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NEA: Driving solutions for our nation’s public school students

NEA investing $60 million to improve student success

Washington, DC - January 23, 2014 -

NEA announced today a series of initiatives focused on expanding the ability of educators to create solutions in our public schools, including a fund that will invest more than $60 million over the next 10 years to improve student success and strengthen the education profession. The Great Public Schools Fund (GPS Fund) is one of several recently launched NEA initiatives to prepare the next generation of teacher leaders and create concrete solutions for our nation’s public school students.

“With more than 3 million members working in schools and communities across the nation, NEA is a leading voice for student success and great public schools,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “It is time for us to accelerate the transformation of public education. Nobody knows better than educators what their students need to succeed in the classroom. Through the new GPS Fund we are providing the resources to put these plans in action and help ensure opportunity, equity, and success for every public school student in America.”

Today the Center for American Progress hosted a candid discussion with Dennis Van Roekel, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Paul Toner, Iowa Education Association President Tammy Wawro, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Senior Associate Elena Silva and Richard Lee Colvin, Senior Associate, Cross & Joftus. The education leaders talked about the changing role of teachers unions in light of a wide range of issues, including educator quality, school improvement, and educator leadership.

In his remarks, Van Roekel described the transformation the country’s largest union is going through as far-ranging and far-reaching, but with three common threads:

  • Investments, using the GPS Fund to invest in educators’ innovative ideas that will drive their students to succeed and bring the joy of teaching and learning back into the classroom.
  • Leadership in the profession, preparing the next generation of educator leaders to define and improve their own practice.
  • Partnerships to face today’s challenges, alongside parents, the community and organizations that share the belief that public education is important to the economic prosperity and the democratic values of our country.

$60 Million Great Public Schools Fund

The NEA GPS Fund was created by the 2013 Representative Assembly in July to allow state and local affiliates to apply for funds to help them improve the quality of public education and to assist in developing and implementing a proactive agenda that empowers  educators to lead for the success for every student. Since this past fall, NEA has already awarded more than $1 million to 13 projects across the country. The grants range widely in amount and area of work. One major focus of the first round of grants was to assist in the effective implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in states such as California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

“The new Common Core State Standards are a transformation for the students in our nation’s public school system and we owe it to them to provide teachers with the time, tools and resources to get it right,” said Van Roekel. “Our members embrace the promise of the Common Core State Standards – that all students will gain the critical thinking and creative skills they need to succeed, regardless of where they live. In order to fulfill the standards’ worthy goals, we need an equal commitment to common sense implementation. We owe it to our students to provide them and their teachers with the time, tools and resources to get it right. Where school districts are failing to step up with the needed investments for implementation, NEA and its state affiliates are working to step in to help our members meet those needs.”

In addition to work around the Common Core, the grants will support innovative projects and ideas proposed by educators to boost student learning and strengthen the quality of teaching. These  include peer assistance and review programs, mentoring and other professional development programs, school improvement initiatives to turn around struggling schools and more training programs for members related to ELL students, cultural competence, bullying, more school safety/anti-bullying programs, and technology initiatives to improve classroom instruction and student learning.  

GPS Grant examples include:

  • Stadium View School in the Hennepin County detention center in Minnesota was awarded $25,000 to support its project “Restorative practice, social connectedness and resiliency.” Stadium View serves students in the 11-21 age-range (the average age is 16) and the majority of the students are two to three years behind in terms of education.  Science teacher Tarri Levine works with the students to use creative expression to tap into their passion for learning, build up their self-worth, keep them engaged with their academics and increase the amount of quality time they spend learning. The grant money will be used for self-publishing examples of poetry and music produced by students and the Hennepin County libraries have agreed to house the poetry books.
  • The Maryland State Education Association’s goal is to ensure that educators continue to be leaders in supporting student and teacher success with new Common Core-based curriculum. The $100,00 GPS Grant will serve to create a diverse cadre of 46 leaders from around the state to deliver regional Common Core State Standards professional development programs and activities in a variety of engaging formats to their colleagues, parents, community representatives, and education stakeholders. Local school districts in Maryland have embarked on a full-scale implementation of the CCSS in English/language arts, literacy, and mathematics in the 2013-14 school year. Building the skills of teachers to successfully implement the CCSS is critical to enhancing student learning and improving student success with the new standards.
  • The Massachusetts Teachers Association is partnering with Teach Plus on MTA’s Common Core Collaborative. They are developing a group of 150 teachers who are creating lessons aligned with the CCSS. The goal of this $150,000 grant is to improve student learning through better instruction aligned with the new standards. The collaborative was launched in September when more than 500 educators took part in a full day of professional development in aligning curricula with the CCSS. In the next phase, three groups of 50 teachers are being trained in the CCSS and are developing lessons aligned with the standards in five three-hour sessions. These lessons will be shared online with other teachers throughout the state.

Next generation of Educator Leaders

NEA is taking the lead within the education profession through a series of initiatives that put educators in positions of leadership within their practice. The Association and BetterLesson recently launched a new web site, The site, where teachers share what works in the classroom, features more than 3,000 classroom-ready lessons that are easily accessible and can be integrated into any curriculum. Earlier this month, NEA, the Center for Teaching Quality and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards announced the national Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI), a joint endeavor to develop a new generation of leaders within the teaching profession. NEA has also partnered with Teach Plus to launch a selective fellowship that will empower solutions-oriented teachers, most of whom are in the first 10 years of their careers, to advise union leadership on teacher engagement and retention. As the education leader, NEA is aiming to empower teachers to lead and shape education policy, and prepare the next generation of teacher leaders.

These leadership initiatives build on work that the states and affiliates had already been doing locally with great success and will now be available nationally.

“As a union of professional educators, we must be the leading advocates for the profession, for taking charge of quality, and for all of our students. We must put forward our best ideas for improving our schools and what we do in our classrooms,” said Paul Toner, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. “That is why the MTA has promoted and supported a new educator evaluation system, initiatives in expanded learning time, new innovation schools and, most recently, in partnership with NEA and Teach Plus, significant training and professional development for teachers statewide in the development and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.”

“Working in collaboration with legislative, community, and school leaders, Iowa educators have taken the lead in establishing pathways that utilize the wisdom and expertise of teacher leaders to provide training, professional development, and appropriate growth for colleagues in the profession,” said Tammy Wawro, President of the Iowa State Education Association.  “Through Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation system, our Teacher Leadership Initiative and our ongoing legislative task forces, Iowa educators are involved in every aspect of building our great schools. We know that excellence begins in the classroom, and every student is entitled to the best we can offer.”

“This is an important moment in NEA’s history and I’m very proud to be a part of it. We’re committed to student success,” Van Roekel said. “Our Teacher Leadership Initiative, BetterLesson partnership, GPS Grants and other initiatives will enable us to join forces with our partners to raise up the good ideas of NEA members, our smart policies, and our successful programs and spread all of this to every corner of the country to benefit students and the future of public education in America.”

For more information on the Great Public Schools Fund, please click here.

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The National Education Association ( is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser

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