NEA’s Troubles Won’t Be Reversed by Cognitive Linguistic Analysis

February 9, 2015

NEA’s Troubles Won’t Be Reversed by Cognitive Linguistic Analysis. Over at The Daily Beast, Conor P. Williams declassified an internal document that NEA commissioned from pollster Celinda Lake detailing which words to avoid and which to embrace when talking about education reform. And the most important recommendation was to avoid talking about “education reform.”

“Using cognitive linguistic analysis, we deconstructed current language to determine what to test,” the document states. “Much existing language uses abstractions and ineffective jargon, like education reform that imply public schools are problematic and fail to spell out tangible gains for students from our policy preferences.”

The report recommends “education improvement” or “education excellence” instead of “education reform.” And it appears NEA has already put these recommendations into practice. During her “cloven-hoofed minions” speech in Ohio last December, NEA president Lily Eskelsen said, “How are we going to talk about our side? We are not going to use the word ‘reform.’ I used to try. Let’s capture that good word back. I’d say we want whole child reform. What we found out from focus groups and polls, whenever anyone uses the word ‘reform,’ they think something is corrupt and needs to be blown up and start all over again. We know that some of the best schools in the world are our public schools that have sufficient resources to do an amazing job. There is no need to blow up a public school system. So we are going to talk about getting serious about real education improvements for the whole child.”

This is not the first time NEA has sought solutions in public relations, nor will it be the last. The one thing the union never considers is that its stated communications strategy might be working perfectly. Perhaps the public understands exactly what NEA does, what it wants, and what it stands for. Maybe that’s the problem.

No-Votes and “No” Votes. Teamsters Local 14 in Las Vegas has long desired to unseat the NEA-affiliated Education Support Employees Association (ESEA) as the exclusive bargaining representative of the 11,258 support workers for the Clark County School District. Back in 2006, the Teamsters even won a representation election over ESEA by the lopsided margin of 2,711 to 1,932.

The problem for the Teamsters was, and remains to this day, that state law requires a majority vote of the entire bargaining unit. In essence, no vote at all is a vote for the incumbent ESEA.

Now, nine years later, the Teamsters were able to force another vote. And the margin was even greater. There were 3,692 votes (71.1%) for the Teamsters and only 1,498 votes for ESEA. But if every single vote cast had been for the Teamsters, it still would not have been enough to oust ESEA.

The Teamsters are pinning their hopes on two things: 1) that on Wednesday the state labor relations board awards the election to the Teamsters (unlikely); and 2) that they can prove ESEA doesn’t have a majority of the bargaining unit as dues-paying members (possible).

Even with the extraordinary advantages of incumbency, ESEA is hanging on by a thread. NEA might have to chalk up another few thousand member loss very soon.

“I’d Like to Thank the (Teaching) Academy.” The Education Teacher Performance Assessment (edTPA) is an odd bone of contention within the teachers’ unions. On the one hand, it has union fingerprints all over it. On the other, it is administered and scored by Pearson, which union activists believe is headquartered in the seventh circle of hell.

Part of the assessment is for the teacher candidates to submit an unedited 20-minute video of their classroom instruction. edTPA provides guidelines on how to produce a video, but they have not been kept up-to-date, and not everyone can manage the available software anyway.

American capitalism being what it is, an entrepreneur is filling this market niche. The Teachers Performance Network will, for the low, low price of $199, produce your teaching video, including wireless sound, an HD camera and a professional operator to shoot you.

The company has been producing video résumés for teachers, so the classroom environment is familiar territory.

I look forward to the addition of special effects, stunts and makeup to future teacher performance evaluations.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics February 3-9:

Texas State Teachers Association’s Finances.

Utah Education Association’s Finances.

Vermont NEA’s Finances.

Virginia Education Association’s Finances.

Washington Education Association’s Finances.

Quote of the Week. “I have endured horrific constraints and undemocratic principles for over a month, not to mention an attempt to defame and degrade my accomplishments as a Howard County teacher and the achievements of my students.” – Jody Zepp, Maryland State Teacher of the Year and candidate for president of the Howard County Education Association. Zepp claims her union is attempting to thwart her campaign in an effort to protect incumbent Paul Lemle. (February 3 Baltimore Sun)