Welcome to The President’s Perspective blog, sharing thoughts from AACTE’s president and CEO on important, timely topics in educator preparation.
As the school year nears its end, teachers everywhere are contending with mounting time pressures, waning resources and energy reserves, maybe even an epidemic of spring fever. For some teachers, though, the frenzy and frustrations seem to last all year–and they may feel isolated, underappreciated, and powerless to change the situation. AACTE President/CEO Lynn M. Gangone has this message to encourage them to strengthen their capacity to both support students and thrive as successful members of the professional community.
As a teacher, you’re focused on helping students. You draw from your content knowledge, determine appropriate pedagogy for the particular child and context, and forge connections with resources to support each learner’s growth. What’s more, these practices benefit more than just the young people in your care–teachers, too, thrive with a rich support network in their community and tailored opportunities to learn and grow as professionals.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of AACTE’s founding. Created in 1948 as an alliance to boost the quality of teachers being prepared for the country’s growing public school system, our association remains steadfastly focused on the democratic ideal of providing all students equitable access to an excellent education.
AACTE’s platinum anniversary falls at a time when this ideal is still far from being realized, or even universally held, in our society. Many Americans seem to have forgotten what our nation’s founding fathers knew: that quality public education is an essential element of a democracy. John Adams called for the “whole people [to] take upon themselves the education of the whole people”; Thomas Jefferson insisted a civilization could not be both ignorant and free. Over time, persistent activism from the suffragette and civil rights movements expanded the nation’s understanding of whose voices count – of what “the whole people” really means.
AACTE is committed to high-quality educator preparation and works continually to assist member institutions in understanding what is necessary to engage in quality assurance processes. A recent decision by the AACTE Board of Directors, described in this blog by AACTE Board Chair Renée A. Middleton, reaffirms the importance of a unified national accreditation system that assures our nation’s teacher candidates are of the highest caliber, and clarifies AACTE’s role in the quality assurance environment. The Board and the AACTE national office team are dedicated to listening to and serving our members, and Dean Middleton’s blog reflects that commitment to member value.
One of the primary roles of educators is to prepare learners to become engaged citizens in a 21st-century democratic society. Today’s educators enter highly diverse schools that reflect the breadth of our nation, and AACTE members are committed to ensuring that their candidates are ready and able to be successful with all of their students. National accreditation requires educator preparation providers to address profession-wide standards of excellence and supplies metrics that support high quality by promoting programmatic reflection and continuous improvement. AACTE members embrace accountability measures that demonstrate their programs’ effectiveness and contribute to program improvement.
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.”