What would happen if New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg installed American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten as the city's school chancellor?
It's a scenario posed in Steven Brill's new book Class Warfare, which traces the rise of proponents of the Race to the Top and other initiatives that have put much emphasis on "teacher effectiveness."
There is certainly no love lost between Brill and Weingarten—one of his earlier pieces resulted in AFT claiming he'd made up quotes. Don't expect that relationship to change much: In the new book, Brill suggests that Weingarten would quickly embrace stronger evaluation systems and performance pay if she was under direct pressure to improve student achievement. It's not a particularly subtle critique of the union leader.
But leave all that baggage aside for a moment. What exactly would Weingarten do as schools chancellor, especially within the constraints of a tight budget? What teacher quality policies would she focus on? What approaches would she institute to help teachers improve? What would she do to oversee the city's administrators?
I'll even go one better than Brill and say, why not simultaneously make former Chancellor Joel Klein the head of the United Federation of Teachers? What would he do faced with members nervous about a law that required 40 percent or more of evaluations based on test scores? What would he do in dealing with teachers, some good and some poor, who are entitled to legal representation in due-process hearings?
Both Klein and Weingarten are intelligent and hard-working people. Surely each would emerge with a new perspective of the freedoms, tensions, and constraints that his or her counterpart operates under.
Brill isn't the first to posit this idea. The Washington Post's Jay Mathews, who is also a former board member of the nonprofit that publishes Education Week, had a similar idea not that long ago. He proposed Weingarten as a good candidate for heading the D.C. chancellor's position.
And, of course, if Weingarten and Klein want to comment, we await their responses here.