Owning Our Profession
By NEA President Dennis Van Roekel
The annual Representative Assembly is one of the most exciting times of the year for our Association. This year in Chicago, we accomplished a lot in just four days. As evidence, delegates took a historic vote and adopted a new policy statement that sets a clear course for overhauling teacher evaluation and accountability systems with one goal in mind: improving professional practice and student learning.
Now the real hard part begins, as we start to translate this policy into action.
The policy statement is an opportunity for NEA and our members to assert ourselves in a debate that has been raging for years. We know that current systems for teacher evaluation and accountability can be improved, but too often in the past we have simply taken a defensive posture, trying to prevent damaging policies instead of promoting those that will actually raise student achievement.
We have heard all of the bad ideas. Now it’s time for us to take the lead, and draw on our experience to propose policies that will actually work for students. This is our profession and our responsibility.
Our new policy statement lays out rigorous standards and delineates the multiple indicators of teacher practice that must be taken into account in an evaluation and accountability system. It clearly articulates the link between teacher accountability and student success, defines an appropriate evaluation system, and provides a context for how such assessments should incorporate student assessment indicators into teacher evaluation.
In adopting this policy statement, our RA delegates said loud and clear that we want to raise standards for the teaching profession, not lower them. Now our staff will begin the challenging work of formalizing the tenets of this policy into actionable materials, plans and resources for our members. In turn, every NEA leader and member will need to diligently promote these principles at state and local levels.
As educators who are determined to make a difference, we are accustomed to working hard. Rarely, though, has our work been as important as this assignment. We have a chance to define our profession for the next generation, and we must not let that opportunity slip through our grasp.
Below: See highlights of Dennis Van Roekel's keynote address at the 2011 NEA Representative Assembly.