May 23, 2013
TECHNOS QUARTERLY Spring 1998 Vol. 7 No. 1
Interview with Bob Chase
By Mardell Raney
Since his election as President of the 2.3 million-member National Education Association in 1996, Bob chase has focused his efforts on a new unionismrecreating the NEA as the champion of quality teaching and quality public schools in the United States. A longtime educator and association member, Chase combines dedication and experience with a refreshing candor and enthusiasm for the future. His vision embraces technology, reform, and a variety of partnersall engaged in the critical business of education and driven by a moral imperative.
What led you to education as a profession?
I was highly influenced by an excellent, caring teacher. Alan Carlsen was my English teacher in high school and my track coach for four years. Here was a man who knew how hard it was to be a kid, how discouraged kids get, how ashamed of failure and sensitive to adult opinion they are. A good teacher like that knows when you're slacking off and lets you know that he knows. But he keeps encouraging you. He builds you up and never tears you down. He helped me believe in myself. More importantly, he asked me a key question when I was a junior in high school, Have you ever thought of being a teacher? Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that I had the ability to enter a profession as respected as teaching. This question changed my life; it was my defining moment. I viewed education as an important way that I could make a difference in the lives of others.
What are your strengths as NEA president? What do you hope to effect, and what is the new unionism that you speak about?
I hope I bring a new vision, one that contributes greatly to the professionalization of teachers and quality schooling because our national success in the future will rely heavily on these two things.
The new unionism is a twofold responsibility for the NEA. It means carrying out our traditional responsibilities of advocating for and collectively bargaining the terms and conditions of our members' employment, defending them when they need our help, yet initiating proactive behavior that seeks to make them, as the commercial says, the best that they can be as classroom educators so that they can deliver quality schooling.
It means a change in behavior and attitude. It means defending our members who have run afoul of managers and still provide failing teachers with help from union-designated mentor teachers. It means that our local affiliates can support peer assistance and review, without embracing the notion that all of education's problems stem from bad teachers and bad teacher unions. It means that we believe that while the majority of our schools are producing excellent results, some schools are notand that we have a shared responsibility to turn failing schools and systems around for the sake of our children.
I want a respected and vital NEA to open the door to the new millennium and lead Americans through it. I want NEA to change because public education needs to change and NEA can't lead that change if it doesn't change itself. Most of all, I want NEA to change because America's children desperately need an organization that cares about them, the quality of their education, and the quality of their lives.
Who do you believe are the key change agents in education and how effective are they?
There's a large cast of characters who must play important roles as change agents. It must include all of the vital community folks we view as education stakeholdersstudents, parents, business, elected and appointed political leaders, folks who run the community's institutions all of these and more.
But when all is said and done, it is teachers who must play the most important role as change agents. Ultimately it is theyand only theywho have the capacity to change what happens in those teaching moments in their classrooms with America's children. It is upon them that school quality largely rests.
What's your view of state and federal standards? What about the diversity of school standards? Shouldn't both knowledge accumulation and critical thinking be included?
Obviously we believe that there should be high standards determined at the state or local level. But not even the President of the United States supports federally mandated standards. Rather there is a push for national voluntary standards, which we support. As we build standards, however, it is imperative that we build a renewed national committment to do all we can to ensure that all students are enabled to meet them. I stress that word enabled, because kids from disadvantaged backgrounds will need supplemental interventions to help them achieve at higher levels.
What is the main goal of the NEA for the future? What are the similarities and differences between teachers' unions and other unions?
The main goal for the future is to professionalize the teaching profession and to deliver quality schooling. Obviously all unions are advocates for their members, fighting for fair and equitable wages and decent working conditions. I believe our role is distinguished by what I call a moral imperative: the imperative of cultivating the minds of all our our boys and girls through quality educational experiences, whether in rural, suburban, or urban settings. I see that as distinct from bending the steel that makes America's automobile fleet.
Have reports of corruption and leadership struggles within the AFL-CIO and others tarnished the public's view or led to mistrust of unions in generalor does the American public see education unions as purer, more honest, and even altruistic?
I'm proud that neither of the two teacher unions has been touched by scandal. But I must remind you that, in the eyes of the public, teachers have always been held in high regard.
What do your members want most from the NEA, and what is the union's chief contribution to them and their profession?
