I am an Ultra-Conservative, Alpha-Male, True Authentic Leader, Type "C" Personality, who is very active in my community; whether it is donating time, clothes or money for Project Concern or going to Common Council meetings and voicing my opinions. As a blogger, I intend to provide a different viewpoint "The way I see it!" on various world, national and local issues with a few helpful tips & tidbits sprinkled in.
I am sure by now you have seen the email, tweet, facebook, blog posts on how 5 states that don’t have collective bargaining for teachers that the students didn’t score well on the ACT/SAT tests is because of no collective bargaining. It is not only fuzzy logic it is not the truth.
Labor union supporters say
In tweets and Facebook postings, supporters of labor unions in
On Feb. 23, we found the following version on Facebook by the Democratic Party of
"Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows:
When a reader brought this to our attention, we thought it deserved a look.
First, we checked to see whether it’s true that only five states bar teachers from collective bargaining. We found a webpage maintained by the National Council on Teacher Quality, an independent research group that urges "reforms of the nation's teacher policies."
The group agrees. It reports that all but five states --
With that question out of the way, we’ll take a look at the thornier question of how those five states' test scores stack up nationally, and against
Johnston is critical of Linder’s methodology for a variety of reasons, which he explains in more detail here. But without even taking those concerns into account, we find the statistics unreliable. They were published in 1999, meaning that the statistics themselves are likely more than a dozen years old -- far too old to be presumed valid in 2011.
Fortunately, it’s possible to obtain state-by-state rankings for the SAT and ACT of a more recent vintage. Here’s a table of the relevant states:
Mean SAT scores by state, 2010:
State Overall Score National Rank Participation Rate
Mean ACT scores by state, 2009
State Overall Score National Rank Participation Rate
Before we analyze these figures, let us explain why we included the fourth column above -- "participation rate.” That refers to the percentage of high school graduates in that state who took the test in question.
The SAT and the ACT serve the same general purpose -- gauging academic achievement for college admissions, but the tests are essentially competitors in the marketplace. By force of tradition or other factors, states vary widely in the percentage of students who take one test rather than the other (or both). So, knowing the participation rate is crucial to knowing whether the ranking being measured is statistically valid.
As a result, it’s fairer to look at
Meanwhile, in the five non-collective-bargaining states, the SAT was the more widely taken test, and in those rankings, the non-union states placed between 34th and 49th nationally. Meanwhile, for the ACT -- where participation ranged from 15 percent to 50 percent -- the rankings in the non-union states ranged from 22nd to 46th.
So, on neither test did the five non-collective bargaining states perform as well as
After we contacted the Democratic Party of
We should add another key question: What does SAT and ACT data actually tell us about the connection between collective bargaining rights and student achievement? The answer is a little -- but not very much.
Looking only at these six states, there’s a suggestion that lack of collective bargaining rights for teachers is mildly correlated with test scores, even though the linkage is a lot less striking than the Facebook post suggests. Still, it’s impossible to know whether collective bargaining has any role in causing test scores to rise. That’s because countless other demographic, economic and cultural factors play a role in shaping a state’s test scores.
"Most of the states that don’t have teachers’ unions are poorer than Wisconsin and have more English Language Learners in their schools, and rank higher for other demographic factors that make strong academic performance less likely," Johnston wrote. "Rich kids in a school with a teacher’s union will do better than poor kids in a school without one, generally, but that doesn’t have much to do with the union itself."
Consider just one statistic -- the percentage of residents living below the poverty line. Wisconsin ranked 38th in the nation, similar to Virginia (39th), and well below Texas (8th), South Carolina (9th), Georgia (13th) and North Carolina (15th). The fact that many fewer
Matthew Di Carlo, a senior fellow at the Albert Shanker Institute, which studies education policy, added in a recent blog post that there’s "tremendous variation within and between states in the strength of individual locals (there are thousands) and in the terms of the contracts they have negotiated, to say nothing of all the other factors that might influence achievement," such as school-level policies, student characteristics and resource availability.
In general, Di Carlo notes that, according to the available evidence, there may be some overall benefit from unions on student test scores, but due to all the complex factors involved, there is little basis for drawing strong causal conclusions. He also pointed out that unions confer other benefits, such as improved communication between teachers and administrators.
However, that’s all beyond the scope of our item. Ultimately, the Facebook post uses outdated data based on a questionable methodology. A review using current data finds that