What I said to the NEA

Earlier this month I asked what you would say to the NEA Board of Directors if you had the chance. Thank you, everyone, who chimed in with thoughts and suggestions. Here’s what I ended up showing and saying to NEA’s Board. As you’ll hear, I pushed them a bit…

UPDATE: Art Wolinsky kindly synchronized the audio and the slides for me if you’d like to watch the presentation as an integrated whole rather than accessing the slides and audio separately. He’s also added the video to TeacherTube. Thanks, Art!

Interesting observation #1: The room was set up kind of like the United Nations. Here is the delegation from North Carolina. And over here is the delegation from Idaho…

Interesting observation #2: If you say the word ‘Walmart’ to NEA folks, they instinctively boo and hiss? Apparently they’re not big fans of Walmart…

Everyone at NEA was very kind to me and I appreciated the opportunity to speak with them. I’m not sure what they’ll do (if anything) with what I said but I guess we’ll see! For those of you who are interested, you can check out my NEA web page, which includes additional resources.

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11 Responses to “What I said to the NEA”

  1. I liked the early policy question (what should a legislature do) – wish we had a better answer to that. Someone has to tell legislatures what to do, they are not that good at coming up with good ideas on their own. Maybe we should make a top 10 list or something. There has to be 10 (cheap) things that legislatures could do right now.

    Financial barriers lady was funny. The NEA can’t get past that issue. When they frame it like that (we could do this if we had money), that’s when people withdraw from working with the NEA.

  2. I think it is ironic that many of the questions were about the loss of membership and perceived clout of the NEA rather than how to take the information you shared to make a difference for students.

  3. I just listened to the presentation and although I knew most of the data that was presented, I thought it was a shot between the eyes of the NEA. Thank you! There was some laughter in the audience, and I don’t know if it was because what they thought you said was outrageous or it was nervous laughter that they had just figured out that what you said was coming to fruition. I didn’t get the chance to listen to the Q&A, but from the comments above, they seem to be focused on the loss of political clout of the NEA. If that is what gets the ball moving, then that is what needs to happen. This process cannot be about preserving the status quo and the education establishment, it must be about what is going to best prepare students for the world they will live in.

    I hope that you will be in attendance at the ASCD conference in San Antonio in March. I am hoping to be there as part of the Google Teacher Academy for Administrators and would welcome a deeper dialogue on this and other issues.

    Great job!

  4. @Justin B: We’re working on a list here in Iowa. Stay tuned!

    @Dan: I think many in NEA (like in other ed organizations) still are in need of a paradigm shift.

    @Brumbaugh: Thanks for the kind words. I really hope they do some follow-up work with me or someone else and their members. Big shifts are ahead; they need to be major players. I won’t be at ASCD but wish I could be!

  5. Scott, this is terrific work. Thank you for giving this talk and thank you for providing so many of your resources! This is fantastic. Thank you for not letting them off the hook. Isn’t it incredible how quickly excuses come forth when the cognitive dissonance occurs?

  6. Scott

    I am a member of the board and I very much appreciated your presentation. Before I continue, let me say that these comments are my own and I am not attempting to speak for the board or the NEA in general.

    I’m certain you, and those who have posted here as well, are correct in stating that we will need to make a major paradigm shift as educators. You’ve asked what we’ll do, if anything. I assume we will do as much as we can within our sphere of influence including changing policy, introducing new business items that will drive our agenda, and advocating for change at the federal and state levels, but I also assume you are smart enough to know that it will not be adequate unless that change is supported elsewhere.

    I agree with you that the real barrier is one of mindset and not financial means. On the other hand, I have to say it is very difficult to maintain that mindset when it can literally take years to see a result such as the purchase of appropriate technology or the funding for the appropriate professional development to go along with it. I have worked in several different industries and it has been my experience that public education is most slow to react to change and least likely to adequately support workers in adapting to that change.

    Is that our fault as educators? I am willing to personally take some blame. But I’m sure you also understand that we are not like other industries in that market influences don’t impact us as quickly and that our bottom line is not reflected on a ledger sheet, but on standardized test scores that are dictated by state and federal bureaucrats. If, in fact, we “get it” when it comes to technology and the needs of this new age, we are also attempting to meet the needs of the last age as represented in many of those standardized tests. Teachers will teach what is assessed. It’s only fair to students. If, as a society, we want students to know and be able to do other things – less routine and more creative – then we will need to hold students and teachers accountable for those skills through appropriate assessments. To some extent we are doing this, but it is obviously not enough. We are attempting to fight inertia, despite what some may think.

