June 4, 2009
Statement by AFT President Randi Weingarten in Response to
AT&T Foundation Survey on High School Dropout Problem
The AT&T Foundation today released a new study, "On the Front Lines of Schools: Perspectives of Teachers and Principals on the High School Dropout Problem."
WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) knows that teachers choose education as a profession because they want to help students learn, grow and succeed in life. "On the Front Lines" makes an important contribution to what must be a collective and ongoing discussion about how to improve our schools. We agree that all educators must hold high expectations for students in order to ensure they succeed. What the study calls the "expectation gap" is in reality what educators—both new and veteran teachers and principals—know are the numerous barriers to achievement placed between students and educators and their goals. The AT&T Foundation's new study sheds light on the challenges facing our students and schools, and provides an educator-inspired road map to improving education for all.
"On the Front Lines" demonstrates teachers' understanding of the multiple factors that contribute to dropout rates, including low parental involvement and support at home; boredom; lack of connection between coursework and the "real world"; excessive absenteeism, personal issues; and lack of early academic preparedness. Moreover, many of the responses given by teachers and principals about needed changes are consistent with elements of the AFT's platform for education reform: challenging and interesting curriculum aligned to strong academic standards; early reading intervention; reduced class sizes; wraparound social services; and increased participation from parents and mentors.
"On the Front Lines" is a reminder that improving our schools is the responsibility of the entire community. When our teachers have access to needed resources and supports, they are in a better position to educate students. When parents are engaged with their children's school, the home, as well as the classroom, becomes an environment for learning. When communities ensure that all children have necessary health and social services, students will come to school better prepared to learn. We all have a role to play in building stronger supports and schools for students. Together, we must work to make it happen.
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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.