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Event Summary

Last week, in a decision (Vergara v. California) that reverberated across the nation, a California judge overturned teacher tenure in California. In a packed room at AEI on Wednesday afternoon, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten delivered keynote remarks on education topics ranging from the decision in California to the Common Core to teacher value-added measurements (VAM) to early childhood education. Falling just a week after Vergara v. California, Weingarten’s keynote profiled various ongoing AFT efforts to benefit the teaching profession.

During her follow-up conversation with AEI’s Frederick M. Hess, Weingarten confessed that “unions are not monolithic,” stressing that rather than using VAM to assess all teachers, it should be one among several components used to evaluate teacher performance. On the Common Core, Weingarten shared her cautiously hopeful view that the standards could one day “equip American students for success in school and in life,” but that to date, implementation has been “botched” in a number of states. Ultimately, Weingarten highlighted the need to engage in open debate and the free flow of ideas on issues surrounding K–12 schooling.
–Elizabeth English

Event Description

Since becoming president of the American Federation of Teachers — the nation’s second-largest teachers union, with more than 1 million members — Randi Weingarten has been outspoken on a host of K–12 education issues. Over the past year, Weingarten, who in the past publicly supported the Common Core, has declared the rollout worse than Obamacare. She has also decried teacher evaluation efforts that use student value-added measures (VAM), announcing, “VAM is a sham.”

So what is the proper role of unions in public education? Join us for a keynote by and conversation with Weingarten as she discusses issues ranging from the Common Core to teacher evaluation to school reform pushback.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours.


1:45 PM

2:00 PM
Opening Remarks:
Frederick M. Hess, AEI

2:05 PM
Keynote Address:
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers

2:25 PM
Frederick M. Hess, AEI
Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers

2:45 PM
Audience Q&A

3:15 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Daniel Lautzenheiser at [email protected], 202.862.5843.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

Frederick M. Hess is resident scholar and director of education policy studies at AEI. An educator, political scientist, and author, Hess studies a range of K–12 and higher education issues. He pens the Education Week blog Rick Hess Straight Up and has authored influential books on education including “Cage-Busting Leadership” (Harvard Education Press, 2013), “The Same Thing Over and Over” (Harvard University Press, 2010), “Education Unbound” (ASCD, 2010), “Common Sense School Reform” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), “Revolution at the Margins” (Brookings Institution Press, 2002), and “Spinning Wheels” (Brookings Institution Press, 1998). He has edited widely cited volumes on education philanthropy, urban school reform, how to stretch the school dollar, education entrepreneurship, what we have learned about the federal role in education reform, and No Child Left Behind. He also serves as executive editor of Education Next; as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program; on the Review Board for the Broad Prize in Urban Education; and on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, 4.0 Schools, and the American Board for the Certification of Teaching Excellence. A former high-school social studies teacher, Hess has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University, and Harvard University.

Randi Weingarten is president of the 1.5 million–member American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Before her election as AFT president in 2008, Weingarten served for 12 years as president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), representing approximately 200,000 educators in the New York City public school system. In 2013, the New York Observer named Weingarten one of the most influential New Yorkers of the past 25 years. Washington Life magazine included Weingarten on its 2013 Power 100 list of influential leaders. From 1986 to 1998, Weingarten served as counsel to UFT President Sandra Feldman, taking a lead role in contract negotiations and enforcement and in lawsuits in which the union fought for adequate school funding and building conditions. Weingarten was a history teacher at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from 1991 to 1997 and helped her students win several state and national awards debating constitutional issues. Elected as the local union’s assistant secretary in 1995 and as treasurer two years later, she became UFT president after Feldman became president of the AFT. Weingarten was elected to her first full term as UFT president in 1998 and was reelected three times.



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