Tag Archives: Teacher Leadership

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.

A shot from the outside of the hearing room before we were allowed in.

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.


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.”

A Simple Invitation

This post is written by NCTE student member Amy Vujaklija.

AmyVujaklijaDuring my qualitative dissertation study on teacher leadership and professional development planning, I feared that some of my findings were too simple, too obvious. This narrative research explored the stories of teachers across the country, myself included, who were leadership team members and network liaisons. From recorded meetings and debrief sessions to agendas, meeting notes, and interviews, everything became potential data to analyze. Hours of transcribing and uploading data to NVivo revealed several interesting discussion points about our leadership team and how to plan professional development, but I feared these findings would not be impactful enough to earn my degree.

I considered the implications my findings would have in education and discussed my fears of oversimplification with my adviser. My conversation with Dr. Howell helped me realize that I had been living in a National Writing Project world for almost five years and conducting a qualitative study about one of its initiatives for over a year. What my Writing Project colleagues might see as routine might not be common knowledge in other places or spaces. For instance, the National Writing Project and local sites extend invitations—invitations to leadership through the Summer Invitational Institute, writing invitations, and initiative leadership invitations—and the power of invitation became one of the findings I presented through mini-narratives in my dissertation. The challenge was the “so what?” and who might care.

Imposter syndrome consumed me, but the narratives about the power of invitation overtook my fear of stating the obvious. I considered how invitation contrasts with summons and noticed the hesitation and even unwillingness with which a “summoned” person approaches a difficult task. Invitation, on the other hand, reveals how people join together to tackle the most challenging of obstacles. Inviting liaisons to work alongside the leadership team in planning a large-scale professional development for teachers across the nation empowered each of us as co-leaders in the endeavor. Extending an invitation implies value in one’s company and honor of one’s interests.

With the current backdrop of education debates about standards and teacher effectiveness, I discovered the “so what?” for my findings. Stakeholders continuously seek solutions to the problems in education. Yet, often educators are issued summons to fix education instead of invitations to co-create scholarship and develop assessments alongside administrators and students. For all its simplicity, invitation inspired positive outcomes in my study. At the initiative’s end, it became clear that the power of invitation should be made common knowledge in every space, starting with my dissertation.

Amy Vujaklija taught middle and secondary English/language arts for eleven years in Brandenburg, Kentucky, and currently teaches teacher education online graduate courses with the University of Louisville. Her research interests include teacher education and professional development, content-area literacy education, and narrative inquiry.

Reinterpreting the CCSS

Light bulb changing from old to new.What might happen if educators took interpretation of the Common Core State Standards into their own hands?

That is the question explored in an article entitled “Rewriting the Common Core State Standards for Tomorrow’s Literacies” by Jessica Van Cleave and Sarah Bridges-Rhoads in the latest issue of English Journal.

Do check out the full article, but here are some excerpts:

“We want to emphasize that the standards movement is not just a narrative thrust upon educators from above but also is a narrative that can and must be rewritten each day in our classrooms.”

The authors explain that the same attitudes we ask our students to adopt in approaching texts apply with the Common Core:

“When we understand language as partial, never neutral, and contextually dependent, we can ask alternative questions that invite collaborative explorations of the CCSS rather than questions that incite disagreements over its meaning . . . . We suggest that having conversations [with colleagues] guided by the question, ‘What if we read the CCSS as . . .?’ allows the CCSS to remain relevant to any cultural, historical, or technological movement in which it is put to work . . . .The shift from seeking the truth to continuously producing truth in conjunction with others, then, invites constant re-imagining of the CCSS.”

This approach makes it possible to see what some consider an outdated emphasis on the teaching of Shakespeare as an opportunity instead to explore via technology the many ways Shakespeare “circulates in the multiple environments in which we work and live.”

And while it appears the CCSS prioritize print-based text, the authors suggest “What if we read text as print-based text and digital text and multimedia text and  . . .  including a list of ands every time we encounter the word text in the CCSS renders the standards unfinished and allows them to remain relevant regardless of the historical moment.”

The point behind this shift in approach, the authors argue, is that “changing conversations about the CCSS away from battles between the right and wrong way to read them and towards questions of what possible readings we might enact, presents an opportunity to shift how the history of the CCSS progresses from here.”