Presidents Viewpoint Spring 2013
Raise Your Hand for Student Success
By NEA President Dennis Van Roekel
In almost every school, a raised hand means a student has something to say. It’s a simple, yet powerfully effective gesture. When a hand raises, things change.
Nationwide, educators are making a difference by raising their hands. Marie Knutson and paraeducator Tammy Wassberg did it in Amery, Wisc., and created the Walk and Talk program which is improving the health and focus of Lien Elementary School students. In Denver, Colo., Kim Ursetta raised her hand, challenged the notion of traditional education models for minority students, and the Math and Science Learning Academy (MLSA) was opened.
Daily, educators and paraprofessionals take a stand that improves schools, creates quality learning environments, and initiates new ideas and activities that ensure student success. But the need is great, and students need even more.
In 2011, NEA unveiled the Leading the Professions agenda. Incorporating proven best education practices from thousands of teachers nationwide, the effort is designed to transform the teaching profession. This year, we’re expanding our call for action through “Raise Your Hand for Student Success”—a movement that invites everyone to join us in lifting up good ideas, smart policies, and successful programs that result in accomplished professionals and successful students.
No one stakeholder can do the heavy lifting of school reform—not NEA, not our state or local affiliates. Yet, we can lead a collective wave that demands more from everyone. We can ensure every student has a qualified, caring, and effective teacher. We can strengthen the teaching profession. And we can put the full weight of our national organization behind this effort.
We are tired of fighting bad ideas. Even when they’re won, these battles maintain the status quo. As professionals, we want our solutions and our own good ideas in the forefront. We must build a fire of implementation and progressive change for our students and schools. This requires resources—financial, staff, and technical.
Imagine how thousands of educators who are prepared to implement the Common Core State Standards will impact student learning. Imagine the impact of the next generation of teachers who will be trained by their experienced colleagues and peers via a dynamic network of collaboration and information sharing. Visualize a school system designed around policies and laws written by the experienced, trained, and highly qualified educators who will implement them.
Great public schools are our vision. But we must deliver measurable results. That is why NEA members, affiliates, and partners will collaborate, advocate, and organize to improve public education by leading a student-centered, Association-wide agenda.
Transformation takes work. And we must begin somewhere—now. We must all raise our hands now. Our teachers and the students they serve can’t wait.
More Columns by Former NEA President Dennis Van Roekel