Denver—They arrived in groups of three—a superintendent, a school board chair and a teachers union leader—but by dinnertime on day one, the threesomes that had traveled together to ED’s first-ever conference on labor-management collaboration could be seen chatting in groups of six and nine. They had come to Denver to learn ways to raise student achievement by working better as a team, and here they connected with others facing similar challenges.
The conference—full name: Advancing Student Achievement Through Labor-Management Collaboration—began Tuesday with Secretary Duncan framing the event’s goals and articulating 10 key areas of challenge and opportunity in implementing student-centered principles.
“When this conference is over,” Arne told the attendees from 150 districts in 40 states, “I hope you will leave with at least two messages of hope. First and foremost, student success must be the heart of the labor-management relationship… The second message I hope you will take away from this conference is the importance of a new narrative in school reform.”
The “tale of ceaseless conflict between labor and management” needs to be re-written, Arne said. And the 12 districts that are presenting their success stories at this conference demonstrated in breakout sessions Tuesday afternoon that it is more than possible for adults to behave like grown-ups and focus on the interests of children.
Too often, conflict between a school district’s management and its union captures the headlines, but the real story is that “teamwork works,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which is co-sponsoring the conference along with the National Education Association, the National School Boards Association, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of the Great City Schools and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
The conference wraps up Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 16. You can watch Wednesday’s plenary sessions live on the Department of Education’s Ustream channel and explore materials provided to attendees on ED.gov’s page dedicated to the conference.
Watch a summary of Tuesday’s proceedings in this short video (below). See photos from the first day of the conference.
Click here for an accessible version of the video.