First and foremost, our members want to deliver quality schooling for all students. That's why teachers go into the profession in the first placeto make a profound difference in the lives of children through quality schooling. They want NEA to help provide the leadership, the nurturing external and internal environments, and the tools that will enable them to achieve that goalin addition to taking care of the traditional bread-and-butter union issues. The NEA role also should help them take responsibility for their own professionso that they achieve quality teaching.
With today's strong emphasis on school reform, the diversity of school and learning models (charter schools, home schools, distance learners, and so forth), will there be an important role for the union in the future?
I believe there will be an even more important role for the union to play in the future. Though there are movements of various kinds on the educational landscape, my guess is that 90 percent of our K12 students will still be attending public schools for the indefinite future. And that's where our members are. To the degree that we can be responsive to their increasingly changing needs, I believe we will continue to have a vital role in teachers' professional lives.
Moreover, we have launched our own charter school initiativethe only one in the country where the overriding goal is to mine what this model has to offer to the greater public school system. While many charter schools have been founded in recent years, accountability mechanisms are lacking. Some have folded, others are struggling, and the jury is still out on their effectiveness.What's your position on school reform movement? Do you find this multiplicity of learning models, facilities, and styles threatening or destructive of the education systemor is it positive, healthy, and responsive? How can we bring some cohesion or control to public, private, and individual modelsor should we?
Obviously we believe school improvement is needed, even though most schools are doing a fine job. NEA has created and supported a variety of school improvement strategies over the past decade to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Those intiatives are aimed at identifying solutions to improve our schools, school districts, student learning, and teacher education. And they are geared to explore new models, such as charter schools. We don't find this experimentation and exploration at all threatening if the focus is on improving the quality of teaching and learning.
But in recent years, there have been several peripheral attempts to improve schools through political expediencies. Vouchers are a wonderful example of this. What is the impact of vouchers on teaching and learning? Absolutely zero. As far as I can tell, the major contributions of vouchers are to defund public schools and to provide a vehicle for flight by giving some students mobility to other schools that is, if they pass the admissions criteria. And voucher proponents call this choice.
I think we should have some practical questions to ask of any strategy that's proposed. For example, what does this mean for teaching and learning? What does it do for the 90 percent of our children who get their education in America's public schools? It seems to me that these questions should be a key part of any litmus test. There will always be marginal responses to real challenges. Let's ask the right questions before we buy into them.
If the American public wanted a centrally controlled system of education, we probably wouldn't have the thousands of school districts we have today. Again, there's a more important question to ask: if nothing changes or improves in the classroom, who cares about who governs?
What role should parents play in school choice? What about equity for those children whose parents are unavailable, out of touch, or incapable of making such decisions?
Parents should get a choicenot a charged and overused slogan that has no substantive meaning when the choice is in the hands of admissions directors or committees. At NEA, we have an open admissions policy at the charter schools we are founding that reflects the publicness of our schools and strong accountability measures because they are supported by public tax dollars. The law calls for equity in education for all students, and it is an abiding principle in our own charter efforts.
What about the conflict between for-profit schools and public monies? Won't there always be opportunistsas well as well-intentioned peopleinterested in this lucrative market? Is this necessarily bad, especially if positive results could be guaranteed?
In a capitalist society, of course, there will always be an interest in a lucrative market. But where's the moral imperative to ensure that all students succeed? Where are the guarantees to ensure that all students, including the more challenging ones, will be the focus of these venture capitalists? Are they in it for the top dollar, or the long haul to serve America's children? To date, these initiatives have achieved very mixed performance ratings marked by unfulfilled promises in some locales.
You've talked about the apprenticeship model in unions and how it is relevant to teachers. How does it translate to professional development or teacher training, or even mentorship?
What this meansat a minimumis that a first-year teacher should have the benefit of mentoring from an experienced educator and that peer assistance should be available to all teachers. Besides signaling to a beginning teacher that there is a supportive environment to help a newcomer succeed, mentoring and peer assistance send a broader message to all teachers that continuous improvement is an expectation and a way of professional life.
The NEA has had a peer mentoring/peer review program in Columbus, Ohio, for some time. Has it been successful and is it being modeled elsewhere?
