Sections:

Article

AFT's Randi Weingarten joins management on testing, teacher bashing

[Editor's Note. The following comment and article and press release was posted by Susan Ohanian yesterday on here Website, and is the most we can get up about this important speech and event at this time. We hope that anyone who reads Randi Weingarten's speech and comment about Detroit will read Rich Gibson's report on Detroit and the related Detroit teacher blogs quoted in comments after Rich's piece. One last note. Weingarten refers to herself as a "teacher." She has as much time in the classroom under real public school conditions as Arne Duncan, her management counterpart. She worked as a lawyer for AFT and then did a few stints in what amounted to tutorials at a New York high school before she became president of the UFT. George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance, Janury 13, 2010.]

AFT President Randi Weingarten (above left, with hands together) appeared at the April 2009 meeting of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates supporting the CTU organizing of Chicago charter school teachers. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Union to propose test scores figure into teacher ratings

Susan Ohanian Comment: Randi holds up Detroit as a district with a "trusting and respectful labor-management relationships." This is definitely a new definition: Extortion = trusting & respectful labor-management relationship.

Arne says Randi is "really showing courage." Indeed. Some of us call it just doing everything required to keep a seat at the corporate politico table. It's called sellout. Like the NCTE and IRA at the LEARN (sic) Act Table, participants walk away stripped of principle. Members of the AFT had better hold on to their hats, not to mention their purses.

USA Today Story (January 11, 2010) By Greg Toppo

Comparing the way most teachers are evaluated to a football team watching game tapes "once the season is over," the head of the USA's second-largest teachers union is expected Tuesday to propose a new, detailed system of teacher ratings that includes not only classroom observations by supervisors but also written-work, portfolio and lesson-plan reviews — and student test scores.

In a speech scheduled for this morning [February 12, 2010] at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten will propose that teacher evaluations include student scores, which have long been a sore point for many teachers groups.

They worry that the scores rely on other, uncontrollable factors such as students' home lives and parents' ability to oversee studying. Weingarten has put forth the idea before, but not in this much detail. For instance, instead of comparing the scores of one class to the previous year's, she says the rating should assess whether students "show real growth" while in a teacher's classroom.

A draft of the speech was obtained by USA TODAY on Monday. It also includes details on labor-management relations — and notes that AFT members overwhelmingly consider "professional standards and good teaching" a higher priority than defending the job rights of teachers who face disciplinary action.

The speech is to be delivered just days before states file applications for the Race to the Top Fund, a high-profile, $4.35 billion competitive federal grant that requires states to explicitly tie teacher and principal evaluations and placements to student test scores.

Andy Smarick of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C., education think tank, calls Weingarten's speech "the AFT's attempt to get into that ballgame." He adds, "I can't imagine that this speech would have happened right now if it weren't for Race to the Top."

Smarick believes Weingarten is offering the idea to blunt criticism in several states, such as Michigan, Florida and Minnesota, that local union leaders are resisting state proposals to, among other things, reform teacher evaluations. "I think part of the speech's purpose is to try to head that off," he says. "This is Randi's attempt to say, 'No, we're the leaders on this.' "

Though she proposes using test scores for teacher evaluations, Weingarten doesn't explicitly propose tying evaluations to teacher pay — a proposal she negotiated as head of New York City's teachers union.

As part of the Race to the Top competition, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has pushed states to develop evaluation and pay models that link ratings to test scores. In a statement, Duncan said he supports Weingarten's call for better evaluations and "more effective and efficient due process systems," among other proposals: "Randi is really showing courage by raising these issues." — Greg Toppo, USA Today, 2010-01-12 http://www.usatoday. com/news/ education/2010-01-12-aft12_ST_N.htm

OFFICIAL AFT PRESS RELEASE BEGINS HERE. Press Release FOR RELEASE: January 12, 2010 CONTACT: Janet Bass 202/879-4400 jbass@aft.org AFT President Unveils New Approaches To Teacher Evaluation and Labor-Management Relationships Also Addresses Teacher Misconduct and Presses for What Teachers Need to Succeed

WASHINGTON—In a major speech Tuesday at the National Press Club, the president of the American Federation of Teachers unveiled a serious and comprehensive reform plan to ensure great teaching, taking on systems that have been ingrained in public education for more than a century.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said it is imperative to move public education from an industrial model to one that will better prepare students for today’s knowledge economy. She laid out a new approach to teacher evaluation, saying that a strong teacher development and evaluation system is crucial to improving teaching, and is essential for a fair and efficient due process system.

