Come Together …

A lot of paper tends to pass over Eduflack’s desk in a given week, and these past few days has been no exception.  One thing that caught my eye was from the Coalition for Community Schools, promoting its 2010 National Forum up in Philadelphia this week.  Full information can be found here, at the Coalition’s site.  (And the good news is that the video is still accessible, particularly if you can get beyond the hair removal commercials at the beginning.)

The issue of community schools, including the integration of issues like health, safety, and general public welfare, is always an interesting topic.  It is also one that gets lost in the current era of test scores and accountability.  But the holistic approach to education is not what caught my attention, no.  Eduflack was a little taken aback to see that NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and AFT President Randi Weingarten joined together to speak in one voice on the importance of community schools and the conditions needs for effective teaching and learning.
On most issues, we tend to see NEA and AFT pitted against each other.  NEA, the larger, is the voice of the status quo.  AFT, thanks to the Al Shanker reputation, is the rebel or the boat rocker.  AFT is more willing to compromise with the “opposition.”  NEA stands firm on its ground, no matter the opposition.  AFT is seen as the representatives of urban teachers, NEA of the suburban.  Fair or no, we are regularly comparing the two teachers’ unions, looking for differences, splits, disagreements, and other perceived chasms in the land of teachers.
But here they really did seem to speak with a united voice, so much so that one can remember the good ole days when Bob Chase and Sandy Feldman were trying to merge the two organizations into one superpower.  One supposes that threats of eliminating teacher tenure, throwing aside past collective bargaining agreements, and reconstituting views of teacher effectiveness can really help sharpen an understanding of who one’s friends are.  
From Weingarten: “Especially in these tough economic times, schools must be places where children can be nurtured and educated.  We know that teachers can’t do it all, but through partnerships with other groups and agencies, community schools can address out-of-school factors like poverty and stability at home that research shows affect two-thirds of student outcomes.”
And from Van Roekel: “As educators, we know that the development of the whole child extends beyond the walls of the classroom.  We must harness the coordinated power of social services, parental engagement, service learning opportunities for students, extended learning and afterschool programs to ensure our children’s successes.”
Regardless, it is worth watching the Weingarten/Van Roekel session, if for no other reason than to see the kumbaya.  They both remind you of Helen Lovejoy, the famed voice of reason on the Simpsons … “won’t someone please think about the children!”  
So congrats to the Coalition for Community Schools for bringing the two together with a shared voice (and if I am wrong about how often the two join together in chorus, please let me know).  Now if only we can find similar common ground on teacher incentives measures or ESEA reauthorization …

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