Teachers Around the World No Longer “Asking For Permission”

In conversations about Finland’s stunning success over the past decade, many education leaders look at what makes the system work so well – the high bar for entry into the teaching profession, the absence of standardized tests, the embedded professional development and support systems, to name just a few – and ask “Why can’t we do this in my country?” But what makes Finland even more unique is that education policy is largely free of politics. Whether it’s the status and prestige of teachers or the problem of educational inequity, these are matters on which politicians on the right and left agree.

But that’s Finland. Where does that leave so many other countries, including the United States, whose national conversation over education is tarnished by divisive, partisan politics and competing interests? How can public education advocates cut through the noise of grandstanding politicians and bad research and lead in transforming the teaching profession?

It’s time for the public to stop listening to those who have never been in front of a classroom and who espouse ideas that undermine public education, says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

“You have to remember that many people who are talking about reform are not really talking about education, as in what’s really works for teachers and their students. Their interest is something else – privatization, for example. We know what works and we need to be out front.”

“The status quo is not acceptable,” Van Roekel said. “And we can change it. But the idea now is for educators to stop asking for permission.”

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Survey: Teacher Job Satisfaction Drops to New Low


Teachers are less satisfied with their jobs than they have been in decades, according to the 2012 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. Almost one-third of teachers are thinking of leaving the profession they love – due in part to the unconscionable cuts in education funding. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel described this finding as “shocking” and said it was clear evidence that ill-conceived economic policies are having devastating consequences on teachers and students across the country. More than three quarters of the teachers surveyed reported that their school’s budget had decreased.

“I have heard similar concerns from NEA members,” Van Roekel said. “They have told me that staff and important programs have been cut; early childhood education has been eliminated; computers and text-books were out of date; and classes such as history, art, PE and music—which provide a well-rounded education—are no longer offered.”

The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: Teachers, Parents and the Economy, the 28th in an annual series commissioned by MetLife and conducted by Harris Interactive, examines the views of teachers, parents and students about the teaching profession, parent and community engagement, and effects of the economy on teaching and learning in schools.

Two-thirds of the teachers surveyed reported that layoffs of teachers, staff and parent/community liaisons occurred at their school in 2011, and three-quarters have experienced budget cuts in their schools in the last 12 months. The survey also found that teachers and parents of students in these cash-strapped schools are more likely to be pessimistic that student achievement will be better in five years than are teachers and parents of students in schools where budgets have remained the same or increased.

“This is not the way America should treat its students, the vast majority of whom attend public schools. And it is especially outrageous to students in schools of greatest need, “Van Roekel said.

The bright spot in the survey is that parent and community engagement with schools has increased. For example, fewer teachers and parents now believe that there is widespread parental disengagement with their children’s school and education in general.

Overall, the survey found that a majority of both teachers (77 percent) and parents (71 percent) agree that teachers are treated as professionals by the community. In addition, parents of students in schools with high parent engagement are more likely than those with low engagement to rate their child’s teachers as “excellent” or “good” on a range of measures.

Increasing parent and family involvement is an NEA priority and a top strategy of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, which focuses on schools in low-income areas.

“The survey’s findings underscore that education is a shared responsibility, particularly in the face of financial challenges,” said Dennis White, vice president of corporate contributions for MetLife. “Economic prosperity will depend on a new generation well-prepared to learn for a lifetime in order to compete and collaborate in a global economy.”

Read the Complete Survey

Education News for 01-06-2012

Statewide Education News

  • Monroe school board sends treasurer complaint to state officials (Middletown Journal)
  • MONROE — The Monroe Board of Education submitted a letter of professional misconduct to the Ohio Department of Education’s office of professional conduct on Tuesday detailing the actions of former treasurer Kelley Thorpe. The 55-page document was filed by the district’s attorney, Bill Deters, and it stated that the reason why Thorpe was being reported was “the employee has engaged or may have engaged in conduct unbecoming to the teaching profession.” Read More…

  • Facebook video puts bullying in the spotlight (Journal-News)
  • ROSS TWP. — When the week began, Ross High School senior CourtneyLyn Bacher was on the brink of suicide for the years of bullying that she’s had to endure. But now, she’s a girl on a mission, determined to bring bullying to light, even if it means putting her own problems in the public light. The difference is a tearful six-minute video she made in the early hours of Tuesday and posted to her Facebook account. Read More…

  • Students learn with donated iPads (Beacon Journal)
  • GREEN - Teaching grade-schoolers to speak Mandarin might not be difficult in Asia, but in America, the challenge is daunting. But the students in J.T. Kuzior’s Green Primary School third-grade classroom are doing just that, using a computer application that helps them learn the language. Thanks to a local businessman, the nearly 1,000 students at the school in grades 1-3 are getting foreign language instructions and lessons in other subjects twice each week using the latest technology. Read More…

