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'It Is Time for Our Union to Evolve'

New survey results dovetail with NEA’s Leading the Professions Action Agenda

By Dennis Van Roekel
July 16, 2012

A new survey from Education Sector, a D.C.-based education policy think tank, delves into teacher attitudes about unions and education reform.

“Trending Toward Reform” surveyed more than 1,100 K-12 public school teachers on their reactions to pay incentives, tenure and their unions.

There is lots of good data to explore. The findings show continued strong support for teachers unions, but also underscore that teachers want more from their unions. The survey results are consistent with what I hear from new and veteran NEA members, and the vision NEA laid out in December via its Leading the Professions Action Agenda.

Maddie Fennell, chair of NEA’s Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching, summed it up well.

“The challenges of the past can inform our future, but we can’t continue to use the same strategies to solve our new challenges …. It is time for our union to evolve.”

I could not agree more.

“There are plenty of people outside our profession who have their own ideas about what we should be doing, how we should be evaluated and how we should improve public education. There are ideas like privatization, unregulated charters and vouchers.

“Frankly, our current system allowed the market for those ideas to exist. We are part of that system, a system that has not successfully addressed the dropout crisis, and it allows kids who are poor to be in schools that do not meet their needs, and to be placed in the classrooms year after year with the least qualified and the least experienced teachers.

“It's not enough to say that most teachers are good. If there is even one classroom with a teacher who isn't prepared or qualified, we can't accept that.

“If the solutions that others are attempting to impose on us don't work for the students we serve, then we must take the responsibility to define solutions that do work for every student.”

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