Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Common goals in Wisconsin

When a local paper writes that ABCTE can be “the best and most practical option to fill important math and science teaching positions” it is extremely gratifying (more press here). At the same time, the state teacher’s union, WEAC, is neutral on the bill. ABCTE has worked long and hard to get to this point and some of our previously vocal opponents have noticed.

Wisconsin demonstrates what can happen when parties with seemingly disparate interests actually listen to each other and find common interests. Rob Weil from AFT told me early on that he could work with us because we are a “learning organization”. After listening to ABCTE opponents, we have thoughtfully implemented new programs to assuage their fears against our program operating in their state. We have shown a willingness to customize the program to the unique needs of each state including the addition of over 180 hours of online content to enhance the teacher preparation experience, greater transparency and additional research.

The result in Wisconsin is that our bill has a Democrat sponsoring in the Assembly and the Senate. We have had productive discussions (and will be adding an amendment to the bill) on changes that the teacher’s union would like to see that strengthen the program. The press support has subsequently been excellent (and fair).

We have focused on creating one solution to a problem in education rather than making a political statement. In Wisconsin, AB 235 and SB 175 limit our program to 200 teachers per year in math and science. Wisconsin is short by approximately 200 teachers so it makes for a great pilot program. There is also a sunset clause in the bill to ensure that we report back on the progress of the program.

Not exactly disruptive innovation, but the bill does tackle a problem facing schools and helps build support for that solution. A strategy of cooperation certainly results in less pain then a strategy of frontal assault.

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