Local Issues

  • Clear Fork schools propose more than 100 budget fixes (News-Journal)
  • BELLVILLE - Clear Fork school board members are considering an array of proposals to bring the district's budget in line -- including cuts to programs, services and staff. Clear Fork Valley Local Schools Board of Education presented more than 100 possible ideas Thursday to raise revenues and reduce costs. The list was created with input from teachers and administrators. Board members asked the public to offer additional feedback. Read More…

  • Cleveland School Closing Due to Safety Concerns (WJW 8 FOX)
  • CLEVELAND—Almira at the Nathaniel Hawthorne School is shutting its doors because of safety concerns for students and staff, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District announced Thursday. "During a routine inspection of the Nathaniel Hawthorne building, the current swing-site location of Almira students and staff, a custodian noticed that two structural support beams were deteriorating. Read More…

  • Mock interviews prepare students for real world (Journal-News)
  • FAIRFIELD — Job interviews some local teens took Thursday may not have been the genuine article, but they gave the kids a taste of the “real world” regardless. Members of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce conducted mock job interviews with several students throughout the week to give Fairfield High School students an idea of what to look out for when they begin to pound the pavement looking for a real job. Read More…

  • Van Buren teachers issue second no confidence vote (Courier)
  • VAN BUREN - Teachers represented by the Van Buren Education Association told the school board Thursday that the association has adopted a vote of no confidence in Van Buren Superintendent Tim Myers. "Superintendent Myers has participated in enacting the implementation of the board of education's last, best and final offer upon members of the Van Buren Education Association, rather than negotiate a mutually agreed-upon contract," Jennifer Obenour, a Van Buren teacher, told the board. Read More…


  • Don’t leave kids behind in ‘Race’ (Tribune Chronicle)
  • Kindergarten really isn't the beginning of a youngster's education. Children begin learning from birth, at home and through avenues other than formal education. That means some are better prepared than others to begin school. Those who enter kindergarten and first grade without adequate preparation too often fall behind classmates and never catch up. During the past decade or so, educators have come to understand their work needs to begin before kindergarten, sometimes as early as age 3 in pre-school programs. Ohio has a reasonably widespread network of such facilities, certified by the state Department of Education. Read More…

  • Schools of choice (Beacon Journal)
  • The Akron school district is making an aggressive effort to draw families back into the city school system. John Higgins, a Beacon Journal staff writer, described Thursday the recruiting campaign aimed at 6,000 homes where students have left or are likely to opt out of the district. Advocates of school choice would contend, with some justification, that the enrollment campaign in itself reflects a positive effect of competition in the school market, as the district is forced to fight harder to retain students and state funding. Read More…

NEA and AFT reaction to NCLB Waiver proposals

We brought news of the Administrations proposals to waive NCLB requirements in the face of a broken congresses inability to rauthorize it. Here's the official response from NEA

Obama, Duncan to provide relief from many NCLB restrictions
Van Roekel: Flexibility from rigid rules welcomed by educators

WASHINGTON - September 22, 2011 - President Obama announced a plan today to provide relief to states from many of NCLB’s more onerous provisions, such as meeting Adequate Yearly Progress requirements and other deadlines. “President Obama has taken a welcome step forward with this plan. It sets much more realistic goals for schools, while maintaining ESEA’s original commitment to civil rights, high academic standards and success for every student,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

“Teachers have been sounding the alarm on NCLB’s test-label-punish approach for more than 10 years. Now, there is an opportunity to move forward with real reform, especially for the most disadvantaged students,” said Van Roekel.

“Educators want commonsense measures of student progress, freedom to implement local ideas, respect for their judgment and the right to be a part of critical decisions,” said Van Roekel. “This plan delivers.”

Van Roekel notes that the waiver plan provisions get away from labeling schools as failures. “Instead, the Department of Education has adopted a term NEA also uses for low performing schools: Priority Schools. The waivers recognize the Title I schools that need the most help—and the students they serve—as a federal priority.”

Last week, Van Roekel completed a back-to-school tour for a first-hand view of how teachers are collaborating with key education stakeholders to significantly improvement student learning and success. “I’ve been visiting schools across the country and I know that teachers and education support professionals care deeply about their students and they want policies that work to benefit students,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “President Obama and Secretary Duncan have crafted a path that breaks through the logjam of bad NCLB policy and opened the way to better ideas that will work for students and schools.”

“NEA will continue to work with Congress and push for comprehensive NCLB reauthorization,” said Van Roekel.

See NEA’s letter to Sec. Duncan requesting regulatory relief for K-12 schools here.

Here's the response from AFT

Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Waivers for NCLB Requirements

WASHINGTON—No Child Left Behind needs to be fixed. Reauthorization, which is Congress' responsibility, is the appropriate avenue to do so. We applaud Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) for their efforts to move that process forward, and we share their frustration that reauthorization is long overdue. In the absence of congressional reauthorization, we understand why the Obama administration is taking this action; we are keenly aware of the calls from parents, teachers and administrators for change—sooner rather than later. Waivers are an imperfect answer to the stalemate in Congress and, at best, can provide only a temporary salve.

