Press Release

Statement by Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, On President Obama’s Remarks About Education Reform Efforts

For Release: 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Janet Bass

WASHINGTON—We agree with President Obama that the possibilities for student success should be limitless. If we embark on a course of shared responsibility and collaboration, we will be much closer to reaching the ultimate goal of providing a great education to all students. When teamwork, trust and respect become ingrained in the fabric of a school district and are incorporated into all decision-making—not just used during contract negotiations—the outcome is good for kids. Teachers want their students to do well, but they need the tools and resources that will create the conditions to help their students succeed.

States, cities, school districts and teachers unions must be able to embrace real innovation, real collaboration and a real commitment to building programs that will genuinely improve teaching and learning. These programs—including those associated with the federal Race to the Top competitive grants—must deal with issues both inside and outside the classroom.

President Obama cited just a few of many recent stellar examples where collaborative partnerships are making a tangible difference for students and teachers.

In New Haven, Conn., the contract negotiations process that led to a reform-minded contract has been hailed as a model. The city and the teachers union worked as a team to negotiate a contract that lays out an innovative template for urban school reform that recognizes the value of incorporating teachers’ views in all key decisions. The contract includes a teacher evaluation process that will consider student progress as one measure.

“The teachers union and the school management want to extend the collaborative relationship that was formed during the negotiations to all of our work now. We are convinced that when the adults work well together, we can put students’ interests first,” said Dave Cicarella, president, New Haven Federation of Teachers.

In Austin, Texas, the teachers union and the school district are collaborating on an alternative teacher compensation plan designed to raise student achievement, improve teacher recruitment and retention and recognize exemplary practices.

“Compensation plans like this are good for teachers and students, but can only be successful with teacher input and buy-in. This should become standard operating procedure for education reform plans everywhere, so that a full range of ideas are explored and their merits debated,” said Louis Malfaro, president, Education Austin.

There are numerous other stand-out innovative, collaborative reform efforts that are raising student achievement, including in the ABC school district in southeastern Los Angeles County; Baltimore; Hillsborough, Fla.; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh.

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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.