National Education Association delegates blasted Education Secretary Arne Duncan, passing a resolution that orders the NEA president to “communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately” to President Obama that the teachers union “is appalled” by a number of things Duncan has said and done in the name of school reform.
The resolution of the country’s largest union (see below) includes a list of Duncan’s actions and statements with which the NEA disagrees, including his standardized test-driven reform policies..
The resolution underlines the sharp animosity that exists among many public school teachers toward Duncan’s Education Department. But, with obvious calculation, the NEA does not blame Obama for the policies even though they all have his imprimatur.
In fact, the union’s leadership decided in May to ask their legislative body to approve an endorsement of Obama in the 2012 presidential race despite the great disagreement over reform policy.
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said in May that whatever conflict the union has with the Obama administration, he imagines it would only be worse with any of the Republicans who are either candidates now or considering jumping into the race.
A number of Republican governors have recently launched attacks on the collective bargaining rights of teachers and other public sector workers. The Obama administration has opposed the GOP actions.
The union is effectively between a rock and a hard place — supporting a president with whom it has fundamental disagreements about policy -- and the resolution, combined with the endorsement, appears to be its way of maneuvering in that very small space.
Obama is not, however, likely to take especially kindly to any attack on his education secretary. Obama has known Duncan for years, and has been nothing but supportive.
Many supporters of Obama in the 2008 election have expressed disappointment in his education policies. They had believed that he would gut No Child Left Behind and turn back the high stakes test-dominated education era that it launched. Obama’s Race to the Top initiative has, instead, escalated business-driven reforms.
Here’s the resolution adopted today by the NEA’s legislative body:
ADOPTED AS AMENDED
The NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA President to communicate aggressively, forcefully, and immediately to President Barack Obama and US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that NEA is appalled with Secretary Duncan’s practice of:
1. Weighing in on local hiring decisions of school and school district personnel.
2. Supporting local decisions to fire all school staff indiscriminately, such as his comments regarding the planned firings in Central Falls, RI.
3. Supporting inappropriate use of high-stakes standardized test scores for both student achievement and teacher evaluation, all while acknowledging that the currently available tests are not good.
4. Failing to recognize the shortcomings of offering to support struggling schools or states, but only in exchange for unsustainable state ‘reform’ policy.
5. Focusing too heavily on competitive grants that by design leave most students behind-particularly those in poor neighborhoods, rural areas, and struggling schools-instead of foundational formula funding designed to help all the students who need the most support.
6. Not adequately addressing the unrealistic Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements that brand thriving or improving schools as failures.
7. Forcing local school districts to choose from a pre-determined menu of school improvement models that are unproven and have been shown to be ineffective and bear little resemblance to the actual needs of the school that is struggling.
8. Focusing so heavily on charter schools that viable and proven innovative school models (such as magnet schools) have been overlooked, and simultaneously failing to highlight with the same enthusiasm the innovation in our non-charter public schools.
9. Failing to recognize both the danger inherent in overreliance on a single measurement and the need for multiple indicators when addressing and analyzing student achievement and educators’ evaluations.
10. Failing to recognize the need for systemic change that helps ALL students and relies on shared responsibility by all stakeholders, rather than competitive grant programs that spur bad, inappropriate, and short-sighted state policy.
11. Failing to recognize the complexities of school districts that do not have the resources to compete for funding, particularly in rural America, and failing to provide targeted and effective support for those schools and school districts.
12. Failing to respect and honor the professionalism of educators across this country, including but not limited to holding public education roundtables and meetings without inviting state and local representatives of the teachers, education support professionals, and faculty and staff; promoting programs that lower the standards for entry into the profession; focusing so singularly on teachers in the schools that the other critical staff members and higher education faculty and staff have been overlooked in the plans for improving student learning throughout their educational careers.
13. Perpetuating the myth that there are proven, top-down prescribed ‘silver bullet’ solutions and models that actually will address the real problems that face public education today, rather than recognizing that what schools need is a visionary Secretary of Education that sets broad goals and tasks states, local schools districts, schools, educators, and communities with meeting those goals.
Further, the NEA Representative Assembly directs the NEA Executive Committee to develop and implement an aggressive action plan in collaboration with state and local leaders that will address the issues above.
Starting November 2011, the NEA President will provide regular updates to the delegates on the progress of this plan throughout the year.
Activities to fulfill the requirements of this NBI can be undertaken within the proposed Modified 2011-2012 Strategic Plan and Budget at no additional cost.
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