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I don’t think anyone could seriously say that teachers shouldn’t be involved in shaping education policy. Besides their obvious expertise and importance in student success, as the primary actors in implementing any reform it would be both illogical and impractical to ignore their input. But that doesn’t mean that they should take the lead. Teachers shouldn’t be the primary shapers of education policy because they have material interests in the system independent of its effectiveness. Education policy should be guided by actors that are solely interested in what is best for students.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that interests of teachers and interests of students or opposed–in other words, that teachers do not want their students to be successful. But it’s indisputable that teacher and student interests are not identical. Last-in first-out layoff policies? Nearly unbreakable tenure guarantees? Blocking of meaningful teacher evaluation systems? While certainly in the interests of teachers, those sorts of policies are at best marginally helpful to students. And that’s a problem. We should be able to point to every facet of our educational system and explain how it is the most efficient and effective way to help kids learn. Teachers primarily shaping policy won’t get us to that point.

Jacob Waters of A Skeptic’s Politics, explaining why teachers are not the most-important players — or in many cases, the only ones that matter — when it comes to structuring American public education.

Among critics of high-stakes standardized testing it has become popular to imply that the multiple-choice testing format is inherently inadequate and inferior. This has always been a little puzzling because in practice teachers frequently create and administer multiple-choice tests on their own so it’s not as if there’s a broad professional consensus in education that such assessments are meaningless or shouldn’t be given to students.

Paul Bruno pointing to the cognitive dissonance of those opposed to standardized testing.

There were fewer applications from districts in states with stronger unions than from districts whose unions are weaker. While 10.2 percent of districts from states with the weakest unions applied to the program, only 5.2 percent of districts from states with the strongest ones did the same. And though other factors (such as geographic location and the political leanings of the states) may explain some of the variation in application rates, it does seem like states with weaker unions had more opportunity to apply. This opt-in bias stemmed from one condition of the 2012 RTTT-D competition: applicants must have union support in order to participate. And there are several examples of this stipulation deterring districts from applying…

For better or worse, the union sign-off requirement of Race To the Top appears to have disadvantaged districts in strong-union states. But are all districts with strong, resistant unions really incapable of change? In the end, it seems unproductive to mandate that all unions and district officials work together—to do so ignores the political reality that, despite effective district planning, many unions act inordinately in their own self-interest.

Greg Hutko of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, noting the consequences of the Obama administration’s insistence on cooperation between states, districts, and their National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers affiliates as a condition for successfully participating in Race to the Top and other competitive grant-driven reform efforts.

There are those in our state claiming to support charter schools, but only in, quote, ‘places where they are really needed’. I agree with those people. They should be where they are most needed. But I don’t think Phil Bryant and Tate Reeves and the Mississippi Legislature ought to decide where they are really needed. I think parents should decide that. I support public charter schools anywhere in our state and think that’s something we should push for.

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, whose state is on DN’s list of States to Watch, on why families should be the lead decision-makers in education policy.

Education policy in the United States has traditionally been seen, and treated, as different and distinct—a thing apart. Traditionally, compared with decisions in most other important areas of domestic policy—the economy, welfare and income support, family policy, civil rights, and most questions relating to the environment, transportation, and crime—decisions about public schools have been highly localized and largely consigned to special single-purpose governance structures such as school boards and state boards of education. This is changing, in a slow but steady arc.

Mayoral control has been the most visible manifestation of the shift. Since 1992, when Boston switched from an elected school board to one appointed by the mayor, several other large cities have expanded the role of their mayors in running school systems… The growing role of general-purpose government and politics, however, extends beyond mayors to other elected executives, beyond the local level to states and the national government, and beyond chief executives to legislatures and the courts. So-called “education governors,” particularly Southern governors who saw improving schools as a key element in promoting economic development, began to assert a more muscular role in education policy in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Increased interest by governors has been accompanied by state constitutional and legislative changes that have increased their formal power over education policy…

As executives delve into school issues, the legislatures they deal with also become increasingly engaged. While the attention to education by governors and presidents frequently spikes, my review of congressional and state legislative involvement suggests that lawmakers have been steadier and more hands-on in their role. And in a complicated way, the courts, as the least politically attuned branch of government, played a key role in opening the way for elected executives and legislatures to get more involved. It was the courts that tackled, and to some extent tamed, issues of racial and class equity that had made school politics a hot potato too volatile for risk-averse politicians to take on.

Jeffrey R. Henig of Columbia University’s Teachers College on the growing — and much-needed — role of governors, mayors, and others in shaping education policy.