Welcome to Talking About Teachers and Teachers’ Unions – a toolkit compendium of research on how Americans think about the role of teachers and teachers’ unions, and how to increase public support for policies and programs that support reforms to improve America’s educational system. As FrameWorks concluded from an extensive review of related media coverage:

“The shallow, stereotyped and overwhelmingly negative coverage of teachers’ unions places them in a defensive position in the national news media and forces them to fight an uphill battle for deeper public appreciation of their connection to meaningful reform. Teachers’ unions will undoubtedly need to focus communications efforts on explaining what teachers’ unions do, and not simply what they oppose.”

A decade of FrameWorks’ research demonstrates that effective communications can help engage the public’s thinking and engagement with issues as complex as child mental health and climate change. Here, we demonstrate how an empirically based communications strategy can bolster understanding about the American education system, including the external network of people and resources that is needed to improve it, and garner the necessary support for progressive, meaningful education policy reforms and programming alternatives. By effectively explaining the role of teachers and teachers’ unions in reform, we demonstrate how the reform narrative benefits from this inclusion.

Based on research findings from several years of multi-method studies, this toolkit provides application materials, guides, and resources to front-line communicators for deploying recommended framing strategies to shift the public conversation about education reform and the role of teachers’ unions. It is complemented by an ongoing project to develop a Core Story of Education, resulting in research on public attitudes to skills, testing, digital media and learning. To access these additional materials, please visit the FrameWorks Institute’s website issue pages on Education and Digital Media and Learning, respectively.

This toolkit was developed by the FrameWorks Institute for the joint partners in this research – the Ford Foundation, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

Message Memo

E-Workshops and Trigger Videos


This section provides a variety of framing tools intended to help advocates understand and apply the research findings and recommendations on how to talk about teachers’ unions.

Key Framing Guides