The usual way of discussing education is for individuals on both sides to talk past each other. If you think the problem with education lies with the teachers' unions, you point to the anecdotes of bad teachers who have been kept on the payroll. If you think the problems with education have nothing to do with teachers' unions, you point out that the states with the weakest teachers' unions have the lowest performances.
I've done that last part. But don't get too excited, because that's usually used in response to individuals in the first category (even if they aren't listening). If you're the one selling something, you've got to prove that what you're selling is worth buying, after all.
Though it is nice, every once in a while, to see someone really dig into those numbers. That analysis doesn't pull any punches, and does not ignore something a lot of people would be more comfortable if we didn't talk about. Wingfield could have just let all that information sit in his comments section, so I have to respect that he doesn't shy away from the topic.
If they are to be believed, what do these numbers tell us? I see three things that really stand out: 1) the artificial, race-based gap in educational acheivement exists across the board, 2) that gap is the main failing of American public education regardless of state, and 3) teachers' unions don't really have a lot to do with it.
I'll keep this in mind the next time some education "reformer's" sales pitch leads with how important it is to break teachers' unions to increase student success.
The numbers still tell us that shouldn't be our priority.