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Arizona educators heading to education conference in Washington, D.C.

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PHOENIX — A group of educators from Arizona will join thousands of their colleagues from across the nation over the next two weeks to discuss pressing issues facing both students and the public education system.

More than 8,000 educators will attend the National Education Association’s 154th Annual Meeting and 95th Representative Assembly, which began Monday and runs through July 7 in Washington, D.C.

“Teachers, administrators, school bus drivers, custodians, front office secretaries, you name it, anybody that works in a school,” Joe Thomas, president elect of the Arizona Education Association, said of the attendees from Arizona. “The NEA is the country’s largest democratic deliberative body with almost three million members.”

Thomas said this year’s conference will cover many important topics that could affect Arizona’s educational system.

“One of the ones we really need to take a long, hard look at is the high stakes decision-making around schools and around teachers with the use of student data,” he said. “There’s no research that supports this. It became kind of a fad.”

The logic behind the testing it that, if a kid does well on a test (such as Arizona’s AzMERIT), that must mean the teacher performed well.

“Anybody that’s ever taught a classroom knows there’s so many other variables that are inside and outside a teachers control or the site principal’s control,” Thomas said.

The data alone doesn’t make a valid measurement, he said.

“We have an opportunity to decide if we want to diminish the weight of those test scores, if we want to bring in additional factors that we can rate the quality of a school or the quality of teacher by,” Thomas said.

Other topics for consideration at the conference are Every Student Succeeds Act Implementation, education funding, and even which presidential candidate the NEA will support.