By Tim Walker
On Monday, the 8,000 delegates to the 2011 National Education Association Representative Assembly voted to adopt the NEA’s policy statement that revamps teacher evaluation and accountability. The development, implementation, and enforcement of high-quality teacher evaluation and accountability are top priorities for NEA and its affiliates. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel believes the new statement signals a commitment to a new, more prestigious profession of teaching and reflects the first broad endorsement by NEA of the need for evaluation and accountability reform. “As more states and districts seek to improve teacher evaluation, the risk is that reform is done to teachers rather than with them,” said Van Roekel. “This policy statement was written by and for teachers while heeding others’ expertise as well. It outlines a system to help teachers improve instruction and meet students’ needs. It offers sweeping changes to build a true profession of teaching that is focused on high expectations.” The policy statement is based on a recommendation of a workgroup of NEA leaders convened in the spring by Van Roekel and led by Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle. It outlines guidelines for an evaluation and accountability system that focus on enhancing the practice of teachers, instead of identifying teachers for dismissal. The statement reflects the importance of maintaining high standards, not lowering them and calls for robust evaluations based on multiple indicators. The statement supports state or local affiliates to use standardized tests for evaluating teachers if the standardized tests are of proven high quality and provide meaningful measures of student learning and growth. The vote to approve came after an afternoon of spirited debate, presided over by Van Roekel and Pringle, over amendments offered by delegates. “This is what our members want from NEA—and we answered with a fresh vision for the teaching profession grounded in ideas that are realistic, doable, and will ensure that every student has access to a high quality teacher,” said Van Roekel.