Category Archives: Advocacy

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington: Week 2

This week kicked off with Senate meetings. We met with staffers from both Republican and Democratic offices to urge the Senate not to eliminate Title II funds (so you can still have access to professional development) and to protect the $189 million for LEARN (intervention support). Both sides were sympathetic to our concerns, but it’s clear that they are contending with budget cuts. There is a cap on non defense discretionary spending, and it has seen a significant drop. Staffers from both sides of the aisle said that if we want to protect these funds, then raising the cap is essential. What does that mean? At its essence, it is akin to giving me a budget of $20 to feed my family of four each month. It’s just not possible, and certainly not healthy. Food is a critical part of life. I need to raise the cap on my budget in order to prevent my kids from starving. The same goes for Title II and LEARN, two programs critical to quality education. We should not be forced to cut these necessary programs. NCTE issued a press release later in the week expressing deep concern about these proposed cuts in the House appropriations bill.

On Tuesday I went with NCTE’s Lu Ann McNabb to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on ESSA state plans. The Democrats were vocal about the lack of representation from the Department of Education, and wondered when Secretary DeVos would appear before the committee. The Republicans voiced concerns about the department’s recent feedback on state plans and felt it was overreaching. Chairwoman Foxx was clear in stating that the committee will watch to make sure DC “keeps its distance” in regards to ESSA implementation.

Outside the hearing room, there was quite a line, which started at 8:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. hearing. I chatted with doctoral students from Texas A&M while we waited.
A shot from the outside of the hearing room before we were allowed in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday I was invited by rock star teacher leader Anna Baldwin to attend the Convening on Systems of Support for Excellent Teaching and Leading at the US Department of Education. The Ambassador Fellows worked this year to create a framework that “allows states, districts, and schools to assess the alignment of their systems of support for teachers and leaders to a set of core principles.” Participants spent the day collaborating and providing feedback on the framework. Keep an eye out for the release of this tool. I know I am looking forward to sharing with my administration and strategizing ways we can improve our professional learning. Jason Botel, acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, offered closing remarks. He stated that he sees ESSA as an opportunity to tailor education programs to the students. He also recognized that the work is hard, and teaching is hard. I couldn’t agree more!

At the end of the week I was able to spend some time with my ASCD Teach to Lead team at L2L. This past year, Meghan Everette led a team which consisted of myself, Danielle Brown, Jason Flom, Kenny McKee and David Griffith to determine how educators view their role in advocacy and what can be done to better support potential advocates. The results of this research can be found at the Hurdles and Hopes website. The purpose of the L2L session was to engage with the results of the study. We discussed advocacy barriers and ideas for removing those barriers. I particularly enjoyed crowd-sourcing ideas for professional development modules around advocacy. The room was full of leaders who had strong ideas on how to improve educator advocacy.

Meghan Everette kicks off the L2L session by talking about the Teach to Lead process.

P&O (People and Opportunities)

Meghan Everette: If only there were words. Meghan is a Hope Street Group alum, ASCD Influence Leader, co-creator of the #EdAdvBecause chat, and an ASCD Emerging Leader class of 2014. She is also a Scholastic blogger (so check that out) and all-around super mom and amazing human.

Anna Baldwin, Amanda Barney, Monifa McKnight, Dana Nerenberg and the US Department of Education School Ambassador Fellowship: All of these magnificent ladies are ambassadors. It was great seeing fellow Hope Street Group alum Anna, and fellow EdReport’s crew Dana. Amanda was an excellent facilitator and sounding board, and I had an invigorating intellectual discussion with Monifa.

Jennifer Briones: I met Jen when she worked for Hope Street Group. Now she is a Policy and Advocacy Associate for Data Quality Campaign. She was kind enough to help me with my research project while I am here.

Angela Brizuela and the Library of Congress Summer Teacher Institutes: Teaching with Primary Sources: Angela is a STEM teacher at my school, El Rodeo Elementary. She was in town for the week at the Library of Congress for a teacher institute (check out the site, they have other options that cover all teachers.) This particular institute gathered a consortium of educational partners in an effort to develop curriculum using primary sources from the Library of Congress. Angela had high praise for the event: “I found the institute to be enriching in that I was able to develop science curriculum that was interdisciplinary and encourages critical thinking which is vital to developing responsible citizens.”

