Welcome to The President’s Perspective blog, sharing thoughts from AACTE’s president and CEO on important, timely topics in educator preparation.
In a recent podcast with Enrollment Fuel, the organization’s president, Jacquelyn D. Elliott, interviewed AACTE President/CEO Lynn M. Gangone about what leadership means. The following summary highlights the conversation.
Opening the interview with a question about her definition of leadership, Gangone explained it as the process of orchestrating change “with people and for people” – that is, while the individual leader may have the power to implement change, the collective team is where change happens.
The greatest benefit of an association is the collective effort of its members to identify and then advance shared values. In the 2016 Harvard Business Review article “The Ecosystem of Shared Value,” the authors describe collective impact as a movement that successfully brings together various actors in their ecosystems to catalyze change. In the ecosystem of educator preparation, every individual AACTE member plays a critical role in creating a collective voice that impacts American education today and beyond. Through members’ active engagement, AACTE is empowered to achieve successes beneficial to our entire professional community and the students we serve.
Leading into this academic year, I have been highlighting AACTE’s core principles as they reflect members’ shared values and the driving force of our work. This month, I celebrate AACTE’s core values around scholarship and knowledge production, which represent your commitment to high research standards and to producing scholarship that contributes to educational practice. AACTE, its members, and its collaborative partners stand ready as a collective voice to effect educational and social change.
The AACTE Quality Support Workshop this month was an inspirational model of improvement in action. During my 3 days in Minneapolis, I witnessed a profound commitment among participants to ensure high levels of quality in their programs. Understanding standards and evidence more deeply, using data more strategically, and creating more effective quality assurance systems were some of the topics covered.
Dedication to continuous improvement is shared by AACTE’s members and the Association itself. To that end, the AACTE team is focusing the first part of this new academic year on an extensive review of the organization’s operations and programs, facilitated by an experienced consulting firm with assistance from a staff steering committee (see this recent article by Vice President Rod Lucero). In addition, an Association-wide member survey launches in September, and we’re counting on your participation to inform our work going forward. AACTE is always looking to improve and meet the changing needs of the membership.
Today, AACTE welcomes Lynn M. Gangone to the position of president and chief executive officer. Gangone graciously took time during her first day on the job for this introductory interview for Ed Prep Matters:
Q: Your career has spanned a variety of higher education and association roles. What attracted you to AACTE?
A: AACTE’s mission is the first and foremost attraction. In my opinion, educators are the most important professionals in our society, and the opportunity to serve an organization dedicated to their preparation is unparalleled. Not only have educators made a difference in my life, but I have had the extraordinary fortune to “pay it forward” through my career as a faculty member and a dean. AACTE aligns so many facets of my lifelong work as an educator with service to and advocacy for educator preparation programs.
Leaving office as president and CEO of AACTE is truly bittersweet. First, the bitter part: After 12 years, I am acutely aware of many good reasons to retire from this office in spite of my abiding passion for the profession and causes of equity. At this moment, it is clear to me that my passion for the work is far outpaced by the energy required to get it done.
Now, for the sweet part (albeit severely summarized):
The colleges and universities that prepare our nation’s educators are deeply committed to program quality, innovation, and accountability, and important progress is under way in each of these areas at the institutional, state, and national levels. While our priorities are unchanged by the presence or absence of federal regulations, the regulations that were voted down by Congress last week would have impeded this progress by redirecting already-tight resources to create an onerous new reporting and rating system for teacher preparation programs. Now, thanks to the robust advocacy efforts of the field, our professional commitments can proceed unhampered by burdensome mandates and prescriptive-yet-unproven methods.
Absent these regulations, educator preparation providers (EPPs) participate in numerous public reporting and quality assurance systems. Both EPPs and states are required by Title II of the Higher Education Act to submit annual reports to the U.S. Department of Education, and states must report at-risk and low-performing programs. Programs also must meet state review standards, and several states have developed data dashboards that display information for all providers to help the public compare program quality. A plurality of EPPs also undergo national examination through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation – a professional peer-review process using standards that are developed by the field and based on research.
Like many of you, I’ve been dismayed at the recent barrage of executive orders, controversial nominees, and heated discourse on every news feed. At the same time, the amazing display of activism and civic engagement since the inauguration has been heartening. While none of us can go to every demonstration or contact our representatives constantly, the urge to act is strong.
So what do we do? As truly significant issues of democracy are at stake, how do we choose where to direct our energies to make a meaningful difference? When such questions come to mind, I recall the voice of the 11-year-old South African boy Nkosi Johnson, who was born with HIV and became famous for his memorable address at an international conference on AIDS in 2000. This wise young man urged those assembled to get busy – even in the face of scientific unknowns and the social stigma associated with the disease that would take his life less than a year later. He said, “Do all you can with what you have, in the time that you have, in the place you are.”
The New York Times editorial “Help Teachers Before They Get to Class” (October 15) repeats outdated canards about teacher preparation that are as misguided as the new federal regulations celebrated in the editorial. Far from resisting higher expectations, teachers colleges are driving them.
Higher education institutions and states have raised program entry requirements in recent years, and the academic qualifications of admitted students have increased apace. By referencing an outdated and widely discredited report, the editorial misses this fact, reflected in publicly available federal datasets: today’s undergraduates preparing to be teachers have an average GPA of 3.2 on college work required for admission to the program.
You frequently hear AACTE champion the virtues of advocacy—of making your voice heard to help land you a place “at the table” rather than “on the menu.” AACTE staff are practiced at this habit, engaging in regular meetings with key officials at the U.S. Department of Education and elsewhere to share the work of the Association and our membership. I am pleased to share that some of these efforts have paid off with an invitation from the Department to collaborate on an upcoming teacher preparation summit.
The Department invited AACTE and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities to be partners on the summit, scheduled for November 3-4 in Washington, DC, as part of the “Teach to Lead” series focused on amplifying teachers’ voice and role in transforming education and related policy. This event will bring teams of educators together to discuss actionable ideas for collaborative, teacher-led improvements to teacher preparation. We are honored to represent you at the table on this critical issue.
As Americans, one of our most important duties is to participate in our democracy. Although it can be challenging to get out the vote on college campuses, engaged citizenship is one of the desired outcomes of postsecondary education, and we certainly want to nurture in our students a sense of responsibility to participate.
To help students navigate residency requirements, absentee ballots and their filing deadlines, and other voting rules and options, I encourage you to consult the resources compiled by the “Your Vote, Your Voice” campaign. This effort is spearheaded by the Washington Higher Education Secretariat, which includes AACTE and nearly 50 other national higher education organizations.