Columbus is a leader in putting the professional development of its members up front and at the bargaining table as part of its everyday union work. They have a decade-long experience with peer assistance and review, mentoring new teachers, and counseling veteran teachers who are experiencing difficulties in the classroom. But this is just part of what Columbus does. The union also co-sponsors an Urban Academy for Professional Development and Renewal at five school sites around the city. Every school in the city sends a team of teachers, administrators, and parents for a nine-week sabbatical to observe and learn at the academy and to develop a plan for revitalizing their own school. The union also is creating a year-round virtual university on the Internet with courses to meet professional needs of its members. As John Grossman, president of the Columbus Education Association (an NEA affiliate), puts it, the Association also is trying to home grow the next generation of teachers by co-sponsoring the Northland Teaching Academy, a four-year program of student and classroom practice for high school students who aspire to the teaching profession.
This program works magnificently for Columbus, and we're proud of the pioneering work that they have done. It's what we mean when we talk about the new unionism, because these NEA members have taken control of their own professional destiny. The Columbus program is definitely gaining national reputation as a model.
My only caution would be that we not view these innovative measures as a one size fits all solution. We can learn from them for sure, and this model may well work in other school districts. But each school district must examine its own situation and build a reform model that fits its needs. This may or may not include peer review.
Your advocacy of peer review (making good teachers take responsibility for getting rid of bad teachers) came under a lot of criticism at the NEA convention. Do you still support this, and does it put too much pressure on the teachers themselves? And are you saying that teachers themselves must be accountable for policing and holding colleagues up to quality standards?
Of course not everyone agrees with me on this aspect of the new unionism. Indeed, there is a healthy debate going on. Some members and leaders object. We must listen to what they have to say, because from this opposition will undoubtedly come some constructive ideas. At our annual meeting of over 9,000-plus delegates from around the country, the vast majority decisively endorsed giving our local affiliates the option to pursue peer assitance and review. Their message was clear: In the quest for better quality public schools, our union should be willing to go first, take risks, and try some genuinely bold new ideasincluding peer assistance and review, where appropriate.
You've commented that when you opposed former NEA President Mary Hatwood Futrell's position supporting school reform, you were wrong. That admission and your calling it personal growth is a wonderful expression of honesty and flexibility that's all too rare in public leaders. Yet shouldn't we strive more for personal growth in education than perhaps any other area?
Constant personal growth and learning should characterize every professionmine, yours, and everyone else's.
Do you think the public's perception of our schools as seriously endangered is wrong? If so, why this perception? Do we expect too much of our schools and teachers?
The vast majority of our schools are doing a fine job. But do we have schools that are not doing well? Yes. We are in a high-stakes, high-standards era. People are looking for more accountability. They have a right to demand high performance. I think we have to work our way to the right answers for the challenges we face. Sometimes we apply the wrong answer to a problem because of political expediency, rather than finding the right solution that will improve teaching and learning.
Business and industry, which increasingly require more highly educated workforces, deplore the knowledge and skills of many of today's high school graduates. The corporate sector has a right to demand that certain standards are achieved; but, in turn, don't they also have a responsibility to education? What would you like to see business and industry contribute and how?
Business is an important education stakeholder. At the national level, we at NEA are working with national corporate leaders to see what we can do together to improve public education. This is an initiative that is ongoing. At the local level, there are many things that business can doallowing its employees to volunteer to tutor students in reading, giving employees time to participate in parent-teacher conferences during the workday, serving as hosts for learning experiences in their corporate settings, contributing to scholarship funds, and much more.
How important is today's school-to-work movement in education?
It's important particularly if we want education to be relevant and to connect with the real world.
What about parental and community involvement in schools? The statement is becoming overused and even trivialized that it takes a village to raise a child, but we all know that teachers can't do it alone. How can we get everyone engaged in this process? What role can and should the media play?
Teachers definitely cannot do it alone. They need the help of the communityfirst and foremost, the parents of their students. Administrators and educators can help by making their schools and classrooms user friendly so that parents and others understand that they are welcome to visit and help. The media has a very special role to play, tooone that I'd like to see expanded. That role is to make it a practice to cover the education success storiesof students, teachers, schoolsjust as they do the less flattering stories.
What about teacher preparation for the changing classroom and learner needs? Shouldn't it begin in the college classrooms and with the professors of future teachers?
Absolutely. That's why we at the NEA launched the Teacher Education Initiative (TEI) in 1994 to examine ways to improve teacher education through partnerships with colleges of education and professional development schools. The aim of TEI is to accelerate the pace of change and renewal in teacher preparation and practice to produce better performing students. The restructuring effort is undergirded by nine principles reflecting the key components of systemic change and seeks, through inquiry, to advance teacher professionalism. At the University of Memphis, one of the TEI collaborators, the College of Education restructured from the ground up because its graduates were leaving the institution unprepared to teach students from increasingly diverse backgrounds. Today, graduates of the school enter the field having had field experience in professional development schools in rural, urban, and suburban settings.
