D.C. Wire and The Post have written extensively about the challenges facing teachers through school closures and restructuring as well as turmoil in the Washington Teachers' Union. It turns out the issues are not unique to D.C., according to a national study released today.
Education Sector, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, commissioned a survey soliciting the views of 1,010 teachers around the country on such issues as tenure, performance pay and school reform. Among the findings:
-- Three out of four teachers said they think too many burned-out veteran teachers refuse to leave because of the benefits and tenure.
-- Fifty-five percent said the process for removing ineffective teachers in their school systems is "very difficult and time-consuming."
-- Sixty-eight percent said they thought giving principals and teachers more control over schools would be better for students.
-- Twenty-five percent of the teachers said they would be willing to trade tenure for a $5,000 raise, while 29 percent said they would prefer to hold onto tenure.
Reform "is like a bus -- you're either going to be on it [as a passenger] or you're going to be driving it," Greg Ahrnsbrak, a Denver teacher whose middle school received autonomy from the school system, told a crowd of educators at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington today.
"I see no policy, as far as reform goes, from my union," he added. "We need people out there willing to take risks and do bold and imaginative things."
Steven Smith, president of the Providence Teachers Union, said teachers are concerned about a move by many school systems to base raises on students' test scores. D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee, who is negotiating a contract with the Washington Teachers' Union, has expressed an interest in that concept.
"Teachers don't want to be held responsible for the success or failure of a school when they don't have responsibility" for many aspects of the school, Smith said. "Are teachers welcome to have a meaningful say and not a patronizing say as to the direction of the school?"
Rhee, who was another panelist, praised Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker, whom she said had received heat from union members for his efforts to become more collaborative -- rather than confrontational -- with her.
"I have a great relationship with the union chief here in Washington, D.C. I think he's one of the most reform-minded union leaders" in the nation, Rhee said.
But union members say, " 'He's getting to close to her, he's selling us out,'" Rhee added. "He's between a rock and a hard place."