Monday, July 28, 2008

Association 101

You're in the largest professional union in the United States. Knowing what that means can make your job and your paycheck better. But only if you get involved.

By Cynthia Kopkowski

Ever faked a knowing nod when a veteran teacher starts talking about being in a "right-to-work state," and you're not really sure what she's talking about? Does "collective bargaining" just make you think of your third-period class trying to get out of having homework? As a new educator, it can seem easier to teach physics to first-graders than to learn about your own union, much less become an active and involved member of it. But you need to do all three—get in, get educated, and get active. Your committment has to go beyond just paying dues. But remember, the payoff is big. Check out our Association 101 glossary to understand some terms that are vital to Association work.

"I'm very involved in how I think the school should look," says Lawrence Garcia, 35, a middle school math teacher in Thornton, Colorado. But he knows he can't do it alone.

"Teachers sometimes feel alone and scared of what the principal will say if they speak up as a union member," says Samone Thomas, 36, a seventh-grade language arts teacher in Wichita, Kansas. "But that means you don't know you have all these thousands of people behind you working to make things better."

Having a basic understanding of your union, then building on it with personal involvement, are the first steps toward better working conditions, pay, and benefits.

So if you're ready to find out more about what you're getting for your investment (besides this magazine!), and how you can reap additional rewards through your involvement, here's a primer on what Association membership means. (First tip: Your membership means you belong to the local, state, and national Association.)

Help on the Job—If you want to become a better teacher, you're off to a good start. The Association offers its member teachers advice, training, and other assistance to boost skills in the classroom, including teacher evaluation, mentoring, and tools to help prepare for certification tests. NEA even has a Teacher Toolkit ( with free basic tools to help you handle class rosters, daily attendance, and behavior and intervention logs. And the NEA Foundation provides teachers with grants to get their projects off the ground (

A Strong Professional Network— There's lots of formal assistance from the Association. But don't forget that you're also plugged into a network of people who have been there, done that. They know the kids, the administrators, and the parents, and they can help you do your best and avoid the minefields. You're on their team and they're on yours. If you don't know who the Association members in your building are, call your local Association office and they'll point you in the right direction.

Protection—Experienced advocates called UniServ directors advise or represent members in employment-related matters. If a principal unfairly accuses you of being ineffective, the UniServ director is the one to call on. Plus, if a legal issue arises, you've got at least $1 million in liability insurance as a member of the Association. Now, while you're in your first few years of teaching (usually three) you're on probation and don't have many of the protections you will get later on. But you do have rights, and the Association staff at your local office can tell you about them, while helping you avoid getting into a situation in which you would have to fight for your job.

Wage and Benefits Watchdogs—An experienced Association staff helps the people sitting down at the bargaining table to fight for your pay increases and benefits. They do research and plan public relations campaigns to make the public understand the importance of properly paying educators. There's also training offered to help individual members sharpen their salary and benefits bargaining skills. Plus, there are top-notch lobbyists fighting for Association members' rights in Congress, the state legislature, and the school board.

Fighting for Fair Funding—Those lobbyists working with legislators on better education policy are also making impassioned arguments for improved school funding. They let legislators know about the needs, interests, and priorities of teachers. For example, you're not the only one talking about what's wrong with the so-called No Child Left Behind law. NEA lobbyists are fighting to get the law changed the way you want to see it reformed.

Extra Benefits, Fun Perks—You can get insurance discounts, cheaper movie tickets, and coupons for stores like Target, Ann Taylor, and Best Buy through NEA Member Benefits (

Understanding more about what your Association does can't be the end of your involvement though. A strong and healthy union relies on the participation of all of its members, which means becoming more aware of the issues that affect you and your colleagues and taking action.

As a union member, "I'm very involved in how I think the school should look," says Lawrence Garcia, 35, a middle school math teacher in Thornton, Colorado. But he can't do it alone. "If I'm going to make a change here, nobody downtown will listen to me if I'm by myself."

Here's how members like Garcia say they need your help: Consider becoming a building representative, who serves as a liaison between teachers and support professionals and the administration.

"Every organization is dependent on the new members coming in," says Amy Murphy, a 26-year-old teacher in Tampa, Florida. She became a building rep during her second year as a teacher. "I was scared to pieces, but decided I wanted to be involved," says Murphy. "As I'm learning more and more it gets easier."

You can also go to school board meetings and use the public comment portion of the session to talk about issues affecting the classroom or teachers.