We also are continually involved with the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the professional accrediting agency, to help ensure high-quality teaching and teacher preparation. NCATE is a nongovernmental, nonprofit coalition of 30 national organizations representing millions of educators and the public. Through the accreditation process and its special projects, NCATE is advancing reforms that support the continuum of teacher preparation and development, extending from initial teacher preparation to beginning licensure through a teacher's career to advanced certification.
What is the role of technology in education? How important is it for teachers to have knowledge and skill in the use of technology?
Technology in the Information Age is like the pencil and paper of the past. It is a must tool in a global marketplace. Students must have the facility to use this tool of the times. It is absolutely crucial for teachers to have the knowledge and skills to use this modern day teaching and learning tool. They must learn how to exploit its uses as future teachers, as well as on a continuing basis as practitioners.
We were promised such great benefits for education by all the lotteries that have proliferated, yet we've actually seen few results even though billions of dollars have been spent. What happened and what can be done about the situation?
The NEA has not opposed the use of lottery monies for education purposes, but we don't believe they should replace existing revenue sources. The reason for this is that lotteries are obviously sensitive to economic forces and therefore not a predictable or reliable source of funding. Sometimes a lottery may be sold to a state's voters on the basis of where the generated revenues will go, and sometimes education is one of those targeted areas to benefit. But that hasn't always been the case.
Education does get some lottery money, and a good example of that is Georgia, where monies are strictly earmarked for early childhood education. In California, lotteries generated substantial funds initially, but the state then went through its major economic downturn, which obviously had an impact on the revenues generated. As to what can be done, that goes right back to the will of the taxpayers and voters in the lotterly states.
What about the rumors of a pending merger of AFT and NEA? Is this likely, and what would be the advantage of such a move?
We're actively involved in a discussion that would bring our two organizations together, but there are many unresolved issues. We are increasingly involved in collaborative efforts with the AFT. For example, we have begun joint efforts in the areas of school discipline, school infrastructure, and teacher quality.
The NEA, indeed unions in general, have historically been very political and identified with the Democratic Party. You've advocated that a better approach would be to work to get the support of both parties. How do you do this, and might it actually dilute your influence and power in Washington?
Our union has been politically involved for sometime because every decision affecting our schools, school employees, and school policies is a political decision. We've always worked both sides of the aisle on our issues and have members who are delegates to both party conventions. We have reinvigorated our efforts to reach out to moderate Republicans. At the last Republican Party convention, I hosted an event that was very well attended by GOP leaders. We view education as a bipartisan issue. We need both sides of the aisle to make good things happen for education, so we're constantly reaching out to both Democrats and Republicans.
Bill Clinton has called himself the Education President and has proposed legislation and strongly endorsed several education reforms. How would you rate him on education performance, and what more would you like for him to do?
Well I suppose every President calls himself that, but President Clinton is one who comes close to living up to that billing. In the eyes of school children and school employees, he gets an A+ on performance. But to achieve that special title of Education President, I'd say he still has one key homework assignment to completethat is school infrastructure, making sure that the nation's public schools are healthy and safe places where quality teaching and learning can be achieved.
What is the most critical or immediate need that we have for education in America right now?
Attracting and retaining quality teachers, because education largely comes down to what happens between a teacher and a student in the classroom.
What will the school of the future look like, in your opinion? Will our education system be vastly different in the next 10 years? And will the requirements for tomorrow's teacher be different?
I hope we see safer and healthier public schools, because so many are in such a state of disrepair today that they are not at all conducive to quality teaching and learning. Many are not technology ready; that is, they are not or cannot be effectively wired for access to the Information Superhighway. I think we can expect that there will be more technologies in our schools.
I hope our schools are vastly different than they are today. We must move them from the Industrial Age model to the Information Age model. Increasingly I believe we will move from the one-size-fits-all model to schools that can tailor their educational programs to fit the diverse learning needs of students through the use of technology and other strategies.
My greatest hope is that those schools will set tougher standards for America's learnerskids in the inner city and rural schools will be challenged and enabled to achieve at the same high levels as their best suburban counterparts. I stress the word enabled because it is a sham to challenge underprivileged kids to meet higher standards unless we are willing to provide the resources and interventions that will help them succeed.
