Eduwonk is sorry to report that Sandra Feldman, President of the American Federation of Teachers is stepping down for health reasons. We’ll write more on the AFT leadership transition, and what it potentially means policywise and politically, down the road. For now suffice it to say that Feldman was a leader in the real sense of that word. Her entire career bears that out, but most notably in recent years she has resisted efforts to take a hard line on No Child Left Behind that would have satisfied vocal elements of her membership but harmed the cause of equity for poor and minority youngsters. She has also taken important steps that are paving the way for more modernized compensation schemes for teachers that take into account challenging assignments, special skills, and outstanding service. Though critics want to see sweeping change immediately that’s rarely how change works and it is often the work behind the scenes that matters more.
Although we surely did not agree on everything, Eduwonk never doubted that Feldman is motivated by an overwhelming desire to improve American education and serve American students. In today’s polarized climate her shoes will be very big ones to fill.