Articles in the School Reform category

Leadership Conference opens with John Merrow

NSBA’s Leadership Conference 2011 kicked off Saturday with a speech from  author, filmmaker, and PBS correspondent John Merrow. 

Merrow took his 14-year-old goddaughter into the depths of the New York Public Library recently and showed her a pod of hulking microfiche machines.

“What’s microfiche?” she asked.

Merrow began his opening general session talk at NSBA’s Leadership Conference Saturday morning with that story. It was a way to show how times are changing, not just for students and how they acquire knowledge, but also for school boards and their many antagonists, whom Merrow said are busy fighting yesterday’s battles.

As his godchild’s story illustrates, “Today knowledge is 24-7. Information is 24-7.” Merrow said. “By contrast, schools remain a monopolistic place where children are expected to answer questions, not ask them. I call it regurgitation education, and it’s at its apex as the tests approach.”

Schools must change, but not in the ways the Michelle Rhees of the nation would have it: by firing scores of supposedly bad teachers (as the former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor famously did) and tying the salaries and job security of the rest to students’ scores on bubble tests, Merrow said. But neither can school districts maintain what Merrow dubbed the traditional “trade union” concept of teaching, which defines a job as one that guarantees employment for life and bases salaries on years spent in front of a class.

“Neither side says much about school boards, which are being ignored,” Merrow said.

School board members accept this position on the sideline at their own peril, Merrow said. Instead, they need to embrace new ways of teaching with technology and a more vital conceptualization of the teaching profession, one that allows for more autonomy, collaboration, and personal initiative.

What should school boards do to improve the teaching profession and stem the loss of 40 percent of new teachers within their first four years — the kind of human capital loss that few professions could tolerate?

“Make it rewarding,” Merrow said. “Make it attractive. Make it a job worth fighting for.”

Change the bureaucracy so principals can hire the teacher they want, Merrow said. Create schools in which teachers and other staff members, from custodians to secretaries, are encouraged to work together.

That kind of transformation is critical, but it is not for the faint-hearted, Merrow said.

“Be bold. Take risks. Recognize that the world has changed,” Merrow said. “Or don’t.”

Earlier, NSBA President Earl C. Rickman III, who introduced Merrow, talked briefly about the serious challenges facing school boards, ones “that threaten our very existence.” Among them are mayoral takeovers, increased federal control, and commentators and pundits who mistakenly believe that schools could do better without school boards in charge.

“As state association leaders, we need to fight this battle,” Rickman said.

Lawrence Hardy|February 5th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Teachers, Leadership Conference 2011, School Reform, School Board News|

New NSBA report finds school boards focusing on achievement, accountability

A groundbreaking new report finds that school board members increasingly are focused on student achievement and preparing students with 21st century skills to compete in the global economy.

NSBA released “School Boards Circa 2010: Governance in the Accountability Era,” on Feb. 3. The report is authored by researchers Frederick Hess and Olivia Meeks at the American Enterprise Institute and was funded by the Wallace Foundation. NSBA partnered with the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and the Iowa School Boards Foundation to produce the report, which is based on a survey of more than 1,000 board members and superintendents from all types of school districts—urban, suburban, and rural.

The report provides a detailed look at the demographics of school boards members, what board members think about a number of school reform initiatives, how they do their work, and the relationship between the school board and the superintendent. The report also delves into areas such as elections, campaign, and ties to teachers unions.

Some of the highlights of the 83-page report include:

  • Two-thirds of those surveyed see an urgent need to improve student achievement, and nine out of 10 are concerned about an overly narrow focus on achievement.
  • School board members and superintendents have similar goals for preparing their students for college, the workplace, and, above all, “a satisfying and productive life.”
  • School board members, especially those in large districts, are more representative of the communities they serve than state legislatures and members of Congress. Boards now include a greater percentage of women — 44 percent—than the U.S. House of Representatives (17.5 percent) and Senate (17 percent).
  • School board members tend to be well educated—nearly 75 percent of members surveyed hold at least a bachelor’s degree—and most describe their political views as ideologically moderate.
  • A major concern for school board members is dealing with the economic downturn and decline in local real estate values and state revenues. More than two-thirds of board members ranked their funding and economic situations as extremely urgent.
  • More than 88 percent of board members report that they almost always or often turn to their superintendents to get information to make decisions, giving the superintendent a crucial role.

