Stratford physics teacher Kristen Record and Guilford physics teacher Ernie Smoker were part of a group of 20 STEM teachers from around the country participating in the STEM Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., last week, co-sponsored by MIT and George Washington University.
The CEA members are part of the Network of Educators of Science and Technology (NEST) affiliated with MIT. Twenty NESTers were invited to this first-ever STEM Policy Institute. The goal of the program was to create a dialogue among educators, policy experts, and public officials about the current opportunities and challenges related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Here’s what 2011 Connecticut Teacher of the Year Kristen Record had to say about the experience.
We had discussions with leaders from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Chemical Society, and Phi Delta Kappa. We also went to a meeting held by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), in which the future of post-secondary mathematics education was discussed. GW’s Center on Education Policy held an advocacy training session for us in advance of meetings we had scheduled with members of congress.
Mid-week, Ernie and I attended the inaugural “Connecticut Constituent Coffee,” hosted by Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, with two other Connecticut science teachers. We then later met with both of their education staffers – for about 45 minutes each – to discuss the intersection of ESEA reauthorization and STEM education. Later in the week I had meetings with Representatives Himes and DeLauro and their staffers to discuss the same. I also had the unique experience of being able to be able to sit with Congresswoman DeLauro’s education staffer and watch some of the debate about HR5 from her office, and then later watched some of the debate about amendments to HR5 from the House Gallery.
While at the PCAST meeting, I picked up a 2010 report written by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to the President called, “Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math for America’s Future.” On page 73, the report says, “Unless we give our best teachers access to decision-makers and a voice in the many policy decisions that affect their lives, we will continue to make poor use of the talented teachers in our schools, and large number of them will leave the profession for jobs that are more responsive to their needs.”
That sentiment perfectly echoes my belief that classroom teachers need to be viewed as the experts in education when policies are considered and laws are passed; teachers need a seat at that decision-making table from the beginning.