WASHINGTON, April 11, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America's Future (NCTAF) are pleased to announce that the application process for the Agents for Learning Competition (www.learningforward.org/get-involved/agents-for-learning-competition) is now officially open. The goal of the competition is to engage educator teams in advocating for the best use of federal funding for professional learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
As states and districts work to develop comprehensive plans to implement ESSA, Learning Forward and NCTAF believe it is critical that teachers' expertise, experiences, and input are heard. "This competition provides a national platform for teacher voice to be included in the broader ESSA conversation," said Melinda George, president of NCTAF. "As we think about developing effective professional learning systems that meet teachers' needs to ensure that the conditions are in place for great teaching for every student, it is imperative that teachers have agency in this process."
The theory of action behind the competition specifies that if states and districts engage teachers who understand their learning needs, the needs of their students, and effective professional learning, then they can co-create learning systems that substantially improve teaching and learning.
"We've seen how influential ESEA can be in what happens in schools and systems, and if we aren't using the law and associated funds to further our most important student goals, we're wasting a critical opportunity," said Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward. "I'm looking forward to learning with teams of educators about their highest priority needs and how they plan to use ESSA to build supportive professional learning systems."
Educator teams, consisting of three to five current teachers, are invited to submit an application (www.learningforward.org/get-involved/agents-for-learning-competition) to participate in the competition. The application deadline is June 10, 2016. There will be an application-specific chat with experts available to answer questions about the competition on May 25. Team members are also encouraged to participate in two live webinars (or view the recordings) to help them understand ESSA, including the rights and responsibilities of states and districts in the use of federal funds for professional learning, as well as how those funds can support a systemic vision for continuous improvement in schools.
The webinars, held in partnership with the Center for American Progress and Teach Plus, will be open to the general public and will cover the following topics:
- ESSA 101 for Educators – April 27
- A Deep Dive into Professional Learning for ESSA – May 11
Reviewers will read the applications and select finalist teams to travel to Chicago July 21-22, where teams will present their plans to a panel of judges. Before presenting their plans, teams will have time to engage in learning and coaching to refine their plans and build skills in advocating with policymakers. Learning Forward and NCTAF will webcast the presentations and disseminate the finalists' plans to serve as models for educators around the country. Finalists will be eligible for prizes, awards, and recognition as well as the opportunity to influence the implementation of ESSA to improve learning for all of their peers and the students they teach.
"We are pleased to partner with Learning Forward and NCTAF in the Agents for Learning competition through the webinars and sponsorship of a team," said Catherine Brown, vice president, education and policy at the Center for American Progress. "We all want to see ESSA succeed for the sake of our students and teachers. What better way to ensure success than to include the experts – our teachers."
The following educator advocacy organizations have signed on to support Learning Forward and NCTAF with the competition: America Achieves, American Federation of Teachers, Center for American Progress, Corwin, Council of Chief State School Officers, Educators 4 Excellence, Hope Street Group, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, National Education Association, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, Scholastic, and Teach Plus. These organizations will support educator teams' participation in the competition and deepen their engagement in advocating for the meaningful implementation of ESSA. Travel support for finalists to the presentation in Chicago will be provided.
"NEA and its 3 million members are proud to support Learning Forward and NCTAF's recently announced competition 'Agents for Learning'," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. "Our nation's educators know better than anyone what our students need to succeed, and this is a creative avenue for them to have their voices heard. We are excited to sponsor two teams of educators and look forward to their unique, creative ideas for professional development opportunities under ESSA. No one is more excited than our educators for the chance that the Act provides for our students in the classroom, especially those students who are most in need. They are excited about the opportunity to help lead the change ahead of us and they are ready to chart new pathways for our students' success."
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, "The AFT is excited to sponsor a team of teachers for the Agents for Learning competition. This competition is a fantastic way for teachers to be heard on what they need to improve their own practice and boost student learning. All of the submitted plans—not just the winning proposal—will give federal, state and district policymakers a good sense of the voids that need to be filled so that teachers are supported and can be agents for learning for all our kids."
The Agents for Learning Competition follows upon Learning Forward and NCTAF's March 7 release of the white paper, Moving from Compliance to Agency: What Teachers Need to Make Professional Learning Work. The white paper defines teacher agency as "the capacity of teachers to act purposefully and constructively to direct their professional growth and contribute to the growth of their colleagues." The competition is intended to provide an avenue for teachers to exercise their agency in ways that influence the learning they experience along with federal, state, and local policy related to that learning.
"We are excited about this unique opportunity to sponsor a team and support this event. Whenever teachers work collaboratively to provide input to and potentially shape decisions that affect them directly, the outcomes are significantly more positive," said Tabitha Grossman, national director of education policy and partnerships at Hope Street Group.
"America Achieves is excited to be a part of this competition. We know that teachers and principals have a lot of great ideas about how to improve their professional learning and want to help make things better. Given the timing of ESSA rulemaking at the federal level now and state-level implementation just over the horizon, this competition comes at a perfect time to empower educators to shape the future of professional learning," said Charlie Cummings, senior director at America Achieves.
See statements from more supporting partners at http://learningforward.org/get-involved/agents-for-learning-competition/agents-for-learning-sponsors. Learning Forward and NCTAF continue to welcome other groups that would like to participate in supporting this competition.
For additional information or questions, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Social media posts about the competition will include the hashtag #agents4learning.
About Learning Forward
Learning Forward is a nonprofit, international membership association of learning educators committed to one vision in K–12 education: Excellent teaching and learning every day. To realize that vision Learning Forward pursues its mission to build the capacity of leaders to establish and sustain highly effective professional learning. Learning Forward supports its members and the field through services, learning opportunities, networks, and publications focused exclusively on what it takes to meaningfully build the capacity of K-12 educators to meet the needs of all students. Learning Forward's Standards for Professional Learning, adopted in more than 35 states, define the essential elements of professional learning that leads to changed educator practices and improved outcomes for students. Information about membership, services, and products is available from http://learningforward.org.
About The National Commission on Teaching & America's Future (NCTAF)
The National Commission on Teaching & America's Future (NCTAF) is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994 as a bipartisan effort to engage education policymakers and practitioners to address the entrenched national challenge of recruiting, developing, and retaining great teachers in order to ensure that all students have access to quality teaching in schools organized for success. For 20 years, NCTAF has worked to drive and inform the national dialogue about the importance of great teaching, especially in hard-to-staff schools. NCTAF's research and recommendations inform innovations and improvements in teaching quality nationwide, focus attention on the importance of equitable distribution and retention of teachers, and promote promising practices for the development of teachers' skills and career pathways. For more information, visit www.nctaf.org. Follow NCTAF on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to NCTAF's News Digest.
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SOURCE Learning Forward