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant pointed out that the date showed, contrary to popular beliefs, only 17 percent of board members had ever belonged to a teachers union. Further, only 15 percent had received campaign contributions from their unions, and most of those donations were less than $1,000.

She also noted that the report queried board members about obstacles and barriers to progress. While funding was most frequently cited as a top issue, more than 52 percent cited collective bargaining as an impediment to removing ineffective teachers. That issue is particularly timely because of the renewed interest in ending teacher tenure and the U.S. Department of Education’s labor management conference in Denver later this month, Bryant said.

NSBA and several other education groups and teachers unions will be participating in that conference, to be held Feb. 15 and 16, and Bryant said these concerns should be raised.

Hess authored a similar report, “School Boards at the Dawn of a New Century,” that was released by NSBA in 2002. That report also examined the demographic data and inner workings of board members, but Hess noted that many of the issues, including accountability for student achievement, were not as prominent at that time.

“One of the really interesting things is that frankly we didn’t think to ask a lot of the questions in 2002 that we did this time, when you think back our expectations of governance were so different,” he said.

Amber Winkler, the research director at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a conservative think tank that has often criticized school boards, encouraged board members to rethink the issue of school governance. The Wallace Foundation stipulated that NSBA partner with an organization with different beliefs to receive funding for the project.

The Fordham Foundation strongly supports school choice, including liberal charter school laws and vouchers for some students. Winkler said that she was unhappy to see that data that showed school board members were “lukewarm” to ideas such as school choice, charter schools, and year-round calendars.

That said, she was pleased that “the results showed school board members are conscientious citizens, take jobs seriously, and work hard for very little pay.”

Joetta Sack-Min|February 3rd, 2011|Categories: Governance, School Boards, School Reform, School Board News|

WFS — A well-deserved snub

For once, it was a good surprise.

We’d spent months expecting “Waiting for Superman,” the documentary by director Davis Guggenheim that promotes charter schools, to receive a nomination—and possibly win–an Academy Award. Last week, it was snubbed — no nomination.

Since the movie came out last fall, though, I think a lot of people have realized there are serious flaws in Guggenheim’s logic (many of which were outlined in this scathing critique by prominent education historian and author Diane Ravitch).

Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss brings to light a few others—namely, some of the scenes were staged and some of the characters were misrepresented. That, um, certainly did not bode well for an Oscar.

Strauss writes, “Guggenheim edited the film to make it seem as if charter schools are a systemic answer to the ills afflicting many traditional public schools, even though they can’t be, by their very design. He unfairly demonized Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and gave undeserved hero status to reformer and former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. Guggenheim compared schools in Finland and the United States without mentioning that Finland has a 3 percent child poverty rate and the United States has a 22 percent rate.”

It gets worse—he also staged a scene by a mother touring a charter school, after she knew her child did not get it, according to Strauss. And another odd scene was Emily Jones, a white student in an exclusive San Francisco Bay suburb who appeared to be hinging her hopes and dreams on getting into a local charter. Guggenheim makes the traditional high school sound inferior, but turns out that Jones—and many others—think it’s actually quite good (and it has the test scores to prove it). Jones later told a reporter that she just happened to like the charter school even better.

My main complaint about the film was that Guggenheim never went to any of the schools that he was so critical of—you just had to take his word as he drove past those buildings. Perhaps next time Guggenheim should spend some time inside those schools—and really learn the issues–before he decides he can solve any problems.

Joetta Sack-Min, Associate Editor

Kathleen Vail|January 31st, 2011|Categories: Governance, Urban Schools, School Reform, American School Board Journal|

Report shows how all school districts can continue to improve

Here’s the good news: According to a new international study, school districts can substantially improve student performance in as little as six years, whether they’re located in Brazil or Boston, Latvia or Long Beach.

“How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better,” a new longitudinal report from McKinsey & Co., looked at how schools in 17 diverse nations improved the educational outcomes for their students over periods ranging from four to more than 25 years. In addition, the researchers looked at the school districts in Boston and Long Beach, Calif., and a charter school network. The report found common strengths in all the systems, despite the considerable diversity in such things as size, culture, and resources.

