Monday, September 1, 2014

Educators Rise Up in National Day of Action

March 28, 2014 by twalker  
Filed under Featured News, Top Stories

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By Brenda Álvarez

Lynn Maiorca is a teacher librarian at Gaiser Middle School in Vancouver, Wash. She is one of four people with the Vancouver Education Association (VEA), an affiliate of the Washington Education Association, who is organizing an association-wide post card drive on April 2, as part of NEA’s Raise Your Hand National Day of Action.

The goal of the drive is to send a strong message to key decision makers on what their vision is to make public schools work and run effectively for all students. Organizers expect the emphasis will center on Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the need to increase high quality training across the board.

As it stands, the Vancouver school district has trained a cadre of teachers on CCSS. These teachers are then tasked to train their colleagues so they understand the standards and can incorporate them into the curriculum. But with the amount of work that’s required in just one school day, the knowledge transfer doesn’t always occur. VEA organizers say the district is on the right track by offering training, but the information must be shared.

“Teachers want information, especially our younger educators,” says Maiorca. “They also want to know what their Association is doing for them. I think it’s wise that the Association combines its work with what teachers do in the classroom,” referring to association-led professional development opportunities on CCSS.

VEA is in the process of creating a series of CCSS trainings to help teachers apply the standards. These trainings will supplement what the district is already providing. The Association plans to reach far and wide to ensure educators get the much-needed instruction, too.

On the opposite end of the country, on April 2, leaders from the Vermont-National Education Association (VT-NEA) will urge its local leadership to support a school board resolution at the affiliate’s Representative Assembly. The resolution calls for aligned curriculum, assessments, and professional development that is relevant to students across every local community, as well as time to collaborate, high-quality professional development, and the time and resources to get implementation right.

The end-goal is to get local school boards across the state to support and pass the resolution. According to Martha Allen, president of VT-NEA, the time frame to pass the school board resolution is immediate.

“We want the school boards to support the resolution starting this spring,” she says, explaining that the resolution will guide much of the Association’s work in ensuring agencies of education are working toward less testing for students in fourth, eighth, and eleventh grades.

What is happening in Washington State and Vermont is not by coincidence or happening in silos. Educators across the country are echoing a national call to action that will start in Washington, D.C. and spread to more than a dozen states.

In communities across the country, educators will stand up and raise their voices to demand that local officials take into account their experience and expertise on how to best support teaching and learning.

Also on April 2, at the nation’s capital, a group of education leaders will visit with members of Congress and policymakers around key issues centered on student success in America’s public schools. Teachers and education support professionals from five different states will address national education leaders on, for example, teacher preparation programs. The overarching question at hand: What makes an educator “effective?”

Most educators, if not all educators, can attest to the idea that effective educators are the product of high-quality preparation, rigorous credentialing, and intensive support. Exactly what that means is fiercely debated, from how to define and measure “effectiveness” to the policies governing states, districts, and colleges of education. The group of educators will promote effective models for mentoring and supporting teachers and education support professionals, and will push members of Congress and policymakers to explore viable options to ensure every educator is prepared for today’s classroom setting.

Other issues on the table will be professional development and student achievement, as well as student learning and educational equity. And, with testing season fast approaching, the cadre will also dive into assessment, evaluation and accountability measures. The group is expected to push for new approaches that are aligned with rigorous college and career-ready standards.

In addition to Washington and Vermont, educators from 13 other states are planning events for this coming Wednesday. Below is a preview of what’s to come.

  • Educators in Oklahoma and Kansas are planning a large rally to bring attention to the dire need for better funding for public education. In Virginia, educators will press for adequate funding for public education, too, as well as support for smaller class sizes for students in Prince William and Loudoun counties.
  • Milwaukee, Wis. educators will promote much needed wraparound services for students, such as eye exams.
  • Educators in New Hampshire and Maine will focus their day of action on Common Core implementation.
  • In Florida, lawmakers are preparing to enact a one-year transition to the new standards. Educators plan to push back and ask for a three-year transition period.
  • In Delaware, educators are planning “Take the Test” events, where participants (members of the media, parents, and legislators) will take a computerized, standardized test. Educators plan to share with participants the challenges of CCSS implementation and moving forward with the test.

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