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Teacher Unions and Student Performance: Help or Hindrance?

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1 Teacher Unions and Student Performance: Help or Hindrance?
NAEN 33rd Annual Conference Clearwater, Florida Presentation by Randall W. Eberts W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

2 “Never before in recent history have the public schools been subjected to such savage criticism for failing to meet the nation’s educational needs” John Chubb and Terry Moe, Politics, Markets and America’s Schools, 1990

3 “Teacher unions have become crucial forces in deciding how public education should be run in the U.S.” --Wall Street Journal “The most important outcome of teacher unionization is its effect on the way public policy is made.” --Myron Lieberman

4 Teacher Unions Some of the strongest attacks on public schools are reserved for teachers’ unions Discontent with public schools in general and teacher unions in particular have fueled interest in a variety of reforms

5 Teacher “Pay for Performance” Vouchers Charters School Accountability Systems State Curriculum And Testing

6 Questions What do we really know about the effect of unions on student achievement? Are they a help or a hindrance? If collective bargaining produces a standardized workplace, how does that affect the rapidly changing field of education? How do reform/school improvement proposals affect student achievement? How do unions figure into these efforts? Is union reform consistent with educational reform?

7 Why These Issues are Important to You?
Collective bargaining agreements, through negotiated rules and regulations, establish school policy Important to understand how collective bargaining agreements may affect educational policy and school outcomes Important to know how negotiations can produce win-win outcomes for teachers, students, administrators, boards With pressure to reform schools and increase student test scores, and the reality of unions, ways must be found to harness the power of teacher unions to improve schools

8 Are Teacher Unions the Problem or the Solution?
Divided public perception of teacher unions Asked whether teacher unions helped, hurt, or made no difference in the quality of U.S. public education Helped % Hurt % Made no difference: % Didn’t know % Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll, 1998

9 Your Views? How would you respond?
If you categorically favor unions and you see them as beneficial, then my talk will not entirely support your views If you categorically oppose unions and you see them as detrimental, then my talk will also be disappointing

10 My view Unions are here and they can be a positive force in educational reform Unions have both positive and negative aspects Many union preferences and negotiated contracts are consistent with improving student achievement, but some are not Unions need to act as partners not adversaries, be more flexible, and encourage teachers to be more innovative in meeting the needs of each student

11 Basis for My View View districts not as either unionized or not, but look at the characteristics of each type of organization to understand what works and what does not (open up the “black box”) Consider how different organizational forms (e.g. collective bargaining provisions) affect student outcomes Believe that a successful school environment requires that teachers participate in the decision-making process but that they also recognize that education is risky and that empowerment to make decisions requires accountability in the outcomes

12 Purpose To share my research and that of others to provide insights into union/nonunion effects Explore evidence of the effects of current reform efforts Explore the role of unions in current school improvement and restructuring initiatives

13 What is Collective Bargaining?
Process by which teachers and administrators agree on a set of rules and regulations that govern working conditions and determine compensation “Web of rules” can affect every dimension of the workplace and educational outcomes Define rights and duties of teachers to particular assignments Govern compensation Establish disciplinary sanctions for failure of teachers to achieve certain standards Provide for teacher participation in restructuring the workplace

14 Background Teacher collective bargaining came about with public employee collective bargaining Wisconsin was the first state to allow public employee collective bargaining in 1962 By 1978, 61 percent of classroom teachers resided in states that permitted formal collective bargaining in education Today, unions represent 66 percent of the nation’s elementary and secondary teachers

15 “When we reinvented our association in the 1960s, we modeled it after traditional, industrial unions. Likewise, we accepted the industrial premise: Namely, that labor and management have distinct, conflicting roles and interests ...that we are destined to clash ... that the union-management relationship is inherently adversarial.“ Robert Chase, President, National Education Association, Before the National Press Club, February 5, 1997, Washington, D.C.

