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Classroom experts weigh in on education issues

Educators: ‘Let our voices be heard in district and policy decisions’

WASHINGTON - April 29, 2011 -

The National Education Association (NEA) recently assembled a panel of 100 accomplished educators  and surveyed them on issues such as student learning and evaluation, teacher incentives, recruitment and retention, teaching conditions, teacher preparation, and parental/community engagement.

The panel consisted largely of National Board Certified teachers, former state teachers of the year and educators who have earned multiple awards and recognition; the teachers represented urban, suburban and rural schools across the country.

Whole Child
One line of questioning focused on how best to prepare, engage and evaluate students. These accomplished educators were asked what was would it take to prepare students for the 21st century. The top responses were effective teachers, student engagement, parental involvement and support for the well-being of the whole child.

“Unlike politicians and CEOs, educators are on the ground, working in classrooms every day.  They know what it takes to raise student achievement, and it’s time for America to listen to what they have to say,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Too many elected officials want to slash budgets and gut programs and services that keep kids engaged and healthy, but nearly all (98 percent) of our expert panelists said that for schools to eliminate achievement gaps and ensure student success, schools and communities absolutely must address the physical, social, and emotional needs of students.” 

Broad and Rich Curriculum
Cutting school funding also forces cutbacks in important courses like music and art.  A third of the expert panel said that meeting the needs of the whole child means expanding and funding a curriculum that offers much more than math and reading.  More than half of those on the panel said that a broader curriculum that embraces the arts, social sciences and career technical education, in addition to tested subjects, would help reduce the dropout rate. 

The results clearly reflect the sentiment that our schools should reduce the emphasis on standardized tests and boost the focus on tests used to diagnose and help students now.  “Every single respondent said that ‘classroom-level written, oral, performance-based, or portfolio assessments’ should be used to evaluate student performance for the purposes of accountability.  Educators are telling Congress loud and clear: the old AYP system must be thrown out and multiple measures must be used as the reauthorization of ESEA is considered,” said Van Roekel.

Involve Educators
The panelists said that involving educators in  policy discussions at the district level and improving professional compensation are both crucial to drawing new educators into the profession and retaining current ones. And they emphasized the need for strong pre-service training and mentoring to better prepare teachers before they ever step foot in the classroom. 

“I found it telling that the teacher panel overwhelmingly chose inclusion in decision-making (45 percent) over pay increases (14 percent) as the best way to support teachers in their work. Educators want to be included in decisions that affect them and their students. They join the profession for their love of the students, but the major takeaway from this survey is that respect for the profession—from lawmakers, the community, and general public — plus parental involvement is essential for student success,” said Van Roekel. 

For more on the Panel of Expert Teachers’ responses go to:

NEA members are currently working with communities and with policymakers to turn around low-performing schools as part of NEA’s Priority School Campaign. For more information, please click here

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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.

Sara Robertson, (202) 822-7823,