Raise Your Hand
Educators agree to provide $6 million in new funds to improve student success
By Brenda Álvarez
The new grants will bolster NEA resources supporting results-oriented actions that will help to equip every public school student with opportunity, equity, and success, and give educators the power they need to improve teaching and learning.
The recent education reform climate has incorrectly portrayed unions as obstructionists and educators as villains, opening the door for those with little practical experience to craft and implement practices that don’t work for students.
This climate ignores how teachers, support staff, and their unions are leading successful reform efforts that have significantly raised student performance, increased attendance and graduation rates, and elevated the teaching profession.
“This is not new work,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told a crowd of thousands during its annual meeting. “We are already creating ripples of change. Now it’s time to turn them into a tidal wave!”
The grants will allow NEA to fund student-centered and educator-led projects and ideas that boost student learning. For example, projects can include developing strong, union-led peer assistance and review programs that will lead to the improvement of teaching and learning. Support staff can benefit from projects providing professional development opportunities on school safety. Higher education members can receive funding for grant projects that improve college and university practices that, in turn, improve student learning.
GPS Grants will be awarded using criteria from key elements of NEA’s new Raise Your Hand campaign, which will deliver concrete results. These elements include successful students, accomplished professionals, dynamic collaboration, and empowered leaders.
What does this mean? Here is a breakdown:
All students must enter schools where a curriculum aligned with high standards helps unleash their genius. Assessments of student learning must go beyond unaligned bubble tests administered for political expediency.
Educators must be provided professional development to enhance their practice. Educators must understand that student success is their first—and most important—work, and will be the most important element used to assess educator performance.
With this in mind, NEA will identify hundreds of leaders to implement the Common Core State Standards and help educators learn from the experiences of early adopters of the Common Core so they are prepared to meet the 2014 implementation date. Moreover, NEA will advocate for human and financial resources, and hold multiple standards institutes so that more educators get the professional development they need to implement these content standards and develop instructional materials that are connected to their work and make sense for them.
Too many teachers and education support professionals (ESPs) struggle in environments that do not allow them to be professionals. To transform the professions, educators must be empowered to define quality and develop systems that support and ensure quality professional practices at every level.
NEA will establish at least 50 new peer assistance and review programs. Dozens of new profession-ready residency models will become a part of every educator’s preparation. This union-led induction experience will add value to Association membership and ensure that those entering the professions are ready for success from the start.
The Great Public Schools Network will harness the collective expertise and experience of NEA members and allow affiliates to strategically identify and engage members and locals to help improve public education and student success. The online system for professional collaboration will be available to “early adopters” who will populate the network on key topics, including Common Core State Standards and educator leadership in public education.
Working in partnership with affiliates, NEA will drive a major teacher-leadership initiative that supports and engages thousands of emerging teacher leaders and recruits, and prepares, activates, and supports the next generation of teachers. In 2013, NEA will select at least 200 teachers to participate in a comprehensive leadership training curriculum, including a field-based leadership practicum. This initiative will allow NEA to create a system of teacher leadership akin to what the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has done for the improvement of instruction.
The GPS grants will support state affiliate, local affiliate, state-local affiliate, or multiple-state partnerships, and will include higher education faculty and staff locals, ESP locals, K–12 teacher locals, or wall-to-wall locals.
“Good, sustainable change doesn’t ‘just happen,’” Van Roekel said. “Changing our complex education system will be difficult, and it will require much from us. Even leading change from within cannot succeed if we too are not willing to change. We need to shift from focusing on what we don’t want to focusing on what we do want.”
The GPS Network is a place where educators will join together to share their ideas in interactive communities, collaborate on strategies and form professional learning communities.