16 Industrial Style Bargaining
Principles of Industrial Bargaining Interests of labor and management at odds Standardized practice is desirable Similarly skilled workers are interchangeable and should be treated alike The Factory Model of Schooling Administrators set policy and teachers comply Instruction is delivered uniformly to large groups of students Teaching force is undifferentiated Johnson and Kardos,in Conflicting Missions, Loveless (ed.), 2000


18 Contract Provisions Compensation, including fringe benefits
Working Conditions School calendar and working hours Class size Supplementary classroom personnel (e.g., aides) Employment Protection Assignment Transfers Promotion Reductions in force

19 Contract Provisions Professional Services Grievance Procedures
Inservice and professional development Instructional policy committees Student grading and promotion Teacher evaluation Performance indicators Grievance Procedures Student Discipline and Teacher Safety Pupil exclusion from classroom

20 Teacher Pay and Benefits
Pay: Teachers covered by collective bargaining earn 8-12 percent more than teachers not covered Union factory workers typically earn 8-10 percent more than nonunion ones Benefits: significant effect of the number of contract items on fringe benefits, more so than for pay

21 Working Conditions Paid time for instructional preparation is 4 percent greater for unionized teachers Student-teacher ratio (class size) is between 7-12 percent smaller in union districts In our national sample of elementary schools, 17 per teacher in union districts versus 19 per teacher in nonunion districts

22 Workplace Standardization
Unionized districts are less likely to rely on specialized instructional modes Students studying math in unionized schools spend: 42% less time with a specialist 62% less time with an aide 26% less time with a tutor 68% less time in independent, programmed study Low- and high-achieving students are in larger classes in union schools than in nonunion schools

23 Employment Protection
With smaller class size, union districts employ more teachers, even in the face of higher pay and more costly fringe benefits Limitations on class size and reduction in force provisions protect teachers from employment loss in union districts

24 Cost of Instruction Increased pay, better fringe benefits, improved working conditions, a more regulated standardized workplace, and protections against loss of employment Suggest higher costs in union districts Union districts spend from 8-15% more per pupil than similar nonunion districts

25 Web of Rules More complex bargaining agreements raise expenditures per student and affect the internal allocation of funds Contracts with more bargaining items: Increase instruction costs/pupil Increase benefit costs/pupil Increase teacher salary costs/pupil Reduce other discretionary expenditures/pupil No effect on class size No effect on administrative expenses

26 Effect on Student Achievement
Are there union “productivity” effects that offset the higher cost of union districts? First, look at what impacts student achievement, as measured by standardized tests Next, look at the effect of unions on the educational process


28 Resources (Class size)
Student Attributes Time Teacher Attributes Administrative Leadership Mode of Instruction

29 What Affects Student Achievement?
Top school-based inputs from our study, accounting for other factors Time teachers spend in instruction Time teachers spend in preparation Time principals spend assessing and evaluating educational programs Total experience of principals as administrators and as teachers Total experience of teachers Teacher/student ratio (class size) Student economic status and childhood experience are big factors, but they are not school inputs

30 Educational Factors The effects of various attributes on student achievement differ by union or nonunion district Key attributes, such as class size and instructional and preparation time, have less of an effect in union districts than in nonunion ones May have to do with differences in class size (union districts already have smaller classes) or in the way instruction is organized (fewer specialized classes in union districts) Suggests that union and nonunion districts use educational inputs differently

31 Unions and Student Achievement
Unions have only a modest effect on student achievement Even with major differences between union and nonunion districts in the effects of key educational factors The effects of individual factors net out Average student test scores slightly higher in union districts 1-3 percent higher on standardized math test 3.3 percent higher as a percentage of average gain from pretest to posttest

32 Collective Bargaining: Impact on Student Achievement
Estimated Differential Unit of observation Outcome 1.0% (3.3% gain) Individual elementary Standardized pre-, post-test Individual high school 12th grade math 1.4% Individual high school minority 6-8% State SAT and ACT 4.4% Graduate rates 2.3% School district Drop-out rates


34 Why the Union Effect on Student Achievement?
Unionized schools are more likely to rely on traditional classroom instruction and much less on specialized modes of instruction If teaching takes place in traditional classroom, norm of instruction most likely directed toward average student Smaller classes directed to average student With fewer specialty classes, low and high achievers tend to receive less attention in union districts than in nonunion districts

