National, state, and district education leaders have convened at a conference this week focused on establishing better labor-management collaboration to ensure that teachers are respected, supported, and equipped to prepare students for the increasingly competitive global economy.
Held from May 23 to 24 in Cincinnati, the 2012 Labor-Management Conference continues the work of a first-of-its-kind national conference hosted in Denver last year. This year’s event, titled “Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession,” showcases successful examples of labor and management working together to strengthen the teaching profession.
In particular, the conference aims to develop better recruiting tactics and improve teacher preparation and career development. Toward that end, participants are set to approve a seven-part plan to improve the teaching profession.
An effectively transformed teaching profession should result in “high levels of student achievement,” “increased equity,” and “increased global competitiveness,” said a statement jointly released by the conference hosts, which include the U.S. Department of Education (ED), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA), American Association of School Administrators, Council of Chief State School Officers, Council of the Great City Schools, National School Boards Association, and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
To participate in the conference, states and districts submitted applications in which three required parties—the superintendent, teachers’ union or association leader, and school board president—pledged to work together on a plan to transform the teaching profession in their district. By requiring that combination of representatives on each state or district team, with no substitutions allowed, the conference sought to encourage better labor-management collaboration.
Over a dozen state and district teams presented particularly successful examples of labor-management collaboration. In an additional gallery-style exhibit, titled “Transformers’ Dialogue,” more than 100 participating teams shared poster presentations of their plans to update the teaching profession within their districts. Information and resources from the conference can be found here.
“There are innovative and creative partnerships happening in our public schools every day. We need to continue to share these best practices and talk about what’s working, so that more school districts can benefit and join us in working to transform our schools into world class institutions of learning,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in a statement.
The conference comes at a time of intense pushback against teacher unions, and labor-management relations are tense in many states. Education Secretary Arne Duncan emphasized in a Twitter post, however, that while “the media fixates on adult dysfunction in education,” adults at the conference needed to “fixat[e] on helping kids.”
“It’s collaboration, not confrontation, that is essential to building strong public schools and ensuring that teachers have the time, tools, and trust they need to improve teaching and learning,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “School districts across the country are demonstrating that when adults engage in the hard work of working together to solve problems, rather than focusing on winning arguments, our children, our teachers, and our communities benefit.”