Mrs. Stuart Goes to Washington

This post is written by the 2017 NCTE Kent Williamson Policy Fellow Lauren Stuart. This will be the first of a weekly series. 

Greetings from Washington, DC.! I thought I would start by introducing myself. My name is Lauren Stuart and I teach 8th- (and soon 6th-) grade ELA for the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

I am honored to be this year’s Kent B. Williamson Fellow. What does that mean? As a way to honor Kent Williamson’s dedication to teacher leadership, NCTE established this fellowship, which allows a member to come to DC and be immersed in education policy. Each week during my stay, I will share my experiences with you. Also, you can follow me along daily on Twitter @laurenpstuart.

Week 1

The week began with a training from the McKeon Group on both education policy and NCTE’s priorities. I was reminded that the actual policymaking process is nothing like the textbook version.

As a member, you should know that NCTE is asking Congress to support ESSA’s Title I, $190 million for LEARN, and student grant and loan programs. NCTE is also asking Congress not to eliminate Title II funds. If you would like to contact your representatives to discuss these priorities, let me know and I will help you make contact with them. You can write me at laurenpstuart@gmail.com.

My second day brought me together with our esteemed Executive Director, Emily Kirkpatrick, as well. We traveled together to sit in on the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Summer Legislative Institute. NCSS and NCTE share the same concerns! Our colleagues have proven that social studies is relevant, needed, and wanted by our students, and yet they must constantly convince decision makers to fund their programs. Participants visited their legislators, and most had positive responses. If you know a social studies teacher who would like to get involved, encourage them to join NCSS and attend the NCSS annual convention this year.

I was also able to attend School Vouchers and Segregation, an event at the American Federation of Teachers headquarters. The Center for American Progress released a paper on this topic, and brought together a panel for discussion. Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) opened the session by stating that research shows that vouchers negatively affect student achievement. He urged the government to support public schools and not divert funds to private schools.

Justin Reid from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities told the story of Prince Edward County, and how their students came to be a part of the class action lawsuit that became Brown v. Board of Education. What I did not know was that because of the verdict, the Board of Supervisors decided to shut down the schools for five years instead of integrating. Kids went five years without an education. In addition, white students were given tuition grants to attend private schools, which led to segregated schools.

Also in attendance at this event was Catherine Lhamon, the Chair of the Commission on Civil Rights. She called for a promise from the federal government to ensure simple justice and civil rights for all students.

People and Opportunities to Watch

This section will highlight people I met while in town, as well as opportunities I come across.

Jill Cullis, Bill of Rights Institute.

Jill is a fellow Hope Street Group alum hailing from Colorado Springs. She was in town for the Bill of Rights Institute, Founder’s Fellowship. “It was a week of incredibly rich discussion based upon primary source documents in history. I rarely get professional development that is content based so the week with the BRI was so valuable to improving my instruction in US History.”

Doug Hodum, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship

Doug is a science teacher from Maine who is here on a yearlong fellowship.

Luella Wagner

Luella is a fellow Californian, who was here for the NCSS SLI. I loved chatting with her about her interest in Native American studies and being a studio teacher.

Lauren Pfeffer Stuart is an 8th grade ELA teacher for the Beverly Hills Unified School District. She is a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow and a Teach Plus California Fellow. She has two young boys and lives in Sherman Oaks.

 

An Invitation to Dream Big

This post is written by members Christine McCartney and Jacqueline Hesse.

 What is it you are passionate about as an educator? As a person?

Is it social justice? Civic engagement? Making the world a kinder place?

Teachers’ passions are often situated within big ideas that extend far beyond the walls of our classrooms and the confines of curriculum. The challenge we face is to create spaces for our work and our students’ work to transcend those boundaries.

As English teachers at Excelsior Academy, a New York state P-TECH school, our dream was to help our students carve a space for themselves as global citizens, while also considering their own capacity to impact our local community. Over the last three years, our vision has evolved as we invite our students to consider local issues of social justice and equity.

