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I'm Not Impressed

disappointedToday’s speech by Randi Weingarten of the AFT exemplifies what’s wrong with teachers unions and their control over America’s education system. Randi made news today by announcing that she’d be willing to incorporate student test data in teacher evaluations-but she also listed a litany of other things (including “portfolios”) that should be included.

I’m not impressed.

I simply don’t see why the concept of putting student learning first is so challenging for Ms. Weingarten. Her attempts to pacify those who want to see bad teachers removed from the classroom and off of the public payroll lack specifics. What will she do to remove the stranglehold that her union has over principals across America when it comes to terminating the employment of people who cannot teach – so that we can rightly elevate and compensate those teachers who can? What I see is an ‘our way or no way’ approach by the AFT that neither benefits children to the fullest nor serves the best interests of her members.

Finally, any speech on “reform” by Ms. Weingarten is specious, given that her union claims to want the “best” schools for children. This can’t be true, or else she and her allies would be fighting for school choice programs, not standing in the schoolhouse doors blocking the exits for low-income children.

Randi Weingarten fails to impress once again.

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Gingrich and Sharpton – An Odd Couple for Education, But Not the First

al-newtTomorrow, on his continuing education tour, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be joined in Philadelphia by two gentlemen who because of their obvious differences on many levels are called the Odd Couple of education.  I applaud strange bedfellows – when they make things happen for kids. With this one, I’m not so sure.

The first real Odd Couples of education led some of the nation’s most fundamental shifts in education, shifts that had once been considered radical.  Looking back through the past sixteen years, it’s clear that while education reform has changed dramatically, broad, mainstream support for bold changes in education existed then, just as they do now.  It was just much less hip to say so.

Then, policymakers who led the fight for charter schools, merit pay (as it was called in those days), vouchers and the like were accused of being part of the vast right wing conspiracy and generally anti-public education, despite the fact that such nomenclature didn’t fit then, just as it does not now. CER’s first work celebrated legislators like Pennsylvania Democrat Dwight Evans, who joined hands with Republican Tom Ridge to pass that state’s charter bill.  Miami Urban League head T. Willard Fair teamed up with Governor Jeb Bush to bring vouchers to Florida, following in the steps of Representative Polly Williams, a former Black Panther, in league with conservative Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.

These were the first, real Odd Couples of the modern education reform movement.  They were bold, tenacious, and courageous to cross party lines, incur the wrath of unions together and suffer all sorts of education establishment slurs. (more…)

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Extreme Makeover: AFT Edition

Folks have been fawning over Randi Weingarten’s seeming embrace of education reform since her National Press Club speech in November, and Dana Goldstein has a must-read profile of the AFT/UFT president in the latest American Prospect.

Weingarten’s media makeover has served her well, leading many to do as Goldstein has and give her credit for talking the talk.

But that’s not the whole story.

For reformers, the real definition of reform – which we helped give life to in 1993 – is much more cut and dry than what is expounded here. Quite simply:

– The status quo embraces the existing system, and while members of the status quo will often advocate for policy or program changes, none of what they endorse will fundamentally change the balance of power between producer and consumer.

– Conversely, real reformers seek to fundamentally replace what is known as the school system with a system of schools that is accountable to those in power at each school, as well as to the parents, in whose hands the ultimate fate of their children depends.

By this definition, Randi Weingarten doesn’t even approach the notion of a reformer. On the continuum between status quo and reform, she has barely passed go.

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