NEA PSC Forum Highlights Promising Practices
NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign has brought together more than 300 teachers, education support professionals, union leaders, district administrators, community members and parents, representing 36 Priority Schools from 17 states, in New Orleans for a three day forum to share lessons learned, challenges and strategies for success in school transformation efforts.
Declaring “the status quo must go,” National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel addressed the crowd on the conference’s opening day.
“We need to be dissatisfied with the way things are. It has to gnaw deep down in your gut so hard that you can’t stand it. That you can’t take it for one more day that it stays the way it is. That you not only accept change, you demand change,” said Van Roekel.
The Priority Schools Campaign recognizes this group as the education experts leading the reforms needed for student success. “You are dedicated, you are collaborative, you are forward thinking you are hardworking and focused squarely on your students,” said John Stocks, NEA Executive Director in welcoming remarks.
Forum participants will hear from senior U.S. Department of Education officials, interact with other education reform experts and connect with resources from NEA and its partners. One new resource is a virtual mentoring program for Intensive Support Sites. This pilot program, a result of a partnership with the Center for Teaching Quality, features 41 accomplished teachers to serve as virtual mentors to their fellow educators in priority schools.
At the conclusion of the three days, educators will leave with real-world methods for sustaining and improving their progress.
“I think the importance of this conference is to bring together the continuity we need to have with communities in relationship to educating our children and creating what we call partners in education,” said forum participant Mary Ann Dupuis, president of the Saginaw Education Association in Michigan.
To help attendees foster stronger relationships with community partners, they will learn about new NEA research on strategies to involve parents and communities in schools, a key reform strategy that is often ignored. More than 30 years of research has shown that parent, family and community involvement correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement.
The forum also provides participants a unique opportunity to learn about classroom-applied strategies showing promise in other priority schools. Teams from Belmont High School (Ohio), Oak Hill Elementary School (North Carolina), West Seattle Elementary School (Washington), North High School (Iowa), Totem Middle School (Washington) and several schools from the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (Indiana) will present their promising practices.
“We’ve always been dedicated, but at Belmont now, we’re passionate about the opportunity we have to transform our school,” said Marjorie Punter, who teaches 11th and 12th grade literature in the special education program. A strong collaborative effort has sharply reduced discipline problems at Belmont and student performance has increased. “We’re excited about this forum. We don’t get a chance very often to share experiences about what works and what doesn’t and this is an opportunity on a national scale,” Punter said.
The NEA Priority Schools Campaign empowers NEA members to raise student achievement at struggling schools, in partnership with school districts, administrators, families and communities. Strategies center on five research-driven elements that lead to permanent systemic change: leveraging community assets, improving staff capacity and effectiveness, developing family and community partnerships, improving district and local association capacity and collaboration, and improving student achievement and learning.
“NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign can create a ripple effect for change in education policy and practice nationwide,” said Van Roekel. “This conference is about more than possibilities – it will focus on real examples of how systems and schools can be transformed to help students succeed.”