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August 2014
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2014 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit Participation Increases

In June, TESOL hosted its ninth annual 2014 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit in Washington, DC. The event was sponsored, in part, by the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. Attendance at this year’s summit was the highest to date. More than 60 association members, affiliate members, and other TESOL professionals joined the 2-day event. Participants came from across the United States, and a few came from other countries.

The first day featured full a day of issue briefings and activities around education legislation and advocacy, and on the second day, the newly trained advocates visited congressional offices on Capitol Hill. By the end of the event, TESOL members had visited the offices of more than 100 senators and representatives.

The goal of the summit, however, was not only to lobby members of Congress on issues relevant to English language teachers and their students. “The Advocacy and Policy Summit is at its core an educational opportunity. Participants come to Washington, DC, and learn how to effectively advocate for English learners,” noted TESOL Associate Executive Director John Segota. “The goal of the program is not only to educate attendees on key policies but also to empower them to take action in their local school districts and workplaces.”

The issue briefings kicked off on Monday morning with speakers Carlos Martinez and Emily Davis from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). Martinez provided a general overview and update from the Office of English Language Acquisition, and Davis, an ESL teacher and a Teaching Ambassador Fellow, discussed teacher preparation and USDE’s teacher quality initiatives.

Other presentations included a discussion from the U.S. Department of Justice on the civil rights of English learners, a Student & Exchange Visitor Program update from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, an overview of Common Core State Standards and ELLs, and an update on programs for adult English language learners from the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

After the briefings, the summit focused on advocacy. Participants engaged in a series of activities to help them learn more about advocacy and prepare them to meet with their members of Congress. To maximize the impact of the summit, participants were also encouraged to meet with key members of Congress serving on the education and appropriations committees, and participants from the same state were encouraged to meet with legislators in small groups.

On Tuesday, the advocates went to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress and their staffers. After their meetings, the advocates shared their experiences.

 

“Coming in to the summit, I was hesitant about my potential efficacy because of my lack of experience in advocacy,” noted Yurimi Grigsby, a first-year advocate from Illinois TESOL. “I found that my actual professional and life experience were enough for what I needed…to share the stories of the English learners I work with every day. Feeling connected to a wider community fighting for the same better world was exhilarating, especially coupled with the excitement and electricity on Capitol Hill.”

Beverly Good, a returning advocate from Ohio TESOL, said that that she left the 2013 program feeling energized. When she returned to Ohio last year, she initiated advocacy-oriented conversations within Ohio TESOL and visited Ohio state elected officials, most notably the Ohio Latino Commission. “Ohio TESOL has done more for advocacy in the last year than any time since I've been involved with the Board,” Good wrote. “Everything that we have done is a direct result of attending the 2013 and 2014 Advocacy and Policy Summits. You showed us how to get started and stay with the program. Keep up the great work.”

Read TESOL President Yilin Sun’s blog for her account of the event. For information on the 2015 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit, please visit the event page on the TESOL website.

See more event photos
on TESOL's Facebook page

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