Trending Toward Reform: Teachers Speak on Unions and the Future of the Profession

Over the past decade teachers have seen numerous reform efforts aimed at changing the status quo on teacher evaluations, pay, and tenure among other things. More often than not teachers are not directly involved in these reform efforts, leaving a key voice out of the process. A recent report by Education Sector looks at how teachers feel about these teacher-related reforms, and about unions and their involvement in reform efforts. A nationally representative survey of a randomly selected group of 1,101 K-12 public school teachers was conducted by the FDR Group to obtain the data. The questions for the survey were developed and refined through four diverse focus groups.

Significant findings in the report include that teachers support reforms such as:

  • teacher evaluations, as long as the evaluation methods are perceived as fair
  • pay reforms for factors teachers have more control over (e.g., working in tough neighborhoods and specializing in hard-to-fill subjects as opposed to student test scores)
  • restructuring tenure laws that make firing ineffective teachers too difficult

For traditional union activities such as protecting their jobs and negotiating salaries and benefits, teachers viewed union involvement to be significant and favorable. In addition, teachers want unions to be involved in other activities which they generally do not participate in such as providing support for instruction and career development, and helping to reform teacher evaluation and dismissal.

Although the study surveys teachers at a national level, many of the findings are likely applicable to Ohio. Last year, Ohio went through a hard-fought battle around public sector union reform. While the contentious effort was ultimately defeated by voters, polls showed that Ohioans supported some of its changes, like paying teachers according to their performance and effectiveness. If the unions represent the interest of teachers, then they should proactively lead these reforms. The report concludes that “the viability of the union will be determined by whether teachers perceive them as being part of the problem or part of the solution for public education.”

Trending Toward Reform: Teachers Speak on Unions and the Future of the Profession

Sarah Rosenberg and Elena Silva

Education Sector

July 2012

More By Author

Related Articles