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NEA underscores need for multiple criteria in teacher assessment

NEA’s executive director comments on CED recommendations

WASHINGTON - October 01, 2009 -

NEA Executive Director John Wilson participated in a panel on teacher compensation at an event to release a report by the Committee for Economic Development (CED).  The report, Teacher Compensation and Teacher Quality, aims to improve teacher pay, evaluation, professional development and pensions in order to draw high-quality teachers to America’s classrooms. 

NEA enthusiastically agrees with the report’s authors that “the methodological issues in measuring student performance, whether for pay calculations or for other accountability purposes, are substantial.”

“If we continue to focus narrowly on test scores to determine so many aspects of public education, students will receive basic test prep instead of the rich, challenging, engaging education they deserve,” Wilson said.  “We are very concerned with the report’s support of tying teacher compensation to student performance by linking teacher and student data.”

While both organizations agree that there is a need to improve the collection and use of data, which can help teachers to identify learning and achievement gaps, NEA insists that teacher effectiveness should be measured by more than one metric and should be made independent of student outcomes. 

The report acknowledged that “successfully linking pay to performance in education must still be understood as a work in progress that requires more experimentation with alternative pay design, careful evaluation, and an implementation process compatible with adaptation and continuous improvement of performance-pay plans.”

NEA and the CED agree that associations should explore alternative compensation packages that reward teachers for their skill and knowledge, that teachers should be paid more for working in hard-to-staff schools, and that teachers are “essential partners” in any teacher compensation reform effort. But NEA takes issue with the report’s position on teacher pensions.  

The authors of the report propose cash balance or hybrid plans as the solution to reform teacher pensions.  NEA supports traditional defined benefit pension plans, which help school districts promote both the retention and retirement objectives that this type of benefit was designed to address: to encourage good teachers to stay in their jobs, to inspire long-term engagement in improving the quality of their schools, and to help retired educators maintain a middle-class standard of living after a lifetime of work.

“Defined benefit plans promote workforce stability for school districts and economic security for educators. This report falls short by promoting less secure pension plans that won’t serve our nations educators and their students well,” said Wilson.

At the core of Teacher Compensation and Teacher Quality is teacher recruitment and retention:  “Schools must be able to compete effectively for college-educated workers who have more career choices and see themselves as more mobile professionally than did earlier generations.”

NEA supports the development of innovative ways to recruit new teachers, such as holding orientations, recruiting transfer students from two-year colleges, sponsoring future teachers clubs, organizing media campaigns in minority communities and recruiting minorities to teaching from business and the military sectors. The Department of Education estimates that over 3.9 million teachers will be needed by the year 2014 because of teacher attrition, retirement and increased student enrollment.

“We must attract good teachers to our schools now in order to avoid a major education crisis in the near future,” Wilson said following the event. “We must offer prospective and current teachers professional pay, intensive and relevant professional development, and the necessary resources to do their jobs in order to maintain this vital profession.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee 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: Sara Robertson  (202) 822-7823,