This post was written by NCTE NCTE Kent D. Williamson Policy Fellow Grace Eunhye Lee.
Teachers have a profound effect on students’ learning and well-being. An individual teacher’s impact is undoubtedly significant in how students view themselves as successful learners. As such, examining the impact of teachers’ instructional deliverance (pedagogy) and the curriculum content should be considered through the lens of education policies.
As a classroom teacher, I am driven by my teaching philosophies, with a goal of instilling hope and inspiration in students’ lives through literacy.
With this belief, I am motivated to grow my educational journey with support from my colleagues, who are my mentors and supporters in sharing their teaching expertise and curricular mentorship. I am continuously challenged as a growing teacher, desiring more opportunities to learn and be informed about policy implication and their direct and indirect impact on my students’ learning.
Believing that my teacher’s voice is critical to policy conversation, I argue that it is imperative for all teachers to stay informed (see resources at end) and to seek out opportunities to share their voices and expertise in designing and implementing policies on a local, state, and national level, including opportunities to present at schools and district-wide committees.
As trust is a crucial element in the policy making process, policymakers should seek teachers’ input before policies are formulated for a practical implementation at a local level. When teachers are encouraged to participate in understanding how policy shapes their classrooms, they can improve their teaching in accordance with federal and state mandates.
I certainly recall my uncertainty regarding shifts to No Child Left Behind and the Every Student Succeeds Act. When it came time to examine the transition to the Common Core State Standards, I was grateful that my ELA team was on board, as we unpacked the standards and shifted pedagogical choices to align with grade-level expectations. In addition, our school leaders were knowledgeable and provided the time and learning opportunities necessary to accomplish this transition.
Staying in touch with state education policy is also important. In Illinois where I reside, newly introduced or renewed education policies that are decided by the governor, legislators, and administrators impact a range of areas from school funding, organizational and structural decisions of schools, teacher preparation to standardized assessments.
State policy organizations such as Advance Illinois http://www.advanceillinois.org/ provide data-informed policies to support educators and students and help them succeed in educational settings. Websites for individual states’ boards of education, such as the Illinois site https://www.isbe.net, can also be useful as they provide the public with informative update related to state-level policy implications.
Visiting the state level policy center such as Illinois Policy https://www.illinoispolicy.org/ provides up-to-date news as well as trending topics to help me stay informed.
My hope as Kent D. Williamson Policy Fellow is to provide practical and accessible information to help English teachers and school leaders to be knowledgeable about education policies in ways that will improve and enhance our practices in English language arts.
- Teachers can find education policies for each state on the US Department of Education website. On this site, federal education initiatives such as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) can be accessed, allowing teachers to stay informed about its impact on individual state policy and funding matters.
- Knowing that the Tenth Amendment limits the federal involvement in education, it’s also useful to know where to find state and local agencies. Clicking on your state on this map will take you to a page listing agencies, with direct links to their websites.
- Various news outlets also report on education issues; Edweek.org is one that can help English teachers stay informed about education policy developments.
- Education Writers Association: https://www.ewa.org/reporter-guide/state-education-policy
- Education Commission of the States: https://www.ecs.org/50-state-comparison-developmental-education-policies/
- Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis: https://cepa.stanford.edu/research-areas/federal-and-state-education-policy
- National Conference of State Legislatures: http://www.ncsl.org/research/Education.aspx
Grace Eunhye Lee is a current NCTE Kent D. Williamson Policy Fellow, a teacher at Hinckley-Big Rock Middle School in Big Rock, Illinois, and a doctoral student at the University of Illinois.