Register to vote and exercise that vote for pro-public education candidates. Donate to the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education (see "Anything Else?" page 34) to help elect those candidates. Call, email, or visit with elected officials in your city and state to tell them your priorities.

"Lobbying gave me a chance to actually stand up for what I believe in and affect the course of education in our state," says Jana Thomas, 24, a high school Spanish and English teacher in Republic, Missouri.

Through involvement—taking on issues that affect both the classroom and the contract—a community of educators grows stronger. "In your first year it feels like you're alone on the planet, but this Association gives you a community," Thomas says. "You can talk to and help each other."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Education 2008: Where the Presidential Candidates Stand

There are 76.6 million children under the age of 17 currently enrolled in school in the United States. For those children and their parents, education is a major concern. But the quality of education in the country affects all of us indirectly. An educated populace translates to a more robust workforce, correlates to a slower population growth rate, ensures a more concerned and decent society, and influences the number of participants in the democratic process.

Check out NEA's Side by Side Comparison of the Candidates on Major Issues

In 2008, education reform ranks as the third most important issue for voters, behind only the war in Iraq and the economy. As the leaders of our profession it is vital that we know where the candidates stand on the issues and how that will impact our work, the learning of our students and the health of our schools.

Our family members, community members, parents, congregations, memberships all depend on us to share the facts on this important issue. Please take a look at where the political parties and candidates stand on the most important issue in Election 2008, education. All of the other issues are negatively or positively impacted by our society's ability to educate its young people, workers and citizens.

US Democratic Party Platform 2008 in PDF

US Republican Party Platform 2008 in PDF

2008 Iowa Democratic Party Platform in PDF

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)

While his Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, campaigned to end NCLB completely, Senator Barack Obama has promised to reform the act, saying that it has been poorly funded and implemented by the Department of Education. Another major complaint from the Democrats is that NCLB has created false measures of achievement, forcing teachers to direct their lessons not to the educational material but to the standardized tests by which their students will be measured. Obama also plans to restructure the funding formulas so that schools that need improvement receive more money to do so, rather than punishing them by taking away funds.

The cornerstone of Obama’s education platform is a plan entitled “Zero to Five,” which addresses the period from birth to pre-kindergarten. Under this plan, he would create Early Learning Challenge Grants to promote early learning programs at the state level and help the states move toward voluntary, universal pre-school.

He would also quadruple funding for Early Head Start - a federally funded community-based health education program for low-income families with infants and toddlers and pregnant women.

Obama has emphasized the importance of improving teacher preparation and performance. He would create Teacher Service Scholarships to pay for undergraduate or graduate teacher education in exchange for teaching in a high-need field or location for at least four years. He would also require all schools of education to be accredited and would create a voluntary national performance assessment of new educators.

Making post-secondary education more affordable is another pledge Obama has made. He proposes the American Opportunity Tax Credit that would make community college tuition free and cover two-thirds of the cost of tuition at the average public college or university for most students. However, he has not released details on how he intends to fund such an expensive program.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

In his 2008 candidacy, Republican Senator John McCain has officially supported standards, such as those required by No Child Left Behind, to measure public schools and use performance against these standards to determine how much funding schools receive. He voted for NCLB in 2001 and continues to support it, but has stated that some changes need to be made to the act, such as allowing parents to choose which school their child will attend through publicly funded vouchers.

Vouchers are the foundation of his education platform and McCain has said that all federal funding must be predicated on parents having the ability to enroll their children in better schools, rather than requiring them to stay in failing schools. His official campaign website says that he “will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes.”

Like his opponent, McCain has focused on improving the quality of teachers across the nation, but his focus is on free market competition - schools should compete to be the most innovative and student-centered to attract and reward the best teachers.

McCain has said little about post-secondary education so far in his campaign. During an event in New Hampshire in December, he said he supports tax deductions for college tuitions and that “we’ve got to do everything we can to make education affordable for all Americans.”

Later, he corrected his statement, stating that he misunderstood the question and does not support tax deductions for tuition. He has said he backs greater federal funding of Pell grants and government low-interest student loans, though he missed the vote on a bill that cuts the interest rate on loans and increases Pell grants.

Tell Congress: Extend Educator Tax Deduction and Rural Schools Program

July 24, 2008

The Senate will once again consider a bill to extend certain tax deductions and other critical programs. This bill contains several provisions of great importance to educators, including provisions to extend:

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act,
The tax deduction for educators' out-of-pocket classroom supply expenses, and
The Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) school modernization program.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination program, which provides guaranteed funding to rural, timber-dependent counties, has expired. Failure to reauthorize and fund it immediately will result in a substantial and devastating funding cut for rural counties across the country. In fact, a number of counties around the country have already begun sending out layoff notices to educators and other public employees.

