Wondering what’s on the mind these days of the leader of the second-largest teachers’ union in the nation? Check out my colleague Stephen Sawchuk’s new blog item from Seattle, where he’s attending the annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers.
In her keynote address today, AFT President Randi Weingarten “set her brand of reform—which is largely being carried out in the form of new contracts, such as those in Pittsburgh and New Haven, Conn.—against those pushed by what she termed the ‘blame the teacher’ crowd,” Stephen explains. “That crowd, she said, focuses on top-down reforms, expects teachers to overcome children’s learning barriers by themselves, fails to engage in supports teachers need, like well-designed curricula, and are focused on teacher firing and the weakening of job security.”
Weingarten spent some time elaborating on her concerns about the curriculum. She said students need a “rich, well-rounded” curriculum that goes beyond simply the “subjects tested.” And she lamented that many teachers, lacking a quality curriculum, are “forced to make it up.”
Here’s an excerpt from her address: “We also believe that students need a great curriculum, delivered within an environment that eliminates barriers to student success. There’s no way that our students can become the thinkers, innovators and leaders of tomorrow if they have been taught only the subjects tested. All students need rich, well-rounded curricula that ground them in areas ranging from foreign languages to phys ed, civics to the sciences, history to health, as well as literature, mathematics, and the arts.”
She continues: “Right now, those curricula aren’t routinely in place, and a lot of teachers are forced to make it up every single day. When I say this, people look at me like I’m crazy. What do you mean, teachers don’t have the tools they need to teach? What do you mean, they don’t have a scope and a sequence of what should be taught? That’s like asking members of an orchestra to play a symphony without sheet music. This is an area where the blame-the-teacher crowd has been totally silent.”
Here’s a link a full copy of Weingarten’s prepared remarks.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.