It is still common when dealing with education issues, for policymakers to turn to everyone EXCEPT those teachers who have demonstrated the highest levels of classroom practice and student learning.
I left the most recent state-wide summit of NBCTs in Mississippi both encouraged and disheartened.
As, NBPTS Interim CEO, Peggy Brookins, NBCT, remarked, that this was the largest gathering of NBCTs of color we had seen anywhere in the country. Of course, that wasn’t a total surprise to me given the event was hosted by the National Board candidate support program (SMWCTI) at Jackson State University, a school that for decades was the major producer of Black educators in the country. I had a glorious time meeting or reconnecting with amazing NBCTs and candidates from around the state. Also noteworthy was the presence of state leaders, on a Saturday, to address the NBCTs and answer questions about educational policy. But this is also where it gets sad.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and Mississippi House Education Committee Chair, John Moore [no relation], did take time to come and speak; although, most of their remarks were about how much money the state under their leadership is already spending on education. That kind of talk is to be expected from politicians in an election year when a huge, hotly contested grassroots initiative about education funding is going to be on the ballot.
What was also expected, but painful nonetheless, was the politicos response to one question in particular from the floor asking to whom did they turn for advice and information when shaping or deciding educational issues. The response from both men went along this line: family members who happen to be educators, a few teacher friends, my staff, some superintendents I know personally….. Mind you, they’re declaring this in front of a room full of Mississippi NBCTs, demonstrably some of the best teachers in the state or nation. These are teachers to whom the State of Mississippi gives an extra $6,000/year for each year of their certification. Moreover, Mississippi has one of the largest pools of NBCTs of any state in the nation. Many are not only in classrooms, but also serving in other areas of education, at all levels, including leadership roles in the state’s major teacher professional organizations. So, why don’t the politicians turn to this rich reservoir of educational expertise sitting right before their eyes to help shape the policies that affect our daily work?
It’s as if we’re invisible. Mississippi NBCTs have been trying for years to engage systematically and consistently with state leaders around education issues. To her credit, State Superintendent Carey Wright, who also addressed the meeting, announced that for the first time there will be a person (preferably an NBCT) at the Department of Education who will serve as a coordinator of all the NBCT support programs (WCTP), which operate at several of the state universities. She also invited the NBCTs present to nominate themselves for several Teacher Leader Task Forces being created by MDE.
It is still common when dealing with education issues, for policymakers to turn to everyone EXCEPT those teachers who have demonstrated the highest levels of classroom practice and student learning. I’m not blaming them; the onus is on us; it’s our profession. Perhaps, in Mississippi, the disconnect comes because we don’t have a highly visible state network that policymakers can easily tap.
So, some of us are looking to teacher leader colleagues in other states for ideas on how build a vibrant NBCT state network and to develop stronger formal links between policymakers and accomplished teachers.
Suggestions are welcome.