The educator tax deduction helps recognize the financial sacrifices made by teachers and paraprofessionals. Studies show that educators spend more of their own funds each year to supply their classrooms, including purchasing essential items such as pencils, glue, scissors, and facial tissues. The deduction will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts.

The QZAB program assists school districts in rural and urban communities by providing a financing mechanism to renovate buildings and invest in equipment and technology.

Contact your Senators Today!

Tell the Senate to pass the tax extender bill before they leave for the August recess.

Tell Congress: Support Permanent Home for Women's History Museum

The National Women's History Museum is a non-partisan, non-profit educational institution dedicated to fostering a greater appreciation of how women have shaped our culture. The Museum has not had a permanent home since its founding in 1996. On July 17th, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced a bill (H.R. 6548) that will allow the museum to secure a permanent home near the national mall.

Contact your Representatives in Congress.

Tell Congress to support legislation to give the National Women's History Museum a permanent home.

Statements on Social Security Offsets Available on House Committee Website

Statements submitted for the record in conjunction with the January 2008 House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Social Security offsets - including many statements submitted by NEA cyberlobbyists - are now available on the Committee's website.

Due to a technical glitch, some submitted statements were not received by the Committee. If you submitted a statement in January, check the website to make sure your statement is there. If you do not see your statement, you can contact the committee at 202-225-3625 to inquire about resubmitting it. Note, this is only for statements originally submitted within the two week period following the January hearing that were lost due to the Committee's technical problems.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

NEA Representative Assembly Delegates Recommend Senator Barack Obama

Obama Addresses Nearly 10,000 Educators at NEA Meeting
Calls for new era in public education

WASHINGTON-Presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama addressed nearly 10,000 educators today as part of the National Education Association's Representative Assembly. Obama called for overhauling No Child Left Behind, providing adequate resources to educators, and encouraging parental and community involvement.

"I want to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education-one where we all come together-parents and educators, the NEA and leaders in Washington, citizens all across America; united for the sake of our children's success," Obama said. "Bringing about that future begins with fixing the broken promises of No Child Left Behind."

Obama addressed the Assembly on Saturday via satellite, after delegates had voted Friday to officially endorse him for president.

"We must fix the failures of NCLB," Obama said. "We must provide the funding that was promised, give our states the resources they need, and finally meet our commitment to special education. But that alone is not an education policy. It's just a starting point."

Earlier this week, Obama sent a letter to NEA members in support of the Association's new plan to transform all public schools by the year 2020 through redefining the federal role in education.

"I applaud the NEA for its efforts to frame the agenda outlined in Great Public Schools for Every Student by 2020," Obama said in the letter. "This document provides a roadmap for educators, elected officials, policymakers, and all who care deeply about the future of our children to consider and debate in the days ahead. And it provides critical starting points for a new educational compact."

NEA has launched a $50 million campaign to elect pro-public education candidates in the November election. The Association's over 3.2 million members live in every state, in every congressional district, and in every precinct.

"Barack Obama has stood with educators throughout his career in public service. He understands the importance of educators to the future of our great country," Weaver said. "It's time for change. We need a pro-public education president who will treat children as more than test scores and who will ensure every child attends a quality public school."

McCain pushes vouchers, merit pay to NAACP

John McCain is telling the NAACP he will expand education opportunities for children in failing schools.

McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, on Wednesday is addressing the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation's oldest civil rights organization.

In excerpts released in advance of the speech, McCain says that the worst educational problems in the country are often found in schools in black communities and that as president he will provide greater school choices and scholarships for such students.

McCain also asks the group to excuse his absence from their convention last year, saying he was "a bit distracted" dealing with his then-faltering presidential campaign.

"If I am elected president, school choice for all who want it, an expansion of opportunity scholarships and alternative certification for teachers will all be part of a serious agenda of education reform," McCain said in the excerpts.

"After decades of hearing the same big promises from the public education establishment, and seeing the same poor results, it is surely time to shake off old ways and to demand new reforms," he said. "That isn't just my opinion. It is the conviction of parents in poor neighborhoods across this nation who want better lives for their children."

