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Message from the Director of LF

Message from the Director of LF

By Stephanie Hirsh | September 1, 2017

Stephanie Hirsh Dear Colleagues:
It has been heart wrenching to see how Hurricane Harvey has devastated and will continue to impact so many people in the Texas Gulf Coast and beyond. We work with so many colleagues and members in the affected area – you are all in our thoughts and we hope that the recovery from this disaster will be swift.

Learning Forward, Learning Forward Texas, and the 2018 Dallas Conference Committee have collaborated to identify a means to assist educators and students affected by Harvey. We know that many of you have already contributed to Harvey recovery efforts, and we have an additional opportunity for your consideration.

We will gather donations using this website to send to DonorsChoose, a platform, as many of you know, dedicated to supporting specific educators with their classroom projects. DonorsChoose.org has created a Hurricane Harvey fund, and any money we collect will go directly to that fund.

We appreciate your generosity as we make this collective contribution. We know that communities recover more fully when students and educators are in safe schools with the resources they need to engage in learning and reconnection with their neighbors, friends, and peers.


Strategic Priorities
With the guidance of the Board of Trustees, we’re continuing to use our strategic plan as a framework to guide our work priorities in this fiscal year. While our four priorities remain constant, as a staff we adjust the tactics each year to reflect the work we believe will most effectively help us achieve our vision.

The internal work on refining our strategies and tactics isn’t complete, but I’m including here a few highlights from each priority and welcome any questions.

Standards and Impact
Learning Forward establishes standards and examines evidence to strengthen and document the impact of professional learning.

Key strategies:
  1. Increase awareness, support implementation, and assess impact of Standards for Professional Learning in states/provinces, school systems, and organizations. Sample tactics: Talk about more explicitly our use of Standards as conference strands and why we do that; Use the new Corwin/NEA/Learning Forward report to continue to talk Standards.
  2. Provide evidence that effective professional learning leads to improved educator practice and student results. Sample tactics: Continue to publish research column in The Learning Professional; continue to share examples of effective professional learning practice that improves student results.
  3. Identify essential research questions and collaborate with appropriate partners to execute, amplify, and/or disseminate key research studies and findings. Sample tactic: Continue to support and disseminate results from the Canada Study.
Leadership and Practice
Learning Forward builds the capacity of its members, clients, partners, and staff to establish and sustain effective professional learning.

Key strategies:
  1. Build capacity and leadership among state/province, systems, schools, and teams to create policies and practices for effective professional learning. Sample tactic: Convene a coalition of states (What Matters Now Network) to develop policies for effective professional learning, with support from the Carnegie Corporation.
  2. Provide expertise, resources, and learning opportunities that help leaders at all levels establish, redesign, and sustain successful learning systems that improve educator and student learning. Sample tactics: Coach 2500 teacher mentors in Louisiana; Refine the Learning Forward Academy model
Advocacy and Policy
Learning Forward advocates policies and practices that strengthen the field of professional learning.

Key strategies:
  1. Mobilize local affiliates, members, and stakeholders to advocate for policies and practices for effective learning systems. Sample tactic: Build grassroots network (A-Team) to respond and prepare for legislation and regulation.
  2. Inform and influence national, state/provincial and local decision makers regarding the impact of quality professional learning for educators. Sample tactic: Email campaign undertaken by members to policy makers.
Efficient, Effective, and Enabling Operations
Learning Forward applies operational processes and cutting-edge technologies to support the evolving priorities of a world-class organization.

Key strategies:
  1. Fiscal and human resources policies and practices Sample tactic: Evaluate and revise pricing for Academy, consulting, conferences.
  2. Improve customer service Sample tactic: Address single sign-on issues so members can login.
  3. Continue web updates Sample tactic: Continue home page redesign for fall launch.
Title II Funding Process
We’re working with Jon Bernstein of the Bernstein Strategy Group in DC, and he offered this brief overview of the likely funding process for the federal budget related to Title II (you can hear a longer update through the webinar recordings):

