West Virginia Education Association’s President on The 152nd NEA Meeting
At the end of June, nearly 9,000 educators from every state will come together to address the issues facing students, schools, and teachers across America. The 152nd Annual Meeting of the The National Education Association, also known as the NEA, will take place June 26–July 6 in Denver, Colorado.
Dale Lee is the President of the West Virginia Education Association. “I’m from Wyoming County,” Lee said. “My dad was a teacher. All my brothers have taught at one time, a couple of them are now principles. I wanted to make a difference for my students. I wanted to better education for my students. And I saw WVEA as the proponent of change and proponent of advocating for our members and for our students.”
One subject of discussion at this year’s meeting NEA will be Common Core State Standards. Also known as “the CCSS,” they are a set of K-12 standards in English language arts/literacy and mathematics. To date, 45 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to adopt the CCSS, and the standards are scheduled for full implementation in 2014.
West Virginia has already adopted the Common Core State Standards. Lee commented on how the common core state standards have influenced education in West Virginia. “One of the things that we look at is preparing our students for life after their academic careers, and so we looked at the jobs around the area. We were able to embed those standards into the curriculum that would fit our students to prepare them for careers outside their high school academics.”
The CCSS has faced some opposition because of its test driven nature. One of the complaints is that some states aren’t giving the proper training, time, and resources to implement Common Core, leading students to be tested on material they haven’t truly learned yet.
According to Dale Lee, the common core state standards could serve as a foundation for states to customize based on the needs of their students. “The curriculum was designed by teachers in West Virginia to fit our classroom specifically, not a one size fits all nationwide, but to take the standards, take the things students should know, and fit them for our West Virginia classrooms.”
The National Education Association will also discuss Standardized Testing. Lee believes that West Virginia needs to move away from a test-driven curriculum. “We’re not opposed to testing, but testing should be designed to chart a student’s growth and progress, not to rate a school or to rate a teacher. So we have to get away from a test-driven curriculum. We have to give teachers time to teach. The teachable moments that we used to have are not there anymore because we expect every student and every classroom to be on the same page the same day, and as teachers we know that every classroom’s different, every child is different. We have the opportunity to take the child and move them forward instead of just saying ‘Everybody has to do this the same way.’ Every class is different. Every teacher knows that, so trust that teacher to get your child where they need to go.”
Along with moving away from standardized testing, Lee is in favor of making teacher salaries more competitive in West Virginia. “We have to make sure that we’re retaining and bringing the best teachers into the state. We’re not able to do that because our salaries are not competitive. You can make $5,000-$20,000 more in any of the surrounding states, and in most of our counties, you could drive 20-40 minutes in be in a neighboring state. Our students deserve the best; our students deserve a high quality education that great quality teachers will provide them.”
For more information about standardized testing, common core state standards, and this month’s meeting, visit The National Education Association’s website: nea.org.