Thursday, August 4, 2016

Economist Shows How Teachers Unions Improve Quality of Teachers | janresseger

Economist Shows How Teachers Unions Improve Quality of Teachers | janresseger:

Economist Shows How Teachers Unions Improve Quality of Teachers


Eunice Han, a Harvard trained economist, has published a paper examining “how teachers unions affect teacher turnover and ultimately influence teacher quality.”  It is an extremely technical analysis, but the conclusions are quite clear: the presence of a strong teachers union in a school district is likely to ensure better teachers and even lower the dropout rate among the students.
Han introduces her subject: “Critics claim that teachers unions overprotect the job security of ineffective teachers and that this practice is detrimental to educational outcomes. At first, this claim appears legitimate because teachers unions may seek to protect the job security of teachers, as any other workers associations will. However, the job security of public school teachers is addressed through the tenure system in most states, and tenured teachers are not easily dismissed, regardless of their union status. The economic intuition that is overlooked in teacher dismissal is that school districts have a strong motivation to dismiss low-quality teachers if they must pay the higher salaries that unions demand. Particularly, during the probationary period, districts will carefully evaluate new teachers’ performances, as they must pay even higher wages once these teachers receive tenure.”
Here are Han’s conclusions:
  1. “I find that higher teacher pay gives school districts a strong incentive to be more selective in granting tenure to teachers.  Districts paying high teacher salaries utilize the tenure system more efficiently as they dismiss more low-quality teachers, raising average teacher quality by setting higher standards.”
  2. “(W)ith current compensation schemes and the unpopularity of the teaching profession, it is difficult to attract high-quality applicants into the teaching sector. Even if high-quality individuals start a teaching career, they are likely to leave for non-teaching occupations… My study shows that teachers unions reduce teacher attrition by, among other mechanisms of unionism, raising the base salary of teachers.”
  3. “(T)he evidence in this study rejects the claim that teachers unions hurt educational quality by overprotecting the job security of low-quality teachers. In contrast, the data show that districts covered by CB (collective bargaining) or with high union density dismiss more non-tenured teachers with unsatisfactory performance, and those districts have more qualified teachers than districts with no agreement with unions.”
Han’s paper includes another startling finding: districts with strong unions seem to have lower rates of high school dropouts.  Here, described most clearly in an interview with journalist Jennifer Berkshire, and republished by Valerie Strauss in the Washington Post, Han explains why: “My study found that unions reduce the dropout rates of districts… It’s not just collective bargaining that matters; it’s the union density of teachers in a district that’s Economist Shows How Teachers Unions Improve Quality of Teachers | janresseger:

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