Bold Reform AND Union Buy-In Are Possible
A discussion over on National Journal’s Education Experts blog has policy experts and education leaders (including Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Secretary Margaret Spellings) talking about the “either/or” debate between having stakeholder support vs. bold ideas for reform. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel chimed in and explained you can have both:
The question presents a false dichotomy. You can have bold reform and union buy-in when you put kids first in the equation. Union buy-in means that the state has actually involved educators in the development of the bold plan for reform. It means that they sought out the opinions of the teachers and education support professionals who spend their days helping children grab their dreams and reach their goals. For far too long, not enough has been said about the bold reforms happening because of such collaboration.
We will have many more stories to tell in the months and years to come in Delaware and Tennessee due to the discussion that took place among all stakeholders before, during, and after those states applied for and won their RTTT awards. But here are some stories that usually don’t garner the public’s attention because rather than a public fight, the ‘drama’ is the discussion and development of a bold reform plan that works for students and is jointly developed by administrators and educators. Let’s look at Evansville, IN, where the Evansville Teachers Association and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation joined together to dramatically improve three of the district’s lowest-performing schools. The effort already is producing positive results, with graduation rates improving and a renewed commitment by all in that community to keep the progress going. And let’s look at Westminster, CO, where administrators and educators decided to forge a bold path and create a different kind of school system that acknowledges students’ ability to master skills and knowledge at different rates. The system is designed to help them reach their highest potential rather than restricting students to grade levels that don’t allow them to move ahead for one year even if they are ready. That is bold reform—and it was done with educators, not to them.
If you want a solution that helps all children achieve, ask an educator and ask an administrator and ask a school board member…somewhere in the midst of all those ideas is a solution that will lead to the educational outcome we seek: great public schools for every student.