SOURCE: Illinois Education Association

Illinois Education Association

February 15, 2011 14:59 ET

Good Teachers Deserve Attention, Too According to Illinois Education Association

SPRINGFIELD, IL--(Marketwire - February 15, 2011) -  Statement from Ken Swanson, president Illinois Education Association:

Rarely a day goes by where we don't hear that America's public schools are failing because of bad teachers.

When teachers, through their organizations, push back on this, those criticizing public school teachers take a paternalistic tone.

"Don't worry," they say. "We're not talking about you. We're only talking about bad teachers."

Here's the problem: An overwhelming majority of the time and ink the news media devote to education is focused on "bad teachers," so much so, that nearly all of the work great teachers do every day to make a positive difference in their students' lives goes unnoticed.

We acknowledge that there are some people who should not be teaching. But that's the rare exception, not the rule.

Where, but in our schools, will you find people who willingly reach into their pockets to ensure that their students have school supplies, winter coats, a hot meal?

Where else can you find countless stories of teachers who sacrifice time with their own families to help other people's children better themselves? And where, besides in a child's own home, will you find an adult who wants that child to succeed more?

This overarching focus on "bad teachers" denigrates the entire teaching profession, making it harder and harder to attract and retain good, quality teachers.

Good teachers exist in great numbers and they aren't afraid of changing the way things are done to ensure students get the very best education in this state.

Here are a few examples of education employees pushing for change in public schools:

  • My organization, the Illinois Education Association (IEA), has long been focused on excellence, co-developing the Burnham Plan for Education and creating Illinois Priority One.

  • When Illinois applied for federal Race to the Top dollars, IEA took a leadership role in the development of the state's application.

  • Just last month, IEA joined with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union, to offer a wide-ranging reform plan called Accountability for All.

These examples show that the claim that "unions reject change" is untrue. Nothing proves that better than the unprecedented joint union reform proposal Accountability for All.

Under this plan, performance would be added to the factors to be considered when layoffs due to financial problems occur. Accountability for All would streamline the process for dismissing underperforming teachers, ensure that teachers receive the professional development they need to continuously improve and put teachers front and center in figuring out how best to do all of these things. 

If you truly value teachers, then you must value their voice, their expertise and their knowledge.

In Illinois, teachers and their unions have been reacting to calls for change by embracing it. Is it because this reality doesn't fit the stereotype of unions, as "blockers," that this has been an underreported story? We have good, caring teachers in this state who have stepped up to the plate and who have offered ideas for reform.

It's time they were noticed, too.

If we all work together, we can improve student achievement and continue to attract and retain our top quality teachers. Isn't that what we all want?

The Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the state's largest education employee organization with over 130,000 members.

Contact Information

    Charles McBarron
    PHONE: 217/544-0706