This post is written by the 2017 NCTE Kent Williamson Policy Fellow Lauren Stuart. This will be the first of a weekly series.
Greetings from Washington, DC.! I thought I would start by introducing myself. My name is Lauren Stuart and I teach 8th- (and soon 6th-) grade ELA for the Beverly Hills Unified School District.
I am honored to be this year’s Kent B. Williamson Fellow. What does that mean? As a way to honor Kent Williamson’s dedication to teacher leadership, NCTE established this fellowship, which allows a member to come to DC and be immersed in education policy. Each week during my stay, I will share my experiences with you. Also, you can follow me along daily on Twitter @laurenpstuart.
The week began with a training from the McKeon Group on both education policy and NCTE’s priorities. I was reminded that the actual policymaking process is nothing like the textbook version.
As a member, you should know that NCTE is asking Congress to support ESSA’s Title I, $190 million for LEARN, and student grant and loan programs. NCTE is also asking Congress not to eliminate Title II funds. If you would like to contact your representatives to discuss these priorities, let me know and I will help you make contact with them. You can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My second day brought me together with our esteemed Executive Director, Emily Kirkpatrick, as well. We traveled together to sit in on the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Summer Legislative Institute. NCSS and NCTE share the same concerns! Our colleagues have proven that social studies is relevant, needed, and wanted by our students, and yet they must constantly convince decision makers to fund their programs. Participants visited their legislators, and most had positive responses. If you know a social studies teacher who would like to get involved, encourage them to join NCSS and attend the NCSS annual convention this year.
I was also able to attend School Vouchers and Segregation, an event at the American Federation of Teachers headquarters. The Center for American Progress released a paper on this topic, and brought together a panel for discussion. Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) opened the session by stating that research shows that vouchers negatively affect student achievement. He urged the government to support public schools and not divert funds to private schools.
Justin Reid from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities told the story of Prince Edward County, and how their students came to be a part of the class action lawsuit that became Brown v. Board of Education. What I did not know was that because of the verdict, the Board of Supervisors decided to shut down the schools for five years instead of integrating. Kids went five years without an education. In addition, white students were given tuition grants to attend private schools, which led to segregated schools.
Also in attendance at this event was Catherine Lhamon, the Chair of the Commission on Civil Rights. She called for a promise from the federal government to ensure simple justice and civil rights for all students.
People and Opportunities to Watch
This section will highlight people I met while in town, as well as opportunities I come across.
Jill Cullis, Bill of Rights Institute.
Jill is a fellow Hope Street Group alum hailing from Colorado Springs. She was in town for the Bill of Rights Institute, Founder’s Fellowship. “It was a week of incredibly rich discussion based upon primary source documents in history. I rarely get professional development that is content based so the week with the BRI was so valuable to improving my instruction in US History.”
Doug is a science teacher from Maine who is here on a yearlong fellowship.
Luella is a fellow Californian, who was here for the NCSS SLI. I loved chatting with her about her interest in Native American studies and being a studio teacher.
Lauren Pfeffer Stuart is an 8th grade ELA teacher for the Beverly Hills Unified School District. She is a Hope Street Group National Teacher Fellow and a Teach Plus California Fellow. She has two young boys and lives in Sherman Oaks.