Education

Taking the Pledge

By Linda Jacobson — July 06, 2005 2 min read

I noticed that the line at the “Great Public Schools for Every Child” booth was unusually short, so I grabbed a place and waited for my turn at one of the eight kiosks.

Had I been a delegate, I would have swiped my I.D. card in the machine next to the computer, which would have told the NEA where I was from. The apron-wearing attendant used his card for me. So I was able to view the material, but not sign up to receive additional information.

The interactive Web site asks users questions about the six components of the Great Public Schools campaign--closing the achievement gap, grassroots action, reaching out to minority communities, building membership, professional pay, and “the right answer” for the NCLB law.

Among this body, NCLB is never referred to as the No Child Left Behind Act. It’s always called the “so-called No Child Left Behind Act,” to convey the union’s displeasure with the whole thing. And that phrase even made it into the script for the audio on the Web site. I got a chuckle out of that.

I clicked on the tab at the top to see what the site had to say about the achievement gap. I chose to take the quiz, which asks teachers who in their classrooms is experiencing gaps, what kind of gaps there are--on tests, classroom performance, or access to certain classes--and what kind of strategies they use to help students.

The site also invited me to e-mail NEA my strategies for addressing the achievement gap.

“We want to hear people’s stories,” Stephanie Fanjul, NEA’s director of student achievement--who spent much of her time at the booth--told me.

If the user wants to know what kind of information they can receive about each topic, a variety of NEA publications are flashed on the screen.

Under each tab, visitors to the booth are also asked if they want to make a pledge, such as taking a resolution to change NCLB before their local school board or promising to recruit five new members.
Ms. Fanjul, who kept track of the 2,080 delegates who went through the booth, said she was surprised by how many of them actually did click the various pledge boxes.

I watched Maxine Guidry, who will become president of the NEA affiliate in Galveston, Texas, next week, exit the booth, so I snagged her for a few questions.

She told me she thought it was “awesome,” and when she visited the “minority community” section, it made her realize that being a 7th grade math teacher isn’t enough--she should also be involved in other local organizations in order to build connections with families.
Ms. Fanjul was very excited to hear that.

Ms. Guidry said she realized that the site is also a way in which the NEA is getting a feel for what its members really think about NCLB and other topics.

“They teach us and we teach them,” she said.

As this convention winds down, the www.nea.org/whatyoucando Web site--which will go public on Aug. 1--is the way the NEA will continue to communicate its message. And they’ll be checking to see who keeps those pledges.

Ms. Fanjul said, laughing: “We know where they live.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the NEA blog.