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National Education Association announces plan to improve teacher quality

The National Education Association, which represents 3 million teachers and education professionals across the U.S., announced new initiatives on Thursday “to increase the quality of teacher candidates, make sure that teachers remain at the top of their game throughout their careers, and to improve student learning by helping educators become leaders in their schools.”

Education reform in K through 12 public schools includes efforts to increase graduation rates, college readiness and accountability, and to conduct efficient testing and student evaluation and review teacher effectiveness.

The NEA report (PDF) highlights three areas where the union believes “steps can and should be taken to transform the teaching profession”: raising the bar to entry, ensuring “that those who are in the classroom maintain a high standard of practice” and providing “union leadership to transform the profession.”

Education Week reported Thursday that NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said the “NEA will support national standards for teacher preparation and licensing. All teacher candidates should have one full year of teaching residency, and pass a performance-based assessment before entering the classroom.”

“The NEA has supported teacher residency programs in the past, but has not specifically called for all teacher education programs to embrace them,” Education Week added.

The majority of K through 12 education reform efforts over the last decade have included plans to strengthen charter schools, expand the use of public funds for virtual/private schools and broaden the use of technology in the classroom. Florida has led the way through organizations like Foundation for Excellence in Education and Foundation for Florida’s Future, founded and co-chaired by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Gov. Rick Scott said at a gathering for conservative politicians and organizations in August that his administration has done four things in education: eliminate more teacher tenure; pay teachers based on standardized test results; support and increase charter schools (which Scott defined as public schools run by a third party); and offer scholarships.

Sheldon Berman — superintendent of the Eugene, Ore., school district — and Arthur Camins —director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education — wrote in November that “the way to turn schools around and transform the education of at-risk students is to invest in the professional ability of the faculty, making its members a mission-driven, skilled force for change.”

They added: “Working from this premise, the Jefferson County, Ky., public school system, which includes the city of Louisville, designed and implemented” the Investment Model, that “invests in the creation of a professionalized teaching culture and represents a conceptual shift in what teaching and learning are all about.”

Berman and Camins wrote that this model works as an alternative to U.S. Department of Education’s four turnaround models that include replacing the principal, rehiring no more than 50 percent of the staff and reopening a school as a charter school (i.e., one that is publicly funded but privately managed).

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