State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE)

Educator Voice Opportunities: Tennessee Educator Fellowship

Since 2014, the Tennessee Educator Fellowship has equipped and empowered educators as advocates for their students’ success. During a one-year program, fellows learn about, reflect upon, and inform the educational policies, practices, and systems that affect student achievement and educator effectiveness.  Fellows learn to be effective advocates through a series of in-person and online convenings with state and local leaders, as well as experts in communications and advocacy.

In the past four years, Fellowship participants have appeared at public speaking engagements, invited policymakers into their classrooms, written for state and national publications, created regional professional networks, and served on state-level policy committees. Previous education initiatives led by fellows include Reach them to Teach Them, Project LIT Community, and the Tennessee Educators of Color Alliance. The 49 fellows chosen for the 2017-18 class include teachers, school counselors, and librarians, and represent schools across Tennessee.

SCORE also helps coordinate the Tennessee Teacher Leadership Collaborative (TTLC), which serves to build an overarching network structure for teacher leadership and collaboration in Tennessee.

What have been your organization’s biggest accomplishments while exploring educator voice work?

Figuring out how to balance supporting the learning of our fellowship with taking action has been a big accomplishment. While there is always urgency for building support for academic expectations, high quality assessments, and strong accountability systems, we also know that our fellows need time to understand the system they are operating in. One of the most important things we do for the fellows is developing their systems-level thinking by giving them the opportunity to grapple with the same decisions that state and local leaders face, with an eye towards developing them as self-sustained advocates after the fellowship. This builds the capacity of the educators to be advocates for the work in Tennessee over the long-term and builds trust with our educators. We know that our educators are better able to be leaders in their communities by being able to bring their interests to the table, too.

What advice do you have for other advocacy organizations thinking about engaging educators?

Don’t be afraid to build relationships with educators by challenging their assumptions. We’ve found that frank conversations with student-focused educators can be very beneficial to the work as a whole. Part of this comes from educators not having always had opportunities to unpack what they believe about student learning, and part of this comes from limited opportunities to debate the full range of issues. These honest conversations help build trust over time and encourage long-term engagement.

Resources:

https://tnscore.org/programs-outreach/tennessee-educator-fellowship/

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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.

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