AFT Detroit Regional Conference Albert Shanker Address and Press Conference, 1985

During this lengthy press conference, Al Shanker focuses on professionalization of teaching. He states that the push for tuition tax credits and vouchers threatens the public education system, and he urges the field to look at itself critically and, much like the automobile industry, figure out how to restructure in order to survive. The teachers' unions need offer more than good contracts and higher salaries. Teachers want dignity and respect, and unions must be involved in bringing professional recognition to the field. Shanker notes the coming teacher shortage and comments that if teachers were treated with more professional respect, the retention rate would be higher, and better applicants could be recruited. He acknowledges that the public is right to mistrust the education system right now. In order to earn public trust and professional respect, teachers should submit to higher standards and pass a rigorous entry exam. He also sees a need for teachers to interact more with colleagues. He cites a program in Toledo where a group of outstanding teachers has been removed from the classroom for three years to work with new hires and to recommend tenure decisions. He further suggests that teachers should be involved in textbook selection. Shanker argues that teachers should be intimately involved in restructuring school and implementing education reform. Finally, Shanker urges teachers to do more than criticize the current state of affairs. He argues that developing a positive vision will help gain public support. A question and answer session followed Shanker's speech. Many questions asked for more details on the proposed teacher examination. Shanker expounded and described a three part exam that would test subject specialty, child psychology, and pedagogy and would include an internship. He does not believe that current teachers should be tested. Another audience member questioned how legislators can help professionalize teaching? Shanker responded that the whole point would be for legislators to be less involved. Other professions, he notes, do not have long laws mandating every last detail. If anything, he asserts, legislators should loosen restrictions and give teachers more responsibility. Shanker then responds to why the NEA does not support his call for a teacher examination, and in doing so, gives more details about his proposal. He argues for more resources to be given to early grades, and he argues for restructuring the typical school model.

Detroit, MI
94 pages
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