Higher Education News
My experience as a U.S. Department of Education Teacher Ambassador Fellow (TAF) has been life-changing. I learned that I should be bold and always look for opportunities to elevate the voice of teachers. In June 2015, I joined an amazing family of Fellows with a wide range of experiences to bring to the table. Some of our common themes of passion included racial equality, fair and quality student assessments, teacher leadership, student efficacy, student advocacy, and a commitment to ensure all teachers not only had a voice but an intentional seat at the table in education discussions.
My Exciting Life as a TAF…
As a fellow, I had a unique opportunity to raise my voice regarding issues that impacted my profession and share stories from my classroom. In the fellowship, we were charged with conducting outreach to solicit feedback from teachers to inform the Department’s work. I was glad to see that educational decisions were not being made without including the qualified voice of a teacher. When I had an opportunity to consult the Office of Special Education Programs, I considered it a personal privilege since I had started my career as a Special Education teacher. Ensuring that there is equity for students with special needs is my passion and a large part of my philosophy on education. Throughout the fellowship I had opportunities to support the Teach to Lead initiative, facilitate calls with Teachers of the Year, and even visit the White House when President Obama awarded Jahana Hayes the 2016 Teacher of the Year Award.
Elevating Teacher Voice and ESSA…
During my fellowship, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. As fellows, we conducted nationwide listening sessions to gain feedback and questions. During my facilitation, I heard stories from teachers about how they were marginalized and devalued based on evaluation policies. I also witnessed teachers empowered by raising their voice on issues that impacted their classrooms. In those sessions, teachers and other stakeholders were able to share their concerns and recommendations for ESSA implementation.
Social Justice and Diversity During my Fellowship…
I had several opportunities to speak with Secretary King regarding our work and what we were hearing in the field. During the 2016 summer, our country was shaken by the killing of Philando Castile. Castile’s death was devastating to the students he served in the St. Paul, Minnesota school where he worked. Secretary King’s visited the school to encourage families to work in their community to heal and talk to their children about how to cope with the loss. As an educator of color, many of the students I teach reminded me of a young Castile. And as an advocate for their futures, I feel it is my responsibility to advocate for social justice, speak up against discrimination and support my students’ development as socially conscious citizens.
Once a Fellow Always a Fellow…
This was a saying I was excited to hear. At the conclusion of my fellowship, I was excited to learn that it would never really end. Sure, I wouldn’t have quarterly visits to Washington D. C. or weekly calls with my cohort, but I would still engage in discussions with the Department and alumni. More importantly, I would continue to be bold and empower teachers to elevate their voices. I strongly suggest educators apply for the Fellowship and make your voice heard at the federal level.
Josalyn Tresvant McGhee currently serves as the Instructional Facilitator for Kate Bond Elementary School in Memphis, TN for Shelby County Schools and was a 2015-2016 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow.
District superintendents across the country have taken on a range of bold approaches to improving students’ experiences in public education. Across these innovations, districts have embraced the notion that empowering students and their teachers is an effective way to improve student outcomes.
At a Nov. 15 convening, hosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) , our nation’s leading district superintendents overwhelmingly expressed an optimistic sense of purpose. Motivated by their successes with personalized learning across schools in their districts, a ringing call to action for these leaders came out of this Washington summit: give more students and educators the opportunity to experience personalized learning.
The Obama administration’s investment in personalized learning resulted from “a vision and drive for improving how we teach and engage our learners” said Roberto Rodríguez, Deputy Assistant to the President for Education. “And we need more of that across the country.”
For superintendents, this means enhancing the efforts seeded by ED’s Race to the Top–District (RTT–D) program, connecting with other district leaders who are implementing personalized learning, and scaling up efforts across districts.
“We have transformed the learning for our students and our districts,” said Dena Cushenberry, superintendent of Metropolitan School District of Warren Township, Indiana.
Since implementing personalized learning, districts and schools have seen rising levels of student engagement, improved graduation and college enrollment rates, reduced discipline rates and greater teacher retention. All these outcomes have moved the needle towards providing an equitable, high-quality public education for students in schools nationwide. Nadya Chinoy Dabby, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, said, ” Personalization presents a unique opportunity for schools to better understand—and meet—each student’s unique learning needs. Equity goes hand-in-hand with personalization.”
Superintendents identified three areas fundamental to scaling success in personalized learning: creating the right infrastructure, providing meaningful professional development and ensuring sustainability of the changes.
Investment in infrastructure can mean building in time and support for teachers and leaders to embrace the new approaches, and practicing a tenet of personalized learning: trust.
“The most innovative thing we’ve done is trust people,” said David Richards, superintendent of Fraser Public Schools, Michigan. “Give people the time, resources and opportunity to grow on their own. Everybody’s A-B is different on this journey.”
Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin, Superintendent Patricia Deklotz found that they “had to give teachers the opportunity to experience personalized learning” for themselves. This was an effective professional development model and cultivated buy-in from teachers.
“You can’t truly realize the personalized learning vision unless learners actually embrace those competencies and have the personal skills to navigate and engage their own learning,” said Thomas Rooney, superintendent of Lindsay Unified School District, California, an RTT–D grantee.
Superintendents are looking to maintain their progress. There are several relevant opportunities within the Every Student Succeeds Act. Also, districts are tapping into their communities’ assets – like local businesses, service providers and teacher colleges – to best meet the needs of their students, families and teachers.
With a strong foundation laid, district and school leaders are positioned to sustain personalized learning and spread this approach across the nation.
“There are a lot of unknowns,” said Katrina Stevens, Deputy Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. “But one thing that’s clear to me: This work is going to move forward because of the passion and dedication of local leaders.”
Andrea Browning is the Team Lead for the Race to the Top-District program in ED’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, which has invested $500 million in local personalized learning initiatives since 2012.
The post Districts Realize the Personalized Learning Vision, See its Future appeared first on ED.gov Blog.