Friday, April 8, 2016

Guest Post from AAE, an Alternative Professional Teacher Assocation with a Growing Presence in New Jersey

The Association of American Educators, which describes itself as "the largest national, non-union, professional educators' organization," just released its 2016 Member Survey. Here is a guest post from AAE, which notes its "growing presence" in New Jersey as an alternative for teachers dissatisfied with agendas of traditional teacher unions like NJEA:

Last month, The Association of American Educators (AAE), the largest national, non-union teachers’ association with a growing presence in the New Jersey charter school community, released their annual National Member Survey. The polling samples members from all fifty states and paints an interesting picture about what teachers really think about reform trends.

Hailed as the “authentic teacher voice,” AAE maintains that individual teacher voices have fallen on deaf ears in favor of the self-preserving agenda of the teachers unions. They believe the motivations and priorities of teachers eager to make a difference are overshadowed by union talking points.

AAE admits that they attract reform-minded educators based on the nature of their organization’s non-union model; however, the fact that a growing movement of educators is embracing commonsense reform is intriguing. Particularly when it shatters the union-lead stereotypes that teachers are adamantly against any type of reform or change.

According to the findings, AAE members are eager to embrace various education reforms particularly involving school choice, teacher preparation, and collective bargaining. Some noteworthy data below:
When it comes to school choice, options are rarely discussed in terms of presenting educators with increased opportunities. AAE members have embraced policies that increase options for students and teachers alike.
In fact:

  • 95% of teachers expressed support for course choice allowing students to craft custom educational plans utilizing a variety of providers.
  • 79% of members expressed support for public charter schools.
  • 71% of AAE members expressed support for Nevada’s Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs), allowing parents to choose a school that best suits their child’s needs.
  • 38% of AAE members are currently benefiting from school choice policies.

AAE members have been consistent proponents of policies that help retain and attract excellent teachers. According to the data:

  • 77% agree with the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) report that recommends rigorous teacher preparation requirements, including a 3.0 GPA and passing of subject-matter tests to gain entry into teaching programs.
  • 68% agree that to attract new teachers and those with experience in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects we need to explore alternative certifications, allowing degreed professionals easier paths to the classroom.
  • 73% expressed support for efforts to recruit well-qualified teachers who are more representative (color and/or gender) of the student population.

Collective bargaining and workforce reforms are also matters considered by AAE member teachers. For example:

  • 67% of those surveyed are interested in negotiating their own contract so that they can negotiate a salary and benefits package that best suits their lifestyle.
  • 67% expressed interest in a “Worker Choice” policy that would allow a teacher to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement in their district to negotiate their own salary and benefits package.
  • 82% recognized the need for a choice between a traditional pension plan and the opportunity to invest in a portable 401(k) for new teachers.

As AAE grows in New Jersey it will be interesting to see the impact the organization can have on reform advocacy. An AAE member in Jersey City public charter school just recently submitted testimony in support of equitable charter funding. Are reform-minded teachers here to stay in the Garden State?

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