Today, President Obama wades in to a controversy that threatens to split one of the Democratic Party's most generous source of donations and activists, the teacher unions, from the whole. [...] Obama wants more accountability for teachers.
This is good stuff. As it is, it's almost impossible to fire teachers no matter what they do. It's one of the reasons American education is failing. Predictably, unions beg to differ.
The teachers unions contend that there is no universal metric that can reliably assess teacher performance, particularly in poor neighborhoods where students experience intense social dislocation. Part of the problem is that nothing seems to work: not charter schools, not tying teachers to student performance, not throwing money at schools, not even curricula reform.
It's unlikely that the president will push for any major, significant reform which would entail the complete privatization of education. That would solve its problems entirely.
Allow fair and full competition between schools and that test scores will go up. Parents, after all, will send their children to the best school available to them. But without choice, anything goes, and those trapped in the public system will never have the same chances in life as those who enjoyed the good fortunate of being educated in a private school.
Accountability is a good and necessary step toward improving education but it won't do as long as the system remains unchanged and the premise that every child has a "right" to schooling remains unchallenged.