35 Unions and Educational Reform
Unions have established rules and regulations through collective bargaining that are generally consistent with student achievement Teachers are a key factor in student achievement Unions represent teachers’ preferences by allocating resources to instruction (smaller class sizes, voice in decisionmaking)

36 Unions and Educational Reform
The CB process has come about through more of an adversarial than collaborative role Industrial-style contracts narrowly and rigidly define teachers’ roles, responsibilities, and activities Allows little flexibility among schools In some instances, administrators as well as teachers are content to live by rules Public’s discontent with public schools and perception of union’s lack of innovative approaches calls for reform

37 Desire for Change in Bargaining Approach
“Our challenge is clear: Instead of relegating teachers to the role of production workers -- with no say in organizing their schools for excellence -- we need to enlist teachers as full partners, indeed, as co-managers of their schools. Instead of contracts that reduce flexibility and restrict change, we -- and our schools -- need contracts that empower and enable.” Robert Chase, President, National Education Association, Before the National Press Club, February 5, 1997, Washington, D.C.

38 Reform Style Bargaining
Principles of Reform Bargaining Management and labor share interests and collaborate Flexibility and site-based discretion are built into contract Varied roles and status are recognized The Reform Model of Schooling Teachers and admini-strators hold joint responsibility for schooling Governance and instruction are school based Teachers participate as mentors, curriculum experts, and peer reviewers Johnson and Kardos,2000

39 School Reform Current wave of school reform grew out of 1983 report “A Nation at Risk” Two movements: Reform existing system Incentive pay Accountability systems Find alternative system School choice—vouchers, charters

40 Vast majority of the public still supports reforming existing schools
72% favor reforming existing system 24% favor finding alternative system Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll September 2001

41 Voucher Referenda California Michigan $4,000 voucher
Defeated 70% to 30% Michigan $3,300 to students in failing districts

42 “The imperative now facing public education could not be more stark: Simply put, in the decade ahead, we must revitalize our public schools from within, or they will be dismantled from without. …The vast majority of Americans …want higher quality public schools, and they want them now.” Robert Chase, President, National Education Association, Before the National Press Club, February 5, 1997, Washington, D.C.

43 Performance Incentive Systems
Pay for performance is an incentive system to hold teachers/administrators accountable for student outcomes A portion of a teacher’s/administrator’s pay is based on predetermined and agreed upon outcome measures or activities Old Style: Based on subjective evaluations by principals/superiors New Style: Based on outcomes (test scores) Based on activities (professional development, mentoring, certification)

44 Incentive Structure Typically sets aside 5-20 percent of the base salary for performance pay Some plans offer bonuses above the regular base salary Other plans start with a reduced base salary (e.g., 90% of regular base) and offer a maximum performance incentive well above that amount Individual or group-based incentive programs Programs based on clear, understandable, observable objectives that are consistent with educational goals Source: OSBA Negotiator’s Notebook, March 2000

45 Examples Individual incentive systems School-based incentive systems
Denver Previous merit pay systems during 70s, 80s School-based incentive systems Charlotte-Mecklenburg Kentucky Accountability Program; Maryland School Performance Program Dallas Source: OSBA, Negotiator’s Notebook, March 2000

46 Effects of Performance Pay
Little empirical evidence on the effects of performance pay on student achievement Most of the literature on performance pay systems documents the institutional experiences in districts, not the outcomes Few comparisons of outcomes in schools with incentive programs and in schools with traditional systems Those experiences, particularly for individual incentive programs, have been rather short-lived and usually negative A major study of merit-based pay found that most (75%) merit-pay programs that had been in existence in 1983 and had been studied by the researchers, were no longer operational in 1993.

