Education's Flashpoints: Upside Down or Set-Up to Fail

The education system is dealing with a concerted effort at making it more accountable and transparent. Whereas measurement of a quality education used to focus on inputs such as money spent, the new measurement is focused on student outcomes such as learning success determined by large-scale standardized tests. This change in perspective assesses personnel and system performance using empirical data rather than perceptual information. Transparent access to data regarding student learning is uncomfortable to teachers' unions because it is difficult to explain away objective information. Their substantial success in reducing teacher workload and limiting management's activity is predicated on persuading the public that they are focused on students. In reality, teachers are their clients, and students are frequently disadvantaged as the unions pursue a less work, more pay objective. Many politicians are complicit in this pursuit because they are reticent to embrace reform when confronted by such a powerful special interest. When considering issues which pit student best interests with those of teachers, governments frequently side with teachers because they can vote whereas students cannot. Flashpoints emerge as data is introduced into the process for making decisions.