Facts a ‘disturbing’ thing for teachers union member

Victor Joecks

On Sunday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published my column, Children lose when unions fight to keep poor performers in the classroom, and a blog post by Nevada Superintendent Dr. James W. Guthrie, which listed twelve empirically verified things to know about teachers.

In response, Richard Tellier, a math teacher at Burk Horizon, wrote an open letter to teachers, which the Clark County Education Association posted at its website.


These are links to two articles that appeared in the Review-Journal on Sunday (4/29). The first link is to an opinion piece from NPRI. It is the same comments they have been making for the past year, that we need to get rid of “bad teachers.” The second, and the one that I find much more disturbing is an essay from the new Nevada Superintendent of Schools, Dr. James Guthrie, who was just appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Dr. Guthrie has a PHD in education.



If there was any doubt in your mind that you could let others fight the battle for contracts and respect of educators, I hope that after reading these articles, you will change your mind. (Emphasis added)

Dr. Guthrie’s article, which you should read right now, simply lists 12 statements about teachers about teachers that have been empirically verified. Those statements include “[e]conometric analyses continually confirm that an effective classroom teacher is the most powerful in-school instrument currently available to propel student academic achievement” and “[t]erminating the lowest five percent of ineffective teachers and replacing them with teachers who are only average in effectiveness would of itself elevate U.S. achievement to among the highest in the industrial world.”

This list – and that’s all it is, is a list of research findings -is what Tellier calls “disturbing.”

Isn’t that amazing? Simply pointing out things like “[t]urnover among beginning first and second year teachers is about the same as turnover among other professionals in fields requiring comparable training” is “disturbing” to some members of the education establishment.

How can you ever have a real, productive discussion on education policy if one side doesn’t allow the other side to point out what’s actually happening?

You can’t, of course, and that’s precisely the point.

The evidence in favor of substantive school reforms, accountability and educational freedom is overwhelming. The education establishment can only disingenuously claim to support reforms publicly, while working to kill them privately, and act outraged or “disturbed” when someone points out something inconvenient to its belief – as seen by the actions of union bosses – that students exist to employ adults, not that teachers are there to teach students.

As former teacher union president Al Shanker once summarized, “When school children start paying union dues, that ‘s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.”

Since teacher quality is the most important school-controlled factor in student achievement – statement number one on Guthrie’s list – it’s essential to ensure that every child has an effective teacher.

And for those who oppose that? Well, that’s “disturbing.”