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No single solution can transform America’s public education system

NEA says President Obama’s Today Show interview reinforces the imperative for collaboration


WASHINGTON - September 29, 2010 -

President Barack Obama sat down with Today Show host Matt Lauer earlier this week to talk about education. The interview was part of NBC’s week-long focus on education in America, Education Nation. President Obama told Lauer he agrees with experts who say that the single most important ingredient inside the classroom is the quality of the teacher. The president said the vast majority of teachers want to do a good job. During the half-hour interview, President Obama shared his views on a broad range of challenges facing education in America. He also discussed his administration’s approach and programs to help reform America’s education system.  The president was careful to emphasize that education reform is hard and it takes time. 

The following can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“The most encouraging takeaway from President Obama’s interview with Matt Lauer on Monday is that the president clearly understands that there is no silver bullet to fix education in America. Just as the president said, reform is hard and it takes time. We also would add that it takes adults working together to ensure that all our students receive a quality education.  Playing the blame game has become a popular pastime, when what’s needed most is collaboration. We must work together to figure out how to fix what’s broken and strengthen what’s working.  Identifying viable solutions and implementing them is hard work. Despite the headlines and the movies, the people who work in America’s public schools and classrooms are finding ways to change systems and the lives of students every day. 

“We appreciate and respect the President for insisting on open communication between educators and his administration.  We don’t agree on everything, but even our disagreements provide opportunities to talk about our shared goal of providing students with a world-class education.

“We will continue to oppose approaches to reform that our experiences as educators and research indicate don’t work.  But we are committed to working with the President and his administration to bring about meaningful change that helps to ensure an education system that works for all students. During the interview with Matt Lauer, the President demonstrated a keen understanding of the issues facing education in America and an appreciation of the important role of educators in education reform. He reiterated his commitment to working with unions and educators to reform education in America. 

“There are countless examples of reform currently underway in public schools across the country—all developed and implemented by educators.  We refuse to waste any more time talking about who’s for change and who’s not. Our goal is to eliminate impediments to learning and repair the parts of our educational system that are broken, so that all students learn and achieve.

“We must figure out how to bring together the adults in our children’s lives to reform education.  This cannot be a discussion just about systems; we have to sit down together and talk about what works for students in specific schools and communities all across the country. The difficult work to reform education in America requires concerted, concentrated and sustained efforts. The President acknowledged the important role of educators in education reform.  We know our role is important and we take it seriously. The way forward for our children and America is through quality education and improving our schools requires collaboration.”

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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: René Carter  202-822-7494, jrcarter@nea.org