AACTE Chapter Grant Helps Develop WACTE Advocacy Voice
This year, the Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (WACTE) received an AACTE State Chapter Support Grant to continue building its advocacy efforts and presence at the state level and to further develop its relationship with AACTE. In addition to utilizing funds to send its members to AACTE’s Annual Meeting and State Leaders Institute, WACTE will host its second Day on the Hill in Madison in conjunction with its 2014 spring conference, which will include an expanded symposium focusing on state and national education issues.
For the first time, WACTE has issued a call for proposals for its annual conference for 2014 (March 30-April 1), where leaders and representatives of state-level stakeholder groups can present in panels, roundtables, and research sessions or attend as a participant. The conference will launch the WACTE teaching awards ceremony, a program developed by the WACTE Communications Committee and approved unanimously by the membership. The program will recognize an early-career teacher and a mentor teacher selected by each WACTE institution, for a total of about 70 awards. The awards will be celebrated locally as well as at the spring WACTE meeting so that state and local legislators, as well as press in each of the institutional service areas, can be invited.
WACTE has also begun preparation for its Day on the Hill event, which will emphasize the impact its programs have on the state’s economic development and students’ academic success. Materials are being created to support this effort and will be shared with the ACSR network this spring. Participants, including teacher candidates, will receive advocacy training on how to talk with state representatives and make the case for the value of educator preparation programs.
WACTE is also working with legislators to support a bill offering student loan repayment for teachers who are trained and certified in Wisconsin to teach in the state’s public schools that experience high rates of teacher turnover. Working directly with legislators and their staff is key to developing a sound policy agenda and building lasting relationships—and a good way to keep the chapter’s membership visible in the capitol.
Equally important as maintaining a relationship with legislators is building future advocates. Last year, a group of students attended WACTE’s first Day on the Hill and spoke with their legislators alongside their professors about their experiences going through their program. This experience gave the students a feeling of empowerment and led to the formation of a student-organized colloquium on one WACTE campus that meets twice a month to discuss education policy issues. Some of the students in this colloquium will attend the Day on the Hill to talk with their representatives and advocate for sound policy.
AACTE’s State Chapter Support Grant has allowed the leaders of WACTE to travel monthly to meet with staff in the Department of Public Instruction. These meetings have made a great impact on our discussions of policy within WACTE, between WACTE and the Department, and between WACTE and legislators. The monthly meetings allow chapter leaders to stay up to date with state initiatives, to have input into policy development, and to press for WACTE involvement in decision making about such matters as edTPA implementation and other testing requirements for preservice teachers. WACTE has generally been able to inform and shape policy because the leaders are at the table with policy makers every month.
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