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Two international studies support NEA’s vision for school improvement

Education equity, effective professional development key, says Van Roekel

WASHINGTON - December 07, 2010 -

Two international reports released within the last two weeks—the McKinsey report, How the World's Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better, and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)—offer perspectives on how other nations boost student learning and performance. They also underscore the importance of elevating the teaching profession.  The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:
“We are at the brink of a brilliant new era for the profession of teaching, and it is up to us—unions, policymakers and the public—to learn from new research and find ways to strengthen teaching and learning.

“The latest McKinsey report and PISA results support our belief that collaboration and effective professional development are key factors in raising student achievement and that public education can be the ultimate equalizer. When school administrators and community members respect and support teachers and work together to address the effects of poverty on student learning, students benefit and their achievement goes up.

“The McKinsey report found that multiple factors and interventions—rather than a single silver-bullet solution—are needed to help a school move up the results ladder. In particular, the study found that teacher professionalism matters, and it recommends that requirements, practices and career paths for the teaching profession be as clearly defined as they are for medicine and law.  This finding gives even more support to teacher-led initiatives like the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and it affirms the importance of rigorous standards for entry into the profession.

“PISA tells us that if we are serious about reaching all students, we must take their circumstance into account: students have different experiences and instruction should be designed to meet students where they are. This new research shows once again that poverty and educational inequity are indisputably linked. One in five of our children lives in poverty, so if we wish to transform public education so that all students can succeed, we cannot be afraid to talk about and address the effects of poverty. 

“For the United States to be a high-performing country, we need to benchmark opportunity as well as quality—this is one of PISA’s most important lessons, and it’s why NEA is so committed to our Priority Schools campaign.  The campaign is specifically designed to challenge the status quo and foster changes in environments so that disadvantaged students can access quality education.

“I urge policymakers to review both of these reports carefully before rushing to judgment about the next steps needed to improve our schools. We want to be certain that our policies are grounded in the evidence that PISA and other well-founded research provide about effective education rather than in a political reaction to the PISA rankings.

“In both studies, high-performing countries rely on the participation of an engaged and professional teachers’ union in their improvement process. To that end, NEA has been working with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Education International and others to host a summit on the teaching profession.

“The summit is the first of its kind and will allow participants—government and teachers’ union leaders from the other nations who achieved top tier PISA results—to exchange ideas and learn from each other. The summit will be held March 16-17 in New York City.

“We hope that 2011 brings a more productive, more sophisticated discussion about how to sustainably transform our schools, drawing upon the kind of rich data offered by these reports. NEA will be working with our leadership and partners nationwide to explore how to implement what really works for students and public education.”

For more information about the summit on the teaching profession, 
please contact NEA Public Relations at 202-822-7823.

For additional information about NEA’s Priority Schools campaign, visit

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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: Laila Hirschfeld  (202) 822-7823,