True or false: Teachers' unions favor classroom reform.
True, tardily and tentatively. It is important that in recent weeks both major teacher organizations have endorsed reforms to improve their profession. But the real test will come when state legislatures start drafting laws to improve teacher training and certification. Nobody can help those drafting sessions better than teachers who know what classrooms are really like, especially if they are willing to stop protecting weak teachers and argue for changes that will help students.
At their national meetings both the National Education Assn. and the American Federation of Teachers supported key recommendations in the recent Carnegie Forum report on teaching. Specifically, after long resistance, NEA finally accepted the idea of a teacher-certification system. NEA does, however, want it run by state boards, where its members have the most influence. The Carnegie report calls for a national board to set professional teaching standards and issue certificates to teachers who volunteer to be measured against those standards.
The American Federation of Teachers backed more of the report, agreeing especially with its call for dropping undergraduate degrees in education. Schools must attract bright graduates from a wide range of disciplines and then teach them how to teach, rather than having undergraduates focus narrowly on education methodology as a major.