Education reform efforts can only work when there's true collaboration between labor and management, including direct input from those on the ground every day.
"What we've learned is that we need teamwork in order to establish a common ground and to foster an atmosphere of trust," said NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira. "So whether it's implementing Race to the Top initiatives or moving forward with the state's new teacher/principal evaluation model, it's crucial that the voice of practitioners is loud and clear."
"Together, we are stronger than one," said Hempstead TA President Dawn Sherwood, who is serving on one of several collaborative labor-management teams with NYSUT's Innovation Initiative to create a comprehensive teacher evaluation model with ongoing professional development and support. "I think the Innovation Initiative has led us to see that we need to reevaluate how we can work together for success, rather than it being totally competitive, or every man for himself."
Neira noted that NYSUT successfully pushed for practitioners to have a strong role on the Regents Task Force on Teacher/Principal Evaluation. The group's membership is one-third teachers, one-third principals and one-third other stakeholders. Neira will represent NYSUT, along with several classroom teachers.
Duncan said it was that strong, collaborative spirit that convinced his department to award a multi-million-dollar grant to help pilot a union-developed evaluation model in the Innovation Initiative locals, plus Race to the Top funding.
School officials agree with the need for teamwork. "Research tells us that the two most crucial school factors in raising student achievement are teachers and leadership," said Bob Reidy, executive director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.
"New York educators are coming together in innovative, unprecedented ways to advance student learning in our state," said Kevin Casey, executive director of the School Administrators Association of NYS.