Once a flourishing city on the Hudson River, Newburgh has been experiencing the decades-long effects of deindustrialization. The loss of industry and its impact on the local economy have left our city with an increasing juvenile incarceration rate, entrenched drug and gang issues, and high poverty levels. However, local businesses, community leaders, and organizations in Newburgh have been working diligently to better our city. While we wholeheartedly support the needed revitalization efforts, we worry about gentrification pushing out our students and their families, who may not be able to remain in a city where rents are steadily increasing. We also fear that efforts to improve the city might overlook the interests and voices of the residents who are already here. We need to invite our students to learn about the changes our city is experiencing and find a way to insert their voices in the ongoing conversations about the future of Newburgh.

mccartneyhesse-photo

To do so, we knew we needed to dream big. We created a global service learning program that provides students with the leadership skills they need in order to act as project managers for local community impact projects in Newburgh. Before implementing their projects, students in Global to Local will travel to a foreign country to study grassroots organizations working to better their communities. This June [2017], our first cohort will travel to Ecuador to volunteer at Casa Victoria, an organization that provides after-school homework help and hot meals to under-served youth in San Roque, a struggling section of Quito. Our students will work with young students, teaching them basic robotics, bringing books for their library, and building an outdoor learning center. When they return to Newburgh, they will research issues and build partnerships to create their own grassroots change in our city. The program, which blends project-based learning and inquiry with volunteer work and occurs both inside and outside of the ELA classroom, is an opportunity for us to re-position ourselves as learners alongside our students, who are already seeing the impact of this work before even stepping foot on a plane:

Brendin: Rather than taking a passive role in our lives, we make an effort to change our community for the better and improve our lives and the lives of those around us.

Jason: Through any experience in life, we learn new perspectives from others which shift our thinking.

Maribel: As students, we often find that volunteering creates a sense of empowerment because it allows people to influence and motivate others to do something about their issue of interest.

The process of making this dream a reality hasn’t been simple. We have written countless grant applications and waited two years to take our first research trip until we could secure the funding through Fund for Teachers. We cried with a student who was one of the strongest and most dedicated leaders in our program as we faced the fact that she couldn’t come to Ecuador because she was undocumented and therefore unable to obtain a passport. We have struggled, at times, to manage the complicated logistics of fundraising for and planning an overseas trip while teaching full-time. We know we will have to help our students navigate the roadblocks they will encounter as they take on roles as change agents in our city, but we hope that we serve as role models of persistence and optimism.

We have learned that the best ideas are continually evolving, involve inviting students to the table, and require the tenacity to tackle difficult and sometimes controversial issues that affect our students and our city. When we think about the work we have undertaken to make this a reality, we often come back to the amazingly resilient young people with whom we work. They are the reason we have the courage to dream big.

Christine McCartney, NCTE member since 2013, started her teaching career by volunteering to teach writing in an all-male maximum security prison in New York through the Bard Prison Initiative; that experience was the beginning of her journey as a social justice educator. As a high school English teacher for over a decade in Newburgh, a Fulbright alumni, and a codirector of the Hudson Valley Writing Project, Christine is wedded to working to make her community a better place.

 Jacqueline Hesse, NCTE member since 2005, teaches ninth- and tenth-grade ELA at Excelsior Academy, a New York State P-TECH school, in Newburgh. She enjoys volunteering alongside her students and admires their devotion to their community. Jackie is also a teacher consultant with the Hudson Valley Writing Project.

What Happened in Your State This June?

This past month, nine policy analysts published reports about what occurred in the following states: Arkansas, California, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

Higher Education

California: Daniel Melzer reported that the Cal State System Proposed to End Placement Exams and replace them with high school grades and course work, SAT, or ACT scores. He cited faculty concerns over “lack of local autonomy regarding assessment and placement.” Daniel also shared that the Report on Acceleration Writing Models in California Community Colleges revealed student success.

Michigan: In University of Michigan Offers Free Tuition for Low-Income Students, Robert Rozema described the Go Blue Guarantee program for high-achieving, low-income students.

New Hampshire: Alexandria Peary explained the House of Representatives Bill Requiring Annual Report of Remedial Courses. HB 180 would require postsecondary institutions to submit annual reports delineating the number and subjects of courses offered, enrollment, and costs.

PreK–12

Arkansas: Similar to her report last month, Donna Wake notes in Charter School Saved by External Resources that the Walton Family Foundation provided the funding to allow a charter school, initially slated for revocation, to remain open.

Idaho: Darlene Dyer shares that Preschool Funding and Enrollment Climbs Nationally but No Funding for Idaho, concluding that “If 90 per cent of Idaho’s 3- and 4-year-olds do not have access to preschool (as current figures purport), the impact will be felt for decades in the local economy.”

Montana: Anna Baldwin explains the Scholarship Tax Credit now allowed for contributions to a scholarship organization and the conflict over monies going to religious schools.