At NEA, we're doing everything in our power to ensure that what we also see in the future is a highly qualified teacher in every classroomteachers who can meet the challenges of increasingly diverse students with increasingly diverse learning needs. Educators who are well prepared, well supported to succeed, and who know that for their professions, learning never ends.
You've said that teachers must take responsibility for revitalizing the public schools. Do you see teachers' unions as the driving force for reform?
Teacher unions must be the driving force to lead that change. We must challenge and change those public school systems that are fundamentally broken and dysfunctional. If we want higher performance standards, we must first create high-performance public education systems. I believe the new union, we are building at the NEAwith its emphasis on school quality and teacher professionalismcan play a major role in this transformation.
For decades, teacher unions have been adept at protecting their members from dysfunctional school systems. Today, we must challenge and change those systems.
What impact will technology have on the future of education? Will it change the basic curriculum, the way learning occurs, the role of the teacher? Will students continue to learn in traditional ways or will it be in a variety of places and styles?
I believe technology has the capacity to change all of those thingsin a positive way. While students may continue to learn in traditional settings, they also will be learning in other settings. There are high school students already engaged in learning from home through cyberschools. Virtual universities exists and others are in the making.
Access to the Internet is allowing teachers and students to use its resources for research projects in a wide array of subjects. The availability of technology to students will make for a different dynamic between teacher and student because they can become learning partners and collaborators rather than the traditional dispenser and receivers of information. Moreover, students in different parts of the countryor the worldcan now learn from each other in a very direct way via technology. That's powerful.
Consider for a moment that a literature class has just read a particular bookand rather than limiting the discussion of that work to the class, they might be able to communicate directly with the author via technology. I see technology as a way to connect students directly with the great artists, musicians, and even leaders of our time. What an inspiration to be able to communicate directly with these folks. What an exciting way to learn!
By the same token, there are some good and exciting things happening as educators increase their use of technology. For example, the NEA has always included in its school improvement programs the ability for those involved in school change to connect via technology. It's been our way to accelerate the pace of change. Whey reinvent the wheel when you can query your colleagues from across the country on some new teaching strategy? Over the years, these educators have exchanged their ideas on school change through our technology networks. They're increasingly engaging in NEA threaded discussions. One of the most popular cyberspace features we have is a Works4Me, which is a wide range of classroom and teacher strategies contributed by our own members. Both the ideas and the users of it are growing.
What teachers have discovered in using the various technologies available to them is that they can tailor lessons to students' diverse learning styles. While there is currently no way to measure the impact of technology on learning, educators have noted plenty of anecdotal evidence. For example, teachers find technology a powerful vehicle for collaborative learning and working in teams and for problem solving using knowledge skills, rather than memorization. If you were to videotape a classroom where technologies are utilized by students, you wouldn't get a scientific measurement of technology's impact but you'd certainly note their high level of engagement. We hope the availability of technology to educators will aslo facilitate the adminstrative part of their jobs.
Teachers face challenges too. Educators are having difficulty trying to figure out how to develop their students into analytical thinkers who can discriminate between accurate and inaccurate information found in cyberspace. In the past, when textbooks dominated, there was a process to which those materials were subjected to determine their appropriateness for student use. There was a textbook committee that gave its seal of approval. On the Internet, there is no such process. There's a huge world of information at your fingertipsand no guide. And we know from experience that the opportunities for disseminating erroneous information and data are there.
The potential of using technology as a vehicle for communication with parents can likewise be a powerful connection. Parents can log on and check their students' class assignment, or even communicate, in some cases, directly with educators.
The General Accounting Office said last year that it would take about $112 billion to bring our school infrastructure up to where it should be and to build the necessary new schools. But even if we succeed in doing this, how long would we be current? As technology , enrollments, and political environments change, will we still need these schools, which by then will be crumbling or obsolete technologically? What's the answer, and must we keep pouring more money into crumbling infrastructure?
First of all, the figures I've seen are $112 billion to modernize and repair existing schools, to remove asbestos, and make them handicap accessible. At least another $72 billion is needed for new school construction to meet surging enrollments and to modernize for educational technology. I have no idea how long those schools will be current. I do know that this is a rural, suburban, and urban school problem that cannot be ignored. Right now, more than 14 million children are trying to learn in buildings that have leaking roofs, crumbling walls, inadequate plumbing, lighting, heating or ventilation, and other assorted environmental hazards. Tens of thousands of schools likewise lack the basic wiring and conditions to accommodate the demand for additional classroom technology.
