CHARLIE ROSE: Tonight we continue our series of conversations with leaders in the field of education. Our guest is Randi Weingarten. She is president of New York City`s largest teachers union, the United Federation of Teachers.
She has worked for higher pay and better training during the 10 years she has led the union. She clashed with Mayor Bloomberg over issues such as tenure and standardized testing. She`s announced her candidacy for the presidency of the National Teachers Union, the American Federation of Teachers. She`s expected to win and perhaps will be the only candidate.
I`m pleased to have her at this table to talk about a subject that needs a lot of discussion, and that she comes to with considerable experience and insight.
CHARLIE ROSE: Thank you very much.
Now, you`re going to be the head of the American Federation of Teachers, we assume.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Well, there`s -- look, I always am very reverent and respectful about due process. And we have an election at our convention, but I`ve gotten huge amount of support around the country, and so that`s why on Friday I said -- or that`s why a couple weeks ago I said I`m going to run.
CHARLIE ROSE: Is anybody else going to run?
CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, all right.
You`ve been -- you come to the teachers union from the law.
CHARLIE ROSE: Negotiator.
CHARLIE ROSE: But also have been a teacher.
CHARLIE ROSE: Have been...
RANDI WEINGARTEN: And had a mother actually who was a teacher for 29.5 years. And what was very funny about both my sister and my stories, is that my sister went into medicine first. I went into law first.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yes.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Because we watched out my mother worked, and we thought that teachers worked all the time. Our living room table -- my mother used to always work on the living room table. Unless we were having company, the living room table was festooned with paper at all times.
CHARLIE ROSE: Tell me what you think of the state of American public education is K-12.
CHARLIE ROSE: Doing a good job as defined as teaching and learning going on so that young people are better equipped to continue a lifetime of learning?
America is one of the only places in the world, the universe, I would say, where we actually have two values. A value of universal access and universal attainment, where we believe that we have an obligation to help all kids not only dream their dreams, but to fulfill them. And so what that means in terms of high school education is that when a child graduates from high school, he or she should be ready and prepared to go to college and/or ready and prepared to get a job where he or she can support his or her family.
And so what happens in this country, particularly now with globalization, with all the competition from all -- from all over, is that there is huge pressure on school systems across the country to help all kids get to that level of achievement and attainment in high school. And what we`ve just seen is that in a lot of urban areas, we are not able to do that. And ultimately, we have to work at it because we`re never going to be happy -- educators will never be happy unless we have 100 percent attainment.
So even when you look at other governmental services, other types of things, people always get up and they`re very pleased when they see a downward trend in crime. For us, an upward trend in education is not sufficient. The only thing that will make us feel like we`ve done our jobs is when we help all kids.
That`s why it`s so hard, because you`ll see a lot of suburban systems that do a terrific job, and you see a lot of urban systems where you see graduation rates hovering at 40, 50, even 60 percent. Until we have that graduation rate at 100 percent, no one in education is going to be happy.
CHARLIE ROSE: So why is it such a variance between urban and suburban?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: A lot of the variance are things that are outside of our control, but education -- we try to use education to trump that. So education is one of those few things that actually trumps demography. And ultimately, that`s part of what makes it so hard, because this is what I often say -- one of the inputs -- I hate frankly using words like "inputs" and "outputs," but I know business folk use them.
What can we bring -- what can we bring to the table? What we bring to the table as educators, or as an education system, is the system should have great teachers. That`s the single most important factor. Good principals who can organize.
And what I`ve learned, Charlie, more and more, particularly over these last 10 years, is that there are other things that are important, such as if we can have parental involvement, that`s huge and terrific, but we have an obligation to kids even if we don`t have that. If we can lower class size so we can differentiate instruction, that`s huge. If we can make sure that the schools are safe, obviously that`s huge.
But after qualified teachers and good principals, the most important factor is how we work together, principals and teachers alike in schools, because there`s hundreds of decisions we make every day. And if people are not working together to try to build off each other, we`re not going to be successful in schools.
CHARLIE ROSE: And how are principals and teachers working together in New York City?
And one of the things that has happened with the last reorganization, interestingly enough, is that the schools feel like they`re such islands that I`ve actually seen a lot more working together this year than we had beforehand. And I think until the last month or so -- and I don`t quite understand why we`re in, you know, yet another pitch battle -- but until the last month or so, I give the mayor a lot of credit, because he spent the last couple of years saying that it`s really important to work together. And he and I spent a lot of time doing things together to try to create that tone.
CHARLIE ROSE: And he also said that he wanted to make education a priority for his first term and second term.
