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Unions respond to changing employment environment

Leading organizations urge more support for teachers

The National Education Association (NEA) has taken the position that teachers should be held accountable for providing high-quality classroom instruction. To avoid drawn-out legal battles, districts also should have a cost-effective, efficient system in place if someone has to be dismissed, the group states.

“Nobody wants bad or ineffective teachers in the classroom, especially us,” NEA President Dennis Van Roekel told DA. The solutions are better college preparation programs and evaluation programs that focus on improving instruction, he says.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has taken a similar stance, and has outlined a framework for evaluations that includes ongoing support for teachers who need it and would benefit. “I have a plea for those who fixate on how to dismiss teachers: Fixate instead on how we nurture, support and keep them,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten in a July 2013 speech. “It galls me that ours is the only profession where experience is disparaged, not valued.”

The probation period before a teacher is granted tenure is the best time for administrators to determine whether or not the teacher should remain in the district, Van Roekel says. “We have a system already that for three to five years, if administrators don’t think teachers should be in the classroom, all they have to do is not offer them a contract,” he says.