That’s the good news. The more difficult news is this: These countries and the individual school districts are, by and large, exceptions. Elsewhere throughout the world schools are experiencing “a lot of stagnation, a lot of inertia,” co-author Mona Mourshed said Dec. 7 at a conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss the report.

As if to underscore that point for the United States, the results of the international PISA tests (Program for International Student Assessment) were released coincidentally the same day, and they showed that while the science performance of U.S. student climbed to near the middle of the pack of the nation surveyed, math achievement remained in 25th place overall (or 17th place in statistically significant numbers) out of 34 nations.

“The brutal truth is, our country is nowhere where it needs to be educationally,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said at the conference.

“The only thing our children lead the world in is self-confidence,” he added. “We’re Number One in self-confidence. We’re 25th in math. There’s a massive disconnect there.”

But the McKinsey report showed that — regardless of differences in wealth, political systems, educational structure, culture, and a host of other factors that distinguish educational practices around the world — school system can improve dramatically by implementing six interventions. These “clusters of interventions” have more to do with the process of educating students than either the resources available to the system or its structure and are valid whether a school system moved from “poor” to “fair,” (including Chile, Jordan, Armenia), fair to “good,” (England, Latvia, Boston, and Long Beach), good to “great” (Singapore and South Korea.), or great to “excellent” (Finland).

However, the particular cluster of interventions that get schools from, for example, poor to fair as opposed to good to great, are very different.

“What made you successful in the last journey will not make you successful in the next performance journey,” Mourshed said.

Highly prescriptive curriculum and accountably systems may be effective for improving very low-performing school systems, but the top performing ones achieve their gains through giving schools and teachers more autonomy. For example, school systems moving from poor to fair dedicated 54 percent of their professional development interventions to technical skill training, 38 percent to coaching, and nothing to peer collaboration, the report said. At the other end of the spectrum, Finland, the system moving from great to excellent, dedicated 25 percent of its intervention to technical skills, 18 percent to coaching, and 14 percent to  peer collaboration.

Even more dramatic were the differences in accountability systems. The poor-to-fair systems were heavily reliant on standardized assessments — 85 percent of their evaluation interventions compared to just 29 percent for great-to-excellent system. The lowest group dedicated virtually no resources to school and teacher self-evaluations, compared with 42 percent for the highest performing system.

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant said one critical component of reform is having the kind of community support that effective school boards and administrative teams provide.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said during the conference that the results underscore the need for “a culture of collaboration” in schools. In these high-performing schools, she added, principals ask: “‘What do you need to do your job?’ Not ‘If you don’t do this, you will be fired.'”

Duncan underscored the importance of community support and added that another key component is the involvement of — and high expectations of — parents. He recalled that he and President Obama were recently talking to the president of South Korea when Obama asked him about his biggest challenges.

“My biggest challenges are — my parents are too demanding,” he replied.

“We laughed,” Duncan recalled. “But we also winced.”

Lawrence Hardy|December 8th, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Reform, School Board News|

Dichotomy’s present, prolific in story of public education

otb-camdenCamden, N.J., is no longer the most violent city in America. That distinction now belongs to St. Louis, Mo., my hometown.

At least, that’s the assessment by CQ Press, which each year examines the rate of violent crime in America’s cities and metropolitan areas. For the record, according to 2009 statistics, St. Louis had 2,070 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, with Camden, last year’s “winner,” not far behind.

CQ’s whole enterprise is misleading, however. In Camden, as in St. Louis, how violent it is depends on where exactly in the city you are. Visit Camden’s gleaming, touristy waterfront, its lovely aquarium and fine hotels, and you might not know what problems lurk in its neighborhoods. Spend a weekend in downtown St. Louis – going to the zoo, the symphony, or a Cardinals game – and you’d probably have no idea you’re in the “most violent” city in America.

I mention Camden’s crime rate, because Senior Editor Del Stover and I wrote about two schools in some of the poorer parts of that city for this month’s ASBJ. Del went to LEAP University Charter School.  I visited the more “traditional” Woodrow Wilson High School.

