using teacher quality as the deciding factor? So clearly unions are pushing for more restrictive not less restrictive contracts.

    2. If you don’t believe that, there is research, on its way to being published (its forthcoming) that links stronger teacher unions (as measured by school board members in a district ranking the teacher’s union as the leading interest group in board elections) with more restrictive contracts. Clearly powerful unions = restrictive contracts.

    Strunk, Katharine O., and Jason A. Grissom. Do Strong Unions Shape District Policies? Collective Bargaining, Teacher Contract Restrictiveness and the Political Power of Teachers’ Unions. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, in press.

    I await your reply.

  56. Billy Bob Says:

    Thats in an education journal–it must suck according to you, so I wont bother reading it.

  57. thenofunzone Says:

    hahahahah that’s it? that’s all you have to say after i absolutely crushed you by tracing the fact that the majority of your own cited articles were done by economists after you bashed economists? wow, i expected more from you big boy. quite the intellectual light weight evidently.

    all you can do is chide my last cite because it’s in an education journal? first of all, i only presented that article in the event that you actually were going to try and argue that strong unions try and negotiate contracts that give principals maximum flexibility… something anyone would laugh at on face value. i didn’t even need to cite it. of course that kind of work is in an education journal! it’s not a question about economics in the same way that the education production function is a question of economics. both authors went to stanford by the way (again TOP 3 baby TOP 3).

    Billy answer me this: do you really think, that on average, strong teacher unions attempt to negotiate contracts that give school leaders maximum autonomy on pay/firing/hiring/transfers?

    It’s a simple YES or NO question. On average… not in every case, but MOST OF THE TIME. Which is it. If you answer NO and admit that most union locals push to retain seniority rights, the salary schedule, maximum job protection from the principal’s evaluation that your argument falls apart regarding the impact of unions on student achievement… Why? Because we already have you on record in this thread agreeing with Terry Moe that restrictive contracts are bad for kids.

    So don’t duck. Don’t dodge. Just answer the simple question this time. Your lack of an answer will be evidence that I won this argument by the way.

  58. Billy Bob Says:

    The preponderance of the refereed articles on the issue side with me. Yes or no? Its a simple question.

  59. thenofunzone Says:

    so you think study counting is a good way to assess what the research says on a subject? yes or no? its the number of studies not quality of placement in a journal?

    one again ill take QJE and Stanford over yours!

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