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AFT Innovation Fund Invests in Expanded Learning Time

AFT Innovation Fund Invests in Expanded Learning Time 

New grants also focus on Common Core State Standards

DETROIT—The American Federation of Teachers today announced a fourth round of investments by the AFT Innovation Fund, which solicits and supports ideas from on-the-ground educators to help improve public education. The grants were announced at the AFT’s national convention in Detroit.

“These exciting ideas are drawn from the wisdom of those who are closest to students—teachers and paraprofessionals,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “These grants are examples of how our locals use solution-driven unionism to improve education.”

For the first time, the Innovation Fund is supporting local unions in redesigning the school day to expand learning time—for students, and for teachers. The union supports expanded learning time so that students can have access to a rich, well-rounded curriculum and the extracurricular activities vital to their personal and social development. In addition, finding time for teachers to collaborate as professionals is essential so that they can improve student achievement.

The AFT is a signatory to the Time to Succeed Coalition, launched this year by the National Center on Time & Learning and the Ford Foundation.

For the second year, the Innovation Fund also is investing in teacher-designed, collaborative innovations centered on the Common Core State Standards. This year, some grantees will focus on conducting a communitywide campaign to explain the new standards and enlist support for helping students reach them, and others will work closely with a local university to make sure new teachers are prepared to teach the new standards.

The 2012 grants, totaling $750,000, were awarded to the following local AFT affiliates:

  • Meriden Federation of Teachers (Connecticut), to work in partnership with the school district to expand and enrich learning time for students at a high-needs elementary school in the areas of reading; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); and healthy living. Teachers at the school, and from other schools in the district, will collaborate to develop a staggered teacher schedule and spread the model throughout the district. The schedule will allow for flexibility so that teachers can work collaboratively throughout the school day to improve instruction and student learning.

  • Providence Teachers Union (Rhode Island), to support United Providence!, an innovative “education management organization” established by the union and the district, in turning around three high-needs schools in Providence. The schools will receive significant assistance to expand learning time so that teachers can have time to collaborate during the school day and so that students can get extra support and enrichment. This grant also will provide United Providence! with national expertise on conducting “time audits” and recommendations on how best to expand teacher and student learning time.

  • Cleveland Teachers Union (Ohio), to “harvest” high-quality curricular units, written by Cleveland teachers, that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards. These teachers will work with one another and with a Common Core expert to improve and expand upon the units. When polished, the units will be uploaded into the district’s data warehouse—called School Net—where all teachers will have access to them..

  • Quincy Federation of Teachers (Illinois), to develop a communications campaign for parents, businesses and local institutions about the Common Core State Standards and what they mean for teaching and learning. The campaign will focus on explaining the key shifts in the Common Core and how community members can best support students to reach the new standards. Teachers will lead the campaign, which is to include polls, community forums and public service announcements.

  • Jefferson County AFT (Alabama), to work with the University of Alabama at Birmingham to align English language arts curricula in middle and high schools with the Common Core State Standards. Two schools in the Jefferson County district will serve as intensive sites for student teachers to collaborate with cooperating teachers to write and teach new lessons. Both student and classroom teachers will gain experience in using aligned curricula to enhance their teaching and student learning.

Since its launch in 2009 by AFT President Weingarten, the AFT Innovation Fund has made a total of 25 investments in groundbreaking work across the nation. With this support, state and local affiliates have redesigned teacher evaluation systems in New York and Rhode Island; created a nonprofit organization to authorize charter schools in Minnesota; opened “in-district” charter schools in Texas; and much more.

Support for the AFT Innovation Fund comes from the American Federation of Teachers itself and from private philanthropies, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The Carnegie Corporation of New York, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts also have supported the Innovation Fund.

For more information, visit

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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.

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