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Defending teachers unions [The reply]

September 22, 2011 |  6:13 am


Blaming teachers won't improve public education, wrote Saul Rubinstein, Charles Heckscher and Paul Adler in their Sept. 16 Op-Ed, "Moving beyond 'blame the teacher.' " They suggested collaboration instead: "In education as in industry, progress toward quality will require collaboration among administrators, teachers and their unions." Here they respond to some of the backlash on our discussion board.

We are delighted our Op-Ed generated debate. Our public schools are at the center of growing anxiety about our children's economic prospects. Education has become far more important to a person's prospects in life than it was, say, 50 years ago. That raises the stakes for everyone involved -- and the emotional intensity of the debate too.

Of the many issues raised in the comments on our piece, we want to add our voices to those who insisted that the future of our education system depends on the active involvement of parents and communities. Our research provides strong support for this view, as can be seen in the full report. The education system whose reform we urged is deeply intertwined with the broader social system, and this broader system too will need to change if we want to see better educational outcomes, particularly for children in poverty.

Some of our commentators disagreed with our argument for the need to involve teachers unions. Their claim seems to be that these unions are only interested in defending their members. We would agree that if unions took such a purely defensive view of their role, they wouldn't have much to contribute to resolving the challenges ahead. But all the unions we studied saw improving educational quality as one of their primary professional responsibilities, and they were working enthusiastically with other stakeholders toward that goal.


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--Saul Rubinstein, Charles Heckscher and Paul Adler

Photo: Members of United Teachers Los Angeles called on the city to support increased school funding in 2010. Credit: Bret Hartman/ For The Times

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