Contract Talk: New Research on Teachers Unions

Teachers unions are the biggest impediments to fixing schools and improving student achievement. That mantra has been at the heart of school reform efforts for more than a decade – but is it true? Education researchers Adam Kirk Edgerton and Mimi Lyon both started their teaching careers at a time of peak hostility to unions (remember Waiting for Superman?). When they left the classroom to go back to school, both were intent on researching unionization in order to better understand its impact—on teachers, students, and on progressive policies in states where unionization has been hindered. Oh, and did we mention that Adam and Mimi are the runners up in the 2020 Have You Heard Graduate Student Research Contest? 

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Schools of LAst Resort

Could the only teacher in LA’s school board race pull off a surprise win?

Los Angeles teacher Lisa Alva

In this season of election surprises, could an upstart candidate win a spot on the Los Angeles school board, powered by little more than enthusiasm and word-of-mouth? *I think we might be surprised on March 7,* says teacher Lisa Alva, the upstart candidate herself. The school board election has attracted close to $5 million in outside spending, a not insignificant chunk of which has gone to Alva’s opponent, charter advocate Monica Garcia. Alva may not have glossy mailers or an army of paid canvassers going door to door, but she has something that all those independent expenditures can’t buy. She’s a voice of genuine resistance—to reform experiments gone wrong, to *choice* for the sake of choice, and for the kids, the parents and the teachers who are being left behind. Can you tell I have a bit of a crush?

I met Alva two years ago when I was in Los Angeles to talk to people about Eli Broad’s *bold* plan to move half of the city’s students into charter schools within six years. I did what I always do on one of these edu-reporting adventures: I asked anyone I knew with an LA connection to hook me up. Which is how I ended up spending an afternoon with Alva in her English classroom at Roosevelt High School in LA’s Boyle Heights neighborhood. A virtual edu-pal had introduced me to Alva; another contact, a documentary filmmaker, introduced me to Boyle Heights. Once the *Ellis Island* of LA, Boyle Heights was sliced apart in the 1960’s by the East LA Interchange. That would be the intersection of six freeways built to transport Los Angelenos to the new suburbs and the tract houses that were blooming across California, thanks to a young home builder named Eli Broad. But I digress… Continue reading →

Why My Charter School Needs a Union

Urban Prep teacher Dave Woo says unionization can shine a light *into the dark unknown crevices of charter school management*…

By Dave Woo
Urban_Prep_EnglewoodWhy does my charter school need a union? In a word: accountability. After having worked at Chicago’s Urban Prep Charter Academy for six years, I have serious concerns about how resources are allocated by my own charter network. And my research into whether charter schools are truly public or private entities under the law has convinced me that these problems aren’t confined to schools like Urban Prep or Chicago’s UNO network. There are serious questions that need to be asked about the lack of accountability for charter school operators. Having a union at charters schools will force operators to think twice before doing anything that isn’t in the best interest of students. Continue reading →

“Don’t Believe the Hype”

A young MBA student tells her classmates that “education reform” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Many of my classmates in business school assume that education reform is a good thing.  Accountability! Improvement!  Closing the Achievement gap! Usually they know some Teach for America alums (who are now lawyers), or they’ve watched “Waiting for Superman.” They’ve heard of charter schools (which of course they didn’t attend), and being business-minded, they assume that privately-run schools will somehow be better.  Because many of my classmates will go on to be business leaders, decision makers, employers and parents, I think it’s important that they understand what education reform is really about. Here’s what I tell them: Continue reading →

Teach For Awhile—Then Head Straight to (Yale) Law School

It is an annual rite of almost unimaginable cruelty. Thousands of young hopefuls attempting to beat long odds. For the lucky few who win this life lottery, there awaits a coveted seat at a no excuses school known for high expectations and some of the nation’s best teachers. But only a tiny minority will get a shot at a better future. I’m talking, of course, about the huge number of Teach for America alumni who are even now applying to the nation’s top law schools. Continue reading →