Ahead of the speech, campaign aides expected the Arizona senator to touch on his support for expanding merit-pay programs for teachers who improve students' performance and more money for tutoring poor kids.

The national teachers' unions oppose linking student test scores to teacher pay. McCain's rival for the presidency, Democrat Barack Obama, supports the idea when teachers help negotiate and craft the merit-pay plans.

Last week, aides to McCain said he would increase the choices kids have when they are in schools that are failing to meet academic benchmarks and that he would support a school voucher program for poor children in failing schools under some circumstances.

Such vouchers are generally supported by conservatives and opposed by many Democrats.

Republicans have had a tough time winning the votes of African-Americans, and it is only getting tougher this year with Obama trying to become the first black president of the United States.

Obama spoke to the NAACP on Monday, saying he would push the government to provide more education and economic assistance, but he also urged blacks to demand more of themselves.

To read more, please click here.

Tell Congress: Time Has Run Out! Act Now to Save Rural Schools

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act , which provides guaranteed funding to rural, timber-dependent counties, has expired. Congress must act immediately to pass a reauthorization or an extension of the program. Failure to act now will be devastating for rural counties across the country. In fact, impacted counties have already sent out layoff notices to school staff and other public service employees.

Congress needs to pass an extension or reauthorization as part of any moving supplemental funding bill or economic stimulus package. If they don’t:

More than 4,400 rural schools in 800 forest counties in 42 states will face severe budget shortfalls.

Many rural schools in forest counties will cut back or eliminate essential educational services – some may even be forced to shut down.

Tens of thousands of county and school employees will lose their jobs, straining the already fragile economies of these rural areas to the breaking point.

Contact your representatives in Congress TODAY!

Tell Congress to act now to save rural schools.

You Made a Difference: Victories on Health Care! With your help, NEA has scored two important victories on health care:

Medicaid for Students with Special Needs: In June, President Bush signed a bill that includes an NEA-supported delay of scheduled Medicaid reimbursement cuts for school-based, transportation, and/or rehabilitation services. This hard-fought victory allows students with medical needs to keep getting the school-based services they need.

Medicare: This week, the House and Senate voted to override the President’s veto of the NEA-supported Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (H.R. 6331). The bill will result in much improved access to affordable, high quality medical care and pharmaceutical services for Medicare beneficiaries in rural and urban areas. In particular, the bill delays a scheduled cut in doctor fees that would have likely caused many doctors to refuse to treat Medicare patients.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Early Paychecks Benefit Membership: IPERS Early Payment Benefits Employees and District

RETRACTION NOTICE: In an article dated June 27, 2008, the LCEA Insider published part II of an article, "Early IPERS Payment a 'No-No.'" In it was a correspondence suggesting that there was a potential problem with the early payment of IPERS contributions on behalf of the LC School District. This has been the district's practice for five years. After discussing the situation with several authorities (including John Phillips, Beth Frank & Art Hill), we need to let you know that you should not be concerned with this practice as it was done to benefit our teachers. The letter suggesting that this was not allowed or that the paychecks were post-dated was incorrect. Our apologies go out to Mr. Hill for this incorrect information and for any concerns that this has caused him.

We would like to take a moment to thank Art Hill for sending paychecks out early to our members. As the old saying goes, "no good deed goes unpunished." We hope he understands our need to verify if this practice would impact our member's IPERS contributions in any adverse manner as other school districts have made mistakes that have impacted the retirement of their educators. We're thankful that he thought about saving us and the school district some money.

And we are also sorry to discover that he is leaving the LC family. He certainly will be missed. It appears that he was strongly encouraged by the city of CB to apply for the head financial postion. He applied in May. Mayor Hanafan announced his selection last Wednesday.

We'd like to thank him for his dedication to students and his upbeat, caring demeanor with your co-workers. CB's gain will be our loss.

Art Hill to Leave Lewis Central

Reprinted from the July 15, 2008 Non-Pareil
Art Hill attended one of his last board meetings as the business and finance director for the Lewis Central School District on Monday, and said the decision to resign was a tough one.

"Ultimately, it was a fiscal decision. The city gave me a good offer, and my daughter's going to Creighton University," he said. "I had planned to stay here, and I can't stress enough how great the people at Lewis Central are."

Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan announced last Wednesday that Hill will become the city's next finance department director and the Council Bluffs City Council voted Monday to approve the choice.

Hill has been the head of the Lewis Central business and finance department since July 2006. He said he formally applied for the city position, which had been vacant since Scott Sanders resigned last summer to take a job in West Des Moines in May after months of deliberation. Hill found out last Wednesday that he had been chosen for the post.