Naomi Dillon|November 24th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Urban Schools, School Reform, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

What? You’re tired of the election already? So how about that economy!

Sorry, bad joke. But I just had to point out a great blog — “Off the Charts,” from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities — that I stumbled on last night while writing a story on (what else?) the election. Read the post by Senior Fellow Michael Mazerov on why cutting or eliminating state corporate taxes is a bad idea. Then see State Fiscal Project Director Nicholas Johnson on why this will be the states’ worst budget year ever.

I said it was a “great” blog; I didn’t say it was happy. Because, as Johnson explains, next year could be even more dismal for states – and for the school districts that depend on them for much of their funding.  Earlier posts offer helpful comparisons of states and their projected shortfalls.

Elsewhere, Diane Ravitch wrote a devastating review of the movie Waiting for Superman in the New York Review of Books called “The Myth of Charter Schools.” For those public school advocates who thought the film was a trifle, well, biased toward charters – no high- or even decent-performing regular public schools were featured – you might take heart from the Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss, who said in her blog that the critique from the influential Ravitch might even prevent the film from winning an Oscar.

Finally, read Maureen Downey, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s “Get Schooled” blog, about how a determined principal turned around a low-performing Alabama elementary school and made it one of the highest performing in the state. She did it with hard work, perseverance, and an unwavering belief that disadvantaged students can excel.

My favorite part is when the principal tells her staff: “Whatever your expectations are for these kids, triple them today. They’re not high enough.”

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|November 5th, 2010|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Diversity, School Reform, Student Achievement, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Homeless People, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

Film’s spotlight on education leaves much to be desired—in filmmaking

The much-anticipated “Waiting for Superman” documentary has been in theaters in some areas for a month now. It’s kept us plenty busy writing commentaries and analysis about its simplistic and unfair portrayal of public education and how school boards need to promote a more positive message.


Naomi Dillon|October 25th, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Reform, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

The week in blogs

Still swooning over Waiting for Superman, NBC’s Education Nation, and Oprah Winfrey’s gushing praise of  D.C. Schools Chancellor (and “warrior woman”) Michelle Rhee?

What? You’re not swooning?

Whatever. For another view of all the hoopla, read Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post blog, entitled “The Strange Media Coverage of Obama’s Education Policies.”  

“NBC seemed to take for granted that Obama’s education policies are sound and will be effective,” Strauss wrote. “Seasoned journalists failed to ask hard questions and fell all over their subjects to be sympathetic. It was a forum for people to repeatedly misstate the positions of their opponents.”

 Sort of like Congress?

No, this is not “The Week In Washington Post Blogs” but I also must mention Jay Mathews’ revealing piece on how quite a few education college professors still don’t “get it.” For example, Mathews cites a poll showing that only 24 percent of professors said it was
“‘absolutely essential’ to produce ‘teachers who understand how to work with the state’s standards, tests and accountability systems.'”

That’s odd. Because even if you are opposed to more and more standardized tests and state standards (and many teachers are, with some justification) you’d still have to learn how to function in that environment. I mean, I don’t relish going to the DMV, but I still have to get a license. (That makes sense, right?)

Moving on, Joanne Jacobs cites a New York Times story saying more schools are adopting Singapore’s math curriculum.  And finally, read Anne O’Brien’s blog on a book that says …  surprise! … research supporting No Child Left Behind is not necessarily very strong.

Now are you swooning?

Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor

Lawrence Hardy|October 1st, 2010|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Teachers, Educational Research, School Reform, Student Achievement, Policy Formation, Assessment, American School Board Journal|

NSBA’s Bryant speaks on tenure reforms in recap of “Education Nation”

NBC’s Education Nation summit placed an at-times harsh spotlight on the nation’s public schools in two-and-a-half days of panel sessions that featured a little bit of everything. On Sept. 29, NBC released a video recapping the three-day summit, which included remarks by NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant on reforming teacher tenure.

The ambitious multimedia event, streamed live on the web and shown in excerpts on NBC News and the conglomerate’s multiple cable channels, drew a who’s who of star power from education, politics, and entertainment, complete with bickering, tears, posturing, and, ultimately, wary-but-determined hope.

