I was in DC last week for the Washington Week of the American Association of College for Teacher Education. This year’s theme was “Teaching the Future: Policy and Advocacy as the Lever of Change.” A team of senior teachers and administrators from the Academic Preparation Program (EPP) across the country gathered in DC to learn how to advocate for education and teacher preparation. .
The sessions focus on some of today’s most important topics in education and teacher preparation:
- Lack of teachers
- Educator diversity
AACTE identifies itself as the “Leading Voice of Teacher Preparation” and represents more than 800 post-secondary organizations, including EPPs. I have been working with AACTE since we launched Wheelk College at BU in June 2018 and I am a co-PI in our participation in reducing the shortage of special education teachers in the Networked Improvement Community but this is the first time I have attended AACTE’s annual event. WASHINGTON WEEK – Mostly due to epidemics, it was Washington Week for the first time in years.
I noticed that AACTE is a really nice professional association space that sits at the junction of Higher Aid and PK-12, where the College Teacher Education Program or Educator Preparation Program (EPPs) is located.
The main legal priorities for this year’s AACTE are:
- Investing and strengthening the teaching profession
- Keeping PK-12 public funds in public education
- Revolutionize education systems and practices to ensure social justice and fairness for all students, especially students of color, those with disabilities, immigrant students and LGBTQIA + students.
- Increase federal investment in education from pre-school to graduate school
So, what was included in AACTE’s Washington Week?
We started with advocacy training.
There was an inaugural welcome from Lynn Gangon, AACTE President and CEO, who thanked us and encouraged us to do just that. This was followed by a plenary session on the priorities of the legislature, chaired by Mike Rose, Senior Director of Government Relations at AACTE. Part of his message was to help us think about how to establish ourselves as an asset to members of Congress. Not surprisingly, AACTE educators focused on policies related to increasing funding and reducing financial burdens in preparation activities.
We’ve been given tips for having successful meetings with our legislators and the top tips include:
- Thanks to the staff for meeting you
- Introduce yourself, your organization and department
- Tell them about the challenges that educators face in preparation
- Ask them about their education priorities
- Offer to be an asset for their office
- An email thank you and follow along with a brief summary of what has been discussed
- Invite them to campus to see you at work.
Like many of our professional associations, AACTE has a wealth of resources, including their Advocacy Center and Advocacy Toolkit.
In the afternoon, I attended a session of the Strategic Coalition Building. This session focuses on liaising with your state partners, particularly with state-level education departments, state teachers and administrators, state House and Senate education leaders, and state education secretaries. The message was similar: Get to know the key players, be prepared, follow up on any request, provide a one-pager outlining the key elements of your advocacy issue and your contact details.
On the second day, a team of us headed to the Department of Education to sign the Academician Preparation Program for Digital Equity and Transformation Commitment. Being there was exciting and because of the epidemic, it was one of the first private DOE events in years. We worked in breakout sessions with members of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) and the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) to share the challenges we faced in our districts. I share the work of the Boston Human Rights Commission on the lack of equitable broadband access in Boston and its impact on distance learning.
The pledge is straightforward and includes the following:
- Prepare teachers to improve the digital learning environment.
- Prepare teachers to use technology for ongoing professional learning.
- Prepare teachers to implement frameworks to accelerate transformative digital learning.
- Equip all faculties to continuously improve their skills in learning technology.
- Collaborate with school leaders to identify shared digital teaching skills.
Obviously the need to use Covid and Distance / Hybrid / Virtual Learning has made the elements of this commitment even more urgent.
After the signing, we return to the hotel for further training, including learning strategies for direct advocacy with policymakers and conducting effective advocacy campaigns in person. The event ended with a heart-warming and convincing keynote address by Cindy Marten, Deputy Secretary of Education and former superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District and classroom teacher.
The next day, my colleague and I set off for the BU’s Federal Relations Office in DC to meet with staff, explore the space, and think about advocacy training for our college teachers, staff, and students.
Towards the end of the day, I was able to fly to Hirschhorn with a friend to enjoy Laurie Anderson’s show before I had to return to the hotel and then to the airport for a late flight to Boston. It was great and I recommend it for an amazing 80’s nostalgia trip.
I was inspired to leave, reminiscent of the days when I loved going to DC and a to-do list that includes many possible ways to increase advocacy work in our college. Readers – I’m curious, do you work with faculty and students to prepare them to testify at the local, state, or federal level? If you are a faculty member or student, do you do this yourself? Were you trained? When did it start? Graduate school? Through your professional association?
Mary Churchill is the former head of policy and planning at Boston City Mayor Kim Jenny and the current associate dean for strategic initiatives and community engagement and director of the Higher Education Administration Program at the Wheelk College of Education and Human Development at Boston University. He is the co-author of When College Close: Leading in a Time of Crisis. He is on Twitter.Mary_Churchill And can be reached here via email [email protected]