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Day of Learning Plenary Focuses on Collaboration

July 01, 2011
By Cindy Long

The first annual Day of Learning – an all-day event packed with workshops and panel discussions on improving our schools – kicked off with a conversation about where our public schools are headed.

The session, “The Future of Public Education: A National Leadership Dialogue,” addressed the often short-sighted programs and policies that have cropped up in the recent attacks on public education.

The interactive town-hall session featured NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association, Dan Domenech, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators, and Debra Strauss, a member representative of the national Parent Teacher Association board of directors.

The session was moderated by Tavis Smiley, host of talk shows on PBS and Public Radio International.

“I can’t think of anything that’s more important than an equal, high quality education,” said Smiley. “The future of our country is inextricably linked to whether we get this education thing right.”

The panelists all agreed that the best way to improve education and to achieve lasting impact from any reform is through collaboration.

“We cannot be continually battling each other,” said Bryant. “Unions and school boards should be singing the same song, focusing on student learning, and coming together to effect change.”

Collaboration must include everyone from teachers, administrators and school boards to parents, community groups, faith-based groups and businesses, and they must all be the champions of the kids who aren’t achieving, according to Domenech.

“We need to have the political courage to stand up and do what needs to be done for the kids that are failing,” he said.

One of the reasons the attacks on public education have gained so much traction, panelists agreed, is that the public school system didn’t contribute enough solutions.

Now NEA is focused on collaboration as the real solution to the problems facing our schools.

With its Priority Schools Campaign, NEA is zeroing in on best the way to turn around lower performing schools, and Van Roekel shared with the panelists and attendees how real change is occurring in the schools where there is collaboration between all stakeholders.

He encouraged everyone to share the message of collaboration with their own communities.

“It’s important that the conversations don’t end here,” he said. “We have to take what we’ve learned back to our neighborhoods and communities across the nation and figure out how we can work collaboratively to help students succeed in the classroom and in life.”

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