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Teachers Network Leadership Institute: Delaware

Program Design

TNLI-DE began two years ago based on the original model of the Teachers Network Leadership Institute in New York City.  After completing a full evaluation of our program, the Rodel Foundation has elected to redesign the institute to better meet the needs of the teachers involved and better represent the work of the foundation.

In order to focus the work of the fellows in the program and move in the direction of changing policy with their work, we have chosen to focus the scope of the program on a chosen state level policy and its implications for the classroom. Teachers will ground their analysis of the policy with research of the intended and unintended consequences of the chosen policy as it plays out in their daily work.  The policy area that the Fellows will research will be identified by the Rodel Foundation for its timeliness and ability to be affected by teacher input, then Fellows will examine the issue and determine which aspects they would like to research in their schools.

Theory of Change
Education policies have both intended and unintended consequences on schools and in classrooms, and thus on teacher practices and student learning.  Often these policies are not constructed with knowledge of what is truly effective at increasing student learning, and teachers are in a unique position to provide that input into education policy.  To that end, TNLI-DE seeks to enable teachers to become active participants in the education policy process by informing policy makers through action research.

This active participation is accomplished by examining the current policy associated with an education issue and determining how that policy affects the current reality, or, how that policy directly plays out in the classroom.  By identifying the positive and negative consequences that emerge from classroom practices, through action research, Fellows build strong qualitative data that can be used to inform future policy change.  

Intended Goals
TNLI-DE provides a number of learning opportunities for teachers who seek to become more informed about education policy and the effect that it has on their work in the classroom.  Some of the TNLI-DE opportunities include:

  • Fellows engage in lively conversations with policy makers to become better informed on education policy issues and help to inform policymakers of the intended and unintended consequences of education polices.
  • Fellows will have the opportunity to network and discuss education issues with other teachers from around the state, expanding their knowledge base of best practices that are working in other school/districts.
  •  Through our partnership with the Education Research and Development Center at the University of Delaware, Fellows will receive training on research skills and practices that they will use to critically investigate education policy issues in their schools, around the state, and across the nation.
  • Fellows will participate in the legislative process by engaging in interviews, giving presentations, and serving on selected policy working groups.  They will use their knowledge of policy issues and classroom experience to bring an informed teacher perspective to various identified audiences working on the creation of education policies.
  • Fellows will create informed and timely policy papers that deal directly with an education issue.  These papers will be distributes locally by the Rodel foundation and nationally by the Teachers Network.

Selection Process
Teachers who apply for the program will go through an application and interview process prior to being selected as a TNLI-DE Fellow.  Application will be open to all public school teachers in the state of Delaware that have major classroom responsibilities, or are engaged in providing professional development to teachers in schools where they have access to classroom teachers.

Applicants will be required to submit a completed application, including two letters of recommendation (one from their principal or their direct supervisor and another from a fellow teacher, a student, or a parent) and a three page essay that discusses their proven practice in the classroom and their interest in education policy research.  Upon review of their completed application, applicants will be invited to attend a group interview with other teachers applying to the program.  This will be an hour long session where teachers will discuss their practices and interests in education policy.  Fellows from previous years will be included in the selection process, and will be present at the interviews to answer questions and provide insight about the program.

Selection of Fellows is based on a number of criteria.  Through the application, recommendations, and essay, successful applicants will demonstrate an ongoing commitment to developing their practice as educators as well as a depth of interest in education policy.  Through the group interviews, successful applicants will demonstrate the ability to communicate their thoughts and ideas in a clear and productive fashion, and will exhibit the ability to work in groups to develop solutions and create consensus.  Throughout the application process, excellent written and oral communication skills will be taken into serious consideration.

Successful applicants will be notified of their offer of a fellowship in TNLI-DE after the final interview is completed.  At that time they will be asked to sign a letter of intent to participate in the program for two years.  Upon our receipt of this letter, they will be officially awarded a fellowship in the program.

