An e-mail from FutureMe.org reminded PresentMe that today marks the first anniversary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Labor-Management Collaboration conference or, as I preferred to call it, Collaborpalooza.
Held in Denver and funded by the Ford Foundation, the conference hosted members of the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National School Boards Association, American Association of School Administrators, Council of the Great City Schools, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Its timing was exceedingly poor, coming around the same time as the labor protests in Wisconsin, and a number of highly placed union locals bowed out. It was also greatly oversold as an “historic” event.
That’s not to say U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has wholly abandoned this line of thought; today he’s touting the RESPECT project, which is likely to be forgotten in less than a full year. It’s hard to deny the wave of sincerity and good intentions washing over the conference participants and collaborationists, but watching Duncan deliver his closing remarks at last year’s conference is still a bit cringe-worthy. I mean really: “We had districts literally calling us in tears, saying they would love to come.”
It bears noting that in order to participate in the conference, attendees were required to pledge to “collaboratively develop and implement policies in such areas as: setting strategic direction to advance student achievement and aligning all labor-management work with this overarching focus, including ways to share responsibility and hold each other accountable for results; and more effectively supporting the work of teachers, leaders, and administrators in advancing student achievement by improving such systems and structures as organizing teaching and learning time and schedules, and processes for the hiring, retention, compensation, development, and evaluation of a highly effective workforce.”
It is somehow appropriate that no one has bothered to check whether conference attendees lived up to that pledge over the past year.