Some of what the administration proposes is promising, some is cause for concern, and there are missed opportunities that could have enhanced both teaching and learning.

We are pleased that the administration's proposal includes more options prospectively for improving low-performing schools, recognizing that many of the remedies prescribed in NCLB were not flexible enough. The proposal also acknowledges the importance of adopting higher college- and career-ready standards, which could include the Common Core State Standards, to prepare kids for a 21st-century knowledge economy.

However, after all we've learned about how to construct and implement meaningful teacher evaluation and development systems since Race to the Top was announced two years ago, we're disappointed that the lessons learned are not evident in this package. Evaluation needs to be more teaching-focused, not more testing-focused. Successful school districts in the United States and in the top-performing nations understand that teacher evaluation systems should be based on continuous improvement and support, not on simply sorting, and it's a missed opportunity not to follow their lead.

New Guidelines on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability Approved at 2011 RA

The NEA just announced new guidelines on teacher evaluations.

On Monday, the 8,000 delegates to the 2011 National Education Association Representative Assembly voted to adopt the NEA’s policy statement that revamps teacher evaluation and accountability. The development, implementation, and enforcement of high-quality teacher evaluation and accountability are top priorities for NEA and its affiliates.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel believes the new statement signals a commitment to a new, more prestigious profession of teaching and reflects the first broad endorsement by NEA of the need for evaluation and accountability reform.

“As more states and districts seek to improve teacher evaluation, the risk is that reform is done to teachers rather than with them,” said Van Roekel. “This policy statement was written by and for teachers while heeding others’ expertise as well. It outlines a system to help teachers improve instruction and meet students’ needs. It offers sweeping changes to build a true profession of teaching that is focused on high expectations.”

The policy statement is based on a recommendation of a workgroup of NEA leaders convened in the spring by Van Roekel and led by Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle. It outlines guidelines for an evaluation and accountability system that focus on enhancing the practice of teachers, instead of identifying teachers for dismissal.

The statement reflects the importance of maintaining high standards, not lowering them and calls for robust evaluations based on multiple indicators. The statement supports state or local affiliates to use standardized tests for evaluating teachers if the standardized tests are of proven high quality and provide meaningful measures of student learning and growth.

Here's the policy document.

NEA Statement on Teacher Evaluation and Accountability

Michele Rhee architected parts of SB5

Michele's Rhee's reputation was already a little shaky amongst educators, as she pushed a partisan and deceptive corporate education reform agenda, but now that reputation must be in tatters on the news that she and her nascent organization "StudentsFirst" employed lobbyists in Ohio to architect major parts of SB5 and the SB5 provisions in the budget bill.

Between January and April of 2011, StudentsFirst employed Robert Klaffky, the president of firm Van Meter, Ashbrook & Associates and a close adviser to Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) to help push various aspects of education policy.

If the name Robert Klaffky sounds familiar, it's because he was featured in an Disptach article only this weekend, frontpage headlined "Kasich friends in high demand - 3 who have long been advisers to governor become top lobbyists".

Almost every Thursday during the 2010 campaign, Kasich's closest advisers, including Klaffky and Preisse, met at Thibaut's house to strategize. After Kasich's victory, candidates for his cabinet trooped to Thibaut's house to be vetted.

The details of Klaffky's lobbying are laid out in a HuffingtonPost report

In particular, the group, established by Rhee after she left the D.C. school system following then-Mayor Adrian Fenty's defeat, had Klaffky work on SB5, the infamous anti-collective bargaining bill passed into law but already facing the likelihood of referendum.

How much work StudentsFirst actually did on SB5 is not entirely clear. While Klaffky said he was tasked with putting language into the controversial bill, Hobson insisted that the group's primary focus was on the budget, HB153. The reason SB5 was put on the lobbying disclosure, she said, was because Klaffky simply discussed the matter with StudentFirst officials.

That explanation, however, appeared to contradict local reports, which had Rhee personally asking Kasich to include performance pay for teachers in SB5. It also did little to win over critics of Rhee, who argued that the former chancellor's willingness to work with the likes of the Ohio governor gave him the type of cover needed to make sweeping changes to the collective bargaining law. Adding amendments to the bill, the logic goes, inherently supports the bill.

"It now turns out that Michelle Rhee hired a close friend of the governor to lobby in favor of SB5," said Piet van Lier, head of Policy Matters Ohio who has worked on education in Ohio and opposes SB5. "This bill would require merit pay and test-based evaluations for teachers, neither of which has solid research support as a way to improve schools."

There should be no educator in the country now in any doubt about Rhee's corporate, partisan "reform" agenda and her disdain for public school teachers.