U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and the presidents of the two national teachers’ unions are planning a summit to show the world that unions and managers can indeed get along to help students—really, pay no attention to that “Waiting for ‘Superman’” movie.
The event, to take place early next year, will be called the National Education Reform Conference on Labor Management Collaboration. It will highlight collective bargaining agreements that show that unions and districts can collaborate on education redesign.
Mr. Duncan traveled with Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, and Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, to Tampa, Fla., on Oct. 14 to announce the effort.
They chose the site because the 191,000-student Hillsborough County district and its union have reached a deal to revamp teacher and principal evaluation.
In a statement touting the event, the U.S. Department of Education cited strong union-district cooperation in, among other places, Baltimore (efforts local union members have since rebuffed); Detroit; New Haven, Conn.; and Pittsburgh.
The unions don’t like the narrative that they say has been picked up in the mainstream media: that they are resistant to change and unwilling to cooperate.
“Over the last month, the public has been inundated with negative portrayals of teachers and their unions. “Waiting for ‘Superman’,” NBC’s Education Nation summit, and other media coverage have vilified teachers and portrayed their unions as the obstacles to school improvement,” the NEA said in a statement.
Mr. Duncan has praised union leaders who have embraced policies the administration favors, such as gauging teacher effectiveness by examining student outcomes.
In particular, he has lauded Diane Donohue, the president of the Delaware State Education Association, calling her one of his “personal heroes.” Ms. Donohue was key to crafting (and selling) her state’s winning application in the federal Race to the Top competition.
A version of this article appeared in the October 27, 2010 edition of Education Week as Duncan and Unions Schedule Play Date