Study finds unions improve teacher quality

Unionized school districts attract and retain better teachers and are in a better position to weed out underperforming teachers, according to a new study released by the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

“Through the dynamics of teacher turnover, unions ultimately raise teacher quality, as unionized districts can better retain good teachers and dismiss more underperforming teachers,” according to “The Myth of Unions’ Overprotection of Bad Teachers: Evidence from the District-Teacher Matched Panel Data on Teacher Turnover,” written by Wellesley College economics professor Eunice S. Han.

“Two pieces of empirical evidence support this hypothesis: districts with strong unionism have more teachers with stronger qualifications and lower dropout rates than districts with weak unionism,” Han wrote. “I also find that the recent legal change weakening unionism in four states (including Wisconsin) affects the teacher turnover pattern and teacher quality negatively, confirming unions’ positive role in the US educational system.”

Han concludes that weakening the role of unions in education “may not be the appropriate approach in improving educational outcomes.”

“Rather, promoting union-friendly environments may create more encouraging economic conditions for teachers and provide districts with incentives to select better teachers, eventually raising teacher quality.”

Read a summary of the report:

Study Finds Unions Improve Teacher Quality, Lead To Lower Dropout Rates

For years, a lot of money, time, and energy have gone into a national campaign to discredit teachers unions by saying they protect bad teachers and do nothing to add value to our system of public education.

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