Other views: We rise to defend the NEA
To be told that Education Secretary Rod Paige wasn't talking about the teachers, only the leadership of the NEA, and to quote Forum editorial page editor Jack Zaleski, "that any outrage the NEA feels is dumb at best and demagogic at worst," is un...
To be told that Education Secretary Rod Paige wasn't talking about the teachers, only the leadership of the NEA, and to quote Forum editorial page editor Jack Zaleski, "that any outrage the NEA feels is dumb at best and demagogic at worst," is unacceptable (column, March 14). The NDEA leadership and the thousands of school employees we represent rise to the defense of the NEA -- we are the NEA.
The NEA is 2.7 million members strong, and our members guide our programs. As a proud affiliate, NDEA has been an advocate for strong public schools since 1887. Our association was established two years before statehood, and our commitment to great public schools for every child has not faltered.
It is shameful for Paige to refer to NEA's requests for flexibility and funding of the No Child Left Behind law as obstructionist tactics. Of course, the NEA would be the first to make these requests -- we experience the results of the law's implementation. We are on the frontlines, and our request is for requirements that truly make a difference for our students.
It is really very simple. I'll give you a few examples. We know "one size does not fit all." Testing to judge one year's class against the next year's class does not guarantee improvement. Requiring students be tested at their age-appropriate level regardless of their instructional level sets everyone up for failure; and the Adequate Yearly Progress (requirements demanding continuous improvement for 12 years, at which time everyone is "proficient") is an impossible task.
Zaleski's column stated the association blocked progress and public schools are not as good as they were a generation ago in spite of NEA's activism. If progress is described as the requirements of NCLB, we can say we've worked very hard to call attention to the one-size-fits-all rules, the mountains of paperwork and the illogical regulations this law has created.
We work for funding to support our public schools, and we experience cutbacks and more unfunded mandates.
Our activism promotes the same things parents care about -- including class size, time on task, and making sure we have the best teachers and education support employees. We lobby to protect children's health; support adequate, equitable financing so all children have access to good teachers and schools; and we foster high standards for students, teachers and schools. We lobby to ensure working conditions that enable us to recruit and retain the very best to work in our public schools.
Our goal is to work with all entities to ensure great public schools for every child. The federal, state and local government agencies, the general public, the media and the unions must work together to provide the structure that guarantees we meet that goal.
We are proud to be a union, united in promoting the very base of our democracy -- a quality, free public education for each and every child.
Lokken, Bismarck, is president of the North Dakota Education Association. E-mail email@example.com