Tag Archives: NEA

“Stupid, absurd, non-defensible”: New NEA president Lily Eskelsen García on the problem with Arne Duncan, standardized tests and the war on teachers – Salon.com

31 Jul

For years, politicians and policy leaders have been running the nation’s public education system basically by the seat of the pants, drafting and passing legislative doctrine that mostly ignores the input from classroom teachers, research experts and public school parents.

Just the latest example of this fly-by-night leadership came from Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky and expected GOP presidential contender. According to the Politico newsletter, Paul is “planning a major push on education reform, including ‘education choice, school choice, vouchers, charter schools, you name it.”

‘Gotta love the “you name it” proposal, don’t you? So reassuring to parents. “Relax, we’re enrolling your kid in the ‘You Name It’ program this year. Everything will be fine.”

In an astonishing display of incoherence, he told the Politico reporter how much he, and his children, had benefited from traditional public schools – “I grew up and went to public schools. My kids have gone to public schools” – and then suggested we create something that looks nothing like them.

“Have one person in the country who is, like, the best at explaining calculus … teach every calculus class in the country,” he rambled, in belief, somehow, that having “2 million people in the classroom” would ensure more children “have a teacher that may be having a more hands-on approach.” Really?

Have education policies from the Democratic Party been any better?

Apparently, most teachers don’t think so. As Politico, again, reported, teachers are organizing at an unprecedented level. Through their unions, teachers have amassed “tens of millions in cash” and have acquired “new data mining tools that let them personalize pitches to voters,” in an effort to “run a huge get-out-the-vote effort.”

Education Week suggested that a “new era” in teacher organizing has begun, with “a remarkable policy convergence, portending what could indeed be a more unified response to national and state education issues.

“The convergence, observers say, is the product not only of the unions’ need to assume a defensive posture in the face of legislative and legal attacks, but also of the pressure brought by internal factions that have urged the unions to take a tougher stance against market-based education policies.”

What’s got teachers stirred up? How real and potent is this upsurge of their activism? Why should people who identify with progressive causes care? Salon recently posed those questions, and others, to Lily Eskelsen García, the new president-elect of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, at the recent Netroots Nation conference in Detroit.

First of all, congratulations on becoming the new NEA president.

Still president-elect. I take office Sept. 1. We have an incredible president, Dennis Van Roekel, who basically said a transition period should be a transition period, not go stand in the corner. So he gave me the president-elect title and told me I would take the press calls, go to Netroots, meet with Arne Duncan, start establishing where you want to go and be as vocal and as visible as you can possibly be. Our members have asked NEA to step up and take things to another level. There’s too much at stake for us. There are policies that need addressing and we have some of the best policy expertise in the nation, but those ideas need a face to the NEA, a face for the American teacher that is channeling the voices of these 3 million educators, and when you hear the words come out of her mouth it’s not just her opinion — it’s a whole lot of teachers and support staff who are saying here’s an important thing for the American people to hear and an important thing for Arne Duncan and President Obama to hear. So he told me to start being that voice today.

The voices of these teachers are important, aren’t they? And too often we don’t really hear their stories about what it’s really like to teach in American schools, do we? For instance, I was just at a meeting of the American Federation of Teachers, where a teacher told us about showing up to school one morning and finding a man had been shot to death in front of the building the night before. The body was still on the sidewalk as the kids were coming to school, and the teachers had to decide how they were going to handle this with the children. So many of our teachers are really serving as first responders for kids, aren’t they?

That’s true. So how did the teachers handle this? More…

via “Stupid, absurd, non-defensible”: New NEA president Lily Eskelsen García on the problem with Arne Duncan, standardized tests and the war on teachers – Salon.com.

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Teachers Unions Turn Against Democrats — NYMag

8 Jul

The Obama administration’s education reforms have been almost completely absent from the national political debate because neither Party has an incentive to talk about them. Republicans don’t want to admit that Obama has carried out policies — more charter schools and teacher accountability — that they have spent years endorsing. Democrats don’t want to call attention to an issue that alienates teachers unions, a core element of their base. And teachers unions themselves don’t want to force their own members to choose between the union’s agenda and Obama’s.

But the unions are growing increasingly obstinate in their opposition of the sorts of accountability and pressure that Obama has helped bring upon them. Last week, the National Education Association held a convention where it elected a new president, Lily Eskelsen García, and also officially called for the resignation of Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan. The delicate balancing act within the Democratic coalition is beginning to fray.

The main vehicle for Obama’s education agenda is Race to the Top, a portion of stimulus money it used as a lure to encourage states to overhaul their schools, and which produced sweeping changes. That Race to the Top was tucked into a massive bill that passed very quickly, in the midst of an economic calamity, further obscured the scope of Obama’s agenda. That revolution has continued to proceed, often carried out by a cadre of center-left education-policy reformers allied with the administration. The reformers, citing evidence that good teachers can teach the same class of students dramatically more than a poor teacher can, have introduced new methods to bring talented recruits into the teaching profession and to weed out ineffective teachers. They have also encouraged the spread of public charter schools, which experiment with new pedagogical methods.

One of the most effective innovations used by the best charterschools is a longer teaching day. More school time has been found especially helpful for low-income children, who receive less academic support at home. In Washington, D.C., school chancellor Kaya Henderson has made longer school days a priority, and urged teachers to embrace it — not only will they be paid more directly for their additional teaching time, but the likely improved student outcomes will also increase teachers’ bonus pay. The Washington Teachers Union has blocked Henderson.