"I woke up a couple of times over the weekend wondering if I did the right thing," he admitted, "but everyone here has been decent and supportive."

He will be present for the Aug. 4 school board meeting, but his last day will be either Friday, Aug. 15, or Monday, Aug 18.

"We're very sorry to see him go," school Superintendent Mark Schweer said. "He's done an exceptional job. His accounting and CPA background has brought an added dimension and a great deal of expertise to the position."

Works for Me Starting School Tips by Teachers for Teachers

To view the Web version, follow this link.

Managing Student Work and Notes
From Kathleen Marshall (, a second grade teacher at Juanita Elementary School in Kirkland, Washington:

"Several years ago I saw a great idea to use multiple pocket folders to manage homework and home/school notes. I checked the price of these folders, and they were $2.99 each, which didn't fit my budget. I created the same kind of folders using cheap pocket folders when they hit the before-school sales at 10 cents each. Here are my directions: I use our school binding machine to cut the slots for the cover of the folder on the fold. I take a second folder, usually a different color, and turn it inside out so the pockets are on the outside. Then I take the two open sides and cut them on the binding machine. When I put one inside the other, the cuts line up, and I can attach the plastic binding. Now I have a book that has four pockets. I create labels for each pocket, such as ‘homework to do,’ ‘finished homework,’ ‘notes for home’ and ‘notes for school‘. Parents know to look for their child's student planner with homework assignments written inside the folder every night. Additional folders can be added if more pockets are needed. These folders cost 20 cents per child, plus the time and plastic binder. They seem to last most of the year but are inexpensive enough to replace mid-year. Laminating the covers does extend their life but isn't necessary. It makes life much easier for children and parents to see work arrive at home and school safely."

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More Organizing Paperwork Tips

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Answer to Teacher Interruptions
From Kathy Johnson (

"The Daily 5- Fostering Literacy Independence" in the Elementary Grades by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser outlines the answer to teacher interruptions. The book explains how to teach students to work independently allowing the teacher time to work with individual students or small groups. The authors give specific instructions on how to begin and manage their system. I’m so glad I came across this book this summer, because I'll be implementing this plan for the upcoming school year and have high hopes!"

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Question of the Week: Teaching Time
From the Works4Me Worker Bees:

"Telling time is an essential, real-life skill, but it’s often addressed only when teachers can make some spare time for it. What strategies do you use to teach and reinforce this skill?"
Send Us Your Answer
View Replies & Post Your Tip

Group Math Projects
Heard Last Week in the Works4Me Lounge:

"I need ideas for group math projects in grades eight through twelve. Please share your ideas with me. I am really new at creating group math projects."

Comment on This Tip
More Classroom Management Tips

Submit a Tip

We couldn't do it without you! Click here to submit a tip or reply to this email. Please contribute your own brief, practical, broadly applicable classroom tip to Works4Me. When submitting a tip, please include your full name, school, specific assignment (grade/subject), city and state. This newsletter is only as good as the tips we receive, so send your ideas today.

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Send Us Your TipsWe couldn't do it without you!

Works4Me is a vehicle for instructional staff to share their ideas with other instructional staff. As such, it does not constitute an endorsement of any particular curriculum or teaching method by the National Education Association or any of its affiliates.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

NEA Unveils Education Plan to Reshape Federal Role in Education

Presidential election could bring a new direction for public education

WASHINGTON-After six years of treating children as no more than test scores, No Child Left Behind has not lived up to its promise. Education policy needs a new direction. Today, the National Education Association unveiled a plan to transform all public schools by the year 2020 through redefining the federal role in education.
"Federal education policy needs more than a legislative tweak here and there," said Reg Weaver, NEA president. "A change in the White House must bring fundamental changes in how the federal government treats public education. The government must move beyond testing, labeling and punishing, and begin partnering with states to close achievement gaps for all students."
As reauthorization of NCLB stalls in Congress, and as opposition to the law continues to grow, it is clear that NCLB has failed. The law judges children based solely on standardized test scores at the expense of preparing them for the real world. And the law's obsessive focus on testing, without providing basic resources, has narrowed the curriculum.
NEA calls for a new federal role in education, with the government embracing its role as a supporter-not a manager-of state and district responsibilities. The federal government should support public schools by:

  • Strengthening enforcement of civil rights laws to promote access and opportunity;

