Seven days ago, the National Education Association
(NEA)—long dormant in matters of education reform—began to stir. The nation’s
largest teacher union unveiled a plan to promote teacher effectiveness last
Thursday. Some of the NEA's ideas we’ve heard before (the union has long endorsed
teacher-residency and peer-assistance-and-review programs, for example). But
many are worthy new ideas—new, at least, to the NEA. For prioritizing these,
the union should be commended. (Gadfly readers might find the appeal for a
career ladder for teachers, with differentiated pay and responsibility, to be a
reasonably mainstream idea, but remember who’s doing the talking here.) To be
sure, old-school NEA thought does seep into the reform plan in places: While
it’s a good notion to disallow inexperienced teachers from leading the
classrooms of our neediest students, the back-handed knock at Teach For America
inherent in this recommendation is unnecessary. Further, the union’s avoidance
of linking teacher evaluations to additional teacher compensation is
short-sighted. Overall, though, nice start, NEA. The question now looms: How
will you turn these recommendations into reality? Might we offer a suggestion?
Find a partner district—we think Columbus might do the trick—and get to work
piloting these initiatives, lest the worthwhile ideas set forth by the
committee remain just so (as they did with last summer’s promising NCATE
announcement calling for revamped education-school models).
“NEA Stakes a Claim in Teacher Effectiveness Debate,” by
Liana Heitin, Education Week, December 8, 2011.