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NEA President: collaboration is the key to improving student achievement

Obama administration and NEA share education vision

WASHINGTON - November 04, 2009 -

President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today visited Wisconsin to highlight the state’s collaborative efforts to improve student achievement and transform public education. Obama and Duncan visited James C. Wright Middle School, a fully unionized charter school in Madison. The Wisconsin legislature is poised to vote this week—with the support of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, an NEA affiliate—to make a technical change allowing greater flexibility in how teachers are evaluated. The change, if approved, will keep the state in the running for the administration’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top grants.

“Wisconsin is the latest example of what is possible when educators, school boards and other education stakeholders work collaboratively with the clear goal of improving student learning,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “The type of collaboration WEAC is championing benefits students, schools and communities.”

“We applaud the Obama administration for keeping its commitment to work with educators,” said Van Roekel. “This is an affirmation that we share the goal of transforming public education so that every public school is a center of excellence, and all students gain the skills and education needed to be lifelong learners and productive citizens in this global society.” 

While all charter schools are not created equal—and they are not the only model of reform—NEA supports charter schools like the ones championed by WEAC. Wisconsin has a strong system of great charter schools governed by local school boards, led and staffed by WEAC members. James C. Wright Middle School – like the majority of charter schools in the state – is an instrumentality charter school, meaning that it has flexibility to be innovative outside of the traditional school setting, but it retains all the local controls and is staffed by union teachers employed by the local school board.

“Our union of educators has spent a great deal of energy working collaboratively to improve student achievement in Wisconsin,” said Bell. “We are proud to be part of efforts that position Wisconsin for meaningful change.  We support sound educational policies that will uphold our state’s rich tradition of academic excellence.”

WEAC is the latest NEA affiliate to take steps to usher in innovative initiatives to transform public education. For example, Seattle, Washington is using collective bargaining as a vehicle to improve student learning, including contractual language that allows educators to conduct home visits and engage parents and families. Under a contract negotiated by the Evansville Teachers Association and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) in Indiana, some EVSC schools could see different administrative structures, including a longer school day or longer school year, a different staffing formula, and increased autonomy. New Haven, Connecticut put in place CommPACT (Community, Parents, Administrators, Children and Teachers) to take a novel approach to improve schools and close the achievement gap.

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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.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez (202) 822-7823,