21 Oct A Webinar to Bridge the Gap: Teachers Talking to Policymakers
As professionals, teachers want to be involved in conversations about education reform, whether at the federal, state, or local level. Unfortunately, the opportunities for engagement are often limited or even non-existent. As a Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow, I am presented opportunities to be part of policy conversations and even help facilitate them for other teachers. In an effort to connect teachers with policymakers, Hope Street Group hosted a webinar with Delaware’s U.S. Senator Chris Coons. This experience was exciting. I was able to research current education issues within my state, help promote the event to my colleagues, and pose thoughtful questions for the Senator to answer.
As a group, the other Delaware Teacher Fellows and I began with research into educational topics that are held dear to the Senator and we also researched topics of which we would like to inform the Senator. For instance, I researched Delaware’s Race to the Top grant to determine what had been promised with regards to teacher evaluation. This exercise was wonderful. I read more deeply into the grant because of this focus and I was therefore better able to formulate questions and to generate conversations – not just with the Senator, but also with my fellow educators.
According to the Race to the Top grant application, Delaware will have an evaluation system that takes into account student growth. Although we have always considered student growth, measuring that growth will now be critical to a teacher’s rating. Student growth will be measured in three components. The first will be determined according to success on the state test for Reading or Math. In the second component, teachers will select a cohort, or group of students and a portion of the teacher’s evaluation will be based upon the growth of this cohort as measured by the state assessment. In the third component, student growth will be measured through both external and internal assessments. The external measures, standards based evaluations, are currently being approved by the Department of Education. The internal measures are being developed by educators from various districts across the state. These internal measures will be used by teachers to measure other areas of growth that are not assessed on the state test.
Another interesting aspect of the webinar was posting questions to be asked of the Senator. At the same time, I could read other questions that had been posted and I could vote on them. Through voting, questions would rise in priority and teachers had a voice in the questions eventually asked of the Senator.
Overall the webinar was a success. Teachers were able to connect to a policymaker, Senator Coons, in a way that made him accessible across distances. As a Teacher Fellow, I was able to learn more about what was happening in my state through research and through reading questions that my fellow teachers were asking. This experience has helped me grow and to understand relationships that can be built between teachers and policymakers.