I took part in the MEA Conference at the Abromson Center in Portland this morning. The SWAG was pretty good out front, got a lot of pens, this time of year, pens in my school are a pretty “hot” item. Down to the last of my supply and have been on the “look out” for more. Most of the students come to class without them, so I am really glad that I am doing so much more on the computer these days, but still need them once in a while.

Chris Galgay – Maine Education Association President gave the opening remarks and introduced Reg Weaver – NEA President

He stated that the last MEA conference was in 2003, he would like this to be an annual event again. Discussed the Political Action Committee, and the opportunities that are going to happen in this year’s elections. If everyone gives a little, more powerful than just a few giving a lot.

During his introduction of Reg Weaver the words that stuck with me the most were:

“Reg Weaver has flipped the dialog in this country from what is wrong with education, to what is right with education.”

I have attempted to give the spirit of Reg Weaver’s address, but what I have written is not always his exact words.

Mr. Weaver stated that he had just came back from Africa, last Thursday night and while he was there he visited a teacher college preparing 200 African women to become teachers. He discussed that he spoke with them about sometimes teachers need to be unorthodox in their methods, to get through to our students and challenged them (the teacher candidates) to do that.

He discussed that the light of hope is “flickering” in the U.S. He discussed passionately his views; that the gap between rich and poor is growing wider and wider in: health care, safety, education, and opportunity. Mr. Weaver stated that Americans are becoming worn down and disillusioned with their future, those that are in power and are starting to give up hope.

He stated that educators haven’t given up hope in in the American dream. That education is the most important battle ground in the struggle for equality and opportunity. But that we still need to do more to continue to close the achievement gap.

Mr. Weaver said that he understands that urban areas are not alone in experiencing the education gap and that rural areas such as Maine are also experiencing many of the same problems. He talked about how leaders can’t sweep the “achievement gap” problems under the rug. He discussed that there are major differences between poorer rural/urban school between rich and poor districts which lead to unequal educational opportunities for our students.

Very passionately discuss about how it is not right (my word “ethical”) to have Kids take with different educational opportunities take the same tests. How does testing close the achievement gap? We as teachers have a responsibility for every student, not just the best and brightest or richest. But without the support of the public and our political leadership this will not happen. He discussed that only by working together can we reach our children who are being left behind and change public policy to help kids.

Discussed the MEA’s Vision Statement – A great public school for every child.

He discussed that we as teachers should teach children the way that they learn, and must change the way we teach, so that they can learn.

Discussed the poor retention rates of qualified teachers and the effects of teachers leaving the profession.

  • leaving in first 3-5 years
  • poor working conditions –
  • decision making process –
  • no respect – not treated as a professional
  • low pay
  • feeling overwhelmed with workload

He strongly discussed that we need to have a mentoring program for new teachers to keep those teachers and help create continuity in the classrooms, which in turn will help with the educational progress of our students.
Discussed lack of funding in education and how politicians must match rhetoric with resources.

That politicians must provide programs and services meet the needs of the students, not just what is popular or expedient.

Mr. Weaver talked about high dropout rates – stated how it was amazing the numbers of minority students (50% in some populations) that are dropping out. Discussed the NEA initiatives and that they had developed to a 10 point drop plan to help stop the problem. So NEA recognizes the issue and working with Congress towards a resolution.

Discussed Pre-K programs and problems with funding – these programs do make a difference and told story of his own children.

Discussed that Output = test score equals progress in education today. He is very against the idea that ONE test score should not be used to determine the future of a child. Mr. Weaver talked about improving things that should be considered “input” before attempting to measure output: class size safe school, reasonable standards and accountability standards that make sense, parental involvement – focus on input as much or more than the output; that presently it is not that way, government just focusing on the output.

Discussed school funding rates have not changed significantly in over 30 years state and local taxes. The expectation is that you prepare students with the same dollars as in 1975 and the the inequalities of the current rate.

Stated that he is sick and tired of folks holding us (teachers) accountable for when supports are not in place. Discussed that we need to make sure policy makers are held accountable for their actions, that they fight for resources for our children and that due to other special interests is not going to be easy.

Be politically active, discussed TABOR, that will have an opportunity to elect new President and Congress.

Discussed that NCLB needs to be changed, that present administration had it on fast track to get it re-authorized. When given a chance to review the law and make comments — NEA discovered teacher performance was to be based on student test scores – got it stopped and it is stuck in committee right now. Was discussing that if they (Congress & Administration) didn’t want to give us the resources needed to actually improve the achievement gap, but actually wanted to base teacher performance and student performance solely on test scores. Asked where is the equity in that. Stick with devil we know versus the devil we don’t know. Discussed watching what people do versus what they say. He discussed NEA negotiation process with congress on re-authorization of NCLB.

Recognizing schools for the successes, not only the challenges.

Discussed fairness of including special needs students and Language Learning students being measured in with the general populations. If special education students could do the same work as regular education students then they wouldn’t be in special education, but we require them to take the same test. That is ridiculous.

Urged educators to speak with the legislators – they don’t know what is actually going in the classroom and are getting their information from people who have not been in the classroom for “10,000 years” or if they have ever been in the classroom.


“Kids don’t care how much you know, they want to know how much you care.”
Reg Weaver is a Good motivational speaker. He did a good job of attempting to motivate the teachers that were there.

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