Did anyone get off their pre-established soapboxes? Not really. Will it result in lasting change? The jury’s still out. Did it pay attention to a deserving — if not the deserving — issue of the 21st century? Absolutely.

Overall, the sessions I saw — except for one notable exception — generally were balanced. The events touched on math/science performance, the global economy, the need for highly qualified teachers, the battles between reformers and unions, and, especially, the plight of low-income minority students in high-need urban schools.

On that front, it was not anything new or revolutionary. But then again, the issues are not new.

One of my biggest fears was that the event would be a two-plus day infomercial for “Waiting for Superman,” the new documentary that I have very mixed feelings about. And those fears were not allayed on Sunday, when the film was shown under the tent in Rockefeller Center to an invitation-only crowd of 300 that stuck around for a panel session featuring director Davis Guggenheim, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, Chancellor Michelle Rhee of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, and Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone.

You can’t help but be impressed by Canada, whose fervent desire, entrepreneurial spirit, and outright chutzpah have led to a great success story in one of the toughest areas of the country. I also appreciated the fact that he went out of his way to note that charters are public schools, some traditional public schools work as well as his, and the crisis we face is one we all should embrace.

The Rhee/Weingarten battles, which continued throughout the summit, became tiresome, as did the relentless bashing/undermining of the work of teachers’ unions. I will never go down as the biggest fan of unions, but it was nice to see Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter come to Weingarten’s defense with regard to contract negotiations.

Speaking of Duncan, the man is everywhere. I have never seen an education secretary be so passionate about getting his message — whether you agree with it or not — out to the public. And Nutter provided a nice counterbalance to D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, whose allegiance to Rhee was a factor — but not the sole factor — in losing his bid for re-election earlier this month.

If there was one group that was underrepresented, it was school board members.

NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant was featured on the closing panel that aired Tuesday, and NSBA President Earl Rickman was in attendance. However, only a handful of school board members attended, and they represented other groups, such as parent organizations that were invited to the summit.

That fact wasn’t lost on Andres Alonso, chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools. Speaking at a session titled “Change Agents: How do we reinvent the status quo at all levels?” he pointed out that no school board members were on the panel and only two were in the audience.

“They should be here discussing these issues,” Alonso said. “Reform in the absence of the board of education is problematic.”

Alonso said the board’s work in Baltimore is “some of the reason we’ve been effective.” He noted a time early in his tenure when the board supported his plan to close underutilized schools, even though he received a no-confidence vote from the union.

“I told them, ‘This is what I can predict what will happen,’ and it did,” Alonso said. “Throughout everything, with the vote of no confidence from the union, the board’s support was huge. Even though there was some contention behind closed doors, ultimately their support was huge.”

Amen to that.

-Glenn Cook

Sound bites from the three-day session:

• President Obama, from Today Show interview: “Part of the challenge, I think, for the entire country is to understand that how well we do economically, whether jobs are created here, high-end jobs to support families and support the future of the American people, is going to depend on whether or not we can do something about these schools.”

• Tom Brokaw, prior to an interview with Education Secretary Arne Duncan: “The private sector has an enormous stake in our success … especially as we operate in a global environment. It’s a rising tide around the world. Do we become part of it or do we become submerged by what is going on elsewhere?”

• Andres Alonso, chief executive officer of Baltimore Public Schools, on reforming his district: “This is incredibly hard work. It requires that we all work together, and I don’t mean in a kumbaya way, but understanding that it’s incredibly hard. … There’s not a single city in America that’s doing their job right. The question is, can we make fast progress that puts us on that pathway?”

• Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee: “This has reaffirmed what we know. We need to change and dramatically improve our education system. … It’s happening in some places, but not across the nation. We’re caught somewhere between the 19th and the 21st century.”

• Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News Anchor: “This is a national issue. It’s very close to a national security issue. When did we lose the threat? When do you think we decided we could make this anything less than a top priority?”

• Joel Klein, New York City schools chancellor: “This is a political business we are in, and the status quo will always have fierce defenders. I have to pay math and physical education teachers the same thing, and as a result I have a shortage of math teachers. When you truly professionalize teaching and have true competition … I think we’ll move the system in a way where teachers find it much more congenial and exciting. If you don’t shoot for excellence, you will come up with mediocrity every time.”

