As part of this year's back-to-school tour, AFT President Randi Weingarten spoke to teachers at Washington, D.C.'s Alice Deal Middle School during a breakfast hosted by the Washington Teachers' Union on Sept. 17. She later greeted parents and students as they arrived at the school.
Weingarten said she was excited to visit Deal, telling the teachers, "This school has done amazing work. I hear that all the time, including from a bunch of parents I know whose kids you teach."
The AFT president shared the latest on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with the more than 60 educators who attended the event. She said it was important that the revamped ESEA focus on student growth—not on high-stakes testing—and that it give teachers "the resources and support you need to do your job."
The Deal teachers applauded when Weingarten told them that none of the ESEA bills now under consideration calls for any federal involvement in teacher evaluation.
Weingarten noted that recent polling, including the Phi Delta Kappan poll, shows that support for teachers and unions is on the upswing. "I'm also seeing optimism among our members," she said.
Weingarten was introduced by WTU President Elizabeth Davis, who opened the meeting, along with Deal's principal, James Albright. Davis told the teachers that their contract was the union's top priority, and reported that she and D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson had agreed to move contract negotiations forward with the help of a mediator.
The union hoped to have contract action teams at Deal and other D.C. schools so that members can weigh in on contract proposals, Davis said.
Pointing to the high teacher turnover rate in the city's public schools, Davis said teacher retention is a major concern: "We need to have an honest discussion about working conditions for D.C. teachers and what will make them want to stay."
[Roger Glass/photo by Edward C. Jones]