New Study Touts Harm to Student Achievement from Teacher Union Impacts

A Friday quickie, with the Harvard Business Review‘s intriguing mention of a new study that merits a closer look:

A 1-standard-deviation rise in teachers’ union dues per teacher is associated with a 4% fall in student proficiency rates, according to a study of 721 U.S. school districts in 42 states….

The study, by the University of Chicago’s Johnathan Lott and the University of Florida’s Lawrence Kenny, raises an interesting point. The authors suggest that the explanation is union lobbying power to block key reforms that may help student achievement.

Whatever the reason, the finding raises the question of why so many school districts in our state — even those without bargaining teachers unions — continue to collect the dues and ship them off to the Colorado Education Association. Many boards could end the practice by adopting a policy like this one. It’s one of nine key reforms local school board leaders can consider.

Five years ago, following Dr. Terry Moe’s “Collective Bargaining and the Performance of Public Schools”, the National Council on Teacher Quality put out the call for more research on teacher union impacts.

One of the few to come in recent years looked at the effects of collective bargaining in New Mexico. The state provided a perfect experiment because the requirement for school district bargaining there lapsed for four years. Benjamin Lindy’s analysis for the Yale Law Journal found mixed results from union bargaining power, better SAT scores but more poor kids dropping out of high school.

How do those findings fit together with the new report highlighted in the Harvard Business Review? If anyone has a copy of the actual study by Lott and Kenny, these little eyes would love to see it.