Cynthia Leonor Garza
New grants also focus on building community schools, improving early childhood education
WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers today announced a third round of AFT Innovation Fund grants, which will support union-led efforts to implement the Common Core State Standards, develop new models for urban public schools, and design approaches to nurture effective teaching. The awards were announced during TEACH, the AFT’s biennial educational issues conference.
“Even in this time of adversity, teachers want to make a difference in the lives of kids, and are looking for innovative ways of doing that,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Their enthusiasm and the good ideas they are proposing make it clear that teachers want to be part of the solution. The AFT Innovation Fund defies the notion that teachers are part of the problem.”
Warren Simmons, the executive director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and a member of the Fund’s national advisory board, praised the AFT Innovation Fund for its focus on teachers’ learning, especially at a time of frequent turnover among school and district leaders.
“This shows the role that unions can play in sustaining work and forging partnerships that need to be built,” he said. “Unions can fill the gap to build instructional capacity.”
Chris Gabrieli, the chairman of the National Center on Time and Learning and another advisory board member, said, “The number, range and quality of applications from locals across the country demonstrates the appetite and potential of teachers and local unions to drive bottom-up innovation and AFT nationally deserves our applause for building, driving and sustaining the AFT Innovation Fund.”
The Chicago Teachers Union and the Albuquerque Teachers Federation will use their grant funding to help teachers create lessons and materials aligned to the new Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. The standards, designed to ensure that students are ready for college and careers, have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.
AFT West Virginia and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association will use their Innovation Fund grant to turn two low-income schools into community schools that will provide services and programs that address outside-the-classroom issues affecting children’s academic achievement. The unions will work in collaboration with local partners, including a faith-based organization.
To help early childhood and pre-K teachers with continuous support, AFT St. Louis will use its grant to create a professional development program that could become a national model for this growing group of educators.
And the Denver Federation of Paraprofessionals and Nutrition Service Employees’ grant will be used to develop a program to combat childhood obesity.
Support for the AFT Innovation Fund comes from the AFT and private philanthropies, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Ford Foundation have also supported the Fund.
The 2011 grants, totaling $800,000, were awarded to the following local and state AFT affiliates:
- Chicago Teachers Union (Illinois), to design instructional units that include curriculum, instruction and performance assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The units will focus on K-3 math, elementary interdisciplinary content, adolescent and young adulthood math, career and technical education, and English language arts.
- Albuquerque Teachers Federation (New Mexico), to develop research-based professional development materials and model curricula that will help teachers of English language learners implement the Common Core State Standards. The project, a partnership with PBS-affiliate WETA, will focus on teaching ELLs in grades 1, 4 and 8.
- AFT West Virginia and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, to work with partner organizations to convert an elementary school and a middle school in Charleston into true community schools that offer a range of supports and opportunities for children, families and their communities, including health and social services.
- AFT St. Louis (Missouri), to develop a high-quality, districtwide professional development program for early childhood and pre-K teachers and paraprofessionals that builds on the union’s previous successful advocacy for an increase in pre-K seats in the public school system.
- Denver Federation for Paraprofessionals and Nutrition Service Employees (Colorado), to create a model employee incentive-pay program called “The Good Food! Incentive Pilot” that will reinforce the district’s nutrition and wellness efforts to combat obesity among schoolchildren.
Since its creation in 2009, the AFT Innovation Fund has made a total of 20 investments in groundbreaking work across the nation, including opening teacher-designed charter schools, developing a national institute to nurture labor-management cooperation, and creating online professional networks to support teachers as their districts redesign evaluation and pay systems.
For more information, visit www.aft.org/innovate.