Weingarten said the union is prepared to work with any district willing to take both steps: to create and implement a real evaluation system, and to establish a due process system aligned to it. Weingarten announced that Kenneth Feinberg has agreed to spearhead the AFT's effort to develop an efficient protocol for handling allegations of teacher misconduct.

The AFT president also detailed what teachers need to help their students succeed, and she discussed how to promote productive labor-management relationships, seeking out governors, mayors, school boards and superintendents to join in this effort. In her speech, "A New Path Forward: Four Approaches to Quality Teaching and Better Schools," Weingarten said improving schools, ensuring high-quality teaching and raising student achievement takes a much more comprehensive approach than what some are fixated on—"the supposed silver bullet of doing away with 'bad teachers.'  "The problem with the so-called 'bad teacher' refrain isn't just that it's too harsh or too unforgiving, or that it obscures the fact that ineffective teachers are far outnumbered by their effective peers. The problem is that it's too limited. It fails to recognize that we face a systems problem," she said.

Weingarten said a comprehensive and robust evaluation system is the necessary predicate for developing high-quality teachers, and for a fair, transparent and expedient process to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom. An effective teacher development and evaluation system "is essential for a fair and efficient due process system," she said. Weingarten proposed four initiatives that she said will help pave the way for progress in schools. A new template for teacher development and evaluation "For too long and too often, teacher evaluation—in both design and implementation—has failed to achieve what must be our goal: continuously improving and informing teaching so as to better educate all students," Weingarten said, adding the AFT's proposed evaluation system is intended to inform tenure, employment decisions and due process proceedings.

Currently, Weingarten said, evaluations usually involve perfunctory observations and a "rating" at the end of the school year. "That's like a football team watching game tape once the season is over," she said. Players and coaches deconstruct every play, analyze every call, understand what's working and what isn’t, so they can constantly improve and win, she said. "We need to put the same time and effort into developing and evaluating teachers. And we need to ensure that the women and men who teach our children are participants in every stage of the process. That's what we mean when we say do these things 'with us, not to us.'" "Yes, we must use good and meaningful data--but the real value of data is to show us what is working and should be replicated, as well as what isn't working and needs to be abandoned," she said.

Rigorous, regular reviews, conducted by trained expert and peer evaluators and principals, would help lift whole schools and systems; they would help promising teachers improve, enable good teachers to become great, and identify those teachers who shouldn't be in the classroom at all. The main components of the AFT teacher development and evaluation proposal are:

* Basic professional teaching standards. Every state should adopt standards that spell out what teachers should know and be able to do. Districts could augment to meet specific community needs.

* Standards for assessing teachers' practice. These standards should be based on multiple measures, including student test scores based on valid and reliable assessments that show students’ real growth while in the teacher’s classroom. Classroom observations, self-evaluations, portfolio reviews, appraisal of lesson plans, students' written work and other projects should also be considered.

* Implementation benchmarks. Implementation benchmarks must be established so professional standards don’t gather dust. Principals and superintendents charged with putting this new evaluation system into practice need to take responsibility--and be held responsible—for making it work.

* Support for teachers. Teacher evaluation needs to be a continuous process throughout teachers’ careers. Ways to support and nurture teacher growth include solid induction, mentoring, ongoing professional development, and career opportunities that keep great teachers in the classroom.

This framework, developed by union leaders with input from some of America's top teacher evaluation experts — including Charlotte Danielson, Susan Moore Johnson and Thomas Kane — is already under way in several school districts, including Pittsburgh and Hillsborough County, Fla.

A fresh approach to due process for teacher misconduct cases Weingarten announced that Kenneth Feinberg--who served as Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and is now Special Master for TARP Executive Compensation--has agreed to spearhead the AFT's effort to develop a fair, efficient protocol for adjudicating teacher misconduct cases and, when called for, teacher removal. "Just as there is a need for due process when dealing with ineffective teaching, there is a need for due process in cases of alleged teacher misconduct," Weingarten said. "Let me be clear: Teachers have zero tolerance for people who, through their conduct, demonstrate they are unfit for the profession. And in those rare cases of serious misconduct, we agree that the teacher should be removed from the classroom immediately," she said, adding that "too often due process becomes glacial process. We intend to change that." What teachers need to do their jobs--tools, time and trust Weingarten said that to truly transform the public education system and allow teachers to succeed, they need the right tools, time and trust.

