NEA Convention Wrap-ups
I touched on some of the goings on at the NEA convention earlier in the week. Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week and Patrick Riccards at Eduflack have summaries up about the now-wrapped NEA convention and what came out of it. Some points from Sawchuk:
* [T]he NEA removed the sentence from its resolution on compensation that prohibits performance-based pay or merit pay. Make sure to read this important update, which potentially gives the union more flexibility in how it handles compensation changes.
* On the Common Core State Standards Initiative, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told me that the union is fully supportive of the effort and hopeful that the new generation of tests will be much more sophisticated. He said he has, however, gotten some queries about teachers uncertain of what to do because they are now expected to teach to the new standards, while their students are being assessed on the former ones….At the same time, Van Roekel acknowledged that stopping annual testing until the new assessments are in place could jeopardize students who have gotten more attention under the NCLB-required disaggregation of data.
* [T]he chair of NEA’s Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching, Maddie Fennel, made a short presentation to delegates….Fennel said the best and most successful teachers should work with the toughest students, just as the best doctors see patients with the most challenging symptoms. Will the NEA as a whole go along with that idea? Stay tuned.
* The union is now pushing for regulatory relief from elements of the No Child Left Behind law (like the 2014 deadline, the sanctions cascade, and the “highly qualified teacher” designation), but without the strings that the Obama administration plans to attach.
And from Riccards:
* NEA moved to condemn, but not call for the ouster of, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (most notably for his support of teacher firings in Rhode Island and presumably for his defense of the tying student performance data to teachers in Los Angeles), yet then turned around and endorsed President Barack Obama for 2012. If there was ever a cabinet secretary in tune with his president, it is Duncan. So are we truly upset with Duncan or truly content with Obama’s leadership? And if it is the latter, are we endorsing his work in issues like the economy and healthcare, and setting aside concerns with his Administration’s education policies? And was endorsing Obama in 2011 an apology for waiting so long to endorse him in 2008?
* NEA officially placed Teach for America on its public enemies list. For years, union leaders have tried to discount the role that TFA does or should play in public education. In recent years, union cities like Boston have complained about TFA teachers taking away previously union jobs. So now the NEA has a policy stance that matches its rhetoric regarding the TFA movement. But what about those TFA teachers who are members of their local unions? How do they show up at the next union ice cream social?
* NEA approved the use of test scores to evaluate teachers, with one important caveat. Yes, the NEA said, student test scores should be one of the elements used to determine the effectiveness of a teacher. The catch? NEA says that there are no current student tests that meet the standard for the tests allowed under the new NEA policy. Essentially, we will gladly be measured by student test scores assuming the test meets our criteria. But since no current tests do (and we assume the new ones being developed through RttT Assessment grants won’t either), I guess you just can’t use test scores to evaluate teachers.