Can we expect quality teaching and learning under these unsafe and unhealthy conditions? I think not. Not unlike our homes or other public buildings, school deteriorate ove time. Wouldn't we continue to repair our homes so that they would be livable? I don't know what the alternative might be.
What effectspositive and negativedo you see technology having on society and citizens of the future? For example, will increasing concentration on the Internet inhibit socialization? Will it mean diminished learning and skill in traditional core subjects such as reading, writing, and mathematics? And what about the arts, especially performance arts, and certain applied or hands-on subjects? Will traditional libraries, concert halls, museums, and newspapers cease to exist?
There's nothing wrong with technology. Like anything else, it's how people choose to use it or abuse it. I see technology as positive. I don't think it has to mean any of the things that you mention. To the contrary, I view it as a tool that can enhance many of those things. In my mind, technology will never eliminate the thrill of a live Broadway show or the emotion of a live concert. As for replacing newspapers, wellthere already are cyber news services launched by print newspapers. But the New York Times and The Washington Post aren't losing any money, as far as I know. In fact, you can find them on the Internet, too.
Certainly there are concerns about losing our individual privacy because so much data has been entered on us and is cyber available. And there are concerns about students wandering off into areas of the Internet that we might consider unsuitable or pornographic, and the market for blocking software is growing. These are challenges I'm sure we'll learn to deal with in the long run. We can't forget how recently we've had acess to the Net and how rapidly it's grown.
On the issue of inhibiting socialization, I don't think so. People will still have the need and the urge to connect with their fellow human beings. Anyway, I certainly hope that they do. In any society, however, there are always exceptions. A couple of NEA staff members asked the mother of a male student in a cybershool if she had concerns about his not getting the socialization he'd need to succeed in the world. She literally laughed in their faces. My son gets plenty of opportunity to socialize, she said, almost aghast at the question. Not only did he have regularly scheduled online contacts with his fellow students; he also met them to go to the movies and do other things. He played sports and that connected him to other students. But in that particular school, the staff and parents made sure the students had in-person experiences with their peers.
What is being done for our inner-city schools and their teachers that is working? How can we have any measure of equity and success in these areas with their high rates of poverty, illegal drug use, crime, and racial problems?
There are many problemslargely unaddressedthat constitute a moral failing of our nation. The challenge of our times will be to have the commitment and the stamina to keep trying to reach the children in these schools. We have always encountered such obstacles in the schools in our past. Look at our early history in this country. Look at even more modern times when we fought the injustices of discrimination, in our schools and on our streets. What distinguishes our history from those of other nations is that we begin from the premise that all children have the right to an equal educational opportunity. If we still value that goal, and I believe that we do, we can find the answers. Some of the answers are embedded in that age-old practice of solving problems together. One way to do that is partnering with all of the education stakeholders within a communityparents, business, social service agencies, the elected and appointed leadersto work together to find the right answers for their students. It means making the schools a high priority and a focus of the community.
You have long had a reputation as a straight shooter who is really serious about school reform. You've been honest and even blunt about school system mismangement and educational failuresand the fact that teacher unions have done little about it. What are you doing to ensure that the NEA will take a stronger, more proactive stance in the future?
At NEA, we're trying to bring focus to those issues through the organizational partnerships we've forged through the Emergency Commission on Urban Children, a vehicle to address the challenges created by the abandonment of urban children. The commission seeks more effective ways to meet the social, human, and health needs of all children to ensure that they are physically and psychologically ready to achieve in school. We need to help them restore their impulse to dream. We must communicate to inner-city children a powerful message of hope and possibility. And we must insist on schools that respect every child as worthy, responsible, and capable of ambitious learning.
We're also working at this through our involvement with the National Association of Partners in Education, Inc., and our combined efforts to train citzens to boost community and parental involvment in the schools. Our affiliates across the country also are engaged in a wide range of activitiesfrom partnerships with parents to advance student discipline and school safety to efforts to combat high dropout rates.
We frequently hear that children are our greatest asset. We have much work to do to give meaning to those words.
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave as president of NEA, as an educator?
I hope I leave behind a union whose single-minded focus is to produce quality teaching and learning and a union that is more responsive to its members' needs. As an educator, I hope that every student whose life I touched was well prepared and was enriched by the notion that learning never ends.