Telling Our Story: Political Advocacy in Massachusetts

Political advocacy was the focus of much work this fall for the Massachusetts Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE). The national attention to teacher preparation policy, from the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to the proposed teacher preparation program regulations, inspired our state chapter to respond in a big way. We were—and are—determined to tell our story.

As a first step, the MACTE Executive Board created a “take home document” to educate our elected officials, highlighting some of the current work of member institutions. We pointed out initiatives and programs that were specifically developed to meet the greatest needs of our PK-12 partners and, ultimately, the needs of the students in the commonwealth. To compile this document, we put a call out to all of our member institutions to tell us what they were doing across five main focus areas:

  1. Engaging our PK-12 partners
  2. Diversifying the educator workforce
  3. Responding to shortage/high-need areas 
  4. Improving educator retention
  5. Improving the quality of teacher candidates and teacher preparation programs

The response was fast, and soon we had a five-page document outlining recent initiatives from 15 different campuses addressing the focus areas. Developing professional development school partnerships, soliciting grant funding to support the development of targeted programs, and sharing of resources both monetary and intellectual are just a few of the project themes we found, speaking to the level of commitment Massachusetts schools and colleges are investing to meet the needs of the students in the commonwealth. We shrank the five pages down to a two-sided chart that summarized our collective efforts for external constituents.

Next, with support and encouragement from the AACTE government relations staff, we reached out to our congressional delegation, both in the state as well as in Washington DC, to inform them about our work and to encourage them to advocate for quality educator preparation programs. State Representative Alice Peisch, chair of the Massachusetts joint committee on education, and State Senator Michael Moore, chair of the joint committee on higher education, accepted invitations to attend a monthly meeting of our executive board this fall to discuss the Massachusetts educator preparation landscape. In addition, all three MACTE presidents (past, current, and president-elect) conducted a conference call with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s education legislative aide to share concerns regarding the impending roll-out of the federal teacher preparation program regulations. The board wrote letters to elected officials and worked to educate and gain the support of our university leaders regarding issues of importance to educator preparation.

In talking with our elected representatives, we learned the power of our organization in influencing state and federal education policy, and the importance of being proactive instead of reactive to recent negativity aimed at our profession. We also established our association as a source of information for our congressional leaders; at the conclusion of each meeting and phone call, we left the contact information for MACTE board members. We want to be sure that our elected officials know where to go to get the real story on issues affecting educator preparation and student learning.

Speaking of telling our story, here’s an exciting example from our state:

In the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Massachusetts fourth graders scored top in the nation in reading. In addition, Massachusetts students tied for first place in fourth-grade mathematics, eighth-grade reading, and eighth-grade mathematics. On all four tests, the state’s students scored well above the national average. “I am thrilled to see Massachusetts students and teachers leading the nation once again,” said Governor Charlie Baker.

The story we need to tell is that the majority of Massachusetts teachers are prepared by Massachusetts educator preparation programs. Our students and teachers are leading the nation in no small part due to the quality of our educator preparation programs.

Tags: , , ,

Kathleen McNamara

Stonehill College