Our National Policy Agenda

Across chapter and national streams, E4E’s work in the 2021-2022 school year will be guided by the urgent goal of ensuring educational equity and excellence for our most marginalized students in the wake of a global crisis. We will also maintain our focus on supporting and elevating the teaching profession through a time of significant disruption and change. Across all of the communities we serve, this crisis has had a disparate impact on students and communities already historically oppressed, particularly along lines of race. Within the broader movement for racial justice, E4E has a key role to play in advancing this critical work in schools and in teachers’ unions.

All of E4E’s policy priorities are grounded in our Declaration of Teachers’ Principals and Beliefs and informed by our National Teacher Survey: Voices from the Classroom. Using these documents as guideposts, E4E organizers had over 4000 conversations with our members in the spring and summer of 2021 to understand teachers priorities for the coming year. The issue areas we identified are interconnected and mutually reinforcing: for instance, closing equity gaps is a daunting challenge absent equitable resources; similarly, retaining great educators may be less of a challenge when policymakers and administrators support their mental health and wellbeing.

Closing Equity Gaps and Recovering from Unfinished Learning

Equity and opportunity gaps have plagued our schools for far too long. For example, in Minnesota, often considered a leader in academic excellence nationwide, the disparity between white students and students of color is stark: Black, Native and Hispanic students already fall 30 or more percentage points below white students in reading by the 4th grade; similar equity gaps exist for low-income students. In E4E’s founding chapter, New York City, there are 30-40% gaps between white and black student passing rates and 25-30% gaps in passing rates between students who are experiencing poverty and those who aren’t on end of year assessments. During the COVID-19 pandemic, widespread and inequitable disruptions to learning have expanded these longstanding opportunity gaps. 

Our country has a​​ tremendous challenge to safely reopen schools and a critical opportunity to utilize the massive influx of Federal resources to help students make up for lost time and unfinished learning. Our members believe that these efforts must center the students most disproportionately harmed by the pandemic--particularly students of color, low-income and homeless students, students with disabilities and English language learners. E4E will continue to advocate for evidence-based learning recovery strategies that are developed and implemented with input from and supported by educators, and for continued collection of comparable data that can help demonstrate progress in closing persistent equity gaps.

This could include advocacy to shift...

  • Encourage a full and safe reopening of schools through guidance grounded in science to limit the spread of COVID-19, create a safe learning environment for students and teachers, and prioritize education over non-essential businesses and services.
  • Ensure recovery dollars are being used by states to target marginalized student groups and improve student learning through evidence-based strategies
  • Highlight and share out best practices from districts and states who effectively supporting students to recover from unfinished learning
  • Maintain the requirement for annual statewide assessments and continue to collect, disaggregate, and disseminate this data to ensure all stakeholders can make informed decisions based on student progress
  • Create universal access to technology and high-speed internet
  • Focus resources on effective evidence based interventions like high-dosage tutoring, learning acceleration, additional learning time and content rich teacher professional development
  • Maintain and improve the quality of annual assessments to ensure opportunity gaps are being tracked and addressed
  • Support innovative teaching practices, expanded use of technology, and additional compensation for teachers taking on additional roles or having outsized impact in hard to staff schools and subject areas
  • Create universal access to technology and high-speed internet

Culturally Relevant, Antiracist Classrooms

Increasingly, the education sector is priortiizing the importance of creating classrooms that are culturally affirming, actively antiracist and bias-aware. At the same time, there is a mounting challenge to antiracist pedagogy, inclusive curriculum and the accurate, culturally-responsive teaching of history. Our members are committed to anti-racism, and see efforts to root out racism in schools as central to the day-to-day work of teaching and learning. 

Culturally relevant, antiracist classrooms are built on the foundation of access to a diverse carde of bias-aware educators, culturally relevant curriculum and learning experiences, and equitable resources. Building on the wins and momentum generated by the Hashtags to Healing Campaign in Chicago and the A Better Curriculum Campaign in Boston, our educators will continue to advocate for antiracist, culturaly relevant classrooms.

This could include advocacy to shift...

