The National Education Association’s change of heart over teacher evaluations is too little, too late and just proof that it has lost the argument, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tells Newsmax.
|Jeb Bush: “The NEA has realized it lost the argument against a teacher in the classroom having a direct impact on student learning." (Getty Images Photo)
“This is not a policy change. It is a diversionary tactic,” said Bush, founder and president of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.
The NEA made its move at its national convention, voting to adopt a policy statement that student performance should be considered as part of teacher evaluations. It came after years of opposition.
“The NEA has realized it lost the argument against a teacher in the classroom having a direct impact on student learning,” Bush said in an exclusive interview. “Recognizing they’ve lost the battle of opposing teacher effectiveness evaluations, they have come up with another tactic by which to oppose.
"It appears they will claim support for including student learning gains in annual teacher evaluations, but oppose the assessments by which student learning gains are measured,” he said.
The largest teachers’ union in the country made its historic vote on Monday. It said teacher evaluations should be a multi-layered process, and not based solely on test scores.
Andrew Campanella, spokesman for the American Federation for Children, the nation’s largest organization promoting school vouchers, agreed with Bush’s view on the vote.
“The NEA sees what's happening in states across the country, with elected officials openly questioning the need for collective bargaining policies that overly restrict the ability of districts to reward great teachers and terminate ineffective ones, and they're running scared,” he said.
“They also see how local affiliates . . . have dramatically overplayed their hand on education reform issues, shifting public opinion against teachers’ unions like never before.”
Campanella also questioned the sincerity of the 3.2 million member union’s late conversion to acceptance of teacher evaluations.
“The NEA's vote to acknowledge that student achievement should be a part of teacher evaluations may seem encouraging, but it's likely just window dressing,” he said. “Remember, the unions claim to support charter schools and some other forms of school choice, too. But when you get specific on the policy details, they don't really want reform, they want to repackage and rebrand the status quo. The devil is always in the details.”
Although NEA Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle characterized the policy statement as a “giant step forward,” the organization continues to be at odds not just with state and local officials but also with the Obama administration. Despite the policy change, the union will continue to oppose the use of existing test score to evaluate teachers, a key part of federally backed teacher evaluations in 15 states, The New York Times
In addition to pushing for teacher accountability, the Obama administration also supports charter schools. The use of student test scores in teacher evaluations is already taking place in states and individual school districts and the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers introduced its teacher evaluation model including student test scores in January 2010.
Regardless, the union is not prepared to abandon President Barack Obama or the Democratic Party. On Monday, the union, in a secret ballot, endorsed Obama’s re-election bid, a move that will end up sending millions to Democratic war chests. Vice President Joe Biden received standing ovations when he told the union members their problems came from the Republican Party, not the Democratic.
“There is an organized effort to place blame for budget shortfalls on educators and other public workers. It is one of the biggest scams in modern American history,” the Chicago Tribune
quoted Biden as saying. “The new Republican Party has undertaken the most direct assault on labor, not just in my lifetime . . . but literally since the 1920s. This is not your father's Republican Party. This is a different breed of cat.”
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