NEA Takes a Step Forward; Will NJEA?

Today’s Wall St. Journal ponders two newsworthy items that emerged at this week’s National Education Association Annual Meeting and National Assembly in Chicago. First, the delegates, who represent 3.2 million teachers and support staff, endorsed President Obama for the 2012 election. Second, the delegates agreed to a policy statement that concedes that student learning should be part of teacher evaluations. From the Journal:
Credit here goes less to the NEA than to the laws of political gravity. Teachers unions have never been in such bad odor with the public. More than a dozen states are incorporating test scores in teacher evaluations as part of Education Secretary Arne Duncan's Race to the Top program.

The NEA's calculus seems to have been driven chiefly by fear of becoming politically irrelevant, which is probably also why they rushed their endorsement of President Obama's 2012 re-election—more than a year before the GOP ticket is even nominated. But it speaks volumes about NEA priorities that only under historic pressure would its members even concede that their jobs have anything to do with student achievement.
Ouch. A bit harsh. NEA deserves credit for taking a proactive stance, although its leaders may have lost a few fans among the membership. Here, for example, is a new facebook page entitled “NEA Members And Supporters Opposed To The Obama Endorsement.”

(Sadly, the delegates also approved a policy that accuses Teach for America corps members of stealing jobs from other teachers and instructs members to “publicly oppose contracts with TFA." Pretty short-sighted. Shouldn't the great and magnanimous NEA support a new source of dedicated young teachers into its ranks? Almost all TFA members are assigned to high-poverty schools that struggle to retain qualified teachers and about 60% of the TFA corps remain in education after their two-year term is up. Stephen Sawchuk of Edweek has a response from TFA spokeswoman Carrie James.)

Anyway, kudos to the national union's concession that, in one form or another, student longitudinal growth will play a part in measuring teacher effectiveness. Will NJEA, the New Jersey branch of NEA, fall in line? NJEA President Barbara Keshishian may have to moderate her stance:
We believe student test scores have a place in the evaluation process,” said NJEA President Barbara Keshishian, “but we also agree with highly regarded researchers that they should not play a determining role in high-stakes personnel decisions. There are a lot of flashing yellow lights suggesting policymakers should proceed with caution before putting too much emphasis on test score improvement.”
Then again, moderation has never been a virtue aspired to by NJEA. Its reputation as one of the more militant branches of the NEA may remain intact.

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