IACTE Unites Partners in Practice for Advocacy
Last year, the Indiana Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE) received an AACTE State Chapter Support Grant to fund the creation of a statewide advocacy consortium. In order to disrupt the dominant discourse that negatively portrays teacher education programs, educators, and schools, IACTE sought to collaborate with “partners in practice” to tell positive stories and create a unified message of the education profession. We held a series of productive conversations and meetings, culminating in the capstone experience of the first IACTE “Day at the Statehouse” event in February.
Our partners in this work included the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents, the Indiana Association of School Principals, the Indiana State Teachers Association, the Indiana School Boards Association, and the education honorary, Kappa Delta Pi.
Business Perspectives Inform Action Plans
During the summer, we worked together to plan the first IACTE fall state meeting, where representatives from each organization participated in a panel presentation. They addressed critical issues such as the teacher shortage, teacher morale, public perception, pressing legislation that could have a negative impact on the profession, and their ideas for solutions.
After this panel presentation, two highly respected business professionals provided a powerful response, sharing their views on how education had lost control of the messaging and what steps we might consider to shift the dialogue. They emphasized the important connection between education and business for a healthy community and ways to positively engage the business community in advocacy. The audience then met in small groups to develop action plans, and these were shared with the entire group.
The development of action plans was very helpful in identifying next steps to move the organization forward in building an active consortium.
New Committee Oversees Advocacy
Next, the IACTE Executive Committee created a Legislative/Advocacy Committee to keep the membership informed of legislation that could impact not only teacher education, but also our partners in practice, making use of the new AACTE State Policy Tracker.
This committee has worked to develop a unified message from the professional organizations and to coordinate communications with individual legislators.
Weighing Options for ESSA Implementation
At the January 2016 IACTE state meeting, AACTE President/CEO Sharon Robinson held a Skype session with us regarding the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the options for state activities under Title II. This set the stage for a panel, made up of representatives from the IACTE partners in practice and a member of the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), to respond to a series of questions prepared by AACTE Government Relations Director Deborah Koolbeck.
The presentation not only was informative for the IACTE membership but also strengthened the partners’ collaboration around defining what we want to see happen with ESSA in Indiana. It also was important for the IDOE to hear our shared concerns and especially our shared goals.
Day at the Statehouse
The capstone experience of our collaborative efforts was the Day at the Statehouse event in February 2016. Twelve IACTE member institutions took part in this inaugural event, and each was asked to bring three or four undergraduate students from a variety of teaching majors and at different phases of their preparation programs.
Using a template developed by our campus colleagues in governmental relations, students sent letters ahead of the event inviting their state legislators to attend. The agenda included a light lunch and an opportunity to engage in conversations with an excited group of future teachers, who shared stories about their courses and clinical experiences. In addition, novice teachers spoke about their first year of teaching and the support they have received from their home institutions. In all, 47 students participated in the day, and nearly 40 legislators spent time with our students. Additionally, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and Governor Mike Pence stopped by to meet with the students and first-year teachers.
Representatives from all consortium partners were present and engaged with students and legislators during this exciting and memorable day. For many students, this was their first time visiting the statehouse. This inaugural event provided future and first-year teachers with an opportunity to learn about teacher leadership, advocacy for the profession, collaboration across disciplines and institutions, and how important it is to get to know their elected officials.
Continuing with our statewide collaborative efforts to create a unified message, IACTE and its partners in practice hosted a meeting April 15 to begin drafting a proposal on ESSA in preparation for a meeting with the IDOE. We extended invitations to additional state organizations, such as the Indianapolis Alliance of Black School Educators, to join our work.
Although our state affiliate has experienced good relationships with our partners in practice and other state organizations, receiving the AACTE grant last year allowed us to strengthen and expand our partnerships. We have now created a statewide consortium focused on educator leadership and advocacy for the profession. The support provided by AACTE has offered priceless benefits and opportunities to foster collaboration, engagement, and inclusiveness across the profession and state.
Ena Shelley is dean of the College of Education at Butler University. Kandi Hill-Clarke is dean and Judy Sheese is assistant dean of the Bayh College of Education at Indiana State University.