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Van Roekel speaks at “Close the Gap” rally

Reinforces longstanding commitment to closing achievement gaps

WASHINGTON - May 16, 2009 -

The National Education Association joined thousands at the White House Ellipse to formally kick off a national campaign to close achievement gaps.  The rally was held on the 55th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that integrated schools. The National Action Network, National Council of La Raza and the Education Equality Project organized the event.  

“NEA has a long-standing commitment to closing achievement gaps,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “We’ve been policy advocates, staff trainers aNEA President Dennis Van Roekel speaks at the Close the Gap rally on the White House Ellipse. Courtesy of: Pat Ryan for NEA.nd investors in programs that we know help level the academic playing field for minority and poor students. Educators cannot solve this complex issue alone.  That’s why I am so pleased to see teachers, lawmakers, parents, community members and civil rights leaders joined together to share our collective concerns and push for education reform.”

As part of continuing talks regarding a systemic reform of public education, National Action Network President Rev. Al Sharpton invited President Van Roekel to participate in the rally.

NEA has a history of engaging the community and advocating for every student’s fundamental right to a quality education. 

  • The NEA Foundation has awarded millions of dollars in grants to school districts to develop programs to close achievement gaps. Districts in Chattanooga/Hamilton County, Tenn.; Seattle, Wash.; and Milwaukee, Wis., have received grants.  In Chattanooga alone, the achievement gap has dropped 13 percent in reading and 10.5 percent in math.  This month The NEA Foundation awarded $50,000 planning grants to five urban school districts to develop proposals to improve achievement rates for low-income and minority students (Kansas City, Kan.; Springfield, Mass.; Durham, N.C.; Omaha, Neb.; and Columbus, Ohio).

  • NEA created an initiative to transform America’s public schools by the year 2020.  

  • NEA developed a 12-point action plan to reduce the nation’s dropout rate. 

  • NEA also has a comprehensive agenda to recruit, retain and support a quality teacher workforce and ensure that the best teachers are in the sNEA President Dennis Van Roekel, National Action Network President Rev. Al Sharpton and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Courtesy of: Pat Ryan for NEA. chools where they are needed most.

  • NEA offers training, research on disparities and improvement strategies through its program CARE: Strategies for Closing the Achievement Gaps. So far, educators in 36 states have been trained and are seeing results in student achievement. To further help members address achievement gaps, NEA produced two guides—Making Low-Performing Schools a Priority: An Association Resource Guide and Closing Achievement Gaps: An Association Guide. 

“As a nation, we know what it takes to get the job done. We just need the political will to make it happen,” added Van Roekel. “Improvements in instruction and quality of teaching are central components to closing the gaps. That should be coupled with reducing class sizes, supplying every school with up-to-date materials and technologies and providing services to meet children’s needs. We will continue to work with those committed to change and urge the public to support policies that will close achievement gaps.”

More on NEA’s achievement gaps work.
More on The NEA Foundation grants.
More on NEA’s 2020 and dropout plans.


The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing
3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Ramona Parks-Kirby (202) 822-7823,