  • Expand guidance and share best practices around the use of in high quality culturally relevant curriculum and assessments
  • Expand grant programs to support the development of high quality, culturally-relevant curricular tools and assessments
  • Expand Title II funding and focus to support professional learning that reduces teacher bias and expands anti-racist teaching practices
  • Create statewide frameworks to audit and approve curricular choices to ensure they are culturally relevant
  • Purchase or develop new high quality instructional materials and assessments that are more culturally relevant
  • Invest in programs to train teachers around anti-racist pedagogy and how to recongnize and address their own biases

Social Emotional Wellbeing

Students and teachers are returning to school carrying the enduring trauma of COVID-19 pandemic; on top of that, teachers and students of color are experiencing the additional trauma of incidences of violent policing and the national reckoning on our nation’s history of racial injustice. Both students and educators’ foundational needs for physical, psychological and social safety must be met in order to set them up for success in teaching and learning. 

Building on an exciting win in Chicago last year, E4E will continue to fight to ensure that all students and educators have sufficient time and staff support for their social emotional development so that they are ready to learn and to work. As federal resources are infused into schools, we will advocate for equitable distribution of mental health resources, as well as to ensure that all supports are high-quality and delivered through an asset-based, actively antiracist lens.

This could include advocacy to shift...

  • Reinstate guidance to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline practices
  • Highlight the significant mental health needs in schools and share best practices around district led sustainable partnerships to support student and teacher mental health
  • Increase federal funds for counselors and other mental health providers in a way that will increase access in high needs schools.
  • Aggregate data on indicators of school climate, including suspension and expulsion, and disaggregate this data to be able to identify equity gaps along lines of race and identity.
  • Incentivize schools and districts to adopt non-punitive approaches, such as restorative justice, and eliminate the use of suspension and expulsion in early childhood education
  • Hire more mental health providers and place these providers in our highest needs schools rather than equally across a district or state
  • Support teacher development by expanding trainings in areas that promote positive school culture
  • Hold schools accountable by disaggregating suspension and school climate data in school quality report cards

Elevating and Diversifying the Teaching Profession

The single most important, in-school factor, driving student achievement is the quality of a student’s teacher. The long term impact of the pandemic on the teaching profession has yet to be seen, but the fact remains that interest in joining the profession is steadily declining. There are longstanding and widely documented gaps in access to excellent teachers for low-income students and students of color; and long-term teacher shortages in critical needs areas like special education and ESL instruction remain. Racial, ethnic, linguistic and gender diversity in the teacher workforce does not mirror the identities of students nationwide, despite evidence that access to a diverse group of educators supports learning for all students. Building on national momentum and local progress in our Minnesota chapter, we will continue to advocate for policies that make teaching an attractive proposition to a diverse, talented pool of prospective educators , with particular attention to recruiting and retaining teachers of color. 

This could include advocacy to shift...

  • Expand and increase investments in programs like the Augustus Hawkins grant program that supplement funds for teacher preparation programs at Minority Serving Institutions
  • Improve guidance or regulations to ensure states use Title II dollars for innovation and high quality teacher professional development
  • Share best practices from states and districts that are successfully diversifying the teacher workforce
  • Create meaningful leadership pathways for educators to take on additional responsibility while remaining in the classroom at least part time
  • Develop and invest in additional pathways for educators to enter the workforce and earn certification and licensure to increase the diversity of the profession
  • Increase pay for all teachers, but in particular raise starting salaries to make the profession more attractive
  • Create differentiated pay for educators who teach in hard to staff subject areas or schools, who take on additional responsibilities, or whose students are making the largest learning gains

Resource Equity

We believe that equitable opportunity begins with equitable access to resources. While funding is foundational, we define resource equity broadly, including equitable access to excellent educators, rigorous courses, safe and healthy school buildings, wraparound services and more. Building on our recent funding equity wins in our Connecticut and Minnesota chapters, we are committed to ensuring equitable resource access across our chapters, and transparency in how those funds are distributed and spent. Our educators will continue to speak out on equitable  and transparent allocation of stimulus dollars, along with historic and ongoing inequities in access to needed services.

This could include advocacy to shift...

  • Significantly increase Title I funding
  • Aggregate and release school level data on expenditures and highlight states and districts that are ensuring dollars are going to populations of students with the greatest need, as intended
  • Incentivize states and districts to utilize funding formulas that provide the greatest resources to students who have the greatest need and to ensure money follows the student
  • Increase funding for public education
  • Create funding formulas that send more resources to students with the greatest needs and where there is significant density of needs
  • Regularly and transparently report on school level expenditures in a way that makes it easy to see how dollars are distributed and ensure they are getting to and supporting students as intended.