American Education Week: November 13 – 19

American Education Week (AEW) began in 1921 as a joint project between the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Legion.  Ninety years later, the event still focuses on generating public support for education and “informing the public of the accomplishments and needs of the public schools and to secure the cooperation and support of the public in meeting those needs.”

This year the theme is “Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility.”  The NEA invites the public to participate in AEW by bringing associated activities into their own communities.  An electronic toolkit with materials and ideas has been provided for this purpose, and can be found at http://www.nea.org/grants/34749.htm.  Each day of AEW has a specific focus:

Monday, Nov. 14: Kick Off Day

Tuesday, Nov. 15:  Parents Day—parents are urged to visit their child’s classroom to experience a “day in the life” of their child and to encourage family engagement, an essential component of student academic success.

Wednesday, Nov. 16:  Education Support Professionals Day—a day to recognize and thank those members of our schools’ staff who often go unheralded but impact children’s lives each school day.  On this day, be sure to thank school bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, cooks, aids and all other professionals dedicated to the well-being of children in our schools.

Thursday, Nov. 17:  Educator for a Day—allows community members to walk in the shoes of an educator, undertaking all the duties associated with the profession.  The goal is to enhance understanding among educators and community leaders by highlighting the successes and challenges teachers face each day.

Friday, Nov. 18:  Substitute Educators Day—This day seeks to increase respect for substitute educators and advocate for issues affecting these professionals: that all substitutes receive wage and help benefits for those who work most of the year and are provided with genuine, continual professional development opportunities.

The American Legion is encouraging all of its posts to support AEW in a variety of ways (see their brochure at http://legion.org/documents/legion/pdf/american_education_week_booklet.pdf), but there is a particular focus on getting the word out through activities that involve showcasing student accomplishments or creative works, which in turn engages their families and the community at large.

For more information on AEW and to find out how you can get involved, please visit http://www.nea.org/grants/19823.htm

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NEA Shifts Position on Teacher Evaluations

Recently the nation’s largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, changed their position on including student performance in teacher evaluations.  In passing the new policy, the union hopes to take a leadership role in the national movement towards revamped teacher evaluation methods.

However, the union also made it clear that it continues to oppose the use of existing standardized test scores to judge teachers, a core component of many teacher evaluation overhauls across the country.  “N.E.A. is and always will be opposed to high-stakes, test-driven evaluations,” said Becky Pringle, secretary-treasurer of the union.

NEA’s stance exemplifies the delicate situation now faced by the nation amid budget crises and attempts to curtail collective bargaining rights in several states.  The union is now focused on closing ranks and encouraging members, even those outraged by the current situation, to embrace calls for change—on their own terms.

The union also made early moves to decide whom to support during 2012’s presidential election.  In spite of the union’s anger at the Obama administration’s promotion of charter schools and high-stakes testing, the assembly voted by secret ballot to give President Obama an early endorsement for his re-election run.  The endorsement did not come without doubts, however, and has left many questions on the new direction of the NEA.

To read the full story, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/05/us/05teachers.html?_r=1

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NEA Proposed Policy on Teacher Evaluation & Accountability

National Education Association officials announced that they would put a “policy statement” before the union’s governing body for approval that, among other changes, would open the door to the use of “valid, reliable, high-quality standardized tests,” in combination with multiple other measures, for evaluating teachers.

The statement, passed by the NEA’s board of directors, wouldn’t take effect unless the 9,000-delegate Representative Assembly signs on to it at its meeting over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago. Those delegates could significantly modify the policy statement before approval, and it is likely to be a topic of lively debate.

Crafted by state affiliate members as well as national staff, the statement says that evaluation systems must be comprehensive and built on three kinds of indicators. First, they should take into account indicators of teachers’ practice, such as their lesson plans and classroom-based observations about their ability to deliver instruction. Second, the systems should take into account teachers’ leadership in the school, collaboration with peers, or participation in professional development. And finally, they should show how the teacher has contributed to student learning and growth.

The final element marks a departure for the NEA, which has historically opposed most attempts to tie teacher accountability to student scores. The policy statement says that measures of student growth could include student-learning objectives set with principals, like those now used in Denver’s ProComp pay system, teacher-created assessments, and reviews of student work, but it also specifically references student test scores.

Still, the announcement comes as a major entry by the NEA in discussions about teacher evaluation, tenure, and due process. To date, the national union has remained silent on most of those issues, even while the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the other national teachers’ union, has put forth various proposals.  The document outlines how the evaluation system should fit within the current tenure system. Probationary teachers, the document asserts, should be granted tenure if they receive satisfactory evaluations in the final two years in the probationary period set in state law. Tenured status should be portable from district to district, it asserts. [Education Week]

To view the proposed policy statement, see http://www.nea.org/home/proposed-policy-on-evaluation-and-accountability.html

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