Renegade Upstarts sounds like a good name for band. In fact, it’s a movement quietly – and not so quietly – happening in and around teachers unions. This week’s School of Thought at TIME takes a look at the new organizations that are springing up as alternative voices within and around the teachers unions. Can they succeed where many others inside and outside of teachers unions have not?
…But perhaps the biggest strategic pressure for reform is starting to come from teachers themselves, many of whom are trying to change their unions and by extension change their profession. These renegade groups, comprised generally of younger teachers, are trying to accomplish what a generation of education reformers, activists and think tanks have not: forcing the unions to genuinely mend their ways. Here are the three most talked about initiatives…
…It’s too early to tell whether any of these groups — or even all of them working in tandem — will succeed in changing the teachers’ unions. Will the uprisings bring about a transformative revolution like Tahrir Square or a deadlock like Libya? And while ridiculous seniority policies provide easy targets, more complicated issues such as teacher evaluation and creating a genuinely professional culture within schools lie ahead for them. Union leaders, meanwhile, bristle at the upstarts and so far seem less inclined to help them than to co-opt or marginalize them. And there is an obvious structural hurdle facing the insurgents: like all unions, teachers’ unions exist to protect their members, creating a natural conflict between, say, maintaining job security for everyone and implementing measures that differentiate based on performance or create real accountability for results.
…But when you talk to progressive union leaders and the teachers at the vanguard of this new movement, it’s striking how much they have in common — even accounting for disagreements around specific policies. Most notably, they share a frustration with the education conversation today and a desire for actual change.