Weingarten proposed four initiatives that she said will help pave the way for progress in schools:
• Basic professional teaching standards. Every state should adopt standards that spell out what teachers should know and be able to do. Districts could augment these standards to meet specific community needs.
• Standards for assessing teachers’ practice. These standards should be based on multiple measures, including student test scores based on valid and reliable assessments that show students’ real growth while in the teacher’s classroom. Classroom observations, self-evaluations, portfolio reviews, appraisal of lesson plans, students’ written work, and other projects also should be considered.
• Implementation benchmarks. These must be established so professional standards don’t gather dust, she said. Principals and superintendents charged with putting this new evaluation system into practice need to take responsibility—and be held responsible—for making it work.
• Support for teachers. Teacher evaluation needs to be a continuous process throughout teachers’ careers. Ways to support and nurture teacher growth should include solid induction, mentoring, ongoing professional development, and career opportunities that keep great teachers in the classroom.
The framework was developed by union leaders with input from top teacher evaluation experts and is already under way in several school districts, including Pittsburgh and Hillsborough County, Fla.
“Imagine a system in which teachers have time to come together to resolve student issues, share lesson plans, analyze student work, discuss successes and failures, and learn through high-quality professional development,” Weingarten said.
She said teachers and students would thrive in an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. She implored schools to provide teachers and students with an environment that sets everyone up for success: small classes in safe schools; healthy and adequate facilities; opportunities for parental involvement; basic classroom supplies; common standards that are deeper, clearer, and fewer; and a solid curriculum.
“Teachers must be treated as partners in reform, with a real voice,” she concluded.
A New Path Forward: Four Approaches to Quality Teaching and Better Schools
Text of Randi Weingarten’s speech (PDF)
American Federation of Teachers