Education / 2013
Teachers Leading from the Classroom
For far too long, education policy decisions have been made without a critical voice at the table—the voice of classroom teachers. In order to truly improve a public school system that fails far too many students, we must amplify the voices and ideas of teachers who are dedicated to the success of their students.
Reversing a top-down approach to education reform is a paradigm shift—one that positions teachers as agents, not subjects, of reform. As with any meaningful, long-lasting change, it’s not enough to have five or even five hundred teachers challenging the status quo in education. We needed a large and diverse movement.
This was the genesis of Educators 4 Excellence, also known as E4E. We are a movement of teachers elevating our voices, students and profession. Our movement is built uniting Los Angeles teachers around a common vision for change as E4E members, a vision outlined in our Declaration of Teachers’ Principles and Beliefs. This broad set of teacher-written beliefs is the starting point for an honest conversation about how teachers can shape the policy and legislative changes that are and aren’t happening in education.
Today, our local movement is over a year old and has already grown to more than 2,000 members spread across 450 schools in Los Angeles. We provide teachers flexible ways to engage in our movement while remaining in their classrooms. Thousands of our members learn online by exploring education news, research, policy and peer policy ideas. Hundreds network with peers and policy leaders at our teacher-led forums, roundtables and summits. E4E members have taken action by participating in our leadership, policy programs and advocacy campaigns. In addition to leading local advocacy, our Los Angeles members are tapped into E4E’s broader national movement of over 9,000 educators who are sharing policy recommendations and best practices for raising student achievement.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
In just over a year, our members have influenced local and state education policy. Our early impact has included the following:
E4E Members helped break the stalemate on teacher evaluation by presenting their recommendations to UTLA President Fletcher, LAUSD Superintendent Deasy, School Board Members and media, with select recommendations included in the ratified deal.
Dozens of E4E Members signed onto an amicus brief calling on California courts to protect students from layoff policies that disproportionately violated the constitutional rights of students and our most vulnerable, low-income schools.
100+ E4E Members sent voices to Sacramento to block a regressive bill on teacher evaluation and call for smarter state leadership on education
500+ E4E members signed E4E”s “Raising School Revenue and Achievement” petition calling for increasing school funding and tying revenue to meaningful reform and 20+ engaged voters through door knocking and phone banking.
50+ E4E members expanded their influence beyond the classroom by holding leadership positions in their schools, districts and unions.
120+ E4E members took their voices to Sacramento to block the passage of a regressive bill on teacher evaluation.
40+ E4E media mentions that influenced public opinion through high-profile coverage in Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily, Huffington Post, Education Week, KPCC, KCAL-9 News and others.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
To build and strengthen our movement of classroom teachers, E4E Los Angeles has quickly forged strong partnerships to deepen our knowledge, relationships and impact.
Deepening our Knowledge: E4E Los Angeles has partnerships with research and academic institutions to share best practices, studies and inform our teacher-led Policy Teams.
Deepening Relationships: E4E Los Angeles partners with local and state advocacy groups, civil rights groups, community-based organizations, universities and school networks.
Deepening Impact: E4E Los Angeles partners with state advocacy groups, city and state government elected officials, and litigators who deepen our impact on education legislation and litigation.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Our long-term ambitions are inextricably linked: to increase student achievement, we must also raise the quality and prestige of the teaching profession. We have set immediate and long-term goals to drive our current work. We use the following key metrics to measure our progress building and mobilizing a movement of teachers leading change:
Metric 1: Teachers joining our movement The number of teachers joining our movement to elevate teacher voice, student achievement and the teaching profession
Metric 2: Teachers leading in schools, districts, unions The number of teachers taking on leadership roles in their schools, districts and unions
Metric 3: Teachers generating policy recommendations The number of policy white papers written and presented by teachers to decision makers and influencers.
Metric 4: Teachers advocating for policy changes The traction of campaigns advocating for E4E teacher-created policy recommendations on policy outcomes, awareness of decision makers, and media coverage.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
Three factors make our work particularly impactful in Los Angeles. First, we are providing a safe space for teachers to learn about education policy and talk about the challenges and best practices in their schools. By engaging individual and groups of teachers during and after school, we have been able to hear from thousands of classroom teachers in hundreds of schools in Los Angeles.
Second, we recognize the power of teachers, but also understand the power of building a broad network of teachers, parents, community leaders and policy makers. We break down the barriers that all too often separate parents from teachers or policy makers from classroom practitioners. Through our forums, teachers network with policy makers. We are also part of three local and state coalitions that bring parent groups, faith groups, civil rights groups and community organizations to ensure elected, district and union leaders hear the ideas of solutions-oriented teachers.
Most importantly, we believe in the power of teachers taking collective action on behalf of our students. As elected and district leaders call for specific policy reforms, our members have been able to ensure that those leaders hear the voices and policy ideas of teachers who understand the needs of our students, the concerns of their peers and the implications of policy on school communities. Our members have presented research-based policy ideas to school board members, union leaders, state legislators, media and civic leaders. They have sent their voices to the California Supreme Court, Sacramento legislature as well as their district and media.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
In the year 2050, great teaching will be demystified. Schools will use data, technology and evaluation tools to identify and learn from the best practices for closing the achievement gap in America.
In the year 2050, teaching will be leading. Teachers will have career pathways that enable them to reach more students and support more peers. As a result, struggling teachers will receive intensive support to improve, average teachers will become great practitioners and great teachers will become influential leaders.
In the year 2050, teaching will be prestigious. We will recognize, leverage, compensate and retain our most effective teachers. A new generation of outstanding graduates will clog principal inboxes with applications to teach. Children will dream about being engineers, doctors, artists or teachers in Los Angeles.