When Father Hesburgh throws down ... How can we know when the tide of respectable opinion has decisively turned against the teachers' unions ? When a panel that includes Father Hesburgh, Birch Bayh,. Bill Bradley, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Roger Wilkins goes medieval on them , saying their resistance to reforms designed to hold schools accountable has hurt "disadvantaged students" and led to "calcified systems in which talented people are deterred from applying or staying as teachers ..."
The unions have battled against the principle that schools and education agencies should be held accountable for the academic progress of their students. They have sought to water down the standards adopted by states to reflect what students should know and be able to do. They have attacked assessments designed to measure the progress of schools, seeking to localize decisions about test content so that the performance of students in one school or community cannot be compared with others. They have resisted innovative ways-such as growth models-to assess student performance.
In their attack on education reform, the national unions have often been unconstrained by considerations of propriety and fairness. They have sought to inject weakening amendments in appropriations bills, hoping that they would prevail if no hearings were held and the public was unaware of their efforts. They have used the courts to launch an attack on education reform, employing arguments that could imperil many federal assistance programs going back to the New Deal. They have failed to inform their own members of the content of federal reform laws.
The report follows up a much heralded establishment call for reform in 1996 that was endorsed by two union presidents. But it notes that in the twelve years since, "few of the necessary reforms" have been put in place. ("Twelve years--the entire length of a child's education--is a long time.") In other words, it implicitly serves as an argument against trying to reform the schools in cooperation with the unions, and in favor of trying to reform the schools by defeating the unions . ... 1:48 A.M.
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