In the debate over school improvement, individuals and groups advancing agendas with little or no evidence to back them up have somehow claimed the mantle of education “reformers,” while teachers, their unions and others with actual education expertise often are portrayed as obstacles to reform–despite their desire to be involved in an improvement process that frequently shuts them out. In this upside-down approach to school “reform,” teachers are required to implement top-down policies made without their input, often in an austerity environment, with little more than an exhortation to “just do it,” and then are blamed when the policies fail. Not surprisingly, these “strategies”–such as mayoral control, school reconstitution, misuse and overuse of standardized tests, vouchers, merit pay, or simply stripping teachers of voice and professionalism–haven’t moved the needle. The American Federation of Teachers has promoted a better way. Shortly after I became president, we established the AFT Innovation Fund, a union-led effort to provide grants and assistance to AFT affiliates who envision and pursue educational innovation. The Innovation Fund, now in its third year, supports both promising ideas and proven programs that can be scaled up. Read More
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