CHARLIE ROSE: High on his priority. And he did things that you felt very good about.
CHARLIE ROSE: You know, and you complemented him because he made education a priority.
CHARLIE ROSE: Here`s what he said about teachers unions, which you represent. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE: Teachers unions, part of the problem or the solution?
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: I think it`s a mixed bag. We have over the last six years raised teacher salaries 43 percent. We`ve instituted merit pay. We`ve gotten rid of a lot of the seniority rules.
The teachers are teaching longer. And they`re doing a better job.
On the other hand, the teachers union last week convinced the legislature in the dead of night to insert in the middle of a budget bill, where this had nothing to do with budgets, a law that says in New York State we can`t use teachers` ability to teach as a measure deciding whether or not to give them tenure. It`s just unconscionable that this was pushed through our Albany legislature.
So in that case they were -- couldn`t have been more on the wrong side. Generally, however, we have had good relations, and they have been a force -- a positive force for change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE: So there you go. Let`s talk about the teachers and tests. It`s at the core of every conversation you ever have about teachers.
CHARLIE ROSE: How do you measure their ability in terms of how much you pay them, in terms of tenure, in terms of merit pay, tests?
CHARLIE ROSE: About this thing.
Having said that...
CHARLIE ROSE: Who`s they?
CHARLIE ROSE: Yes.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: The mayor and the chancellor. Governor Spitzer resolved this issue last April about how we -- because last April, truth be told, we actually all together made the tenure process, which is simply a due -- after three years -- teachers have probation for three years. After three years, tenure means they can`t get fired without having due process. That`s all it means.
But let me go directly to this question, which is how do you evaluate teachers? And ultimately where the mayor is really wrong, and virtually every educator would say that to him, is that standardized tests were never intended as a measure of good teachers, good teaching, or how teachers teach. And every expert in the country, including the mayor`s own experts, will tell you this.
In fact, even the experts will say that if it`s used, it should be used as a little factor. But there`s a bunch of things, Charlie -- and this is where we agree, not disagree -- there`s a bunch of things that you can use and should use in order to make sure that we`re getting great teachers and keeping great teachers and evaluating teachers in terms of how they teach.
CHARLIE ROSE: I didn`t invite you here to compare you with the mayor, but you worked in this system, and the mayor is in charge of this system, and the chancellor is his chief executive officer as chancellor to do something about the system. And I want to explore philosophies.
CHARLIE ROSE: But you`re saying that all educators you know, all that advise the mayor, don`t believe that standardized tests are a way to test, as used as a measurement for teachers?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: There is no one who thinks right now that you can use standardized tests in this state to isolate the effectiveness of an individual teacher. And that`s why, frankly, everyone else in the state, including the school boards, the state school boards, is hailing the compromise that the governor and legislature came up with this year, because they frontally attacked this issue and said, let`s see, let`s give it a real independent look to see if you can use -- these are call value- added -- see if you can use these value-added metrics to actually evaluate teachers.
And they`re going to form a study commission, not in the back room of Tweed (ph), but something very transparent that the legislature and the governor does. So let`s look at it. Let`s see if it can be -- let`s see if it actually really works.
But right now there`s not an economist or an educator, even people we fight with -- even if you ask the chancellor, can you actually right now, using current metrics, can you isolate the effectiveness of an individual teacher? Their answer would be no.
CHARLIE ROSE: Two questions about this. Number one, everybody wants to see teachers paid more, especially you. Agreed or not?
CHARLIE ROSE: That`s true.
CHARLIE ROSE: And most people believe that the best way to get maximum performance from students is great teaching. Correct? Great teaching is the crucial ingredient in terms of students learning and doing well.
CHARLIE ROSE: Yes, or not? Tell me.
CHARLIE ROSE: I`m trying to put the emphasis on teachers...
CHARLIE ROSE: ... and how crucial they are in a child getting an education.
CHARLIE ROSE: And how do you and should you evaluate between one teacher and another, and should that be a means of saying who gets paid more or less, who gets fired or not?
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
CHARLIE ROSE: You cannot design a test for kids that will measure the ability, the merit of the teacher? Is that it?
CHARLIE ROSE: So how do you -- go ahead.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: So there`s -- but there`s lots of other -- but that`s not where the argument should end, because what we`re all in this for wanting that same purpose. The real issue becomes, how -- what is an accurate and fair way of evaluating teachers?
CHARLIE ROSE: And you believe what is?
CHARLIE ROSE: Supervisory by principals, by whom?