47 Performance Pay: Evidence on Successful Practice
Murnane and Cohen (1986) Extra pay for extra work Make everyone feel special (everyone receives) Inconspicuous Teachers help design Hatry, Greiner, and Ashford (1994) Substantive participation by teachers Ample planning time Substantial proportion of teachers receive award Reward improvement, not just performance Voluntary

48 Performance Pay: No Evidence of Effect on Student Achievement
“None of the 18 school districts [out of 18 examined] reported significant gains in student achievement. This finding held true even in districts that explicitly targeted and delineated student achievement as a program goal. Where found, improvements in student achievement (test scores) were short-lived and sporadic.” “Similarly, we found little evidence from other research That incentive programs (particularly pay-for-performance) had led to improved teacher performance and student achievements.” Hatry, Greiner, and Ashford (1994) No correlation between test score gains and teachers awarded merit bonuses. Tulli (1991)

49 Case Study Alternative high school in a union district
Teachers opted out of contract to pursue performance pay incentive program Performance based on student retention and on response to satisfaction survey A retention bonus is paid if 80% or more of students assigned to class are still enrolled and attending at end of the quarter Performance bonus if rated 4.65 or above on 5.0 scale Both bonuses yield 20% of base salary

50 Evaluation Method Compared students in high school with performance incentives to students in a similar high school with traditional compensation scheme Examined outcomes by student and course before and after implementation Evaluated several outcomes: GPA Attendance Course completion Passing

51 Evaluation Results Good News: Economic incentives work
Dramatic increase in percentage of completers Bad News: Economic incentives work Teachers altered instructional style and class content to make courses more interesting and well-liked Targeted outcome not aligned with school objectives—student achievement GPA and passing percentages fell Could be good news if incentives prompted teachers to retain lower achieving students in class


53 Why Such Little Success with Individual Incentive Systems?
Teaching does not necessarily lend itself to effective use of individual incentives– a complex process Multiple tasks/outcomes/stakeholders Team production Difficult to measure all desired outcomes Difficult to include all desired outcomes in incentive system Not all desired outcomes are aligned For example, incentives to retain students are not necessarily consistent with raising student achievement as measured by GPA or test scores

54 Private Sector Incentive Programs
Only a small proportion of jobs base compensation on explicit contracts that reward individual performance Private sector companies prefer to reward individuals on subjective measures of performance Or to follow bureaucratic rules that establish job grades and promotion criteria Sizable number of group-based incentive programs are judged unsuccessful

55 Accountability Systems
Nearly every state has implemented a school accountability program Content standards that mandate what students should know and when they should know it An assessment system that tracks the progress of students vis-à-vis standards Set of responses by the state that may include financial incentives, penalties, sanctions, or additional resources

56 Pros and Cons Proponents claim: Critics concerned:
By making schools more transparent, they will be forced to improve operations By presenting teachers with well-defined rules and holding them accountable to goals, teachers will improve Critics concerned: Teachers will “teach to the test” Standards may hold back more progressive districts States may be slow to adjust standards to changing times

57 School-Based Incentive Systems
Kentucky Performance target set for each school that had 10% improvement in test scores over baseline Those schools exceeding the target were given financial incentives; distribution up to teachers Successful schools aligned curriculum with state assessment teachers were supportive of accountability system principals were skilled facilitators

58 School-Based Incentive Systems
Dallas Performance target set on test score gains, adjusted for factors outside school’s control Each professional staff in “winning” school given $1,000, nonprofessionals $500 Evaluation finds increases of 10-12% in the pass rate on standardized tests over other major Texas districts Also finds the same increase in test scores in the year before the incentive program was implemented Suggests other factors may have affected results

59 California Enacted program in 1999
Based on highly specific and comprehensive standards Norm-referenced statewide test Complex series of rewards and punishments for staff and students Evaluation showed (Betts and Danenberg): Spurred growth in achievement Testing and related aspects of accountability did not dilute high school curriculum Has not widened inequality in curriculum between top and bottom-performing schools

60 Design for Successful Group Performance Pay System
Goal: to motivate teachers to align their efforts more closely with educational goals Teacher expectancy Connection between achieving goal and receiving the bonus Size of the bonus Active support of principals Fairness perception Teacher participation in program design Consortium for Policy Research and Education (gleaned from educational and private sector practice)

