Out of Control Policy Blog

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Teacher "Professional Development" Edition

As the Boston Herald reports, Massachusetts Teachers receive professional development credit for some professionally questionable coursework.

The latest example of the education establishment placing its parochial interests ahead of improving student achievement originates with the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the commonwealth’s largest teachers union. But this one is even more disturbing than usual, both because it’s so blatant and because it highlights a loophole the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education needs to close.

A teacher’s knowledge of a subject correlates most closely with improving student performance, so professional development becomes important. And by taking additional courses, teachers earn points toward certification and recertification.

The problem comes with the MTA’s professional development offerings, which focus on everything but raising student achievement. “Lessons through Balloon Twisting” attempts to scare away those looking for a gut course by warning that each participant will learn to make “at least two animals.” “Easy Tie-Dye” lets you “awe your friends and family” by creating a “groovy tie-dyed T-shirt.”

Other offerings? Native American Bead Weaving, silk screening, folk dancing. I’m not making this up.

Some of the courses drop any pretense of addressing educational concerns and focus on the union’s real priorities. “MTA’s Lens on Beacon Hill” is led by some of the organization’s legion of lobbyists and discusses strategies for advancing key priorities, like securing retiree cost-of-living increases. In “Grievance Processing,” members “investigate, write up and present grievances.”

Hat tip Education Gadfly.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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