Another example is the Plattsburgh City School District in upstate New York, where the Plattsburgh Teachers' Assn. participates in, and sometimes leads, committees that oversee textbook selection, professional development, teacher evaluation, mentoring and peer coaching, curriculum development, long-range planning for the use of information technology and analysis of student test scores and performance. Since 1977, the union has been an integral part of the search and hiring process of teachers and administrators, including the superintendent. Here, 52% of students receive free or reduced-price lunches, yet student performance exceeds the averages for proficiency across the state in language arts, math and science. The Plattsburgh high school graduation rate improved from 72% in 2004 to 88% last year; the statewide average was 73.4%.
These cases and many others like them were highlighted in February at the U.S. Department of Education's conference on "Advancing Student Achievement Through Labor-Management Collaboration," and in October at the "National Conference on Collaborative School Reform," organized by the American Federation of Teachers working with Rutgers University, Cornell University and MIT. These districts offer proven models consistent with the best practices of U.S. industry.
As school begins, we would do well to remember Deming's lesson: In education as in industry, progress toward quality will require collaboration among administrators, teachers and their unions.
Saul Rubinstein and Charles Heckscher are professors at Rutgers University and co-directors of the Center for Organizational Learning and Transformation; Paul Adler is a professor at the Marshall School of Business at USC. The Rutgers study referred to is available at http://smlr.rutgers.edu/collaborating-school-reform.