Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Summary: The New Haven Experiment by Nicholas D Kristoff

By Paul Bucala 

This article addresses the conflict of interests between teacher’s unions and school reform in America and how New Haven, a small city in Connecticut, has taken steps to make teacher unions part of the solution, rather than the problem. The author of this op-ed, Nicholos Kristoff, opens this article with a couple of anecdotes that illustrate how teacher unions prevent incompetent teachers from being fired by school administers. For example, Kristoff tells the story how an L.A. union helped a teacher keep his job after he allegedly mocked one of his students. But as Kristoff states “that’s what makes an experiment under way [in New Haven] so jaw-dropping. New Haven has arguably become ground zero for school reform in America because it is transforming the system with the full cooperation of the union. After all, as Kristoff states, good teachers are a must for reforming America’s ailing public school system but the current anti-teacher union sentiment certainly does not attract talented young people into teaching.  A few years ago, the New Haven school district established a “revolutionary contract” with teachers. In exchange for job security, pay and benefits would rise. A new evaluation system was  also established that would be based off standardized test scores and other measures of learning.  Evaluated teachers would be fully protected by a transparent process Last year, administrators fired 34 teachers (2% of teachers)  and this year is 50 more are scheduled to be fired. The surprising thing is that both Administers and Teacher Unions support this new contract. Davic Cicarella, president of New Haven Federation of Teachers states “ We all recognize that we need to do something. Tenured teachers who are ineffective- that is an issue. We want to do something about it. But it is not fair to blame all the teachers. “ Fair and transparent accountability is welcome, Cicarella states but notes that it is “Not ok any more to just spray and pray.”

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