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January 12, 2010

AFT president calls for new approach to teacher evaluations and labor relations

In a major speech today, Randi Weingarten, the president of American Federation of Teachers, called for a reform of the way teachers are evaluated and supported during their teaching careers.

The speech comes just as states are about to apply for federal stimulus funds called Race to the Top funds. The competitive $4 billion in federal funding will go to a dozen or so states that demonstrate they have serious collaboration between teachers unions and management and have no rules that prevent test scores from being used as part of a teacher evaluation process. The feds, in other words, have made it clear that a new day is coming when school systems will use a variety of factors to evaluate teachers.

So Weingarten, whose union usually represents urban school teachers, has taken the first step toward making teachers a partner in the national debate over this sensitive issue.

She lays out four steps that school systems should take. Every state should adopt standards spelling out what teachers should know and be able to do, she said. And states should write standards for evaluating teachers that include student test scores on assessments that show growth during the year, classroom observations, portfolios and student work. The entire speech as well as a lot of additional information is available on the AFT Web site or at


Posted by Liz Bowie at 3:28 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Nation


I'm stunned. I've looked forward to the possibility of having our teaching recognized in a real way for some time, but I didn't expect our union to be so brilliantly progressive about it.

Of course we'll see how the details come out, and the devil's always in the details. There are a lot of protections that need to be built in for workers and a lot of rotten, untested ideas that should be tossed as we develop a way to evaluate teachers.

But today I'm proud of my union and its leadership and I thank them for getting us a great seat at this table.


I'm not always on the side of the unions in education debates, but give credit where its due.

AFT is really doing some great things in pushing a progressive education reform agenda.

I have to state that teacher 'evaluations' are worthless because they are relying on the students putting forth their best effort and being able to understand the coursework, which some students are just unable to do or unable to do in the time frame allotted for some classes.

Until we realize that and STOP with the evaluations, the relations between teachers and the school system are going to be strained.

Isn't motivating students to put forth their best effort and getting them to understand the coursework, you know, sort of the POINT of teaching?

There are many ways to use test scores in teacher evaluations, including measuring growth rather than absolute pass rate, which would reduce/remove the disparity in teacher evaluations due to the level of the incoming students.


Your comments are troubling to me on many levels. Specifically, it is the teachers job to get students to put forth their best effort. I am not saying that a teacher can wave a magic wand and make every student suddenly want to learn every subject, but it is the primary role to get students to engage with the material. As a school leader and former classroom teacher of more than a few years, I see the teachers roll as that of teaching the kids the content. My evaluations were always positive when I engaged the kids and got them thinking about how the content impacted their lives. I don't see a disconnect in what I have heard from people when talking about new ways to evaluate teachers including a new focus on test scores/achievement. And yes, I know that there is a difference between achievement and test scores. Having said that, students should be able to perform well on assessments (local, state and national) when teachers are doing a good job. I am not sure what point you are trying to make, but fear that you are saying that teachers should be judged on how they present the information and not on how well that information is received. That's not the point of teaching.

Interested in responses. If I have gotten the wrong impression please correct me.

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