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Advocacy and Action: Oklahoma ACTE’s Successful Collaboration With State Legislators

It may not be often that a state chapter of AACTE seeks to create new legislation outlining expectations for teacher preparation, but that was the case for the Oklahoma Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (OACTE) during the past academic year.

For several years, state legislators had been proposing new dyslexia training requirements for all early childhood, elementary, and special education candidates. However, concerns and tensions escalated between educator preparation providers (EPPs) and interest groups who disagreed on the definition of the problem, the depth of training that would be appropriate, and language that might mandate particular programs and materials. Consequently, discussions and the relationship between groups deteriorated and were unproductive.

It became apparent that the push for this legislation would continue, though, so our chapter members decided to seek resolution. OACTE worked collaboratively to identify experts in reading, special education, and school psychology from a variety of EPPs and partner agencies to develop a position statement regarding dyslexia, an information packet, and a revised legislative agenda. Additionally, we hosted a panel of experts representing different perspectives to have a “cordial conversation” about appropriate dyslexia training in teacher preparation at our chapter’s January meeting.

Our association’s legislative liaison then facilitated a meeting between representatives of our association and the state representative who proposed HB1789, known as the dyslexia bill. During this conversation, our group advocated for different language and offered to take action in providing revisions that would demonstrate accountability for providing training and using a variety of approaches, would reflect the research and perspectives of recognized professional associations in this area, and would not result in unanticipated and unfunded mandates.

OACTE’s unified membership took action and weeks later provided the state representative with an alternate draft of the bill. If he was determined to propose legislation, we were committed to providing the research, information, and language that would make it appropriate and sustainable in our eyes. The state representative used our draft exactly as we revised it, and Oklahoma HB1789 passed through both chambers and was signed by our governor in April.

In Anna E. McEwan’s recent blog “State ACTEs Opening Channels for Communication, Common Interest,” she shared the importance of facilitating collective interest and better communication among various stakeholders working to further teacher preparation and PK-12 education. OACTE’s response regarding imminent legislation advanced our communication across institutions and with legislators. Our efforts demonstrated that we do care and are committed to working together to find solutions. All too often we have heard that the absence of our voice allows others to think we are not interested – or maybe not interested enough to be moved to action. Our recent experience exemplifies the importance of moving beyond advocacy to action.

Bryan L. Duke, assistant dean and director of educator preparation in the University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies, is 2016-2017 president of OACTE.

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Bryan L. Duke

University of Central Oklahoma