CHARLIE ROSE: OK.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: And right now in terms of New York City, there`s three years for tenure, there`s three years of evaluations. And supervisors evaluate people pretty much two, three, four times a year in terms of going in (INAUDIBLE).
CHARLIE ROSE: Should teachers be fired if they`re not doing a good job?
CHARLIE ROSE: Let`s assume due process. But should they be fired if they`re doing a good job?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: I do not think the school system should have to have incompetent teachers, absolutely right. And ultimately, what we`ve done in terms of this, Charlie, is last year -- in terms of 2006 -- we actually did something called a peer intervention plus process.
The union itself offered to police our own profession, because fair and reasonable and objective kind of evaluation measurements, it`s really important to get to a place where everybody agrees to what those measurements are and how to do it. But we`ve been able to do it in this city, and we`ve been able to do it in other places around the nation as well.
And one of the things that we tried to do, and all of us very proudly did this in 2006, we said, let`s have a peer review process. So that if a supervisor says a person isn`t cutting, even if the person has tenure, then what we`re going to do is bring somebody independent in to see, and then...
CHARLIE ROSE: Well, who would that independent person be? I mean...
CHARLIE ROSE: How many...
RANDI WEINGARTEN: And then that person actually goes and testifies at the due process hearing. And so ultimately there is no one that teachers themselves don`t want to be teaching side by side with somebody incompetent.
CHARLIE ROSE: I just want to make it clear that by trying to understand exactly what you believe, because we`ve had lots of politicians, everybody else in here, and you`re on the firing line in terms of representing teachers, by asking these questions I`m trying to understand exactly how you see it.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me ask this question. How many tenured teachers are there in New York City?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Right now there`s about 50-some-odd-thousand tenured teachers. Most of the teachers in the city of New York -- most of the teachers in the city of New York -- one of the myths -- the other myths that I`d like to debunk is that the tenure process starts day one. It doesn`t start at the end of three years.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
CHARLIE ROSE: Is this number corrector not? Out of 5 55,000 tenured teachers, last year only 10 were fired?
CHARLIE ROSE: Rubber rooms?
CHARLIE ROSE: It is. That really is.
CHARLIE ROSE: Poor use of language, isn`t it?
CHARLIE ROSE: It sounds like a room where you put somebody where they won`t hurt themselves.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Right. There are over 800 people who the school system has removed for one reason or another that they have a right to bring charges on and whatever. So when they say 10 people, or this or that, I don`t know what they`re talking about. They have a procedure...
CHARLIE ROSE: OK. But how many people...
CHARLIE ROSE: But is it true or not true that 10 people were fired last year? I mean, that`s an easy question.
CHARLIE ROSE: Were fired.
CHARLIE ROSE: Not brought up on charges. Fired.
CHARLIE ROSE: So that number is bandied about. I mean, this is part of what you`re trying to do, is not...
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Right. The number is bandied about because the number -- this is where -- what happens is that even in the peer intervention process that the union has done since -- actually which we did with Mayor Ed Koch since the middle of the 1980s -- we actually see over 200, 300 teachers a year, and teachers who principals or themselves have said they are floundering, really in danger of being fired. And what we`ve done is we`ve actually helped about 60 percent of them become satisfactory teachers again, and the rest of them we`ve counseled out of the profession.
So the processes that I`m talking about, no one wants -- this is what`s so troubling to me about this whole argument. You have to -- in terms of teaching, teaching takes so much kind of effort to do, and there`s so much that`s outside of our control. Everybody wants to be a great teacher. And there`s a lot of things that we can bring to the table to make that happen. But if we had a joint agreement, whether it`s this management, or whether it`s the federal government, or whatnot, in No Child Left Behind, about what constitutes good teaching and how you can actually do an evaluation process that people bought into, you would have huge public support in terms of education.
CHARLIE ROSE: So is this a failure of creativity?
CHARLIE ROSE: Before they get tenure?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: I mean, the only -- the difference between the first three years of service and after tenure is that you have a hearing. That`s really the only difference. But they have a lot of power. And ultimately what happens is that...
CHARLIE ROSE: They have a lot of power meaning the school system?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: The school system could fire somebody like this in the first three years of service. And so when the mayor says that he wants to tie tenure or the acquisition of tenure to test scores, that has never been used for this purpose. I`m saying to myself, what happened to the principals institute, what happened to evaluations and things like that?
CHARLIE ROSE: Here`s another person who was on this program. We`ve had Chancellor Klein on here, but also Jeffrey Kennedy (ph). Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The teachers unions are really designed to make sure that teachers, not just new teachers, but teachers don`t have to work longer hours, they don`t have to be held accountable. You can`t fire them very easily. Once they get tenure, that`s it.