* Tools. Weingarten said teachers and their students will thrive in an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. She implored schools to provide teachers and students with an environment that sets everyone up for success--small classes; safe schools; healthy and adequate facilities; opportunities for parental involvement; basic classroom supplies like paper; common standards that are deeper, clearer and fewer than we have now; and a solid curriculum.

* Time. "Imagine a system in which teachers have time to come together to resolve student issues, share lesson plans, analyze student work, discuss successes and failures, and learn through high-quality professional development," Weingarten said.

* Trust. "Teachers must be treated as partners in reform, with a real voice," she said. Labor-management relationships Weingarten said labor and management must transform their mutual responsibility for providing a great education into mutual commitment. Through strong labor-management relationships, union and school leaders can drive teacher quality, and advance student and school improvement. She said the just-completed application process for the federal Race to the Top grants has exposed the fault lines in many labor-management relationships. "A program designed to put a premium on collaboration among stakeholders has, in too many instances, done just the opposite," the AFT president said.

However, she singled out several school districts that have made positive changes because of their trusting and respectful labor-management relationships, including in New Haven, Conn.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Detroit. To help nurture and expand strong labor-management collaboration, Weingarten wants to replicate an Obama administration executive order to create a forum for labor and management to come together to improve their working relationships in order to improve the delivery of federal services. She said she has sent letters to the heads of the National Governors Association, the United States Conference of Mayors, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and the Council of the Great City Schools, asking them to join the AFT to build protocols and trust, in order to better deliver to all children that most essential and fundamental right: a high-quality education. The Council of the Great City Schools and the AFT already have started some of this work by identifying districts and union partners that can work together to implement common high academic standards.

"If we can work together on these four proposals, we can create a path to a stronger public education system that is defined by excellence, fairness, shared responsibility and mutual trust," Weingarten said. The speech, an executive summary of the teacher development and evaluation proposal, and other materials related to the speech can be found at www.futurestogether.org .

# # # # The AFT represents more than 1.4 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.

The New York Times endorsed Weingarten's proposal in a January 16, 2010 editorial:

EDITORIAL... Walking the Walk on School Reform, Published: January 16, 2010

The American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers’ union, has been working hard to distance itself from its competitor, the National Education Association, which tends to resist sensible reforms.

The federation’s president, Randi Weingarten, set the contrast quite effectively with a speech last week in Washington, in which she offered a proposal to reform teacher evaluation. She not only echoed Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s call for evaluation systems that take student achievement into account but also expressed support for “a fair, transparent and expedient process to identify and deal with ineffective teachers.”

The shortcomings of evaluations were laid out last year in an eye-opening study by a New York research group, the New Teacher Project. Where they can be said to exist at all, evaluations are typically short, pro forma and almost universally positive. Poorly trained evaluators visit the classroom once or twice for observations that last for a total of an hour or less. Nearly every teacher passes and the overwhelming majority of teachers receive top ratings. Yet more than half the teachers surveyed said they knew a tenured teacher who deserved to be dismissed for poor performance.

The process shortchanges students, who are saddled with ineffective teachers. It also hurts the careers of the talented beginners who rarely get the help and guidance they need to become master teachers.

Ms. Weingarten called for a new collaboration between schools and unions that would replace this “perfunctory waste of time.” She called on the states to adopt basic professional teaching standards that would spell out what teachers should know and be able to do.

She rightly warned against using test scores in crude, statistically invalid ways, and proposed a sophisticated analysis to determine if students were showing real growth under a given teacher. Just as important, Ms. Weingarten said districts that so often take a sink-or-swim approach to teaching should develop support and mentoring programs that both improve teachers’ abilities and keep them from leaving the profession.

These proposals should help to change the national conversation on the subject by putting pressure on the N.E.A. At the same time, critics of unions who are pleased to see Ms. Weingarten talk the talk will be watching closely in the coming months to see if she walks the walk.



Comments:

January 13, 2010 at 8:06 PM

By: kugler

no wonder

now it is clear why stewart can violate member rights without fear or accountability.

the national is working to undermine the rights of teachers nationwide.

Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at substancenews.net. We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

4 + 4 =