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February 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM

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Education reform and unions

We should respect and support teachers instead

Lynne K. Varner in her opinion piece has put forth a popular line of thinking — unions are the problem in education. People with money want to reform education (Nick Hanauer for starters), so why shouldn’t we let them? [“The Democratic rift over state education reform,” Opinion, Feb. 22].

I say thank goodness the union is serving as a breakwater for all these “reforms.”

There is no evidence that these reforms will help. In fact, there is much evidence to the contrary.

New, more complex teacher evaluations and more student assessment take valuable time away from the real work of teaching and learning. They also cost money. Teaching to the test does not develop the strong, innovative thinkers needed in today’s workforce. We already know what the test results will be anyway.

Students living in high poverty will score the lowest. Teachers who teach these students will score the lowest. Instead of addressing the problem we run around in circles looking for who to blame.

Countries that have found their way out of this losing game, such as Finland, have tried a different road — respect and support teachers. Now there’s an interesting reform.

— Tim Nelson, Bainbridge Island

Let’s stop accusing teacher unions of being the problem

It’s clear education reform is no longer a one-party issue. What isn’t clear to those who are pushing for “innovative,” corporate solutions to failing schools is how those innovations are creating incentives that narrow curriculum, push teachers to drill students for tests over teaching challenging concepts, and cause districts and charter schools to cheat and game the system so the numbers look good.

Reformers, your passion is appreciated, but your expertise lies in the business world. Ironically, your solutions are adult-centered and damaging to student learning.

Teachers don’t need corporate incentives to instill a passion we all already have for doing the best we can to ensure our students learn.

Let’s all come to the table to figure out how to motivate those who are unmotivated to learn, and stop accusing the teacher union of being the problem.

— Jennie Knapp, Kirkland

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