In a letter to constituents, and Wednesday on “Sly in the Morning”, Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) extolled the education-saving virtues of Act 10, saying it was “…the best thing we could do for our public schools.” Grothman went on to say that “Wisconsin Schools are just not that great right now,” citing recent test scores as signs of an education emergency that only eliminating collective bargaining could remedy. Specifically noting that the “…most recent test scores show that black kids have the worst scores in the country…” and “…white kids scored lower than the national average.” Grothman stated his belief that collective bargaining is a roadblock to student achievement that had to be removed – for the sake of the kids. According to Grothman, there are too many “bad teachers” protected by unions that are “too hard to get rid of,” and that “people shouldn’t need an Education degree to teach.”
After speaking with Senator Grothman today two things are very clear – first, he was not very familiar with the full data from the scores, admitting that Governor Walker seemed to have “cherry picked” the scores he cited. The Senator was merely repeating the information he was given by Scott Walker, trusting its accuracy – even out of context. The other issue that was perfectly clear is that he (and the other Republicans) are behaving as puppets to Scott Walker and the Corporatics pulling HIS strings – believing every bit of misinformation being fed to them to demonize teachers and their unions. The best thing for Wisconsin and our children is for this propaganda to be exposed and debunked, so that a real debate about education can take place. For the record, this information was shared with Senator Grothman today.
The NAEP test scores for 2009 were indeed “cherry picked” for political purposes. Grothman was only citing the reading scores from the 2009 NAEP tests. Here are all the composite scores from those tests. The math scores show a National average of 239 for all students, 248 for white students, 222 for African-American students. Wisconsin students on the whole scored 244, 250 for white students, 217 for African-American students. The science scores show a National average of 149 for all students, 162 for white students, 127 for African-Americans. Wisconsin students scored 157 on the whole, 164 for white students, 121 for African-Americans. Finally, the 2009 reading scores show a National average of 220, 229 for white students, 204 for African-American students. Wisconsin students scored 220 on the whole, 227 for white students, 192 for African-Americans. While it is true that Wisconsin students performed only at the National average in reading, with sub-groups by race performing below average (and yes, African-American scores in reading were the lowest in the nation), the broader picture is clearer, and has NOTHING to do with collective bargaining.
Examination of test scores from prior years (1992 math scores, 1992 reading scores, 2003 math scores, 2003 reading scores, science n/a) show that while Wisconsin student’s performance on those tests were either increasing or stable, the African-American test scores began dipping below the National average in 2003. In 1992 and prior years, they were always above the National average. There are several factors that can explain this truly alarming outcome, and as stated before, Collective Bargaining has nothing to do with any of them. In fact, there is evidence that Collective Bargaining is beneficial to teaching poor and socio-economically challenged students. Senator, Governor, Republicans – this is where you need to really listen.
It has been well documented that Milwaukee Charter School students, most of which are economically challenged African-Americans, have been performing at a lower level on test scores than those in public schools. While this author does not believe in rating a student or teacher performance merely on test scores, this point is clear – the overwhelming contributor to low academic achievement is poverty. The education and personnel policies being pushed in Wisconsin over recent years (especially since 2000) have been to move underprivileged children into private charter schools, weaken (if not destroy) collective bargaining rights, and divert funds from public schools. These actions are what have weakened public education in Wisconsin. The economic policies being pushed in Wisconsin and nationwide over the last decade have widened the income gap, creating an even higher population of poor, at-risk children who desperately require a high quality public education which is being defunded by Scott Walker and the Corporatics.
Contrary to right-wing propaganda (at the hands of Scott Jensen’s special interests), there are numerous studies which prove (scientifically) that under these challenging conditions, teachers with union representation actually BENEFIT students and school districts. First, teachers are required to be certified, educated, and well-qualified to teach. There is a direct link to teacher quality and student achievement. There is also a direct link to teacher input into classroom and school curriculum and closing the achievement gap. Through collective bargaining, teachers have a voice in all those areas, as opposed to an authoritarian administration.
Finally, there are two sets of studies that demonstrate teachers involved in union collective bargaining actually help in the overall performance of students’ test scores, and there is no statistical detriment to students or school districts whose teachers belong to unions (since Republicans are so fixated on test scores).
If the Corporatic Republicans can digest the facts and the truth, they would understand why they face recalls. Their actions have been contrary to the benefit of teachers, students, and the entire population of Wisconsin. We must assure the recalls serve as a wake-up call – that they will cut the strings of the corporate puppeteer and see what is truly in the best interest of Wisconsin’s future education program.