Pennsylvania: Aileen Hower reported, [Governor] Wolf to Sign Law Granting Career-track Students Alternatives to Keystone Exit Exams. These students would be able to demonstrate competency through their grades and alternate assessments or industry-based certifications.  In Report Reveals Eye-opening Data on English Learners in Philadelphia Schools, Aileen submitted an excerpt from Newsworks revealing how quickly immigrant students in Philadelphia learn English.

Washington: Barbara Ward described the state of Washington grappling with Funding Woes in a special session to address the high court’s demand that the state pay a fair share of costs for teacher salaries. Barbara also wrote about Possible Changes in State Testing Requirements for High Schoolers, allowing students who fail state-mandated tests in English language arts to show their proficiency in other ways.

Both PreK-12 and Higher Education

New Mexico: In State of New Mexico Sued for Inequities in Educational Opportunities, Erin O’Neill notes that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty sued, “claiming that budget cuts and underfunding are preventing Native American students, ELL learners, and low-income students from receiving the necessary educational opportunities guaranteed by the state constitution.”

Using Literature to Shatter Our Entrenched Views, Part II

Pulitzer-Prize–winning journalist Sonia Nazario was the keynote speaker at NCTE’s 2014 Annual Convention. What follows is her reflection three years after the publication of Enrique’s Journey. This is the second of two parts. You can read the first part here.

I’ve always focused on those not getting enough ink – women, children, the poor, Latinos. The journey of these children, of Enrique, had to be told. Amid all the noise, information, and rhetoric, and regardless of where one lies on the political spectrum, these children are still migrating. Their stories have forced me to rethink my own entrenched views, challenge the narrative we’re fed, and find new solutions. As I stressed in my NCTE keynote, stories penetrate where stand-alone facts do not. They inspire common values and purpose. Immersive nonfiction can bring change. We have seen it time and time again through Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Grapes of Wrath, The Jungle. These stories help us better understand our collective reality and ignite a fire for improving our communities and the world.

Enrique’s Journey is doing that. This one boy, this one story is humanizing immigrants in the United States.

Since the publication of Enrique’s Journey, I have been contacted daily by students and teachers about how this story has changed their perspective about immigrants. I get emails from students raised by white supremacists and skinheads in Arizona. From African American students in south Chicago who shared that black and Latino students did not interact but now relate better—after all, so many African American families were torn apart as part of the great migration out of the south during Jim Crow.

And I hear from so many Latino students. These students finally see themselves in a story, feel a sense of pride at being part of the fabric of this nation’s story. Many also begin to understand they are not alone in the resentment so many hold towards parents who made the difficult decision to leave them for so long. A rage like that is so consuming that their education suffers. Teachers share stories of finally connecting with students that they were previously unable to relate to. For the first time, some students don’t want to leave class at the end of the period– they aren’t done listening; they aren’t done sharing.

This engagement is critical for children landing in classrooms across the country. Children of undocumented parents are growing seven times faster than others. The current crop of kindergartners will see the number of Latinos grow from 17% to 30% of the population by 2050. These children will fill the void as we “baby boomers” fade away. Unfortunately, this same group has the lowest educational attainment of any group.

Unlike when I started to study child migration two decades ago, today many immigrant children landing in American classrooms are running from threats, from governments that cannot or will not protect them. These children are refugees. I used to believe immigration was an issue that had to be addressed in the US. Now I know the solutions must be focused on addressing what is pushing children out of a handful of countries—El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala. The most effective funding will be spent on US programs that are showing promise in reducing violence in Enrique’s home country of Honduras.

For better or worse, I will continue to be these migrant children’s voice and advocate so they do not have to return to a country where many face danger and even death.

I invite you to keep sharing Enrique’s story and to view my TEDx talk to help bring new solutions to your students.

Thank you for continuing to educate others about this country’s newcomers.

Sonia Nazario is an award winning author and journalist who writes about social and social justice issues. Enrique’s Journey, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, is among the most assigned nonfiction books as a common or summer read at high schools and middle schools in the U.S.

enriquesjourneybanner

Read NCTE’s Resolution on the Dignity and Education of Immigrant, Undocumented and Unaccompanied Youth here.

Also read an interview with Sonia Nazario in the November 2014 Council Chronicle: Sonia Nazario Believes It’s an Educator’s Role to Expand Students’ Horizons.