Sunday, February 20, 2011

Collective Bargaining Fairy Tales. Part I

"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: South Carolina: 50th, North Carolina: 49th Georgia, 48th Texas: 47th, and Virginia: 44th. Wisconsin is ranked #2 in the nation."

This has been floating around on Twitter for a couple of days. The post is intended to establish a correlation between collective bargaining and students scores. Right?

Well, not so fast.

For starters, the information allegedly comes from this site:

I further researched the matter. The data in the site is from 2006. Five years old.

In further research, I found documented data in a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on more recent results from 2010(Sorry, you will need to copy and paste the links to your browser, as my link function here seems to be broken):

Interestingly enough, only 4% of the students participated on SAT and 69% participated on the ACT. Not a whooping, slam-dunk indicator of results, is it? By the little analysis written on another blog that seems pretty respectable, "Student Activism" by Angus Johnston, I found the following:

"Wisconsin ranks 3rd in the nation in SAT scores, but with a participation rate of just 4%. On the ACT, with a much more representative participation rate of 69%, it was tied for 17th. In comparison…

•Virginia was 34th on the SAT with 67% participation, 13th on the ACT with 22% participation.
•Texas was 45th on the SAT with 53% participation, 33rd on the ACT with 33% participation.
•Georgia was 48th on the SAT with 74% participation, 34th on the ACT with 44% participation.
•North Carolina was 38th on the SAT with 63% participation, 20th on the ACT with 16% participation.
•South Carolina was 49th on the SAT with 66% participation, 44th on the ACT with 52% participation.

Wisconsin is clearly above the other five states in both SAT and ACT scores, but the gap isn’t anywhere near as big as the pro-union tweets suggest. Among high ACT participation states, Wisconsin ranks something like 4th in the nation. But among high SAT participation states, Virginia ranks about 5th in the nation — almost all the states with better SAT scores than Virginia have far smaller participation rates, drawing on a far more elite test-taking group"

It has a lot more information, and it would be redundant to copy and paste all of it here. It can be found on:

I also found another blog that cites factual, documented information regarding collective bargaining and the impact on test scores:

Regardless of statistics, tables and studies, my personal opinion is this: SAT, ACT, and whatever other scores are there to measure learning don't depend only on the ability of their teachers to bargain, but partly on the dedication they show to teach the children. Additionally, there are so many, many factors that influence how children achieve in school. It certainly is disturbing that people are unknowingly "retweeting" information to back up their claims without checking its accuracy, as clearly has been stated by the sources I used. I went to each and every site the bloggers used as sources. The evidence is there.

So, go ahead, browse the sites and decide for yourself. Instead of falling over-backwards or letting my jaw drop, I went and did my homework, and decided to share it with you.

Happy reading!


jimspice said...

Of course anyone can look around and sort the data and find something that supports their position. Happens all the time. Bottom line? Correlation is not causation. While I do not doubt that unionizing education leads to more qualified teachers, and more qualified teachers leads to better educated students, simply looking at unionization vs. college entrance test scores is a gross over-simplification of the matter. There is a complex web of factors, acting over time, that affects educational efficacy. Dumbing down the debate does no one any good.

jimspice said...

Here's a fun interactive map from the Institute for a Competitive Workforce that could keep you busy for hours: