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Engaging Teachers in Policy Development

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The following guest post is from Dan Cruce, Vice President, Education, of the Hope Street Group.

Hope Street Group, a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization known for working with teachers to impact education policy, recently released a new report, " Engaging Teachers in Policy Development ," which looks at the policy projects of its 2013 class of national teacher fellows. The National Fellows, classroom teachers or instructional coaches who are outstanding leaders in their districts, engineered a myriad of intriguing projects, ranging from developing new middle school Career and Technical Education courses and Computer Coding curriculum to creating statewide teacher working groups and expert recommendations for Common Core State Standards implementation .

The new report, penned by Dr. Tabitha Grossman, Hope Street Group's Director of Education Policy and Research, details the challenges and triumphs of the 12 National Fellows as they embarked upon yearlong projects aimed at invigorating education policy discussions (and action) in their respective communities. Among the themes explored in the report are the value of teachers engaging with policymakers at regional and state levels, the importance of building strong teacher networks, and the influential role data collection can play in informing best practices.

While the report highlights the number of potential opportunities available to teachers engaging in policy at the local level, it also offers an honest glimpse into the obstacles trailblazing educators often face along the path toward improving outdated learning models. Whether it was dealing with resistance from district administrators, experiencing unexpected changes in school structure, or just realizing that fellow teachers needed outlets to discuss new changes as much as they needed avenues for brainstorming new solutions, the summary is a treasure trove of lessons learned for any teacher eager to help shape education policy in his/her community.

Indeed, one of the main takeaways of the assessment is the profound influence participating in policy discussions had on the teachers involved; not only were they inspired to view classroom issues from a broader perspective, but they also felt more empowered to continue driving meaningful changes in their schools and regions.

"Teachers are the on-the-ground professionals with everyday exposure to, and expertise about, students. As a result, it is essential that teachers be engaged in policy decisions to craft policies that will positively impact student learning," said National Teacher Fellow Allison Hunt, a high school teacher from Jefferson County, Kentucky.

In addition, many teachers expressed gratitude for the chance to interact meaningfully with other leaders in their district, and to grow from the collaborations.

"When you have information, passion, creativity and critical thinking in the same place, it is magical," said National Teacher Fellow Jeanne DelColle, a 2013-2014 Teacher in Residence at the New Jersey Department of Education. "It was enlightening to get a perspective outside of my own classroom/district that I could adapt and take home. I want other teachers to have a similar experience."

Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellows are classroom teachers and instructional coaches who contribute their ideas and expertise to help shape national education policy. Selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants, they spend a year contributing 15-20 hours per month to fellowship-related work, while also teaching full time in the classroom. The fellowship is an integral part of Hope Street Group's Education Program, which seeks to transform the teaching profession to improve outcomes for students. For more information, please visit http://www.hopestreetgroup.org/our-work/education

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