Educator Voice Opportunities: EdVoices, EdFellows
In order to foster a new conversation about what’s possible for Minnesota students and schools, EdAllies seeks out and amplifies the voices of those who experience our education system on a daily basis. The EdVoices program provides a platform for students, parents, and educators to share their perspectives on education challenges and solutions. The first class of EdVoices includes educators from both urban and rural Minnesota, in addition to parents and students.
EdAllies also aims to partner with educators who have a passion for policy and want to get more directly involved in advocating for change. Through EdFellows, EdAllies engages educators to get more deeply involved in moving the needle on specific policy issues. Fellows develop work plans that involve research, advocacy, and more—for example, researching implementation of the state’s teacher evaluation system and how districts are addressing equity in professional development.
What have been your organization’s biggest accomplishments while exploring educator voice work?
Our educator voice programs keep our work grounded, and ensure that the authentic experiences of those working in schools drive our priorities and communications. This approach is important not just because of specific outcomes, but because of how it drives us to think about our work. Tangibly, however, we also find that we are simply most effective when we elevate the voices of others—including educators—as messengers. Our most popular blog post to date shared an educator’s raw personal experience with the school choice debate. We also helped bring nuance to the local discussion about teacher preparation by elevating a rural educator’s perspective, in both a blog post and written legislative testimony. Finally, to make the case for teacher licensure reform, we connected out-of-state educators with opportunities testify at the Capitol and speak with media.
What advice do you have for other advocacy organizations thinking about engaging educators?
We have learned many lessons about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to engaging educators. Lesson one: Set reasonable expectations, and be willing to adapt. We’ve found the teachers with whom we work are deeply passionate, but also busy! Be as clear as possible on the front end about what’s required, how you’ll communicate, and what a successful partnership will look like, both in terms of interim milestones and final deliverables.
Lesson two: Make sure you’re clear not just about what you hope to get out of the partnership, but what the educator’s expectations are. And be realistic about whether you can meet them! It takes staff time, mental space, and resources (especially if you’re considering offering a stipend) to be a good steward of an educator voice program. It’s important to empower educators to be decision-makers, but it’s also critical to set parameters to ensure your team has the knowledge and capacity to support them. We have restructured our EdFellows program to better strike this balance.
Lesson three: If you want educators to deeply engage in your work, and to be good spokespeople for your efforts, don’t wait until the media calls to build relationships. Bring educators in as partners early in the decision-making process, helping identify both the problem and the solution. Not only will you have more eager advocates; you’ll likely also have a better policy solution. We’ve invited educator partners to be part of coalitions and join committees on our behalf. We also invite engaged stakeholders to regular advisory meetings where they have the opportunity to learn about and provide real-time feedback on our work.
The topics below represent this member’s recent priorities, as they’ve reported through the annual PIE Network legislative and policy survey. If no priorities are listed, this member is new to the Network and/or has not yet participated in this survey. For much greater detail about all PIE Network members’ recent campaigns, members can access the PIE Network Policy Map here. If you have questions on the PIE Network legislative and policy survey or the Policy Map, contact Lukas.