Working with Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellows in Kentucky, Brad Clark mobilized teacher voice to inform state legislators about important issues, including the impact of the Common Core and reduced funding for education.
School: Simmons Elementary
District: Woodford County Public Schools
Source: Hope Street Group
During the spring 2014 state legislative session, several policies were being considered with potentially deep impacts for student learning. Teachers needed a real way to influence the decisions being made. A team of Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellows rallied around two issues of critical concern for teachers: a potential law (SB 224) seeking to repeal the Kentucky Core Academic Standards and the need for increased education funding in the state budget.
At the suggestion of Brian Bishop, the Hope Street Group Kentucky Teacher Fellows Program Director, I designed a process for gathering and refining classroom practitioner perspectives (through facilitated written accounts), focusing on two key questions for teachers:
1. How has Common Core implementation improved student learning and changed your views of our profession?
2. What has been the impact of the prolonged reduction in education funding over the past decade?
Our effort to answer these questions resulted in a classroom practitioner-driven process for educating Kentucky legislators and the public about the complex realities of Kentucky classrooms.
To this end, the Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellows sent out a request to the members of their Professional Learning Network requesting brief written accounts of how three years of Common Core State Standards implementation had changed student learning experiences and teacher perceptions of the profession. A short time later, we used the same facilitated writing process to determine the impact of low education funding on student learning and professional development.
One of our primary goals was to create an authentic opportunity for teachers’ ideas and experiences to affect policies that shape the classroom. Upon collecting more than 50 different teacher pieces over a three-week period, a group of Hope Street Fellows attended several Senate and House Education Committee meetings and presented each member of the legislative committees with a portfolio of various teacher perspectives on issues impacting Kentucky classrooms. We had the support of the Kentucky Department of Education and the Kentucky Education Association in this effort. Our work played an instrumental role in increasing education funding for technology, teacher professional learning, and textbooks for 174 districts throughout the Commonwealth. The work of the Hope Street Group State Teacher Fellows was also instrumental in causing SB 224 to “die” in the Senate Education Committee chambers.
We now have solutions-oriented, non-partisan working relationships with senators and representatives on both legislative Education Committees and credibility in the policy-making community to affect meaningful change. We have earned the trust of the Department of Education, the Kentucky Education Association, other state partners, and, more importantly, 43,000 Kentucky teachers to mobilize teacher voice so that state policies reflect reality and the needs of students and teachers from Paducah to Pikeville. In the upcoming school year, teachers can rest assured that four years of hard work in implementing Core Academic Standards have laid a strong foundation for continued student academic growth, without fear of repeal. Teachers now have increased financial support and accompanying instructional resources, needed to further impact meaningful standards implementation. Teachers have increased access to authentic, classroom-based professional learning.
Kentucky teachers are ready to steer our profession to more sensible policies that encourage teacher leadership and higher quality student learning experiences. We have the necessary tools and intellectual capital to rapidly change the teaching profession in the Commonwealth of Kentucky; we are building momentum.