Welcome Back to School and Fall Preview - National Council of Teachers of English
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Field Notes: A blog post by NCTE's Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick

Welcome Back to School and Fall Preview

Over the last several weeks, NCTE members have headed back to class across the country. By September 4, most of you will have officially begun. We wish you an incredible 2018-19 school year filled with adventures begun through new books, discoveries made through writing, and countless opportunities for inspiration found in the voices of your students. NCTE will continue to bring your voice to the national stage and amplify the necessity for all you do.

Your membership in NCTE creates opportunities for teachers and students as a result of combined influence and capacity. Here is an overview of what we have been up to at your professional home over the last few months and a bit of what’s in store in the coming months.


Policy Updates

Our voice in support of teachers and literacy continues to grow. Building on the momentum of our first Advocacy and Leadership Summit, we continued to apply influence and pressure toward supporting our policy priorities this summer.

NCTE’s policy expertise was sought in the summer months as two bills were drafted and introduced in the US Congress. Both bills are expected to play a major role in Congress’s eventual effort to update the Higher Education Act (HEA), which impacts teacher preparation and teacher professional development programs.

In the US Senate, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the “Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals Act of 2018’’ or the ‘‘PREP Act of 2018’’. Due to NCTE’s input, the bill makes specific mention of language arts, comprehensive literacy instruction, and preservice mentoring with subject matter expert/mentors – all things that we have prioritized for any federal law impacting teachers.

In the House of Representatives, Ranking Member Scott (D-VA) introduced the Aim Higher Act of 2018 as the Democrats’ substitute bill for the Higher Education Act reauthorization. NCTE contributed language similar to what is now in the PREP Act in addition to including grants to support district-level induction and mentoring programs for new teachers and school leaders during their initial years.

While it is unlikely the HEA reauthorization bills will move forward with this Congress, these bills are expected to be reintroduced in 2019 and will form the basis for the reauthorization process required to renew the comprehensive law.

As midterm elections loom, Congress is likely to focus its energy in the coming weeks on finalizing and passing the Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations. NCTE has made funding recommendations and is paying very close attention to the process. The Senate bill—which just passed in mid-August—provides funding for education at levels we can support; the House has not yet taken final action on their bill, but once they do, we’ll analyze both sides to determine where our membership might speak up to ensure the best outcomes for our schools.

We also anticipate that provisions may be introduced—when the Senate and House meet to negotiate the final education appropriations package—to close a loophole in how the US Department of Education interprets funding to states under the Every Student Succeeds Act (Title I law). They have reportedly considered allowing states, and thereby school districts, to purchase guns to arm school personnel. NCTE issued a statement about this proposal, and we will advocate strongly in favor of closing the loophole so that federal funds may not be used for this purpose.

SPECIAL UPDATE: Based on recent reports that there may be bipartisan agreement in Congress to include language in the education appropriations bill prohibiting federal education dollars from being used for this purpose, NCTE sent letters to encourage key House and Senate appropriators to clarify that education funding should be spent on education programs. September 11, 2018

Our policy priorities are identified and written by NCTE members each year. Discernment and distillation of our priorities has been led by Policy & Advocacy Chair Jeff Andelora and a committee of other passionate educators from the executive committee. Staff energetically and wisely activate the priorities set throughout the year. This is exciting work and represents a notable partnership between NCTE members and staff.

On October 3 we’ll bring NCTE members to Capitol Hill for an awareness-raising campaign focused on the National Day on Writing. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Bob Casey (D-PA) have pledged to introduce a resolution in honor of the day, and we’ll visit offices to make the case that every senator should be a cosponsor. Details coming soon!


Learning Together

In July we successfully hosted our first NCTE Summer Institute in Providence, RI. We look forward to hosting three more in 2019. The Whole Language Umbrella Literacies for All Summer Institute and the Early Career Educators of Color Institute also took place in July, and, by all measures, both were wonderful events.

This summer we also hosted our second NCTE Reads, an online book study attended by hundreds of our members. Throughout the coming year we’ll hold members-only professional learning experiences every few months to offer exclusive access to new resources and leading voices from the field. Stay tuned for the first such opportunity when NCTE Writes launches in October. Get a daily dose of writing wisdom in your inbox and get ready for the National Day on Writing, which we’ll celebrate on October 19 and 20 this year.


Special Events

The new school year always launches a busy fall for NCTE.

At the end of September, we’ll join a coalition of organizations in acknowledgment of the importance of intellectual freedom for Banned Books Week. Members are contributing a series of thoughtful blog posts and will host a Twitter chat on the subject on September 16.

October ushers in the 10th year that NCTE hosts the National Day on Writing. An overview and special invitation will be sent to each NCTE member this week. Stay tuned for opportunities that have us beaming!

Of course November brings the biggest event of the year, and there are so many exciting things to look forward to for #NCTE18. The speakers, the special programming, an earlier start, and the wonders of the location itself will make this year’s Annual Convention extraordinary. We can’t wait!


A Parting Thought

As my own children started school a few weeks ago, I was reminded in a personal way of the incredible responsibility each of our members takes on when the new year begins.

The students who come into your care arrive filled with ideas, experiences, curiosities, and, yes, challenges, and you will spend the next nine months nurturing all their potential. You’ll open doors to new possibilities with the books they discover on your shelves. You’ll help them amplify their voices as they learn new ways to express themselves with words. You’ll teach them to become critical consumers of information so they form their own opinions and learn to take their own stands. You will undoubtedly guide parents and guardians to discover how to blend learning at home and in the classroom.

And when I think of all our members doing this in tens of thousands of classrooms across the country, I feel hope for what lies ahead and a renewed sense of purpose as we continue to strive to be the organization that walks with you every step of the way.

Thank you for all you have done and will do this year. Belonging to NCTE means your individual voice is amplified by this incredible community of professionals. We look forward to learning with you!