George Lucas Educational Foundation

National Education Association Reforms

National Education Association Reforms

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The NEA is leading the way in education reform especially among its represented districts. On the National Education Associations (NEA) web page "Great Ideas for Great Public Schools" is the following statement: "We created this web page to highlight some of the extraordinary school transformation work being accomplished by NEA members and affiliates. These examples of successful innovations demonstrate how we are working in collaboration with other stakeholders to benefit students and the teaching profession" I Reviewed the current "NEA Resolutions". The scope of their reforms are very broad based and detailed. They cover most areas of human activity. With over 3.2 million teachers, and the vast majority of districts, isn't the NEA the only real reform effort in the Public K12 schools that can make any meaningful progress? Noting that the NEA provides the duel role of being the representing union for the teachers and their education association, isn't it important that all teachers stand together for these reforms? How do other reform efforts cooperate with the NEA even though they may have different ideas about what reform is and how it should be implemented?

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Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

It is not an organization dedicated to nurturing creative change in the system. Its mission is to optimize the goodies that flow to teachers under the current configuration. To that end, it fights to protect tenure and opposes charter schooling. These efforts stand directly in the way of reform.

The road to the future will not be paved by one organization. We will only make progress when we decide to welcome all stakeholders into the discussion and begin to craft solutions which take into account all of our needs. Teachers cannot solve the problem alone, and we won't contribute much to the discussion if we send the NEA as our representative in the reform effort.

Meanwhile, creative teachers continue to lead the way, evolving new approaches, sharing our successes and challenges, and showing what works! Perhaps new leaders will emerge to represent this quiet transition. I can't imagine that those natural leaders will be active NEA members.


Rebecca Alber's picture
Rebecca Alber
Edutopia Consulting Editor

It's important in our journey as educators dedicated to evolving the classroom and learning environment that we not polarize one thing as good or bad. That the NEA provides support for teachers so they can better support students, is one opinion of this organization. Unions are not all bad. Some even view unions as a critical piece for maintaining a middle class while maintaining a largely capitalistic system, as we have here in the U.S.

Noteworthy, the NEA has passionately spoken for and in support of marginalized students. For example, long before any other educational organizations and associations were speaking out for equality for GLBT students, NEA was in the forefront of doing so, raising awareness of homophobia and encouraging teachers and schools to intervene when GLBT students are harassed. This is worth noting.

Rebecca Alber

Mary Kate Land's picture
Mary Kate Land
Montessori 4-6th grade teacher

That purpose is not school reform. We need to bring the right people to the table to work on this problem. While teachers who belong to unions are essential representatives of that cohort, the union itself has an agenda which has traditionally stood in the way of innovation.

At this time in our country's history, the very institution of the union is under attack (usually by those who enjoy five day workweeks and union-won benefits). I don't see this as a positive trend. Union organization, however, is not necessarily the most efficacious organization for teachers who want to innovate.

I think that teachers need to break free of these traditional ways of organizing if we're going to make headway on these issues. This doesn't mean that I would discourage the NEA or any of its members from pursuing similar objectives to those advocated by folks posting here. But the position that the NEA has taken in freezing non-educationalists out of the reform movement by opposing public charters is, in itself, polarizing.

Though the NEA membership numbers are impressive, their track record with regard to advocating for reform, is not. If we really want to work toward reform, don't we want to work with reformers?

Mary Kate

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