If Only Children Had a Lobbying Group to Represent Them

by robekulick

Teachers unions have recently shown politicians like Adrian Fenty, the ex-mayor of DC, that anyone who attempts to implement serious  educational reform will face their full wrath come election time. As part of their attack on those in favor of school reform, teachers unions and their advocates have argued that there is no evidence that Charter schools are effective in  increasing educational attainments. However, the most recent edition of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, one the most prestigious economics journals, contains an article by some of the heaviest hitters in the field suggesting that Charter schools do in fact improve student performance and substantially so.

Here is the link to the article, Angrist et al: http://qje.oxfordjournals.org/content/126/2/699.full

What is even more damning for the teachers unions is that the study also evaluates student performance at Pilot schools, schools with some of the independence of Charters but are still subject to control by unions. The unionized pilot schools show no evidence of the performance improvements occurring at Charter schools. Thus, not only does this study belie the arguments made by the teachers unions, but it actually identifies teachers unions as part of the problem. This is consistent with what former New York Chancellor of Schools, Joel Klein, wrote in an article that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly a few months ago:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/06/the-failure-of-american-schools/8497/1/

What is particularly striking about this study is the quality of the statistical analysis, which of course is unsurprising given that QJE accepted the article. Further, Angrist, with whom I am most familiar, is not an economist theorist with an ax to grind against unions, but rather an empirical economist who is known for letting the data speak for itself. Of course, many of us already believed based on strong economic theoretical foundations that teachers unions have had a pernicious effect on education in this country. Now the evidence can be accessed by anyone.

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