Press Release

AFT: ‘Taking Human Capital Seriously’ Report On Effective Teachers Falls Short

For Release: 

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Janet Bass

WASHINGTON—The Strategic Management of Human Capital task force report released today fails in its approach and recommendations for ensuring that every child has an effective teacher, the American Federation of Teachers said.

The AFT participated in the task force. However, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the union cannot support the findings in the latest draft of “Taking Human Capital Seriously” chiefly because it essentially ignores what teachers have said they need to do their jobs well—something AFT representatives have emphasized repeatedly since being invited to join the task force. Weingarten spelled out her concerns in a letter to the task force vice chairs, Allan Odden and James Kelly.

“We remain disappointed at how top-down and disrespectful of teachers and their unions this whole process has been,” Weingarten said. She outlined four areas of the report that the AFT finds wholly inadequate.

  • The report is short-sighted and relies too heavily on untested ideas for finding excellent teachers and not enough on support and developing teachers to make them great. “We believe that great teachers are not born; rather, they are carefully and systematically cultivated through rigorous recruitment, preparation, induction and continuous professional development,” Weingarten said. “Our view of teacher development requires a meaningful, comprehensive evaluation system that focuses on identifying teachers’ strengths and weaknesses in regard to both instructional practice and student outcomes.”
  • The report devalues the role teachers must play in creating a world-class teacher workforce. “Marginalizing the role of teachers in improving schools and increasing student learning deprofessionalizes teaching and teachers,” she said. “Significant reform will not succeed or be sustained without the involvement, ownership and support of teachers.”
  • The report fails to consider the significant role that all stakeholders (students, teachers, administrators, school staff and the community) should play in a child’s education. The report “should promote collective responsibility and accountability, not individual blame,” Weingarten said. “It is too easy and counterproductive to shift the lion’s share of the responsibility to individual teachers.”
  • To improve teaching and increase student learning, we must change direction now. “By harnessing the power of collaboration—a value to which (the task force) pays lip service but does not incorporate sufficiently or meaningfully in its plans and principles—we can effect positive change for education,” Weingarten said.

AFT Secretary-Treasurer Antonia Cortese was a member of the task force. “While we appreciate the report’s attention to professional development, it fails to make fundamental changes necessary to reflect the AFT’s position on critical issues. We cannot support this document’s release because it advocates a top-down approach to reform that will not succeed in improving teaching and learning,” Cortese said.

Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers—also a task force member—expressed disappointment with the report. “Teacher input must be included as school districts and states move forward with overhauling their teacher evaluation systems,” she said.

# # # #

The AFT represents 1.7 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.