Members of Chiefs for Change recently held their annual meeting to establish an advocacy agenda for the coming year. The bipartisan network of more than 30 diverse leaders from across the nation is united around a core set of beliefs and promotes policies and practices that make a difference for students.
“There are messages coming from both sides of the aisle in ways that make policy issues more confusing than ever before,” Chiefs for Change Board Chair and Louisiana State Superintendent of Education John White said in his opening remarks. “It is important that we come together around our common purpose. Today, we have the opportunity to make the future better.”
The annual meeting discussions focused on three of the most important issues in education today: creating new and better postsecondary pathways for all students, building systems to hold schools accountable for providing a high-quality education, and preparing and supporting teachers to do their best work in the classroom.
First, on postsecondary access and success, a number of members detailed their efforts to prepare students for college and careers, including San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez, who is working to address what he called students’ “self-mismatching to low-performing universities and community colleges.” Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson also spoke, explaining how her system is expanding opportunities for students to earn college credit while still in high school and has established robust credit transfer agreements. In the year ahead, the chiefs’ advocacy in this area will stem from the network’s Blueprint for Postsecondary Success, which calls for federal and state requirements to track postsecondary outcomes for individual schools, districts, colleges, and universities; a sustained focus on degree completion and the successful transition to meaningful work; and career and technical education programming tied to high-growth fields.
Second, on ensuring high-quality schools for all students, chiefs discussed how to strengthen accountability systems in ways that assess academic achievement while also incorporating new methods of capturing the richness of the student experience. The members asked Chiefs for Change staff to compile information about innovative assessments and accountability models but agreed that now is not the time to retreat from a commitment to quality and high expectations for all learners. Former Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam echoed that sentiment as the meeting’s keynote speaker: “We must have some way to measure how our schools are doing. It’s a non-negotiable,” he said.
Third, on supporting teachers, the members expressed interest in articulating a unified vision for what the teaching profession should look like, taking into account issues of compensation, preparation and certification, and ongoing professional learning. “Teachers are building the workforce for every other profession,” Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Chad Gestson said. “They’re building our economy, yet many of them are economically disadvantaged themselves.” Gestson told the group that his district is exploring new ways of onboarding teachers so they can excel their first year on the job. Louisiana, meanwhile, has created a national model of teacher preparation. Superintendent White was recognized for the program, which requires all aspiring teachers in all universities to experience a full-year residency under a state-certified mentor. In addition, Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist talked about the importance of adequate and equitable education funding and her support for Tulsa teachers during their walkout. Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova also spoke, explaining how important it was to maintain incentives in Denver’s new teachers contract for those who teach in the highest-poverty schools and for those who hold hard-to-fill positions.
While the annual meeting was primarily focused on establishing the Chiefs for Change advocacy agenda, it also included a session on how members can support emerging leaders in the Future Chiefs program and a reception generously supported by our sponsors including Great Minds and ETS.
Chiefs for Change CEO Mike Magee highlighted the connections between the network’s advocacy efforts, leadership development initiatives, and member supports. “On policies and practices that matter to you, we have built the capacity to pursue a set of mutually reinforcing strategies with a clear theory of action,” Magee said in his State of the Organization address. “We support, amplify, and disseminate your work. And we’re having an impact.”
About Chiefs for Change
Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education leaders dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.