Teaching Profession

NEA Co-Opts AFT’s “Collaboration” Mantra

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 11, 2010 1 min read
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So is it just me, or has the National Education Association been banging the labor-management “collaboration” drum a lot these days? After all, that’s Randi Weingarten’s line! Or at least, it’s been one of the AFT president’s most consistent themes over the last year and half of her tenure at the helm of the national union.

Now take a look at this recent NEA press release:

Educators must have a say in what it takes to improve low-performing schools. ... When all education stakeholders are involved in the decisionmaking process, it spells success for students. This combination of collective responsibility and collaborative thinking has a track record for yielding results that are positive for students and their schools."

Or this string from a recent conversation with NEA head Dennis Van Roekel, when he was talking about school improvement:

In schools that I visit where they're changing what happens to kids, collaboration is the common thread. It works together. Competition destroys it all. It takes a group of people with collective goals, the support of management and the board to do it."

Now I’m sure on the one hand this must be heartening for Weingarten. After all, as the saying goes, imitation + sincerity = flattery. And the NEA, of course, is an important partner when it comes to things like lobbying for education funding (or facing off with Rep. George Miller, natch), so it no doubt helps to speak the same language.

But I have to wonder if an eensy-weensy part of Weingarten is a bit peeved. After all, the NEA hasn’t exactly followed AFT’s lead on other hot-button issues, like using test scores alongside other measures in teacher evaluation or reforming due process.

And the NEA has most definitely laid low in the national press lately, while Weingarten’s gotten a lot of attention, and not all of it good, over the Central Falls, R.I., situation and the Houston test-score-dismissal-policy debate.

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