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Look Who's Backing Charters and Performance Pay

My colleague Nick Anderson, on the national education beat, reports that the American Federation of Teachers is plunking $1.2 million today into a range of school reform ventures around the country.

Not a large sum, but notable nonetheless. The funding draws on member dues and foundation support (Broad, Gates, Ford, Mott, Carnegie). The list of AFT-funded projects is especially eye-catching for inclusion of experiments not often associated with unions.

Here are three, drawn from the AFT's announcement, that caught our attention:

*Broward Teachers Union (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). This proposal creates a compensation plan designed with teachers that will use student achievement measures—including standardized test scores—as one of several ways of determining teacher pay.

*Illinois Federation of Teachers. This proposal will design a new contract-negotiating model for teachers at Chicago’s just-launched Union Park High School (a charter school) that will support a learning environment based on collaboration and community partnerships. The process and contract could be adapted by other unionized charter schools—and other public schools—throughout the nation.

*San Antonio (Texas) Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. This initiative plans to increase the number of in-district charter schools using models such as community schools or two-way bilingual schools to offer parents and students more high-quality educational choices. It will engage school staff, parents, business and community groups in improving student learning and increasing student enrollment.

"Look, as we have said over and over again, some people will be surprised that these proposals come from teachers unions," AFT President Randi Weingarten told Anderson, shortly before she was planning to join a Washington Teachers' Union protest of last week's D.C. teacher layoffs. "We are not. If you listen to our rhetoric and watch what our locals have done over the last few years, this kind of initiative-taking is something that AFT is known for."

She added: "Folks who have rushed to take the label 'reformers' away from us have tried to mischaracterize us."

The 1.4-million-member AFT is the nation's second-largest teachers union and is based in many of the cities where federal school reform efforts are most heavily targeted.

By Washington Post editors  | October 8, 2009; 3:04 PM ET
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