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Wrapping up NEA's 2011 Convention

Well, readers, it was a wild ride: This year's National Education Association convention was full of twists and turns. We're happy that you were able to follow along with our coverage here at Education Week's Teacher Beat blog.

There are a few loose ends that I wanted to follow up on before we return to our regularly scheduled programming. I mentioned many of them in my "preview" item from a week ago, and didn't want you to think I had forgotten about them.

• At Intercepts, Mike Antonucci notes an NEA development that somehow got lost in all the action this year. During the convention, the NEA removed the sentence from its resolution on compensation that prohibits performance-based pay or merit pay. Make sure to read this important update, which potentially gives the union more flexibility in how it handles compensation changes.

• On the Common Core State Standards Initiative, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told me that the union is fully supportive of the effort and hopeful that the new generation of tests will be much more sophisticated. He said he has, however, gotten some queries about teachers uncertain of what to do because they are now expected to teach to the new standards, while their students are being assessed on the former ones! This is a really good question, one I wrote about in a bit more depth in EdWeek's Quality Counts a while ago.

At the same time, Van Roekel acknowledged that stopping annual testing until the new assessments are in place could jeopardize students who have gotten more attention under the NCLB-required disaggregation of data. "We have to attempt to find a solution," he said. "There's got to be something in between."

• On the final day of the Representative Assembly, the chair of NEA's Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching, Maddie Fennell, made a short presentation to delegates. (Remember, this was a separate body from the one that crafted the union's teacher-evaluation policy statement.) The commission's report, she said, will come out sometime in October. One interesting tidbit: Fennell said the best and most successful teachers should work with the toughest students, just as the best doctors see patients with the most challenging symptoms. Will the NEA as a whole go along with that idea? Stay tuned.

• Also on the final day, Christy Levings, the chair of NEA's ESEA commission, gave an update. The union is now pushing for regulatory relief from elements of the No Child Left Behind law (like the 2014 deadline, the sanctions cascade, and the "highly qualified teacher" designation), but without the strings that the Obama administration plans to attach.

• In a video presentation, NEA members gave a moving farewell tribute to NEA's executive director, John I. Wilson, who will be retiring in August. The video included comments from Gov. Bev Perdue and former Gov. Jim Hunt, as well as family members and friends of Wilson's. It included some fun tidbits about the long-standing NEA staffer. (He's apparently a terrible driver.)

Many thanks to those members who stopped by to introduce themselves over the course of the week and to NEA's press folks for their help.

We'll see you again at next year's convention, which will be held here on my home turf in the District of Columbia.

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