NEA tells Duncan to resign

Arne Duncan should resign, said National Education Association delegates at the teachers’ union’s annual convention.

A tipping point for some members was Duncan’s statement last month in support of a California judge’s ruling that struck down tenure and other job protections for the state’s public school teachers. In harsh wording, the judge said such laws harm particularly low-income students by saddling them with bad teachers who are almost impossible to fire.

Even before that, teachers’ unions have clashed with the administration over other issues ranging from its support of charter schools to its push to use student test scores as part of evaluating teachers.

“I always try to stay out of local union politics,” responded Duncan. “I think most teachers do too.”

From Teacher of the Year to NEA president

Twenty-five years after she was named Utah’s Teacher of the Year, Lily Eskelsen García is president-in-waiting of the National Education Association (NEA), reports Richard Lee Colvin. Eskelsen García, 58, left full-time teaching a year after winning the honor to fight for higher salaries and smaller class sizes. (Utah ranks 50th in both categories.)
ednext_XIV_3_colvin_img01

Now an NEA vice president, she’s running unopposed to replace Dennis Van Roekel.

Born Lilia Laura Pace in Texas in 1955, Eskelsen García did not plan to go to college. Her father worked for the U.S. Army. Her Panamanian mother had left school after 8th grade. 

She married Ruel Eskelsen right after graduating from high school. He enlisted in the Army.  She got a job in a school cafeteria. A kindergarten teacher “noticed how well she connected with the students and urged her to go to college to become a teacher,” writes Colvin.

“After her husband got out of the Army, they both enrolled at the University of Utah, supporting themselves with help from the GI Bill, loans, financial aid, and money they earned singing, accompanied by Eskelsen García on the guitar.”

She was graduated magna cum laude with a degree in elementary education and later earned a master’s degree in instructional technology. She began teaching at Orchard Elementary School outside of Salt Lake City in 1980.

Teachers worked as a team, sharing ideas and taking on additional duties to allow a colleague to spend more time with a group of kids producing a play or exploring a topic such as the civil rights movement in greater depth. Her love of music found its way into many of her lessons— she taught her students to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution by singing it, for example.

Eskelsen García supports Common Core standards, saying the authors heeded input from expert teachers.

“Every time I turned the page I thought, my God, this is how I teach, it really was,” she says. “Critical thinking skills, collaborate on problem solving, create, design, give me evidence of, give me your opinion and tell me why I should believe you, and organize a project.”

But she fears that standardized tests will not include those skills and that they’ll be eliminated from the curriculum.

. . . “If you see that there is no change in high-stakes testing; no change in obsessive test prep; no change in labeling students, teachers, and schools by that standardized test score, you’ll know that they don’t really care about higher-level, critical thinking skills, and that it was all just a PR ploy.”

Tests should be used to guide instruction rather than to judge performance, she tells Colvin.

She’s campaigned against “GERM,” which she says stands for “global education reform movement.”

Union boss is 1 percenter

The California Teachers Association is encouraging teachers to back Occupy Wall Street, writes Larry Sand, yet union leaders aren’t exactly have-nots.

With a salary of $543,868, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel is a 1 percenter, writes CalWatchdog, who used the “What percent are you?” calculator.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who earns $493,859, is in the top 2 percent. CTA President David Sanchez at $289,550 is in the top 4 percent.

According to the calculator, the median household income in the U.S. is $43,000. I’d hate to support 2.6 people (median household size) on that.

 

If teachers aren't motivated by money . . .

If merit pay doesn’t motivate teachers, then it makes sense to cut teacher pay, argues Cafe Hayek’s Don Boudreaux, a George Mason econ prof, in response to a letter in the Washington Post from Rick Nelson, former Fairfax County Federation of Teachers president.

So if teachers do not respond positively to the prospect of higher monetary rewards, they are unlikely to respond negatively to the prospect of lower monetary rewards. Alternatively, if the problem with merit pay is that measuring teacher performance is simply too difficult, then we can conclude that Fairfax teachers now are as likely to be doing a truly lousy job at educating children as they are to be doing an excellent job at this task. . . .  If teachers aren’t motivated by money, then they’ll work just as diligently at lower pay as they will at higher pay; if cutting pay will, in fact, cause some teachers to quit, their replacements are likely to perform no worse than them.

The National Education Association is looking for a way to be positive — or at least sound positive — on merit pay, reports Education Intelligence Agency, which has “declassified” an NEA report on teachers’ views of Alternative Compensation Models in Minnesota and five school districts.

Reactions to the programs were all over the map, with some teachers loving the new system and others hating it, but a few common sentiments were expressed. The most important of these was the lack of simplicity. Many teachers didn’t understand exactly how their pay or bonuses were being generated and were forced to trust the district administrators to correctly apply and compute the pay. . . . This complexity makes the clarity of the traditional salary schedule more appealing by comparison.

The union is OK on extra pay for “professional growth,” as in Helena, Montana and  Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The report praises “skill- and knowledge-based programs that pay for things like embedded, relevant professional development and teacher career ladders.”

Pay linked to student achievement remains taboo, EIA points out.