NEA’s Vision for Education Utopia
Asking the crowd to imagine a world in which every student receives a quality public education, National Education Association (NEA) Secretary-Treasurer Rebecca Pringle shared the NEA vision of “education utopia” on May 18, at a meeting of the Education Writers Association (EWA).
“The National Education Association believes every student should have access to a great public school. But that is not our reality today,” said Pringle. “I want you to suspend your disbelief and travel with me to a place where that actually ‘IS’ America’s reality.”
Pringle led the audience of approximately 250 journalists, educators, researchers, and advocates through a presentation of what education utopia looks like. Based on NEA’s Three-Point Plan for Education Reform, education utopia is a system that ensures quality in five domains: quality professions, quality professionals, quality schools, quality policy, and quality unions.
It’s also a system that benefits students, where union leaders and district administrators confront challenges as partners. According to Pringle’s presentation, “campfires of excellence,” which demonstrate the principles of education utopia, are currently in place and led by NEA members at NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign sites.
“Let’s take a trip to Belmont High School in Ohio, where the quality of the profession is being elevated by the teachers themselves,” said Pringle.
Educators at the Dayton, Ohio, high school worked with the Dayton Education Association to draft a Letter of Agreement spelling out how they’d do their work differently: They created their own standards to meet the needs of their students, but also to align with state and district standards; in addition, they set weekly performance goals with their students and chart their progress. The results at Belmont demonstrate success—promotion rates for 9th graders have increased from 30 percent to 84 percent, and the number of juniors taking the ACT has increased tenfold.
In Denver, Colorado, NEA members are setting the example of quality professionals. Denver Public Schools has developed a residency program for teachers that operate in a fashion similar to that of medical students. Teacher residents are paired with mentor teachers in classrooms serving a variety of high needs, including English language learners, special education, bilingual Spanish, and math and science. For a full school year, residents spend four days a week in the classroom learning and teaching alongside a mentor teacher.
“This hands-on training and mentoring should be required of all aspiring teachers before they have their own classrooms,” said Pringle.