An Energizing Launch to the Work Ahead
2022 Washington Week Attendee Recaps Her Experience
This year, AACTE’s Washington Week event (Educating the Future: Policy and Advocacy as Levers of Change) was held in person for the first time in three years. The energy in the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel was high as colleagues met and reunited with each other.
The week opened on Monday with a warm welcome by Lynn M. Gangone (AACTE’s president and CEO), followed by a plenary session on AACTE’s legislative priorities by Mike Rose (AACTE’s senior director of government relations) and members of AACTE’s Committee on Government Relations and Advocacy (including myself), who offered tips on having successful meetings with public officials.
Throughout the week, sessions focused on three key topical strands:
- Educator Diversity
- Educator Shortage
- Academic Censorship
In Enhancing the Black Teacher Pipeline through Public Policy, Lodriguez Murray (vice president of public policy at the United Negro College Fund) made sure ed prep leaders knew about UNCF’s many scholarships, which help ease the financial burden of becoming a teacher and diversify the workforce by allowing programs to recruit and fund more teachers of color. “Teacher workforce diversity is an important factor in educating future generations equitably,” Murray said. “We must invest in the strategies and interventions that have proven to be effective at producing a racially and ethnically diverse teaching workforce.”
In Trends in the Non-Higher Education Alternative Teacher Preparation Sector: Key Considerations for State Policy, Jacqueline King (senior consultant at AACTE) shared findings from a recent report she co-authored on alternative-certification programs. While alt-cert programs boast of high enrollment and diverse candidate pools, King’s analysis found that quality and completion rates in those programs were often low. There is a concern that candidates who choose cheaper, accelerated paths into teaching will not be adequately prepared to succeed and, therefore, will not end up staying in the classroom for long.
In the State of Education Censorship and Implications for Teacher Education plenary session, Leslie Fenwick (AACTE dean in residence) moderated a panel discussion on the urgency of legislation emerging across the nation that limits curriculum and instruction involving issues of social justice, race, and/or LGBTQ+ rights. There are currently 10 states (with more in the works) that have put legislative restrictions in place regarding what can be taught in classrooms, all focused on silencing minority voices and limiting teacher choice. These attacks are pushing more teachers out of the profession at a time when educator shortages are already at alarming levels. “The fight is local,” William Coghill-Behrends (co-chair of AACTE’s LGBTQ Advocacy and Inclusion Topical Action Group) said.
Tuesday closed with a keynote from Cindy Marten, deputy secretary of the United States Department of Education, who reminded us that demography should never be destiny, that every student deserves a fighting chance, and that our work in educator preparation has never been more important.
On Wednesday, attendees traveled in state teams to the Hill (literally and/or virtually) to advocate for more federal investment in public education and educator preparation programs. My colleagues from New York and I met with representatives from the offices of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Representatives Meng and Nadler. I consider this week an energizing kickoff to the work I look forward to continuing with my AACTE colleagues throughout the year.
Christine Gentry is a clinical assistant professor in the New York University Teacher Residency, where she leads the data, assessment, and continuous improvement efforts of the program and serves as residency director for the New York City Department of Education. Before her work in teacher preparation, Gentry taught English, creative writing, and oral storytelling in the public schools of Boston and New York City for 13 years.