They`re not paid by performance. It`s the one...
CHARLIE ROSE: No merit pay?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No merit pay.
CHARLIE ROSE: No inducements to be better?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no inducements to be better. In fact -- in fact, over time what you begin to see is that the people who really want to be better, the system really prevents that from being recognized in any way whatsoever.
So it`s the only place in America that I know no matter how good or lousy I am, I can make the same thing that you make. If you`re great and I`m lousy, we both get the same thing.
CHARLIE ROSE: Or reverse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And year after year after year. And that system doesn`t work any place else in America.
Now, people think I`m against unions. I am not. I am not against unions.
And people think -- you know, I talked to Randi Weingarten, and I consider her a friend, and she said, "Jeff (ph), you`re beating up on us." Let me make it clear. I think teaching is one of the toughest things to do for real -- to do it well in the world, and I think our teachers are woefully underpaid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLIE ROSE: What do you agree with and what do you disagree with?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: The folks who quickly give a bromide about what teachers should do and shouldn`t do, and what unions should do and shouldn`t do, I often just simply say to them, "I want you to teach one period a week, every week. Teach with me."
I`d love to go back to teaching. I loved it. Clara Barton was one my favorite teaching jobs ever.
Just go and teach one period a week before you start talking about what teachers do or don`t do, or teacher unions do or don`t do. In New York City, teachers work incredibly hard. Most teachers put in not just what they do in class, but hours and hours and hours a day. I think the last survey we took, teachers work an average of 10 hours a day.
I told you the story about my mother...
CHARLIE ROSE: Then why -- there`s a movement to extend the day as well as eliminate the summer recess.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
What`s interesting is this -- look, in New York City, we`ve extended the time about 30 minutes a day. So what Jeffrey (ph) is saying about teachers don`t want to work, teachers work hugely hard.
And the second thing, but the thing I really question, strong unions, Charlie, allow teachers to take risks. And in the city we`ve done school- based -- I wouldn`t -- it`s not merit pay. We`ve done school-based bonuses, we`ve done differentiated pay by having lead teachers. We`ve extended time. We did this chancellor`s district, which was actually the single most important reform we`ve ever done.
I run two charter schools. So the demagoguery about how bad unions are...
CHARLIE ROSE: You run two charter schools in which all the teachers are unionized?
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: But the issue here is, how do you help every child? So you can actually add more time, but -- or you could do things such as reduce class size so there`s more of a connection between teacher and child.
CHARLIE ROSE: It would also require hiring more teachers.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: It will -- either way is going to require more teacher contact time. When you are a high school teacher, for example, frankly, a high school teacher has a 150 kids a day or 170 children a day. And every high school teacher I know, and every elementary and middle school teacher I know, goes home with a stack of papers every single day.
CHARLIE ROSE: Let me...
Let me just say one more thing. Why is it in the United States of America that one of the only industries that has such union density is teachers? The reason that teachers still have such union density, are so well-organized, is because they are powerless.
Everything is thrown at them. And ultimately what they do is they ask for unionization...
CHARLIE ROSE: Why are they powerless?
CHARLIE ROSE: But there is this perception...
CHARLIE ROSE: ... that American K-12 education o f young people is not working, and could be a lot better. And the perception is -- and I want you to deal with it -- is that part of the problem is accountability, especially with teachers.
CHARLIE ROSE: Here`s the words they use, accountability of teachers, the capacity to measure performance. And the capacity to pay for superb math teachers or superb science teachers, to pay them more to bring them in.
What`s wrong with that?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: But what happens with schools is that schools are communities. So what we did in New York this year is we did a pay-for- performance process, but we made it school-based. And just in October when we did that -- meaning the whole school, because what happens is...
CHARLIE ROSE: Meaning what, whole school? Meaning that it`s OK to pay more if you pay everybody more?
CHARLIE ROSE: So even though you just wanted to bring in more science and math teachers and pay them more, that`s not OK, you have to pay everybody more?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: What I`m saying is that when you`re talking about school-based performance, you`re looking at the entire school. When you look at a school, take an elementary school. An elementary schoolteacher teaches all those subjects. In a junior high school, a child has to learn -- if you want to have a well-rounded education, a child has to have art and music and all of that.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: The issue -- and frankly, if a child is engaged in art and music, a child is going to do a lot better in math or in English. But the problem is this -- there are certain business concepts that are terrific in terms of schooling and certain that are not. So take what we just did. We just did a big report about accountability.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: But it doesn`t actually matter which reforms you`re talking about and which you`re not. The real issue becomes, in terms of schooling, how do we help engage individuals? And teachers do not work alone. And ultimately, we build on what each other does, and schools are far more communities than they are just individual actors.
