March 10, 2001

Teachers' voices are a critical element in school improvement, according to a recent study by Public Agenda, the New York-based research and advocacy organization that explores public attitudes around issues affecting public education and other social policy.

"As we move forward to make sure practices in the classroom are aligned with high standards, it is essential we engage parents, the public, and teachers in the discussion," said NEA President Bob Chase. "We welcome Public Agenda's research-based confirmation that this is true."

Public Agenda's latest report, "Just Waiting To Be Asked?," explores the perceptions of teachers, school administrators, superintendents, and the public about productive ways to discuss and act on school change.

The report found that teachers rarely feel included in discussions about changing goals or how to implement change. According to the study, "One of the most critical lessons emerging from this research is that there is a potentially big payoff to engaging teachers - and a comparably big downside to assuming they will go along with whatever program leaders have selected. Those seeking change and improvement in today's schools ignore teachers at their peril."

Chase said the recommendations of teachers and parents are generally the same, such as reducing class size for more individual attention, making sure schools have textbooks, materials, and learning technology that are aligned with new statewide standards, and providing resources for essential needs, including schools' facilities and programs that meet the needs of different kinds of students.

"We are deeply engaged in school improvement efforts at the local, state, and national levels," Chase said. "The National Education Association and its affiliates speak for the concerns of teachers, other education employees - and parents and students, as well."

The study found that the interest among parents and the general public in being involved in discussions about school changes is much greater in schools that are deemed "low performing." NEA and its affiliates have helped organize opportunities for parents and the public to talk with school officials and other policymakers through its Public Engagement Project for several years.

"As the study finds, teachers are essential because they are responsible for implementing change - and they are essential in building support for school improvements because they are the most credible source of information for parents," Chase said.

"We must move away from the notion that education reform is something that must be done to teachers and schools toward an attitude of changing schools in the ways that teachers know will work."

For a copy of the Public Agenda report CLICK below:

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