Can Teachers and Reformers Get Along?

The Education Gadfly

In case you missed it or were distracted by, say, the D.C. earthquake, the video of yesterday's thought-provoking ?When Reform Touches Teachers? discussion between American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and the American Enterprise Institute's Rick Hess is up on our website. ?Fordham's Mike Petrilli moderated the discussion and posed some tough questions about whether reformers and educators could find common ground.? A peek at some of the lively conversation about teacher compensation, evaluation, and collective bargaining, and you watch the whole conversation or check out some of the highlights below.

How teachers are perceived and the negative tone in some education debates was a point of contention.

Weingarten: New poll says teachers are respected more than ever, but 2/3 of reporting on education is negative.

Hess:? Republican governors are making measured cases for reform and are threatened or compared to tyrants.

Weingarten:? ?Educators have a right of freedom of speech, but we have a responsibility as to how we use it.?? Both sides of the debate are guilty of ?demagoguery.?

Both speakers reflected on the value of disagreement, but came to different conclusions:

Hess:? ?There's no reason we should be able to sing kumbaya. We should be able to disagree vigorously, but with respect for one another.?

Weingarten: ??At the ground level?you have to find common ground.? Because at the end of the day if you can't find common ground, in terms of how you equip teachers with the tools and conditions to do their work, you're going to have to do this alone.? And the one thing we've learned, in terms of education, is no one can do this alone.?

Both agreed that accountability is crucial but complicated, for teachers and leaders.

Hess:? ??reformers have gotten into this habit of scape-goating unions while letting feckless school boards and superintendents off the hook.?

Weingarten:? ?If people are not cutting it, they can't be in the profession.? We want to deal with it fairly, but we have to deal with it.?

Online viewers even chimed in with questions through twitter.? @mullenholzII asked:

@rweingarten: if unemploy @ 9% & 3 mil jobs open due 2 skill mismatch, doesnt that point to need for coll.&career rdy stands?

And we won't soon forget the outcome...

@whitd14: #dcquake. Even God was watching the Rick and Randi debate. @MichaelPetrilli @JennaMSchuette @educationgadfly

-Ty Eberhardt

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