What did you do over your summer vacation? It’s the classic question posed to students every year when they return to the classroom. But that’s an inquiry not usually made of teachers.
Instead of trips to the beach or a day at the ballpark, hundreds of teachers went to “summer school” to dive into professional development and to learn from their peers about what’s working—and what’s not—to improve education for needy students at priority schools.
“We came to the profession for student achievement—not for June, July and August,” said Terrel Smith, a 32-year classroom veteran who teaches computer science and coaches track and field in Sherwood, Ore. “That’s a good joke, but it’s not true.”
Smith, who also serves as president of his local union, says members “have more heightened awareness of how reform and student achievement are intertwined. It’s in the forefront of all our minds as teachers, but we don’t just focus on the outcome; we focus on the human development of the child.”
The Oregon Education Association and the Washington Education Association are just two NEA affiliates that hosted summer conferences, academies and universities for members on the issues of school-based reform.
“Educators are working on improving their practice and exploring new ways to use data to inform their instruction,” said Dr. Sheila Simmons, the director of NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, which works with affiliates to create partnerships, secure additional investment in educators’ professional development, and engage community agencies and organizations.
“The National Education Association is committed to transforming the nation’s persistently low-performing. We’re calling these schools, ‘priority schools,’ and our goal is make sure all students have access to great public schools, regardless of where they live,” added Simmons. “NEA members are learning about resources that can support schools and families because they know strong and supportive families are critical pieces of the school reform puzzle.”
At OEA’s summer conference, increasing cultural competency, strategies for teaching students who are English Language Learners (ELL), tactics to combat student absenteeism and behavioral issues, and workshops on how teachers can become nationally board certified were among the course offerings.