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USED's Labor-Management Collaboration Conference: The Sequel

Get ready for Collaboration Jamboree, round two!

This week, the U.S. Department of Education is sending invitations to districts the country over to its second labor-management collaboration conference, to be held May 23-24 in Cincinnati. Last year's event received significant press attention and brought together teams from 150 districts consisting of their superintendent, school board president, and teachers' union president, to take beginning steps to working out new ways of elevating the teaching profession.

This year, teams from about 200 districts will be attending, and they'll have some additional company: state education officials.

The Education Department is broadening its invite list because it suspects that state actors are the missing ingredient in establishing a culture of collaboration.

"Could you have more districts in a cluster who are reform-oriented if the states took a more active role?" Education Department Chief of Staff Joanne Weiss asked, rhetorically, in a conversation with me this week.

A couple of states, to put it mildly, have not had a great relationship with their unions this past year—think Wisconsin and Ohio. So each state that wants to attend must commit to sending the state school chief, the presidents of the state teachers' unions, and the president of the state school boards association.

The conference could include a broader pool of districts, too: Last year, the department reached out to those districts receiving federal education grants. This year, any district can apply to come, though again, districts have to commit to sending their three representatives.

In addition, there are some format changes. This year, on top of the breakout sessions, each teams will have a specific deliverable. They'll need to bring a poster outlining their plans and strategies for improving teacher effectiveness, all of which will be on display during a three-hour exhibition called the "transformers' dialogue" on the first day of the conference.

You can download information at ED's website. And may I modestly suggest that before you throw your hat in the ring, take a look at Education Week's special report on labor management collaboration, too.

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