Skip to Content

NEA conference focuses on improving student success in low-income communities

Educator teams will share strategies for Priority Schools

NEW ORLEANS - November 09, 2011 -

Declaring that “the status quo must go,” National Education President Dennis Van Roekel will lead classroom teachers and allies during a three-day conference on strategies to transform struggling schools in some of the nation’s poorest communities.

Educators and committed partners from NEA’s Priority School’s Campaign will convene in New Orleans Nov. 10-12. Participants will include more than 300 teachers, education support professionals, union leaders, district administrators and parents, representing 36 Priority Schools from 17 states.

“The teams from these Priority Schools are doing the hardest work in education – and the most important,” said Van Roekel. “We are finding that we really can make a difference in a child’s life, if all of the adults work together.”

During the forum, participants in site-based teams will share their strategies and experience,  interact with reform experts and connect with experts and resources from NEA and its partners.  At the conclusion of the three days, educators will leave with strategies for sustaining and improving their progress.

NEA also will unveil new research on strategies to involve parents and communities in schools, a key reform strategy that is often ignored. More than 30 years of research has shown that parent, family and community involvement correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement.

Another new component to the campaign includes a partnership with the Center for Teaching Quality, which will offer a virtual mentoring pilot program for Intensive Support Sites. This pilot program features 41 accomplished teachers to serve as virtual mentors to their fellow educators in priority schools.

“NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign can create a ripple effect for change in education policy and practice nationwide,” said Van Roekel. “This conference is about more than possibilities – it will focus on real examples of how systems and schools can be transformed to help students succeed.”

The NEA Priority Schools Campaign empowers NEA members to raise student achievement at struggling schools, in partnership with school districts, administrators, families and communities.  Strategies center on five research-driven elements that lead to permanent systemic change:  leveraging community assets, improving staff capacity and effectiveness, developing family and community partnerships, improving district and local association capacity and collaboration, and improving student achievement and learning.

A team from Belmont High School in Dayton, Ohio will participate at the forum. “We’ve always been dedicated, but at Belmont now, we’re passionate about the opportunity we have to transform our school,” said Marjorie Punter, who teaches 11th and 12th grade literature in the special education program. A strong collaborative effort has sharply reduced discipline problems at Belmont and student performance has increased.  “We’re excited about this forum. We don’t get a chance very often to share experiences about what works and what doesn’t and this is an opportunity on a national scale,” Punter said.

Sponsors of the forum include Southwest Airlines, which believes  it is vital that we, as individuals and in groups, embrace each community with the Southwest Spirit of involvement, service, and caring to make those communities better places to live and work, and the Verizon Foundation, which uses technology, financial resources and partnerships to address critical social issues, with a focus on education and domestic violence prevention.

“Strong partnerships are necessary to transform low-performing schools, and we are fortunate to have partners like Southwest and Verizon for this conference,” said Van Roekel.

“Southwest Airlines is proud to partner with the NEA and to support its Priority Schools Campaign,” said Lidia S. Martinez, Regional Manager, Community Affairs.  “We have a strong sense of community stewardship in every city we serve and this Southwest spirit inspires us to make a difference in something that matters to us all—public education.”

To learn more about the NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign please visit: or
Follow PSC on twitter: @priorityschools

# # #

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: Stacey Grissom  (202) 486-3491,