Day One of AFT

Day One of the AFT convention. Randi Weingarten is one good speaker (but so is the head of the NAACP, Ben Jealous ). She gave a fairly long speech but she had some pretty good lines that are worth repeating.
  • ...a growing pundit class that has engaged in the browbeating of unionized teachers and public schools - in other words, affixing blame rather than fixing schools.
  • “As much as we wish it weren’t true, these factors matter—whether it’s poverty, or stressful experiences like a death in the family, or losing one’s home, or a parent losing a job,” Weingarten said. Yet, when we point them out, she continued, “It’s more likely that people confront us rather than join us in confronting the problem.”
  • True educational success isn't just a test score, just as economic success isn't just GDP growth.
  • Teacher evaluations should include measures of student learning, but “there’s a huge difference between using multiple indicators of student learning as part of a teacher’s evaluation, and requiring that students’ standardized test scores essentially dictate a teacher’s hiring, firing and promotion,” Weingarten said. “We should be assessing whether or not students are learning, but we’re going to assess it the right way.”
  • We are caught in the vortex—with recessionary forces, socioeconomic forces and global economic forces swirling around,” Weingarten continued. “Yet the Blame the Teacher Crowd says: ‘If only there were fewer bad teachers, all would be right in the world.’ ”

    Weingarten challenged that claim. “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.”

  • She also explained the success of Finland being the #1 school system in the world (she didn't mention the obvious which is it's a fairly small and homogeneous country). One, they invest in teachers - 3 years of state-paid for graduate preparation. Two, rigorous national standards. Three, small class sizes. Four, nutrition and health services. Five, treating teachers not as technicians but as professionals. The last thing? They are virtually 100 percent union.
  • If the federal government can find ways to hold teachers individually responsible for the standardized test scores of their students, surely they can find ways to hold responsible their administrators and others who make the decisions and hold the purse strings.
  • But, bottom line, we're not going to just stand still and be a punching bag. We're not going to be bullied into silence. And we're not going to wait and oppose - we're going to lead and propose.
She also noted that 150 charter schools have educators who have joined the AFT. Also parents in San Francisco started a campaign called "Pink Hearts, not Pink Slips. They showed video of chairs in the lobby of a school with a pink heart and a name of a laid-off teacher written on it. It was very powerful but my next thought was that here in Seattle, the district would tell the principals not to allow it. I honestly believe that even if the PTA asked, in support of teachers, the district would say no.

Time after time, she made clear in this speech that the AFT wanted to work with these groups/entities to find solutions. I think this is truly the smart path to take. Teacher assessment is coming so make the public aware that teachers do not set curriculum, do not set spending, do not choose the assessments and do not pick and choose their students. Teachers are willing to be assessed but in a fair and open manner. As well, that type of assessment should extend to administrators as well.


Anonymous said…
Substance News has a good article on the speech:
Chris S. said…
For the New York view see Ed Notes Online . Very entertaining but warning: polite Seattleites may be appalled...

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