Tuesday, July 05, 2011

NEA Shifts Position on Teacher Evaluations

"Thank God for your unyielding belief that
in the toughest of circumstances
every child, every child, deserves a chance.
I just wish those folks who are attacking you now,
I wish those folks who are trying to ascribe the blame
for the worst recession America has had since the Great Depression
knew you a little better."

--- Vice President Joe Biden

This from the New York Times:
Catching up to the reality already faced by many of its members, the nation’s largest teachers’ union on Monday affirmed for the first time that evidence of student learning must be considered in the evaluations of school teachers around the country.

In passing the new policy at its assembly here, the 3.2 million-member union, the National Education Association, hopes to take a leadership role in the growing national movement to hold teachers accountable for what students learn — an effort from which it has so far conspicuously stood apart.

But blunting the policy’s potential impact, the union also made clear that it continued to oppose the use of existing standardized test scores to judge teachers, a core part of the federally backed teacher evaluation overhauls already under way in at least 15 states.

“N.E.A. is and always will be opposed to high-stakes, test-driven evaluations,” said Becky Pringle, the secretary-treasurer of the union, addressing the banner-strung convention hall filled with the 8,200-member assembly that votes on union policy.

The union’s desire both to join and to stand apart from a White House-led effort to improve teacher performance represents the delicate situation it finds itself in as it confronts what Dennis Van Roekel, the union president, called “the worst environment for teachers I’ve ever seen.” Amid deep budget cuts and layoffs, the union has lost more than 30,000 members this year, and is fighting back against legislative efforts to curtail its collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Tennessee, Arizona and other states.

In response, union leaders, who spent last year’s Fourth of July weekend challenging the Obama administration’s promotion of charter schools and high-stakes standardized testing, spent this year’s trying to close ranks and encouraging even those union members who are furious at those policies to embrace calls for change — if on their own terms.

On Monday, the assembly voted by secret ballot to give Mr. Obama an early endorsement for his 2012 presidential run, a move that will allow the union to begin channeling its considerable political resources to the campaign. The strong showing in favor — 72 percent — was foreshadowed by the standing ovations that greeted Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who gave an impassioned pro-union speech here Sunday.

“There is an organized effort to place the blame for the budget shortfall squarely on the shoulders of teachers and other public workers, and it is one of the biggest scams in modern American history,” Mr. Biden told the educators. In contrast to that threat, the differences between the White House and the union, he said, were like disputes within the same family...

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