The National Education Association (NEA)—parent organization of the Washington Education Association (WEA—has upped the irony to exceptional levels. The largest teachers’ union in the nation has found itself in a rather embarrassing situation. An internal document revealing its communication strategy was leaked, painting the power teachers’ union in a poor light and giving students everywhere a glimpse into what real irony looks like.
The NEA raises the most eyebrows by asking its members not to use terms like “inequality,” “equity,” “research” or “effectiveness” when speaking about its mission for 2015. Instead of “inequality” NEA suggests using the phrase “living in the right ZIP Code.” Of course, in the context of schools, you can’t talk about living in the “right” zip code without talking about “inequality.” The NEA—and the WEA in our state—has strongly opposed a proven solution (public charter schools) to the sorry state of the current public school monopoly for underprivileged students living in the “wrong” zip code. As the Daily Beast put it, “It’s also ironic, given the union’s usual resistance to school-choice policies (often involving charter schools) that would weaken links between high real-estate prices and access to quality schools.”
Rather than “educational equity” the NEA recommends using the phrase “committed to the success of every child.” The Daily Beast points out that the change “obscures both the depth of the injustice in our system and the urgency of improving how we treat the country’s least-privileged children.” Borrowing from words of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the NEA is committed to teachers. Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights. But, the NEA can’t say its committed to the students, not with its continued opposition to charter schools’ fight for educational equity.
The NEA also doesn’t like the word “research”—the irony in that is rather obvious. It warns against using phrases like “research driven practices,” “measure what matters,” and “meaningful, rigorous evaluations.” Rather, the NEA recommends the use of vague phrases like “get serious about what works” and simply absurd phrases like “love of learning can’t be measured” or “testing takes time from learning.”
Pre-K—12 schools should not be referred to as “effective learning environments” that prepare students to be “college and career ready.” No, the NEA reveals everything that’s wrong with its approach to education in its next recommendation. The NEA wants pre-K-12 schools to be referred to as places “where childhood happens” and students leave “equipped to succeed.”
As Americans well know, students are not leaving school “equipped to succeed” and it’s because schools are failing to prepare enough (let alone all) students to be “college and career ready.” On top of that brutal reality, the NEA is attempting to side step its accountability by removing tools used to measure success—standardized tests.
The Daily Beasts put it best when it concludes, “So what does it mean when a major education organization would rather not discuss inequality, equity, research, or effectiveness in 2015? It means that the organization wants to muddy public education debates and resist changes to the status quo. Which, to my mind, is unlikely to lead to “educational improvement” for anyone.”