    One of your posters suggested that the NEA is more interested in maintaining the status quo than moving forward. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel has stated very clearly and publicly that the status quo is not good enough. I also think the association has gone beyond mere statements. The policies of the board, the union’s engagement with the Obama administration, and our engagement with groups like the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, demonstrate to me that the organization is not satisfied with the status quo. The fact that the leadership team of the NEA invited you to speak to the board indicates to me that they get it. I can’t and won’t speak for everyone on the board or every teacher in the country, but I can say that nearly all of the teachers that I know personally understand that we can’t maintain the status quo and meet the needs of our students and the nation. We get it. We just don’t know what to do about it. And that’s why we seek out people like you. This change will take more than the efforts of the NEA or legislative action or complaints from the business world. It will take all of us working together and it will take more trust and less blame.

    I don’t know what kind of follow-up work you have in mind, but the responses during your Q&A session indicate to me that your assistance would be welcome. Board meetings are probably not the best venue for the kind of follow-up that is going to result in systemic change. Perhaps you could develop some sort of technology cadre among the board that could then go off and infect their state association leaders and local school districts with this message and more importantly, methods for implementing the needed changes. I will advocate for some kind of follow-up and I’m sure others will as well. And thanks for posting your slides and audio. I hope to use them in a staff development presentation in my district later this year.

  7. The question asked by the Massachusetts member, “What will NEA look like in 10 years?” is pivotal for both the national organization and its state affiliates. It wasn’t up to you to answer; it’s the responsibility of the board itself, so I hope they take the opportunity to address that question soon and often. As a state-level staff person, though, I don’t see much more than a occasional nod to the impact technology/social media is having, and will have, on education pK-16 and beyond.

    At your NECC09 presentation, part of the session was focused on “personalized learning” as a disruptive innovation which will soon reach its tipping point. If that’s true, then the University of Phoenix example you gave in the Q&A is more likely to be the norm than is the traditional classroom. And yet, NEA does not appear to be thinking about what that might mean to its own membership: how it represents them; what they will need from the union/association; how it will maintain contact; how it will function in an open information environment; etc. etc.

    My thanks for taking the time to begin the conversation. Now it’s up to the NEA to continue the discussion, ask the questions, and make some decisions (repeating as necessary!)

  8. Thanks, Scott, for talking to some of the people that will hopefully have an impact on changing all this. I’ve seen my local union leaders dismiss technology in our district ’cause they see it as taking $ that they think should be spent on salaries. Luckily, that’s beginning to change somewhat lately, I think our union (NEA affiliated) is starting to realize that if teachers & students don’t have the tech resources they need to teach & learn effectively, then that makes life more difficult for us all, as the politicians & administrators continue to lay more responsibilities, expectations, etc. on us every year.

    The real people who need to hear your talk are the politicians who have mandated these standardized tests that assess industrial age skills. Not to mention the state Depts. of Ed that are busy imposing a standardized curriculum for every school, no matter their different graduation rates, socio-economic levels, & percentages of students who will attend college, etc.

  9. Scott,
    I think that all questions should always have a bit of controversy attached to them… that is what makes people think, right? It’s fun to muckrake a bit. Sometimes I think that the people in charge of the reform are the ones most out of touch with what reform is needed. Case in point, the new-ish commercials from IBM seem to speak volumes about what is needed in education today… http://edulicious.com/archives/250 some of them would be good to show to education decision and policy makers.

  10. Hi Scott,

    I discovered the integrated presentation earlier today. As a creativity and organizational development consultant, I am especially interested in the problems associated with older, established organizations adapting to disruptive change from the external environment.

    I believe that the crux of the issue begins on chart 96. Even if they perceive the exponential change on the horizon, it is difficult for an organization **lacking a vision** to determine what to do about it. It is easier to adapt to a present reality than to anticipate and adapt to a *possible* future state. The result – paralysis.

    One way to mitigate that is to envision possible future scenarios and determine what needs to be done to accommodate each, then see what can be integrated to become an organization that can dynamically adapt. This is not easy but the process can be created.

    There’s a spinoff issue that I connect with:

    The ‘beauty’ with a society that needs a full range of workers – from unskilled to highly creative – is that it gives everyone an opportunity to contribute commeasurate with their abilities. Skills, talents, intellect, creativity – whatever you call it. It takes a different creative style, and a lower creative level, to be a file clerk than to design efficient solar cells. So what happens when the ‘bottom end’ – manual, routine – dry up and the ‘Slide 70′ stuff is all that’s left? Not everyone can adapt to this. Not everyone is intuitively creative. What’s the societal implication?

  11. The ‘beauty’ with a society that needs a full range of workers – from unskilled to highly creative – is that it gives everyone an opportunity to contribute commeasurate with their abilities. Skills, talents, intellect, creativity – whatever you call it. It takes a different creative style, and a lower creative level, to be a file clerk than to design efficient solar cells. So what happens when the ‘bottom end’ – manual, routine – dry up and the ‘Slide 70′ stuff is all that’s left? Not everyone can adapt to this. Not everyone is intuitively creative. What’s the societal implication?
    great site really informative i learned a lot great stuff keep it up

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