Friday, July 3, 2009

Dennis to delegates: The time is now!

In a stirring call to action on the first day of the annual NEA Representative Assembly, President Dennis Van Roekel exhorted his colleagues to lead the efforts to transform public education in America, restore stability and respect to this country’s middle class, and make sure the world knows that NEA is a swift-moving powerhouse with vision and strength.

( Photo/ Scott Iskowitz/ RA TODAY)

“We have the history. We have the skills and knowledge. We have the power and we have the courage. Now we must seize the opportunity,” Van Roekel exclaimed.

When half of all poor and minority children face a future without a high school diploma, a future with “no hope, no opportunity, no possibility of realizing the American dream,” and millions of American jobs lost and homes foreclosed on, it’s critical that educators take action now.

“Our members – the people on the front lines – know what it takes to increase student learning to transform the system,” Van Roekel said. “But we have to do more than define a vision for transforming public education -- we must lead the nation in making this transformation happen.”

For the first time in this century, NEA has a partner in the White House who “understand(s) that transformation is something you do with educators, not to them.” And NEA welcomes this opportunity to transform education. Better ways to measure student learning – not by a single test scores but through multiple measures – and also to improve teaching are welcome, he said. The Association also is open to new ways of paying teachers – but “we understand compensation systems are bargained and negotiated not imposed!”

( Photo/ Scott Iskowitz/ RA TODAY)

We won’t agree with President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on everything, Van Roekel promised. “But what is most important to me is that even though we may disagree on strategies or tactics…they share our mission to fulfill the promise of public education for every student.” He called on federal policy-makers to reform NCLB so that the new law helps students, not labels and punished them.

Of particular concern to Van Roekel are America’s lowest-performing school -- and he asked every delegate to get personally involved in turning them around. Teach there if you can, he asked. Mentor another teacher if possible. “It is important you do something – because these kids deserve better – and we are the ones who can make a difference.”

But NEA can’t close achievement gaps when the families of our students don’t have jobs or health care, or living wages and benefits. So he called on members to be political activists as well – to fight for decent salaries and health benefits for all. Every congressional district needs at least 50 NEA activists by January 1, 2010, he said. He also noted that all delegates should sign up for an NEA web site specifically for them – a site where Van Roekel will continue speaking to them post-RA. (Go to

And finally, Van Roekel also asked delegates for something more personal: “I ask you to believe in the power of this organization,” he challenged them. “To believe, that in spite of all the challenges we face, that we have make a difference!”

1 comment:

  1. I am worried about the use of the word "turn-around." in duncan's world, it means "reconstituted", firing everyone in the schools and starting over with a clean slate. Dvr made a point not to use reform and other loaded words, and used a powerful, meaningful one, transform. Why use Duncan's word? Is it a deliberate co- opting of his word and making it our own. I have another problem; how will or have those 5000 schools been identified! Is it using Ayp formulas? If so, I am more suspicious.