  • September is shaping up to be a critical month. With the September 30 deadline for passing twelve appropriations bills to fund the government for FY2018, both the House and the Senate will be actively working on their versions of the bill. The House is expected to consider the Labor-Health and Human Service (Labor HHS) appropriations bill during the first week of September. The current House bill contains no funding for Title II and will likely pass the House on a party vote.
  • The Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services subcommittee will meet on September 6 to “mark up” their version of the bill. While the Senate is likely to include some money for Title II, we know that there is a possibility of a big cut or even a zero, so we need to continue to be vigilant in our advocacy efforts.
  • While the deadline for passing all of the appropriations bills is September 30, this is unlikely to happen. (It has not happened in many years.) In the event that the bills are not passed, the House and the Senate will work to pass a short-term spending bill called a CR which will extend the time to consider the appropriations process through the end of the calendar year. The only other option is a government shut down which it seems both the House and the Senate want to avoid.
All of this means that Learning Forward’s advocacy efforts to push for the highest funding levels must continue and our members need to be ready to be engaged for the long term. Please continue to add advocacy outreach to the top of your to-do list.

This represents a best guess – the funding process is susceptible to political shifts.

Actions requested!
Notice throughout this process the opportunities to continue to advocate that Title II funds be fully restored, particularly with the Senate. We ask that you be part of this ongoing pressure to ensure educators have the support they need to serve all students.
  1. If you haven’t already done so, join our A-Team – the grassroots network we can call upon for rapid response to developments – Sign up here: https://learningforward.org/get-involved/advocacy/advocacy-sign-up.
  2. Continue to contact your congressional representatives and speak up for full funding for Title II. We have suggested steps and language here; https://learningforward.org/get-involved/advocacy/day-of-action.
  3. It is likely that we’ll hear from both the House and Senate next week. Learning Forward will have an immediate response depending on what we see. I hope you will be able to share that response through your networks and craft your own in support of Title II funding.
Thank you so much for the work you do on this important priority. I appreciate how responsive you are when we call and ask for your assistance. And any time you have a question or suggestion related to advocacy, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Melinda (melinda.george@learningforward.org) or me.

Annual Conference – Discount Deadline Coming Up!
Our annual opportunity to learn together is approaching at lightning speed! I hope you’re planning to come to Orlando in December. Please share this amazing opportunity with your colleagues.

We’ve got great keynoters -- from an international perspective to a practitioner from a large urban U.S. district to a leading thinker on collective action. We also have a loaded lineup of thought leader lectures covering leadership, innovation, instructional materials, impact, and so much more.

Register by Oct. 16 to get the early registration discount.

For those of you active on social media, please share your excitement about the conference using #LearnFwd17. We love it when presenters share their session titles or attendees ask who’s coming to network.

New Report Draws on SAI, Standards for Professional Learning
We partnered with Corwin and the National Education Association to survey teachers on the type and quality of professional learning teachers experience to propel our ongoing conversation about how to best support educator learning. More than 6,300 teachers from across the United States responded to the survey, which is based on Learning Forward's Standards Assessment Inventory.

Take a look at the report that resulted from this survey. The State of Teacher Professional Learning offers several findings – few of which will surprise you. We’re excited to hear from teachers on their learning and their responses give us additional evidence that the work we do collectively is critical to school improvement.

Read and share the report

Upcoming Board Nominations and Election
The nominating committee is beginning its search for candidates for the 2017 Board Election that will take place from October 15 to November 15, 2017. If you know someone who, in your estimation, would be an excellent candidate, please have them complete a Candidate Application. If you have any questions or would like to submit the name directly to the committee, please send the name and contact information by email to: joel.reynolds@learningforward.org

Mandatory qualifications for candidates as established in the association bylaws and board policies are:
  • Candidates must be members in good standing of the association;
  • Candidates must not have served on the board during the immediate past two years;
  • Candidates must submit an application for candidacy to the nominating committee;
  • Candidates must agree to serve a minimum term of three (3) years; and,
  • When statistical data demand (a simple majority of board members), candidates may be required to be employed in a PreK-16 school. (This year, all candidates will need to be employed in a PreK-16 district.)
Thank you, everyone. Stay safe.