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NEA Stakes a Claim in Teacher Effectiveness Debate

A National Education Association commission issued a report today with specific recommendations for upping pre-service requirements, establishing career paths for teachers, and developing new evaluation systems.

The commission, assembled last summer by NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, was charged with examining options and making recommendations about how to help the union promote effective teaching practices.

At a press event this morning, Van Roekel promised that his union would begin a number of new initiatives based on the commission's findings—though how much sway the pronouncement will have on state and local affiliates has yet to be determined.

In a prepared statement, Van Roekel said 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. It has long spoken out against alternative-certification routes that permit teachers to learn on the job without a supervised student-teaching experience.

Van Roekel called specifically for the implementation of 50 new residency programs and adoption of performance assessments in at least 10 state licensure systems.

Van Roekel also said NEA would support a career ladder for teachers, with steps including Novice, Professional, and Master Teacher. Those in leadership roles would be evaluated less frequently and earn a higher salary in exchange for working longer hours, mentoring colleagues, and taking on more challenging teaching assignments. In addition, Van Roekel said NEA will help interested affiliates adopt peer-assistance and -review teacher evaluation programs.

Career ladders are permissible under NEA policies, but for a decade, the union opposed nearly all differentiated-compensation programs. That prohibition, listed in resolution F-10, was removed during the union's Representative Assembly in 2011.

The resolution still opposes linking teacher evaluation to additional compensation. One of the recommendations in the Commission's report suggests linking peer review to higher salaries; it was not immediately clear whether the national union will seek to alter this resolution.

Van Roekel's statement did not mention the role of test scores in teacher evaluations. At its Representative Assembly in 2011, the union opened the door to linking the two, but said current tests are not high-quality enough.

The commission report, meanwhile, says teacher should be able to produce student learning outcomes as measured by "classroom, school, district, or state assessments" as evidence of their effectiveness.

Though billed as an independent body, many of the 21 educators and academics chosen to sit on the commission have held leadership positions within NEA affiliates. That said, the commission was provided assistance by an advisory committee, including Tim Daly, president of the New Teacher Project, and Frederick Hess, director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Both of them have disputed NEA's positions on teacher policy in the past.

Stephen Sawchuk contributed.

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