During AACTE’s 2015 Washington Week, we were among a dozen AACTE Holmes Scholars® attending a 3-day Summer Policy Institute that promoted mentorship and support while introducing participants to the national education policy scene. In addition to meeting with policy makers and leaders of various educational organizations, Scholars engaged in a site visit June 9 to the U.S. Department of Education.
A healthy organization works to articulate its mission and meet the needs of its members, and that’s just what AACTE did during this year’s Washington Week. We recently returned home from AACTE’s State Leaders Institute (SLI), where we collaborated with chapter leaders and members from various states, June 9-10, followed by advocacy activities at Day on the Hill, June 10-11.
The SLI agenda included updates on the national and regional landscapes of teacher education, accreditation, and capacity building. AACTE President/CEO Sharon P. Robinson provided her perspective about the state of the organization and introduced AACTE’s new online professional seminars related to assessment and use of data for improvement. SLI was a great opportunity for us to engage in conversations about regulations, state chapter issues, and increasing the level of engagement in order to enhance teacher preparation.
AACTE’s Washington Week kicked off with diverse perspectives, enlightening anecdotes, and compelling conversations at the special conference “Progress and Factors That Contribute to Closing the STEM Achievement Gap,” sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Five presenters joined AACTE leaders on two panels discussing ways to improve learning outcomes of underrepresented populations in the STEM fields.
The conference began with presenters Armando Sanchez-Martinez, manager of Editorial Santillana in Mexico, and Vasanta Akondy, co-manager of the Verizon Innovative Learning Program (VILP), who together provided a global perspective on innovative solutions to increase access to STEM education in Mexico and India.
Sanchez-Martinez presented a comprehensive look into Mexico’s educational landscape, including a detailed explanation of sociocultural factors that contribute to local achievement gaps and of the current educational movements and solutions to closing the gap. Akondy highlighted the importance of VILP and its efforts to recruit more girls in India into the STEM fields. The aim of this program is to provide a community network of support while focusing on student engagement and providing technological resources to underfunded schools.
More than 100 teacher educators, students, and partners convened in Washington, DC, last week for AACTE’s Day on the Hill, bringing the voice of the profession to members of Congress. The event was held June 10-11 as part of AACTE’s Washington Week.
Day on the Hill began with a half-day orientation that explored participants’ role in advocating and advancing the profession. To prepare attendees for engaging with members of Congress and their staff, the afternoon started with an update on education-related activity on Capitol Hill from Deborah Koolbeck, AACTE’s director of government relations. Koolbeck also reviewed talking points provided by AACTE and discussed strategies for choosing the most effective talking points to use in various meetings with policy makers.
Throughout AACTE’s Washington Week, June 9-11, the theme “Diverse Perspectives, Deep Partnerships, One Profession” permeated each event, motivating attendees to forge and nurture bonds that will strengthen the profession. From the emerging leaders attending the Holmes Scholars Summer Policy Institute to the chapter executives at the State Leaders Institute, and from the STEM conference through Day on the Hill, participants connected with peers, policy makers, and partners around common goals and interests.
On Wednesday, June 17, the Education Policy Center (EPC) at the American Institutes for Research will host a Twitter chat, “Preparing a Million New Teachers,” to discuss whether educator preparation programs are up to the challenge of producing a well-prepared workforce. You can lend your voice to the chat by following and tagging #EPCchat on Twitter, starting tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Today, AACTE’s Washington Week kicks off with a full lineup of interactive sessions, discussions, and advocacy around educator preparation. In addition to our traditional advocacy-focused events, we are hosting a special conference this afternoon on closing the student achievement gap in the critical subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, today’s conference will feature a multidisciplinary group of education researchers, practitioners, and scientists who will share their theoretical approaches and successful models for promoting the STEM achievement. The panelists will also discuss how to build collaborative, interdisciplinary partnerships for addressing the U.S. achievement gap in STEM subjects—drawing on international lessons—as well as ways to improve learning outcomes of underrepresented populations in the STEM fields.
On May 26, the College of Education at William Paterson University (NJ) brought together university, school, and community members for a very special event organized by Candace Burns, dean of the college, and Sharon Leathers, director of educational innovations and grant initiatives. I was privileged to participate along with my colleague Rodrick Lucero, AACTE’s vice president for member engagement and support.
The event centered on the award-winning documentary American Promise, which follows two African American boys through 13 years of schooling in a unique coming-of-age film. Around the country, internationally, and through the PBS network, this amazing film has provoked new conversations and raised difficult questions about what the promise of education means in America, particularly for children of color.
Despite common caricatures of Twitter as the domain of callow teens and celebrity stalkers, it is a technology that should be taken seriously by teacher educators. Although social media has had a dramatic impact on communication in the modern world, the field of teacher preparation has been largely reluctant to add its voices to the mix. It is high time that we wake up to the role new media can play in our professional lives—and to the risks of remaining on the sidelines.
We have seen what can happen when we allow others to decide how our story is told, especially those who view our work with suspicion or even outright hostility. When U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that “many if not most of the nation’s 1,450 schools, colleges, and departments of education are doing a mediocre job of preparing teachers for the realities of the 21st-century classroom,” for example, that message won broad circulation, including in social media. Today, the secretary’s and the U.S. Department of Education’s Twitter accounts reach more than 500,000 individuals. By comparison, AACTE’s Twitter account has approximately 5,600 followers.
Earlier this month, we were excited and honored to attend the symposium “Closing the Gaps: A Policy and Practice Conversation to Advance an Opportunity Agenda,” presented by the National Education Association at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It was a thought-provoking event, filled with great speakers and compelling strategies for closing gaps in student achievement and opportunity.
Panelists included Linda Darling-Hammond (Stanford University), Robert Balfanz (Johns Hopkins University), Kisha Davis-Caldwell (National Board for Professional Teaching Standards), Ron Ferguson (Harvard University), and many others. These speakers discussed gap-closing strategies, policy levers to support effective practices, and directions the education field will (and should) take in the future. They also consistently emphasized the importance of community engagement.