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National teachers' union president calls New Haven a national model

Craig LeMoult

The head of the nation’s second largest teachers’ union was in New Haven, Conn., recently. The city’s schools are being held up as a national model for education reform.

A classroom of kindergartners called out "good afternoon!" in unison to greet Randi Weingarten on Friday. She’s the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which boasts 1.6 million members nationally. 

The teacher in this classroom and others spoke with Weingarten about changes New Haven has made in its teacher contracts that they say give teachers more say in what happens in their classroom, and more time in the day to compare notes with each other about what’s working, and what’s not. Weingarten says while many districts around the country have been blaming teachers for poor results, New Haven has been working with them to make things better.

“New Haven, frankly, has done more to create a fair and high quality evaluation system for teachers than pretty much anywhere in the country," said Weingarten. "Where their teachers are assessed based on what they know and what they do, and if someone is falling short, they’re really helped.”

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy joined Weingarten at the school. Malloy is running for reelection, and the Democrat found himself at odds with the teachers union after suggesting it’s too easy for teachers to get tenure. He recently apologized for that during a debate with his Republican opponent, Tom Foley. Weingarten accepted that gesture.

“It takes a big person to be able to apologize,” said Weingarten.

Weingarten praised Malloy, and criticized Foley, saying the Republican wants to follow the anti-union tactics of Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, where legislation was passed that weakened the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Foley's response is covered here.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.
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