61 Implementation of Reform an Issue
Fall 2000, Philadelphia School District threatened to strike Both agreed that reforms were necessary but couldn’t agree on what changes needed to be made One sticking point was the district’s proposal to tie pay increases to performance and reduce role of seniority “Pay for performance is necessary to ensure accountability and to give younger more ambitious teachers the ability to get to top salary earlier in their careers.” – Alexis Moore, School District of Philadelphia

62 Unions and Implementation
Unions’ willingness to implement performance pay varies Merit pay (individual teacher) incentive programs were generally not well accepted by unions, primarily because evaluations were considered subjective and teachers were treated differently Group-incentive programs have been better received Denver’s two-year pilot was endorsed by unions Several Kentucky unions objected to that state’s plan Several studies conclude that union acceptance is not insurmountable, particularly if teachers are involved in design and planning and targets perceived to be objective Murnane and Cohen (1986); Hatry et al. Aligning teacher efforts with education goals is not inconsistent with union preferences, although may not be given top priority in negotiations

63 Union position Should find standard-based systems attractive because they promote standardization of the workplace Clearly defined goals and objectives Mandates to adhere to these standards Protected from capricious administrators Can relate negotiated contract provisions (e.g., class size) to accomplishing standards Not so attractive: Intrudes on teachers’ autonomy in classroom Dictates curriculum and testing

64 Alternative Systems School Choice Private schools Vouchers
Charter Schools Majority opposes allowing students and parents choose a private school to attend at public expense? Favor: 34% Oppose: 62% Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup Poll September 2001

65 Evidence on Effects of Alternative Systems
Private schools Little or no difference in outcomes of students in private and public schools Except, African Americans in large urban areas do better in private schools Vouchers Studies find little overall improvement in test scores for those using vouchers, except for African Americans Milwaukee, Cleveland, several private foundations

66 Evidence (con’t) Charter Schools
In Michigan and Texas, conventional public schools outperform charters, except for at-risk students In Michigan, conventional public schools perform better than non-profit charters, and non-profit charters perform better than for-profit ones In Arizona, charters outperform conventional public schools Competition from charters improves student performance in conventional public schools

67 “We cannot go on denying responsibility for school quality
“We cannot go on denying responsibility for school quality. We can't wash our hands of it and say "that's management's job." School quality -- the quality of the environment where students learn and where our members work -- must be our responsibility as a union.” Robert Chase, President, National Education Association, Before the National Press Club, February 5, 1997, Washington, D.C.

68 New Unionism Both major unions have pursued a new approach to collective bargaining Greater teacher participation in decision making More emphasis on student achievement Proponents argue that only by bringing teachers into process can schools be improved

69 New Unionism Opponents claim that:
Once shared decision making is included in CB contracts, flexibility is lost and school improvement initiatives are stifled, and attention shifts from what is right for the student to whether school administrators have adhered to the contract Once teachers have the opportunity to grieve issues, educational policy ends up in the hands of a disinterested third party negotiator

70 New Unionism Codifying educational policy into CB agreements without clear evidence of its effectiveness can lead to both disappointment and wasted efforts It may be difficult to remove ineffective provisions once negotiated into the contract We still don’t know enough about what works and doesn’t work to negotiate these reforms into contract

71 Conclusion CB establishes rules and regulations that influence educational process Unions have both positive and negative aspects CB has slight positive effect on average student achievement, but a negative effect on low and high achievers CB increases cost of education Performance pay can work, yet little evidence of positive effects on student achievement Incentives may have unintended, detrimental effects, and is difficult to design and implement

72 Conclusion Many union preferences are consistent with improving student achievement, yet unions could do more in aligning teacher effort with educational goals Performance pay focuses teacher effort on educational goals, but schooling may be too complex for success However, unions need to act as partners not adversaries, be more flexible, and encourage teachers to be innovative in meeting the individual needs of students In short, need to move toward the reform model of bargaining

73 Conclusion Unions must step outside the CB contract
Recognize that education is a risky business CB must be adapted to allow teachers to participate in a proactive attempt to find new ways to educate children With empowerment to make decisions must come responsibility and accountability


75 Teacher Unions and Student Performance: Help or Hindrance?
NAEN 33rd Annual Conference Clearwater, Florida Presentation by Randall W. Eberts W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research

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