NEW YORK — Collaboration is key if schools are going to make successful, sustainable changes in our schools. That’s the message at a forum here today, attended by teams of superintendents, school board members, and National Education Association local presidents from school districts with the nation’s lowest performing schools.
The event is being facilitated by NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, a groundbreaking push to bring together stakeholders in public education to help lead permanent change for the better. The campaign will foster agreements among member educators, communities, and policymakers at all levels of government to design and employ the most effective measurements of student success and teacher quality. Efforts will also focus on fighting to attract and keep the best educators and securing resources for the nation’s neediest schools.
“Every day, our members are collaborating with communities and parents, school officials, and elected officials,” said NEA Executive Director John Wilson. “Priority Schools Campaign is NEA’s effort to facilitate that collaboration, to share it across the boundaries of our affiliates and help raise it to a new level.”
Speaking in front of federal education officials, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel spoke of the importance of disrupting the status quo. “Until we actually create a system that is designed to change the result, a change won’t happen,” he said. “I know about the passion and commitment in our members, administrators and school board members. We just have to find a way to take it and make it move and make it change what’s happening to students. This is about changing the future of America.”
If as many students fell ill or were injured every day as those who drop out — nearly 6,000 daily — there would be a public outcry, Van Roekel said. He questioned where the outcry is over the dropout problem.
The day of talks is an effort to discuss and advance action plans — in collaboration with state affiliates and their state partners — and to inform and influence the federal School Improvement Grant process. The $4 billion grant program provides funding to schools that officials say have the greatest need for the funds and demonstrate the strongest commitment to use the funds to raise significantly the achievement of their students. The funds must be used to implement in each school one of several intervention models — ranging from school closure to improvement based on work with unions and other stakeholders.
During a morning session, U.S. Department of Education Senior Advisor Jo Anderson discussed the application and implementation of the Obama Administration’s School Improvement Grants plan after states receive the federal funds they applied for in early February. (Read more about finalists in the Race to the Top program announced today.) Throughout the day registrants are attending several small- and large-group discussions, including sessions on district/local collaboration, staff capacity and effectiveness, and family-school-community partnerships.
Local education association President Kristy Moore traveled from Durham, North Carolina, with her district’s superintendent and school board president. “This forum is a way for us to connect outside the district and an opportunity to show them what NEA is all about. We’ve already begun to talk about what we can do all together to improve our schools once we get back to Durham.”