US teaching union signs deal with TES

16th March 2012 at 00:00
Resource-sharing website will bring together 7m professionals

A major classroom union in the US has signed a groundbreaking deal with TSL Education, the parent company of TES, to enable America's seven million education professionals to create and share resources online.

The joint venture with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) will establish a digital platform that allows teachers across the country to disseminate resources and lesson plans.

Its launch, due later this year, follows the creation of core teaching standards that are beginning to standardise parts of the curriculum in the US.

The plan also builds on the growth of the TES website, TES Connect, which has 1.8 million members. The site contains more than 160,000 resources created by teachers, which are downloaded more than two million times a week.

Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, which represents 1.5 million members, said the online platform will enable educators to connect and share lesson plans and other teaching resources. "It will help give teachers the tools they need to collaborate with peers and share great ideas. These online teaching resources will be part of instructional and professional development support for teachers as they prepare to teach the higher Common Core State Standards to all students.

"The platform allows teachers to do what they do best: share their knowledge, skill and effective classroom strategies with their colleagues to improve the quality of teaching."

US teaching unions have been criticised in recent years for blocking reforms and focusing on protecting members at the expense of improving standards. This was epitomised in the 2010 documentary Waiting for "Superman", which criticised union opposition to charter schools, one of the forerunners of the academies programme.

However, Ms Weingarten described the film as "inaccurate, inconsistent and incomplete" and has continued to argue against the idea that unions resist a focus on teaching quality. She was praised in a New York Times column last month for "trying to change the narrative".

The Common Core State Standards Initiative, announced in 2009, seeks to bring aspects of the English and maths curricula used by different states in line with each other. The vast majority of states have now signed up, making teaching resources more widely applicable.

Louise Rogers, chief executive of TSL Education, said: "We share with the AFT an unshakable belief that teachers should be at the forefront of using powerful social networking technologies to share and spread tried and tested best practice and curriculum resources in the classroom.

"We know that teachers, by sharing their vast knowledge and experience with each other, help to drive education effectiveness and standards."

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