NEA’s ‘Priority Schools Campaign’ addresses needs at SLC school


National, state and local teachers’ associations partner with administrators to improve school

In May and August 2011, leaders from the Salt Lake Teachers Association (SLTA) and the Utah Education Association (UEA) met with administrators and teachers at Salt Lake’s Glendale Middle School to discuss the school’s needs and how to improve student outcomes at the consistently low-performing school. They were joined by experts from the National Education Association (NEA).

Utah’s large class sizes and short staffing make it nearly impossible for administrators and teachers to collaborate, plan and set goals—especially in a school with very diverse needs like Glendale. So the May and August meetings were a unique opportunity, with the added benefit of outside expertise.

The meetings are part of the NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, a multi-year effort to turn around consistently low-performing schools. The campaign allows educators to partner with school districts, parents and communities to transform schools and improve outcomes for students by providing resources, training and the support of the teachers’ associations.

"Teacher morale was at its lowest when SLTA was contacted at the beginning of last year," said SLTA President Susan McFarland. "The resources that have been provided by SLTA, UEA and NEA have given resiliency to teachers. The key to getting these resources to the school has been the collaborative planning by the faculty, the association and the district."

Utah is a target state in the Priority Schools Campaign and Glendale Middle is identified as a target school as the recipient of a federal School Improvement Grant.

Glendale’s School Improvement Committee (SIC) met in May for a guided discussion facilitated by the Utah Education Association and the school district. The purpose was to identify critical ways the school could support student achievement. The outcome was a series of recommendations on team building, professional development and parent and community outreach.

The SIC presented their recommendations to the entire faculty for their consensus. The first training was held later in May when former UEA President Pat Rusk worked with the faculty and staff on team building. The second training was held on August 17-18 and focused on overcoming achievement gaps through the CARE (Culture, Abilities, Resilience and Effort) program.

“I…really enjoyed talking about the different strategies and activities that can be used to help close the achievement gap, especially the parent involvement piece,” said one teacher attending the training. “There are so many ways we can better reach, teach and be effective to our students. This course was very valid for brainstorming activities, teaching strategies and reaching parents,” said another.

The training sessions were provided free of charge to the school district by the SLTA, UEA and NEA as part of the Priority Schools Campaign. About 50 educators participated including the principal and assistant principal.

“This program is an excellent example of what can happen when teachers, administrators, parents and other stakeholders collaborate and work together to improve the quality of education for our children,” said UEA President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh.

The efforts at Glendale Middle School are continuing. The school’s faculty is continuing to discuss ways to develop issues identified in the CARE training and using its School Improvement Council to identify other needed training to support student achievement. The SLTA and UEA will continue to provide expertise and support for these efforts.

About the Priority Schools Campaign
The Priority Schools Campaign grew out of a mandate from the NEA’s annual Representative Assembly, where more than 9,000 delegates voted to focus resources on informing and engaging the association’s members in collaborative work to transform lower-performing schools. The campaign supports:

  • School transformation approaches that involve educators, communities and policymakers at both the state and national levels.
  • Collaboration on innovative programs to measure student success and teacher quality.
  • Attracting and keeping the best educators and necessary resources for the schools of greatest need.

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