Commitment
New fellows entering the program will be asked to commit to two years of work, starting in the fall of 2006 and continuing through the spring of 2008.  During that time, they will be expected to complete all of the following requirements:

  • Attend monthly meetings from September 2006 through June 2008;
  • Complete all pre-meeting readings and assignments, including the production of a written policy paper to be completed at the conclusion of their fellowship;
  • Participate in local and national listserve discussions with teachers from other TNLI affiliates;
  • Keep a journal of their work and research with the program to be used as a reflective tool and to inform their writing;
  • Work in groups to produce issue cases that can be used by local and national affiliates to inform and stimulate discussions with policy makers.

Plan of Work
Beginning in September 2006 and running through June 2008, selected teachers will attend monthly meetings and complete outside assignments.  Over the course of two years, these meetings will serve as an opportunity for the teachers to broaden their perspectives and knowledge on a specific education issue, as well as to learn the skills and competencies necessary to be active participants in the education policy making process.  These meetings will be broken out into four phases to support skills and knowledge development.  Each meeting will consist of two parts.  The morning session will focus on discussions with policy makers to help broaden and deepen the teacher’s perspectives on a specific education issue.  The afternoon session will focus on building skills and knowledge to enable the teachers to conduct research that will both represent their work in schools and be relevant to ongoing policy discussions.  These will include topics such as research design and methodology, data collection tools, writing policy reports, and presentation, interview, and facilitation skills.

Phase One- September 2006 through February 2007
During this phase, Fellows will begin their investigation of a selected policy by meeting with the key players in the issue.  Fellows will begin examining the pertinent local and national research on the issue and will receive training on how to turn their broadened knowledge into actionable research studies in their classrooms.  During this time they will also participate in a national meeting of all twelve TNLI affiliates where they will have the opportunity to network with teachers from across the country that are doing similar work.  Collectively, the national affiliates will be working on completing issue cases that will be used to inform future policy discussions and will be published by the Teachers Network.

Phase Two- March 2007 through July 2007
During this phase, Fellows will begin to work in groups to design their research projects, refining their research questions to address their specific research interests under the larger policy issue, and producing their research tools (surveys, interview questions, focus groups designs, etc…).  Fellows will continue to meet with policy makers to broaden and deepen their knowledge of the policy issue.  Also during this time, Fellows will participate in a two day trip to Washington DC to meet with national education policy makers.

Phase Three- August 2007 through December 2007
Phase three will be the implementation phase for the Fellow’s research.  Over the summer months and the early fall they will carry out their research by working in groups to collect and analyze data, and then synthesize it back into usable policy information and recommendations.  During this time fellows will continue to receive coaching on conducting their research, as well as building their presentation and reporting skills they will need to take action in the coming months.

Phase Four- January 2008 through June 2008
During this phase, Fellows will take action with their research.  With the assistance of the Rodel Foundation, they will actively identify opportunities to present and discuss their research with policy makers.  Throughout the legislative session, they will participate in meetings, hearings, and conferences where their research will be used to inform policy makers on the classroom perspective.  They will also use their work to inform the community and to engage their constituents in seeking policy reform.  During this time they will edit, refine, and seek publication of their policy papers.  Opportunities to present at national conferences may also be available.

Upon completion of the full two years program, and satisfactorily submitting their final work product, Fellows will be awarded a certificate of completion.  Upon review by program staff, they will be allowed to continue on with TNLI-DE in an advisory role or as a full participant in the program if it is deemed appropriate.

Ongoing Evaluation
Throughout the course of this program, the Rodel foundation will support a process evaluation that monitors the intended goals of the program and makes pertinent program changes to ensure alignment with those goals.  This will be done by requesting observations and feedback from Fellows, presenters, and program staff through interviews, surveys, and informal observations. 

This ongoing process evaluation will assist us in continuing to refine the program and better meet the needs of the teachers involved. It will also assist us align our work on state policy issues and the larger goals of the foundation.

 

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