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NEA president says it’s time to renew our promise to children

WASHINGTON - March 03, 2010 -

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is scheduled to provide testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee on how strong and innovative education reforms can help rebuild the U.S. economy and restore America’s competitiveness. Secretary Duncan will discuss President Obama’s education agenda, including his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2011, which calls for Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel issued the following statement prior to Secretary Duncan’s testimony:

“The 3.2 million members of the National Education Association are excited to hear Secretary Duncan’s proposals on how we can renew our promise to America’s children through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“Educators must have a say in what it takes to improve low performing schools. It is important to examine the factors that contribute to low performing schools, like dated or ineffective curriculum, school safety or socio-economic challenges. When all education stakeholders are involved in the decision making process, it spells success for students. This combination of collective responsibility and collaborative thinking has a track record for yielding results that are positive for students and their schools.

“Great educators and education support professionals are the backbone of a great public school system. Any revision to our nation’s most important education law (ESEA) should renew our nation’s commitment to these professionals. NEA is committed to working with the Obama Administration and Congress to ensure that ESEA makes sense and works for America’s students. We look forward to Secretary Duncan’s testimony before the House Education and Labor Committee.”

Van Roekel pointed to the following examples of collaboration and transformation:

Denver, Colo. The Math & Science Learning Academy, a new, union-designed, teacher-led public school within the Denver Public School System that operates inside the Rishel Middle School, uses bilingual instruction to increase student interest in math and science—especially among Denver’s Hispanic population, who comprise 57 percent of its students. The K-2 academy, which is among the first of its kind, provides greater teacher autonomy that continues to positively impact student learning.

Bridgeport, Conn. During the 2008-09 school year, student test scores significantly improved in all grades at the Longfellow School, a community-based school in the city’s West End. The school also reduced the percentage of below-proficient students by 10 percent from the previous year. One reason for the significant boost in student test scores was the work teachers and parents did with a team from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, which collected and analyzed data for the school. As a result, the school focused on four priorities to close the achievement gaps: student reading scores, best practices, student behavior (positive behavior support), and working to improve the school’s physical plant.

Oklahoma City, Okla. Suffering from high dropout rates, Putnam City West High School struggled to get its Hispanic students to pass the state graduation exam in reading. When the school held its first-ever Noche de Padres Hispános, or Hispanic Family Night, just a few dozen parents showed up. Fast forward two years later. Because of an energetic partnership between educators and community members, parental involvement has increased, and educators are better able to identify the reasons for low test scores. As a result, the achievement gaps are beginning to close at the school. Last year, 77 percent of Hispanic students passed the state English II assessment, and the number of graduating Hispanic seniors rose by nearly 70 percent.

For more examples of innovative collaboration, visit NEA's Priority Schools web site.

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: Staci Maiers, (202) 822-7823 or (202) 270-5333,