Teachers' Union Calls For More Responsibility, Obama Support As Its Membership Declines

Judy Hartnett's picture
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

 After a few years of tremendous membership loss, the nation's largest teachers' union is reinventing itself.

"Instead of waiting for someone to tell us what to teach or how to do our jobs, let us be the change we are waiting for," Dennis Van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association, said in his Monday afternoon address to the group's national convention in Washington, D.C., according to prepared remarks provided to The Huffington Post. The convention includes a gathering of the NEA's state and local affiliates and votes on union policy.

"We are part of … a system that has not successfully addressed the dropout crisis and allows kids who are poor to be stuck in schools that do not meet their needs -- placed into classrooms year after year with the least qualified, least experienced teachers," Van Roekel said. "If there is even one classroom with a teacher who isn’t prepared or qualified, we can’t accept that."

That passage illustrates the mixed messages in Van Roekel's speech: He criticized policymakers whom he calls "self-proclaimed 'reformers'" while promoting some of their policies.

"They want to use … test scores to evaluate teachers, label students, and embarrass schools," he said, also calling for the increased use of technology that can embed exams into lessons for teachers to pinpoint what their students are understanding. He also advocated for better teacher preparation and professional development, other favorites of the reform crowd.

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