AFT President Randi Weingarten says the way for the next administration to avoid triggering a new round of "education wars" is for the White House to focus instead on promoting children's well-being, supporting powerful learning, building teacher capacity and fostering cultures of collaboration.
These are "the four pillars to achieve powerful, purposeful public education" and great neighborhood public schools, Weingarten told a national audience in her Jan. 9 speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Rooted not in conjecture or wishful thinking, they are drawn from success stories that AFT affiliates have forged around the country in conjuction with their district and community partners.
When it comes to better public education, "we are walking the walk," said Weingarten, citing more than a dozen affiliate-supported programs and initiatives to support the argument. "Across America, we are living our values and protecting our kids."
Among the examples cited in Weingarten's nationally covered speech:
- Community Health Academy of the Heights, a New York City-based community school that is working aggressively to address students' physical, emotional and social needs. The approach is working, said Weingarten, who pointed to similar efforts to promote children's well-being in Austin, Texas; Cincinnati; and dozens of other systems.
- Project-based instruction at Metro School of Design in Miller High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, where lessons challenge students to assess the possibility of human habitation on other planets, and at New York City's Harvest Collegiate High School, where students write affidavits, choose witnesses and create exhibits tied to a mock trial that's held in an actual Brooklyn courthouse.
- Programs that illustrate how "CTE is part of the DNA" of the union, including Toledo (Ohio) Technology Academy, internships for students through Peoria, Ill., schools, and Pittsburgh's training for high school students in fire, police and EMT services.
- The San Francisco Teacher Residency program and the New Teacher Induction Program in Meriden, Conn., two examples of how union affiliates are crucial partners in building professional capacity in education.
- The purposeful collaboration between suburban Los Angeles' ABC Unified School District and its teachers union; and partnership-building efforts in the broader community, such as Chicago's Parent Mentor Program and parent-teacher home visit programs in Baltimore and St. Paul, Minn., and the Reconnecting McDowell initiative in McDowell County, W.Va., making lives better in the nation's eighth-poorest county.
These union-shaped success stories and more reveal that "it's time—guided by our innovation, our experience and our collective wisdom of what works—to work together to build that system of great neighborhood public schools," Weingarten said.