Employee Development Plans LO19716

Phillip Capper (pcapper@actrix.gen.nz)
Mon, 2 Nov 1998 15:08:25 +0000

Replying to LO19697 --

It might be interesting for the American majority on learning-org to
observe a little Australasian dialogue between Philip Pogson and myself.

Philip makes two important points:

(1) Having 'right' and 'wrong' reasons for thinking a teacher is 'bad'. I
agree fully, and see this sort of prejudiced hunting down of teachers
equally in the US, Australia or NZ. I believe that it is this feeling of
exposure to idiosyncratic community views that makes strong teacher unions
essential where schools serve the whole community, rather than one
homogenous part of it (as, for example, in church schools). I am working
in a school at the moment where there is no educational measure which
gives any indication that it is underperforming against its educational
goals, but despite this the community is gunning for the principal and a
bunch of teachers for reasons primarily to do with conflict over values.

(2) Philip's point about Australian teacher unions is also interesting.
Too often Americans blame teacher unions for their school system problems.
In my view it is all a matter of context. My assertion would be that the
best performing school systems in the world tend to be those where there
are strong teacher unions which operate in predominantly collaborative
dialogue with the funders and policy makers. In such circumstances teacher
unions can be a positive force because they function as the professional
as well as industrial voice of teachers, and therefore have an interest
themselves in maintaining professional standards as opposed to maintaining
a closed union shop.

My experience of US schooling is that in most (not all) states, the
legislative and industrial rules propel teacher unions into the role they
predominantly play there. This is then made worse by the high profile and
overtly political role that the AFT and NEA play federally. In short - it
is all yet another part of the price Americans pay for their ancestors'
hatred of the English monarchy!

I better confess at this point. Once upon a time I worked for an NZ
teacher union. While in that role I was located in Illinois for a while.
My Chicago union colleagues and myself simply could not comprehend each
other's understanding of the role of teacher unions. Having lived and
worked in the US quite often since I have come to understand what goes on,
but without bringing US school stakeholders to NZ it is almost impossible
to explain to them what happens here.

But there is another interesting point to ponder. Notwithstanding the
alleged dead hand of the US teacher unions, if you disaggregate American
statistics of school performance and place each American STATE separately
on the world 'league tables', some states, such as Iowa, outperform all
the much vaunted national systems of places like Japan. How do they do it?
Could it be - God forbid - that school system performance has more to do
with socio-economic rankings, social homogeneity and levels of investment
than it has to do with testing regimes, industrial relations and
curriculum mandates?

Phillip Capper
Centre for Research on Work, Education and Business (WEB Research)
PO Box 2855
New Zealand

Ph: (64) 04 499 8140
Fx: (64) 04 499 8439



"Phillip Capper" <pcapper@actrix.gen.nz>

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