School looks a lot different than what it did in 1999 and 1979 can’t even compare. With endless information literally at our fingertips, some have said that knowledge is now obsolete. At the same time, schools and teachers are being held accountable for student success like never before.
With so much change happening so quickly, it’s important that lawmakers regularly visit classrooms to learn from teachers and school leaders about how their policies affect teaching and student learning. White papers, data reports and even testimonies cannot substitute for seeing the effects of policy in action.
Last fall, America Achieves, in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success, created Bring Your Legislator to School Day to show lawmakers what it’s like to be in school in the 21st century, and the initiative is continuing this fall.
Hosting teachers and principals set the agenda for the day, and this isn’t your typical back-slapping photo-op or feel-good awards ceremony in the school gym. In most cases, lawmakers spent several hours at the school shadowing teachers, touring facilities and speaking with students, teachers, and school leaders.
Some teachers, like Stacey Hervey, took the opportunity to show an innovative new career and technical education program that is preparing her students for 21st century careers.
Others, like Kim Hardwick, invited legislators to her school to show how the often-misunderstood Common Core State Standards have raised the bar for teaching and learning.
America Achieves New York Lead Fellow Kim Hardwick shared her motivation for being involved in the program: “We bring critical policy change agents to our schools so they can see the magic of learning by observing students and teachers themselves in a classroom environment. Telling someone our students are better mathematicians as a result of higher standards is not nearly as powerful as someone listening to the conversation two first-grade students are having about the various ways to decompose a number or solve a complex word problem through a collaborative process.”
America Achieves Colorado Lead Fellow Stacey Hervey built a lasting relationship with her state representative, Susan Lontine. “It was a valuable opportunity to expose Rep. Lontine to our school’s unique education model because the relationship with her has continued. My criminal justice class went to the capitol to meet with Ms. Lontine’s aides, many of whom were Hispanic, like my students. They left feeling as if they could also rise to this level of success. Ms. Lontine continues to support our school by sending personalized letters to students who graduate or achieve honor roll.”
This initiative has spawned a number of working relationships, with teachers being invited by lawmakers from Long Island to Colorado Springs to advise them on policy.
Bring Your Legislator to School Day is helping lawmakers who want to make a positive impact in their communities learn from professionals who are making a difference with students every day.