Monday, July 04, 2011

NEW BUSINESS ITEM C: “Thirteen Things NEA Hates About Arne Duncan”

from Ed Week, HuffPost and NEA |

7/3/11 - (Huffington Post) - At its annual meeting in Chicago, The National Education Association's Representative Assembly passed Saturday New Business Item C., a strongly worded piece that comprehensively lists the NEA's grievances with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Some have nicknamed the item "13 Things We Hate About Arne Duncan."

The item was submitted by the union's board of directors, and according to the piece:

"…directs the NEA president to communicate aggressively, forcefully and immediately to President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan that NEA is appalled with Secretary Duncan's [practices listed below]."

But other delegates are skeptical of the true influence of passing the item, as the piece merely reprimands Duncan, but does not call for active solution.

Among the union's 13 criticisms are Duncan's failure to adequately address "unrealistic" Adequate Yearly Progress requirements, focusing too closely on charter schools to the detriment of other types of schools, weighing in too heavily on local hiring decisions and failing to see the need for more encompassing change that helps all students and depends on shared responsibility by stakeholders, versus competitive grant programs that the NEA says "spur bad, inappropriate, and short-sighted state policy."

In response to the item passage, Duncan's press office told Education Week:

"We acknowledge differing views and interpretations among some education labor leaders around the administration's education agenda. But, on the whole our partnership with labor is having a positive impact on student learning and the teaching profession—and we look forward to continuing to work with the NEA in the months and years ahead to further advance education reform."

The passage of this item comes just two days before the NEA is scheduled to determine whether the union will endorse President Barack Obama for re-election. [NEA's Obama Endorsement: Will They, or Won't They? - Teacher Beat - Education Week ] The delegates will vote by secret ballot on the endorsement, which requires 58 percent of the vote to pass.


New Business Item C


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.

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