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Holmes Scholars Visit U.S. Department of Education

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.

Hosted by De’Rell Bonner, we were invited to hear about and comment on some of the latest projects under way in the Department:

  • My Brother’s Keeper is a nationwide, multidisciplinary initiative that aims to increase opportunities for youth, especially for boys and young men of color. Its federal task force recently released a report that outlines the initiative’s achievements thus far, such as the MBK Community Challenge.
  • A hot topic for research among those in the profession has been teacher preparation and technology in the 21st century. Our guest speakers emphasized the importance of using technology to its full innovative potential to enhance both pedagogy and practice.
  • To make teaching a more desirable profession, a variety of initiatives are addressing the shortage of talented educators through systematic recruitment and retention efforts. Teach to Lead, Teach.org, and Educators Rising are just a few of the organizations and programs we learned about that have been supporting this work.
  • Marianna Vinson from the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) provided information about two major projects that her office is taking on this year. The National Professional Development Program will enter a new grant cycle in 2016 to award funding to high-quality proposals that seek to improve instruction for students with limited English proficiency. The Native American and Alaska Native Children in School program seeks to fund proposals that will support instruction and language preservation for students from Native American, Alaska Native, native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander backgrounds. The OELA has also been compiling an extensive toolkit of resources to help teachers and teacher candidates learn about and actively engage in the communities in which they serve. We learned that such inquiry is one of the many ways that current and future teachers can work to meet their obligations to students under civil rights law.
  • As our visit came to a close, we had an active discussion on a few issues that are still making their way onto the national research agenda. Kirsten Harper spoke at length about the need for research into the disparate impacts of school climate, discipline practices, and special education policies on students from diverse backgrounds. Working with the Department of Justice, exploration continues into the effectiveness of proactive solutions such as training professionals and students in restorative justice, education law from state to state, and frameworks that address implicit bias.

On behalf of the Holmes Scholars, we wish to thank the U.S. Department of Education for its support of the AACTE Holmes Scholars Program.

Winnie Looby is a Holmes Scholar at the University of Vermont. Terrance McNeil is a Holmes Scholar at Florida A&M University.

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Winnie Looby

Holmes Scholar, University of Vermont

Terrance McNeil

Holmes Scholar, Florida A&M University.