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What to Watch For At AFT's 2012 Convention

Beginning Friday, we'll be bringing you live coverage of the American Federation of Teachers' biennial convention right here at Education Week's Teacher Beat blog.

Here are a few themes I'll be watching:

• Two years ago, the union took the interesting step of hosting Bill Gates, whose education-policy ideas have been vociferously criticized by some within the union's rank and file. This year, by contrast, the agenda includes Diane Ravitch, among Gates' most vocal critics. AFT has, historically, hosted individuals with all kinds of perspectives at its meetings. Still, it's hard not to see the choice of Ravitch as a way of firing up the union's base.

• The AFT has been busy promoting its resolution on high-stakes testing, which would put the union on record as favoring a stronger stance against "the growing fixation on high-stakes testing."

• The convention, which takes place in Detroit this year, comes against the backdrop of the troubles faced by that city's AFT affiliate. The Detroit Federation of Teachers has strongly criticized a new contract imposed by the city's emergency financial manager, Roy Roberts, and has not ruled out the possibility of a strike.

• Among AFT watchers, much attention continues to focus on Karen Lewis, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union. This is because she came out of a different political "caucus"—basically, a kind of internal AFT political party—than the one to which AFT President Randi Weingarten belongs. (It is critical of some things like mayoral control and collaboration that Weingarten's caucus has supported in the past.) Although Lewis has since joined Weingarten's caucus, many CTU delegates to the convention have not—not yet, anyway.

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