Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thank You, NEA

I had just about given up on the NEA as representing much more than a doormat for bad teaching practice and policy. Their silence during the Bush years borders on criminally insane as the No Child Left Behind social-engineering experiment decimated the minds and lives of generations of children.

Obama's misguided attempt to sugar-coat (with tax dollars and federal withholding extortion techniques) to extend that legacy has been refreshingly and shockingly rejected by the NEA.

All I can say is that it's about time. Here's NEA Attacks Administration's Education Reform Plan by Nick Anderson of the Washington Post:
The union, which boasts 3.2 million members, charged that Race to the Top contradicted administration pledges to give states more flexibility in how they improve schools. "We find this top-down approach disturbing; we have been down that road before with the failures of No Child Left Behind," the union wrote in its comments, "and we cannot support yet another layer of federal mandates that have little or no research base of success and that usurp state and local government's responsibilities for public education."

It added: "Despite growing evidence to the contrary, it appears that the administration has decided that charter schools are the only answer to what ails America's public schools -- urban, suburban, exurban and rural -- and all must comply with that silver bullet."

An Education Department spokesman had no immediate comment. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said repeatedly he wants to work with unions and not foist reforms on teachers without consultation.

When Obama announced the initiative July 24, Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, praised the administration's intentions to lift standards, raise teacher quality and turn around low-performing schools.

But he said performance pay, charter schools and links between student and teacher data raise difficult issues for his union.

That last issue prompted an NEA objection earlier this year, after Obama expressed his desire to grade teachers through the test scores of their students.

Van Roekel told the New York Times that his members were unhappy with such comments.

''When he equates teachers with test scores, that's when we part company,'' Mr. Van Roekel told the Times.
Self-serving as the arguments sound, the union is finally on the right page.

The empirical evidence shows that charter schools - despite cherry picking students - rarely perform any better than the even more crippled public schools they leave in their wake and compete with. Nor is the expense diminished.

And the NEA correctly asserts that more local control of schools, policy, and curriculum is healthy thing. For the Obama administration to get this wrong is a very bad sign and a disappointment in these quarters.

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