Last night I had dinner with an early mentor and friend, Dick Atkinson, who
was head of NSF, UCSD, and UC overall and has taken a lot of
interest in things educational.
We got into an argument about school reforms and Dick, a strong advocate of
charter schools and variety creating mechanisms opined that
"The problem was the unions."
I argued that indeed, in some configurations of circumstances made unions
uncooperative with supervisor's grand schemes. Allan Bursin steamrolling
reforms in San Diego was an example.
But, I also argued, that when reforms were organized in a proper manner,
unions were NOT a problem and in fact, might be an important part of the
I have sent him the Cobb and McClain piece to think about.
Question: What was the role of the unions in the case presented by Cobb and
McClain? What does their experience teach us about dealing with draconian
accountability schemes and "better" school as tightening the screws that
hold together the iron cage??
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