• Duncan on passing the buck: “There is much more common ground than people realize. Unions have to move. Superintendents need to move. Students need to move. Let’s stop blaming. Let’s stop pointing fingers.”

• Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty: “To go forward people are going to have to be willing to take political risks. These kids cannot wait; one year is too long.”

• Gwen Samuels, Connecticut parent: “We’re here today because we are in crisis. You’ll call us for an ice cream social but you won’t call me because my child has a better pathway to prison than to college.”

• Gene Wilhoit, executive director of the Chief State School Officers: “Are we asking the right question? Is this about fixing schools, something created in a time past under very different circumstances? Or are we about educating all children to a high level?”

• Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on changing schools: “It can happen. It takes a whole community approach. You have to be involved. You have to be empowered. It’s a checking of massive egos at the door. I don’t run the schools. I don’t have authority over them, but I feel the responsibility for them. Education is economic development.”

• Miller: “This country talks about how they want a moon shot. They want a Sputnik moment. Folks, this is it.”

Words and phrases used by speakers ad nauseum: Change agents, achievement gaps, tipping point, status quo, void, crisis.

Glenn Cook|September 30th, 2010|Categories: School Reform, School Board News|

Duncan promotes teacher recruiting, defends AFT leader at “Education Nation”

Pointing to a huge loss of teachers expected over the next decade, Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced plans for a national campaign to recruit young professionals into education, starting with a new website — — that is “a soup-to-nuts explanation of what it takes to become a good teacher.”

Duncan noted that research shows the difference effective teachers make. “If you have three good teachers in a row, you’ll be one and a half to two years ahead. If you have three poor teachers in a row, you’ll be behind and never catch up.

“What we’re doing as a country isn’t good enough,” he said. “We lose almost 1 million high school students to the streets. A decade ago we led the world in college graduation. Now we’re ninth.”

Duncan, in a one-on-one interview with NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw at the “Education Nation” summit, said the campaign is working to recruit 1 million new teachers over the next five years. The greatest emphasis will be in recruiting male teachers, especially minorities, and in finding qualified staff for the hardest-to-fill positions (math, science, and special education).

“If you look across the country today and put black males and Hispanic males together, it’s 3.5 percent of the teacher workforce,” Duncan said. “If we’re serious about having young men aspire to go to college, we have to put men in their lives. … We lose almost a million students from our high schools each year to the streets.”

“We have to elevate the status of the teaching profession. The countries that are outperforming us today are getting the best and brightest to go into education.”

Brokaw asked whether Duncan’s push would be effective at a time when four out of five school districts are cutting positions.

“It’s a little tough in the short-term,” Duncan said, “but there are a couple of thousand teacher jobs available today at As the economy bounces back you’ll see those numbers change.”

Weingarten gets backing from Duncan, others

Randi Weingarten, the controversial leader of the American Federation of Teachers, is the de facto villain in “Waiting for Superman.” Teachers unions are seen as the hardcore barriers to reform in the documentary, and Weingarten was forced to defend her union’s stances in panel sessions throughout Education Nation.

Weingarten and Michelle Rhee, Washington, D.C.’s equally controversial chancellor, have no love for each other and the two sparred repeatedly. And Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was defeated in his re-election bid earlier this month based in large part on his education agenda, referred to the AFT as an “obstructionist force” in a panel session.

However, Weingarten did get some support from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, among others.

“In hundreds and hundreds of school districts, you see management, boards, and unions working together,” Duncan said. “Unions are signing on to bold reforms … We need to do a better job of spotlighting, a better job of highlighting, because these things are occurring quietly but very very courageously.”

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter noted that Weingarten had helped the teachers union negotiate a contract that allows for Saturday and extended-day programs in the district’s empowerment schools. “That’s a game changer,” he said.

Miami Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said districts face “an impossible juggling act” between state mandates and federal policy that have forced unions and administrators to come to the table.

“It’s no surprise that Florida has the vast majority of its unions negotiating MOUs (memorandums of understanding) on Race to the Top,” Carvalho said. “If they do not change and adapt, unions, they will perish.”

-Glenn Cook

Glenn Cook|September 29th, 2010|Categories: School Reform, School Board News|
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