Monday, July 12, 2010

A vision of improved schools

Saying America’s teachers would “lead and propose, not wait and oppose,” AFTPresident Randi Weingarten outlined a vision to “build a system of public education as it ought to be.”
Photo credit: DigiSmile/Flickr Creative Commons 

She said real changes could be made by focusing on good teaching, creating a curriculum that provides opportunity for students to learn and sharing responsibility and accountability with parents and administrators.
Weingarten spoke yesterday at AFT’s biennial convention in Seattle, which runs through Sunday. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will address the convention tomorrow.
She told the more than 3,000 delegates that the “blame the teacher crowd” would rather “affix blame than fix schools.” These critics, she continued, “would have Americans believe that there is only one choice when it comes to public education: either you’re for students, or you’re for teachers,” which Weingarten called a “bogus choice.”
It’s simply wrong to suggest that there is an epidemic of bad teachers and at the same time to ignore poverty, budget cuts, the absence of curriculum, the huge attrition of good teachers—all things we know truly hamper student success.
No teacher—myself included—wants a bad teacher in any classroom. The AFT and our locals are taking real steps to solve the problem and to strengthen teaching.
Weingarten outlined the steps to creating better public schools:
  • Focus on good teaching, including better evaluation procedures. Teacher evaluations should include measures of student learning but, Weingarten said, there’s a huge difference between using multiple indicators of student learning as part of a teacher’s evaluation, and basing a teacher’s hiring, firing and promotion on standardized test scores.
  • Create curriculums that provide opportunities for students to learn. Weingarten  reaffirmed the union’s support for  wraparound services—such as after-school, nutrition, health and early childhood programs—to be available in traditional public schools, not just charter schools.
  • Share responsibility and accountability. Weingarten described a vision of accountability “that is meant to fix schools…and holds everyone responsible for doing their share.” She said that “shared responsibility should extend to the bargaining table” and described the growing number of AFT affiliates that have used “collective bargaining as a creative tool to codify collaborative approaches that improve teaching and learning.”
The complete text of Weingarten’s speech is available here.
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