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Don’t Get on Randi’s Bad Side

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If teacher union administrators ever designed a government lesson, it’s plausible to think it would look drastically different from what actually goes on in the classroom.

In fact, the lesson plan would take all of one day, replacing government structure and elections with one simple rule that applies to Democrats: Don’t cross Randi Weingarten by remotely associating with a reform supporter, or AFT will torpedo your political reputation.

It might seem narrow-minded, but it’s the only rule that seems to matter to union officials.

Clearly, Gina Raimondo, current Treasury Secretary of Rhode Island, was initially unaware of this rule.

Otherwise she may not have had the audacity to introduce fiscal reforms involving a hedge fund manager who also happens to take pride in being vilified by Weingarten.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Weingarten took the high road by threatening Raimondo’s political standing if she didn’t divest state resources from reform supporter Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund. This is by no means to condone Raimondo or Loeb, they’re simply the ones caught in Weingarten’s petty political crosshairs.

It’s all to point out the increasing distance between senior union leadership and issues that have anything to do with improving schools, and the lengths at which a union leader goes to carry out a political vendetta. Seeing as the hedge fund was by all accounts beneficial to union labor, there’s no conceivable reason someone who claims to be focused on education would be involved in an issue like this.

The fact that the head of one of the largest teacher unions in the US would be so heavily invested in political axe-grinding rather than focusing on the real issues facing schools reveals a widening disconnect, not to mention irrelevance to doing what’s best for kids.

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Accountability for Thee, But Not for Me

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The old adage dictates that events in life come in threes.

As the irreplaceable Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency points out, there are three separate ballot initiatives in California for which the state level Teachers Association is shelling out $3 million.

Not surprisingly, two out of three of these ballot initiatives have absolutely nothing to do with education. But hey, one out of three ain’t bad, and as for the third, the union at least has to look like it has a vested interest in education.

Converted into a percentage, one-third would be 33.3 percent, or slightly higher than the percentage of California fourth graders currently proficient in math.

The education-related third initiative by which the unions are terrified calls for incorporating student performance into teacher evaluations. In other words, the proposal would bring in a key indicator of job performance, to measure well, job performance. What a novel idea!

Called the “High Quality Teachers Act of 2014,” the initiative goes a step further by eliminating seniority from the teacher retention process, and is currently awaiting approval from the attorney general’s office.

This is in addition to the ongoing legal battle in which California student plaintiffs are asserting their inherent right to a quality education by attempting to strike down laws that do nothing to incentivize good teaching.

Rather than support accountability like 86% of the American public, the California Teachers Association is choosing to preserve a system that does anything but ensure the best teachers are in the classroom for California kids.

According to Antonucci, CTA members pitch in $36 per year for ballot initiatives so that union political operatives can ensure what they view as a bright, stable and secure future for the state’s educators. If only students had that same luxury.

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Thurgood Marshall Academy First Friday’s Visit

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My week began with a talk given by Jack Jennings at GW, my alma mater (how weird to say after only a month out of school!), about presidential politics and federal education policy history.  Mr. Jennings, founder of the Center for Education Policy, is certainly not a fan of school choice and is hailed as a champion of traditional public schools.  However, even he admitted that we need more choice and accountability in schools.  He admitted that even he had learned something from the education reform movement.

Perhaps he had heard about the amazing work that is happening at many of the district’s charter schools.  My week ended with a visit to one of these schools of choice, one of the best in the nation’s capital, in fact:  Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA, as it is affectionately called).  This school embodies the basic idea behind charter schools:  give a school the opportunity and autonomy to be great, and make sure they follow up and meet high standards.  The potential and promise of the charter school movement is most certainly being delivered at TMA.

First, the data.  100% of TMA’s seniors are accepted into college, and 85% of them are still enrolled in college a year out of high school.  It’s not just the actual numbers that are impressive, but it’s the school’s focus on the numbers.  On the bulletin boards throughout the school’s halls, there are postings of graphs of the  student’s aggregate achievement on the DC CAS, assorted AP tests, the SATs, and the ACTs.  It only makes sense:  the staff knows if they don’t educate their students well, and if the students themselves don’t put in the effort to achieve, the school will close.

The school holds high standards for their teachers, but also gives them autonomy to come up with

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