CHARLIE ROSE: When you look at No Child Left Behind, good idea, bad idea? A good idea not funded? What`s your evaluation?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: See, this is -- I`m so glad you raise this. No Child Left Behind, seven years of the theory that Chancellor Klein is propounding -- just focus on accountability, just focus on test scores.
CHARLIE ROSE: Right. And if a school doesn`t do well over a certain period of time, you shut it down?
CHARLIE ROSE: Is that a bad idea?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: So, we`ve closed and redesigned so many schools in New York City, some of them have done better after they`ve been closed and redesigned, some of them have not. I actually prefer to help it first, but, no, not a bad idea.
CHARLIE ROSE: ... between Chancellor Klein and Mayor Bloomberg, can you? I mean, they have the same policy. They agree on the same things. And there`s no...
Things that we had done beforehand, like the chancellor`s district with Chancellor Crew (ph), where we were routinely helping schools get off the bad school list within two years, I felt were better reforms. We`ve had -- so what you start with, some very good idea behind No Child Left Behind. Have high standards, and then you see if you`ve gotten to those high standards.
CHARLIE ROSE: Another problem they had is people began to worry that they were gaming the standards.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: And they have. But you just got to my point, which is what happens is, when everything is about measurement, which is what`s happening, people game it in all sorts of different ways. So you have states -- New York State has kept its standards really high. You have other states that have not.
Ultimately, even when you look at union versus non-union, the states that have some of the highest union density is some of the highest performers for kids. The right to work states, states like, you know, where you have no unions, the kids are not doing any better. In some ways they`re doing much worse.
What I would argue is, I`m not saying that union has been perfect, and I`m not saying I`ve been perfect or our union has been perfect, but the real -- what unions can do, and what the law, the federal law, should do, is it should enable people to take risks so they`re taking risks on behalf of kids.
CHARLIE ROSE: What`s a risk?
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Meaning like what we did. We opened two charter schools. We said, look, we think we know enough about education, about teacher voice, and about professional development and about educating kids. Let us try. And our schools are doing just as good if not better.
CHARLIE ROSE: Explain this for somebody who doesn`t know, what are charter schools?
CHARLIE ROSE: The public system, right.
CHARLIE ROSE: So they set their own...
CHARLIE ROSE: ... standards and rules and...
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Well, they don`t set their own standards. The standards are set by the state government or the federal government or whatnot. But even at our charter schools, our teachers and our school leaders are so focused on the test scores, as opposed to focusing on how kids learn.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK.
Vouchers, good idea or bad idea?
CHARLIE ROSE: Vouchers -- explain that, where they get certain parents money to send their kids to certain schools.
The problem with vouchers has been that they have siphoned off money exactly where they shouldn`t be siphoned off. Forget for a second about the religious issues or the First Amendment issues. And the one experiment that`s going on for a really long time in Milwaukee has shown that they haven`t worked. So what you have is that all of these competition and choice experiments that have gone in this system for a while, have not worked the way people wanted them to.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK. Let me just understand this. You agree with incentives.
CHARLIE ROSE: Now, in some cases, fair just to you means make it schoolwide, not individual -- teacherwide.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: Some schoolwide, some individual teachers, as long as teachers really can do it. So, for example, lead teacher, people who -- we did an incentive to create a career ladder, where great teachers would stay in classrooms, make more money, and mentor other teachers. It`s called the lead teacher program.
CHARLIE ROSE: If you could...
CHARLIE ROSE: If you had a magic wand, what would be the thing that you would instantly do as your contribution to, you know, the New York City school system, because that`s what you`re leaving if you become head of the American Federation of Teachers.
RANDI WEINGARTEN: First, if I had a magic wand I would try to instill a sense that schools have to be able to be a big tent where we listen to what parents need and what teachers need to do a good job. So that piece, that collaboration piece that I talked about before, more and more and more I see that as the most important factor of helping kids learn.
Number two, do everything we can to both recruit, retain and support great teachers, because the more important problem we have is the number of great teachers who leave than the issue of incompetent teachers.
And number three, I would do as much as we could to support getting good principals.
Number four and five, I`d do a lot about trying to get -- focus on safety for kids, including guidance services and doing some stuff with class sizes.
CHARLIE ROSE: But here`s what`s interesting. The essence of what you just said was that I would do everything I can to get good teachers and support them, and get good principals and support them. That was the core of what you would leave.
CHARLIE ROSE: OK.
See you next time.