  • Funding past congressional actions and current federal mandates; and

  • Helping create the capacity at the local and state levels for school transformation.
"The federal government has a critical role in public education, and should focus on equity, opportunity and targeted assistance to underserved communities," Weaver said. "At the same time, the government must respect the role of states and school districts as the primary providers of education services."
NEA's recommendations echo new policy proposals by groups such as the Economic Policy Institute, the Forum on Educational Accountability, and the American Association of School Administrators. NEA will use its role as a leader and advocate in bringing together organizations and coalitions to work with the new administration and the next Congress.
Senator Barack Obama sent a letter to NEA members supporting the policy proposals on transforming public education.
"I applaud the NEA for its efforts to frame the agenda outlined in Great Public Schools for Every Student by 2020," Obama said. "This document provides a roadmap for educators, elected officials, policymakers, and all who care deeply about the future of our children to consider and debate in the days ahead. And it provides critical starting points for a new educational compact."
For more information, please visit:

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Letter from Barack Obama to the NEA Membership

July 1, 2008
Members of the National Education Association
c/o Reginald Weaver, President

Dear Friends,
I firmly believe that teachers and education support professionals are the heartbeat of our public education system, and that the tremendous effort you've made in partnership with parents has improved and expanded children's knowledge of math and reading, writing and science but also character and confidence, curiosity and creativity. Indeed, teaching is the most important profession in our society because it is the profession on which all others depend.
I thank you for your commitment to our children and your determination to improve our nation's schools. Together we can transform our public education system and ensure that all students in this nation receive the world-class education to which each is entitled.
The agenda for a stronger America starts with education. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and. conservatives, economists and educators all agree that in this digital age, a highly-educated and skilled workforce will be the key not only to individual opportunity, but to the overall success of our economy as well. We cannot be satisfied until every child in America has the same chances for a good education that we want for our own children.
I applaud the NEA for its efforts to frame the agenda outlined in Great Public Schools for Every Student by 2020. This document provides a roadmap for educators, elected officials, policymakers, and all who care deeply about the future of our children to consider and debate in the days ahead. And it provides critical starting points for a new educational compact.
The first point is that the status quo is not acceptable. There are enormous educational and fiscal inequities among public schools. A few years ago, I visited a high school outside Chicago. The number one concern I heard from those students was that the school district couldn't afford to keep teachers for a full day, so school let out at 1:30 every afternoon. That cut out critical classes like science. These students knew they were being short-changed, like others in poor communities across America who lack the programs, textbooks, computers, science labs, and qualified teachers they need.
Second, although No Child Left Behind had the right goals - raising achievement for all students - it has not solved the problems we face. States and districts continue to struggle with how best to help lowperforming students. High-quality professional development for educators and staff has often been lacking. The focus on a single, high stakes standardized test too often distorts how eductors teach.
We can fix the failures of No Child Left Behind while focusing on accountability. We must provide the funding that was promised, give our states the resources they need, and finally meet our commitment to special education. We must ensure that the federal government provides a helping hand in enabling schools to improve, rather than a heavy hand that deflects attention from delivering great educational programs for every student in our public schools.
But, as you well know, fixing the problems of No Child Left Behind is not an education policy on its own. It's just a starting point. A truly historic commitment to education - a real commitment - will require new resources and new reforms. It will require a willingness to move beyond the stale debates that have paralyzed Washington for decades. It will require leaders in Washington who are willing to learn a lesson from students and teachers in local communities about what actually works.
Real reform begins with the understanding that from the moment our children step into a classroom, the single most important factor in determining their achievement is their educator. It's the person who stays past the last bell and spends his or her own money on books and supplies. It's all of you who go beyond the call of duty because you believe that's what makes the extra difference. And it does.
That is why the third critical point is that we must invest in educators. The federal government must support access to high-quality education and professional development for educators, as well as research and resources for obtaining additional skills that contribute to improved teaching practices. We need to collaborate with states on policies that help attract and retain qualified educators to high-poverty and hard-to-staff schools. My plan includes service scholarships to underwrite preparation for those who will teach in high-need fields and locations, new investments to ensure mentoring for all beginning educators, effective training through residency programs for teaching urban districts, and models to attract and retain diverse and talented educators to the profession. And when our educators succeed, I will not simply talk about how great they are; I will reward their greatness with better pay and more support.
Transforming our education system will require sustained effort from all of us - educators and parents; federal, state and local governments. I look forward to joining hands with you in this critically important work.
Barack Obama