The leaders of the teachers unions have generally taken care to placate the demands of their most implacably anti-reform members without opening an irreparable breach with the administration. The unions have strong, clear-headed reasons for their caution. However strongly they disagree with Obama and the education reformers about the design of education and teacher pay, they do agree on the principle of paying teachers more. This is in contrast to Republicans, who generally support all the reformers’ accountability measures and lower public budgets as well. And the leaders recognize that the hard-line unionist position — tenure rules that make it impossible to fire even the worst-performing teachers — are nearly impossible to defend with the public. More…

via Teachers Unions Turn Against Democrats — NYMag.

National Education Association wants Duncan’s resignation | Early & Often

8 Jul

WASHINGTON — The nation’s largest teachers’ union wants Education Secretary Arne Duncan to quit.

Delegates of the National Education Association adopted a business item July 4 at its annual convention in Denver that called for his resignation. The vote underscores the long-standing tension between the Obama administration and teachers’ unions — historically a steadfast Democratic ally.

A tipping point for some members was Duncan’s statement last month in support of a California judge’s ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state’s public school teachers. In harsh wording, the judge said such laws harm particularly low-income students by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.

Even before that, teachers’ unions have clashed with the administration over other issues ranging from its support of charter schools to its push to use student test scores as part of evaluating teachers.

The vote is a “venting of frustration of too many things that are wrong,” said Dennis Van Roekel, the outgoing president of NEA. He said it wasn’t directed at Duncan personally, but was about teachers wanting what is best for students.

Duncan wouldn’t comment Monday to reporters at the White House, but said he wished the NEA’s new president “the best of luck.” Van Roekel’s term ends Aug. 31. He’s to be replaced by Lily Eskelsen Garcia, an elementary school teacher from Utah.

“I always try to stay out of local union politics. I think most teachers do too,” Duncan said.

Duncan said the Education Department has had good relations with the NEA in the past, noting that they’ve teamed up every year to put on a national summit.

The business item passed said it was necessary to call for Duncan’s resignation because of the “department’s failed education agenda focused on more high-stakes testing, grading and pitting public school students against each other based on test scores, and for continuing to promote policies and decisions that undermine public schools and colleges, the teaching education professionals, and education unions.”

via National Education Association wants Duncan’s resignation | Early & Often.

Romney doubles down on class size claim, vilifies educator unions | Education Votes

29 Sep

Hearing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney repeat yet again his claim that class size does not matter, voters must be tempted to quote a former president who famously said, “There you go again!”

Romney voiced his class size mantra yesterday at an appearance at the Education Nation Summit hosted by NBC News. The former Massachusetts governor’s pronouncement that class size does not play a role in student achievement flies in the face of decades of research and the first-hand knowledge of educators and parents. More…

via Romney doubles down on class size claim, vilifies educator unions | Education Votes.

Teachers unions differ on approach to controversial education film – The Hill – covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

8 Sep

The leaders of the country’s two largest teachers unions are taking different tacks when it comes to a controversial film set to be released later this month.

“Won’t Back Down,” which is expected to get a wide release on Sept. 28, has angered teachers union members for its depiction of a teachers union that hampers a crusading single mother who wants to improve her daughter’s school. The movie has also gained heavy promotion from groups that often spar with teachers unions, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and StudentsFirst, which was founded by former Washington, D.C., public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. More…

via Teachers unions differ on approach to controversial education film – The Hill – covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com.

Republican educators eager to engage GOP lawmakers >Education Votes

17 Jul

Republican members of the National Education Association realize they’re in a unique position to work around the party-line polarization that dominates politics today.

“In my experience, because I am Republican, even though I’m also a staunch supporter of NEA, doors are open to me that have not been opened for other people,” said Ted Payne, a middle school science teacher with 24 years of experience who currently serves as president of the Carroll County Education Association in Maryland. “I have worked very hard to build relationships with both Republican and Democrat elected officials…to actually get agreement so that we were able to get budgets passed.” Continue reading

How Should We Support New Teachers? Arne Duncan Hears From NEA-Student Members | NEA Today

11 Jul

How can this nation do a better job of attracting, supporting, and learning from great teachers? U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan really wants the answer to that question—the country really needs the answer to that question, he said—and he got it on Monday from a group of NEA-Student members.

These future teachers were frank: They want to be respected for their choice to serve students, schools, and communities, they said. And they want to be better supported as they make the transition from student to teacher. Continue reading

Reinventing the Largest Teachers’ Union – John Wilson Unleashed – Education Week

10 Jul

It has often been said that changing the National Education Association is like turning around a large battleship, but that has not stopped Dennis Van Roekel, the current president, from working to forge a consensus around changed policy among his constituents. In the face of declining membership, Democratic reformers who push an agenda that teachers find hard to embrace, and Republican governors who have gone after NEA affiliates with a vengeance, NEA has reached a point of change or perish. Well, that may be a little dramatic. Let’s say this instead: NEA must reinvent its mission and vision to align with a world class education for all American students or become irrelevant. Continue reading

Hmmmmm

26 Jun
FROM TWITTER FEED: VEA: NEA President asks NCUEA/NEA delegates not to throw Arne Duncan “under the bus” at this year’s Representative Assembly.

Michelle Rhee’s Group Asks Teachers Unions To Promote Reform Policies At State Level

21 Jun

The day after Michelle Rhee’s education lobbying group, StudentsFirst, got dumped by progressive petition site Change.org because of intense pressure from teachers’ unions, StudentsFirst waved a thorny olive branch of sorts at the nation’s two largest such unions.

On Wednesday afternoon, StudentsFirst, along with other education groups such as Democrats for Education Reform, Students for Education Reform and Hispanic CREO, wrote a letter to Dennis Van Roekel and Randi Weingarten, presidents of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, asking for a “new opportunity to collaborate to improve public education for kids.” Continue reading

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