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Internal Groups Helped Push for NEA Evaluation-Proposal Changes

An NEA mystery solved!

You'll remember a few days ago, NEA's policy statement was mysteriously amended before it hit the floor of the Representative Assembly with a sentence that was a lot more specific about what NEA would accept with respect to test scores. Well, I've been poking around, trying to figure out what exactly went down.

Today I spoke with Dean Vogel, the new president of the California Teachers Association, who was tapped to co-chair the NEA committee that crafted the proposal. Vogel explained to me that after the original statement had been approved by the board of directors and sent to state affiliates, the committee started getting some pushback from groups in the states about the original test-score language.

The National Council of Urban Education Associations, an NEA caucus of sorts with about 250 urban locals, was also less than happy with the language as originally drafted. The group carries some weight in the NEA, since it represents about 800,000 members.

"We clearly had issues" with the original proposal, said Tripp Jeffers, the eastern regional director for NCUEA and the outgoing president of the Forsyth County (N.C.) Association of Educators. He said his organization decided internally not to support the statement unless caveats were made about the use of test scores: "What NCUEA does most effectively is vet."

So, the teacher-evaluation committee worked with representatives from these groups and others to add additional qualifiers, here in Chicago right before the RA got started. NEA's board of directors subsequently approved it.

"We were actively engaged with people who were discouraged with the language, trying to craft language that would work," Vogel told me. "It probably changed four or five times prior to completion."

But without the changes, the evaluation proposal might never have passed at all on the RA floor, he noted.

This may be inside baseball—but it's a good reminder of how internal workgroups, internal advocacy groups, and coalitions exert pressure on how the NEA goes about doing business. The union prides itself on being the largest democratic, deliberative body in the nation, and this kind of back-and-forth is all part of the process.

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