June 11, 2014

Educators 4 Excellence launches Connecticut chapter, releases first major policy proposal

Teachers, Joined by Bridgeport Superintendent Rabinowitz, Call for Needed, Pro-Student Improvements in Professional Development at E4E Roll-out Event

June 11, 2014 (Bridgeport, CT) — Educators 4 Excellence, a national teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate the voices of teachers in education policy discussions, formally launched its new chapter in Connecticut Wednesday with a kick-off event in Bridgeport and a call for sweeping changes to existing professional development. This major policy proposal, written by a team of working Bridgeport public school classroom teachers, proposes a number of changes to this pressing issue. These include increasing the opportunities for teachers to weigh in on and even lead professional development topics and personalizing the experience so that trainings better meet the needs of schools and individuals. The full proposal can be seen HERE.

Educators 4 Excellence is a teacher-led nonprofit seeking to change the top-down approach to policy-making that has become all too common in urban public school systems. In Connecticut, the significant amount of change that has occurred over the last few years resulted in classroom teachers reaching out and asking E4E to support their leadership and help them have more voice in the policies that impact them and their students.  The organization already has more than 150 members across the state.

Over the past several months, a team of nine E4E-CT Bridgeport members has been developing recommendations to improve the quality of their professional development. The recommendations, which they released Wednesday, seek to inject the ideas of actual classroom teachers into the policy changes the Superintendent is currently considering.

E4E’s Connecticut chapter is led by former teacher, Ranjana Reddy. “Bridgeport’s schools have undergone tremendous change over the past several years, and, as a result, teachers want a greater voice in the creation of the policies that effect their profession and students,” Reddy said. “There are no greater education experts than the professionals working in our city’s classrooms. At E4E, we’re excited to support Bridgeport teachers as they jump into the conversation around professional development. We’re also thrilled that Superintendent Rabinowitz could join us as E4E-CT teachers share their ideas, and we look forward to working on this issue and many others together.”

“I’m honored to hear from teachers. The commitment and passion is there, and it’s incredibly energizing to hear,” Frances Rabinowitz, Superintendent of the Bridgeport Public Schools, told the assembled group following a presentation of the policy proposals. “I want you to have the very best professional development that you can have in order to be more impactful with your kids, because the kids are what it’s all about. I am more than willing to meet to figure out how we can have the very best teaching and learning going on in our schools.” She concluded her remarks by saying “I can’t tell you how energizing it is to see a group of teachers who really, really care.”

In order to develop policy proposals for our schools, E4E teachers meet as part of Teacher Action Teams to research, analyze, and draft policy recommendations to improve classroom instruction and raise student outcomes. Over the course of the last eight weeks, E4E-Connecticut teachers have been working on policy proposals to enhance professional development. Their professional development recommendations released today call for:

  • Vision. Bridgeport must create clear, actionable, student-focused professional development that supports teachers and principals and encourages school autonomy. Currently, professional development sessions are inconsistent and disconnected.
  • Voice. Teacher input must be considered when determining professional development topics, and teachers must have resources to evaluate whether professional development is helpful for them. Teachers should also be given opportunities to lead professional development for other teachers. Teachers are the ones most directly impacted by professional development, and their voice is currently not being heard.
  • Impact. Bridgeport schools must adopt evidence-based professional development, tailored to specific teaching disciplines and grade levels. It must be sustained throughout the school year, incorporate classroom practice, and provide opportunities for teacher collaboration. Current professional development structures do not positively impact student learning.
  • Ownership. Professional development must be personalized and teacher-directed to promote greater ownership and growth.

Founded in 2010 by two classroom teachers in New York City, E4E is a group of like-minded educators seeking to change the top-down approach to policy-making that has become all too common in large public school systems.  In just three years, E4E has grown into a national movement of 13,000 teachers with chapters in New York, Los Angeles, Minnesota and now Connecticut. The organization aims to strengthen the collective power of teachers by elevating their voices in the decision-making process to set and implement sensible education policy at the school, district, state and federal levels.

“The professional development recommendations laid out today come from teachers who are in Connecticut classrooms day-in and day-out, and they are exactly the kind of progressive changes teachers are looking for,” Educators 4 Excellence Co-Founders and Co-CEOs Sydney Morris and Evan Stone, who are also former teachers, said in a joint statement. “Our organization, which is made up of over 13,000 teachers across the country, brings actual classroom experience into policy making in order to raise student outcomes. We’re thrilled to be working with Connecticut teachers who embody bold leadership and forward-thinking ideas, such as those evidenced in these policy recommendations. 

“I have always felt like education policy was divided from what was happening in the classroom,” said Amy Henson, a 6th Grade teacher at Johnson School. “The E4E mission is to bridge the divide between what happens in the classroom and what happens in policy-making circles, and I couldn’t be more pleased to be a part of this effort in Connecticut. Our recommendations on professional development tackle a critical issue facing teachers in our district, and we will continue to take on tough issues going forward. The success of our students depends on it.” 

“The issue of professional development is a great starting point for E4E-CT,” added Reddy. “Our teachers have one thing in common – they all want to be the best teachers they can be, and help their students grow as much as possible. Strong professional development and support is key to that, and I hope leaders in Bridgeport Public Schools will consider their recommendations. Starting now, our teachers are looking forward to presenting their views on all the issues necessary to build strong, healthy schools.”