Advocacy: The “Unseen” Work of NCTM

  • Advocacy: The “Unseen” Work of NCTM

    Advocacy: The “Unseen” Work of NCTM

    By Matt Larson, NCTM President
    December 15, 2016

    When members think of NCTM, most of them probably think first of conferences, professional development, and publications—partly because that’s what’s most visible. The Council’s advocacy work is not always readily apparent to mathematics teachers, but it is a critical component of what your membership supports, and it benefits you in ways you can’t always see. One of our strategic priorities is to “Engage in public and political advocacy to focus policymakers and education decision makers on improving learning and teaching mathematics.” Whether or not you see it, our advocacy supports you in the classroom as the Council works to create conditions in the nation’s classrooms that will support the mathematical learning of each and every child.

    NCTM’s Legislative Platform, approved annually by the Board of Directors, guides the Council’s advocacy efforts. In addition, we comment on pending legislation or issues of importance to mathematics education through testimony or letters to Congress, elected officials, or other governmental or nongovernmental entities. For example, from May through September of 2016, comments were submitted to the Department of Education on three separate occasions on proposed regulations on implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act—or ESSA, which is the replacement of No Child Left Behind. 

    In addition to this form of advocacy work, NCTM constantly monitors and summarizes legislative and policy developments in Washington for our members. The monthly Capitol Report in Summing Up gives members a timely overview of legislative and policy issues of particular interest to mathematics educators in a Washington context. It gives you a way to abreast of the latest developments in Washington that might impact your work. In turn, you can use this information with your own representatives or to express your support or opposition on education issues or aspects of legislation that are important to you.

    Another point of advocacy influence is the Council’s presence on the Board of Directors and as part of the leadership of the STEM Education Coalition. As a founding organization and member of the STEM Coalition, NCTM adds its voice to a larger Washington presence that consistently is advocating for the same priorities and for STEM education in a larger context.

    As the world’s largest mathematics education organization, NCTM has strength in numbers that can influence policymakers on your behalf to support investing in teachers and advancing policies that will support and improve student learning. To support you in your own advocacy work, the Council offers members an Advocacy Toolkit at no cost. The materials in this toolkit were developed and assembled to provide you with the basic tools to act on behalf of teachers on issues that affect you, your students, our schools, and mathematics education. The Governmental Relations section of the NCTM Communications Guide provides helpful advice on how to get started, as well as useful tips on what to do, and what not to do, when interacting with legislators and legislative staff.

    Political advocacy for mathematics is a key strategic priority for the Council. You can rest assured that NCTM will seek to work constructively with the new Administration to support you, as well as your students, by strongly advocating for policies and regulations that advance effective teaching and learning of mathematics and supportive learning environments for each and every student. It is worth noting that recently much of the Council’s advocacy work has shifted to providing support to local Affiliates and state leaders as they engage with policy leaders at the state level to advance policies that support effective teaching and learning of mathematics. Because education in the United States is largely a state issue, and more flexibility has been returned to the states under ESSA, this is an increasingly important component of the Council’s advocacy work.

    To be effective and to have the kind of impact we want at the national, state, and local levels, we rely in large part on the actions of individual advocates. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics will continue to advocate on your behalf and for our profession, but elected officials listen most closely to their individual constituents. In the future, when legislative developments or other events call for action, I hope you too will take action by leveraging the advocacy tools, position statements, and resources NCTM provides and that are supported through your membership.

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    Min bahadur Shrestha - 12/27/2016 12:24:54 AM

    To a great extent It is aggreeable that  the Council’s advocacy work is not always readily apparent to math teachers, but it is a critical component of what our membership supports, and it benefits us in many ways which may not be apparent. As the largest mathematics education organization, NCTM engagement in public and political advocacy has great implication on improving learning and teaching math.

    Since math education is not taken as neutral and it may be means of reproduction of inequities depending on educational policies, NCTM needs to have strong position in policy making and not just the role of advocating, so that math classrooms could be managed for effective and equitable to all the students as demanded by equity principle of education of united states.As  being  the professional organization of the real implementer of the mathematics curriculum, I think, teachers' organizations should be given vital role in framming policies relevant to equity and excellancy in mathematics education.

    Ther are a lot of unseen works as mentioned in the president's message and they are valueable in many respects even though they may be unnoticed or unseen. I think,to  the significant extent, they should be used in impowering teachers and their profession because the develpoment of the professionalism could lead to develop mathematics education. 

    Henri Picciotto - 12/19/2016 12:23:51 AM

    The Legislative Platform should be a lot more explicit in condemning the high stake tests that have done so much to undermine education. 

    Matthew Larson - 12/19/2016 6:11:31 AM

    Henri -

    Have you seen NCTM's position statement on high stakes testing?



    Henri Picciotto - 12/19/2016 9:30:57 AM

    Yes, great statement! A bit late to the party, (July 2016) but great nevertheless. Shouldn't ithis somewhat stronger language be incorporated in the legislative platfform? Maybe it is now part of the work in DC, and explicitly putting it in there is not that crucial?

    It would be even better if it made clear that testing of that sort is not needed every year. As far as I know few countries to do it at that pace. Redirect some of that spending towards things teachers actually need!

    A related issue: it would be helpful in NCTM's public advocacy to clearly separate the goals of the Common Core from the high stakes testing mania. The two being conflated in the public's mind has done much damage.


    -- Henri

    Timothy Corica - 12/19/2016 2:07:12 PM

    Agree, Henri!  CCSS has become a political football because of the connection to testing and the specific assessment instruments in use, even among teachers.  If NCTM can continue to help clarify, it would be a great thing.  --Tim 

    Matthew Larson - 12/20/2016 3:50:07 PM

    You’re right that much of the public criticism of Common Core assumes a relationship with overtesting or high-stakes assessments that doesn’t exist.  We have worked to educate those who misrepresent or misunderstand the origins and intent of the Common Core State Standards, their separation from the Department of Education, and the unjustifiable blame they receive for testing.

    Matthew Larson - 12/19/2016 10:22:58 AM

    Henri -

    Thanks for these suggestions. All issues the Board will discuss.



    Zalman Usiskin - 12/15/2016 3:29:46 PM

    What specifics did NCTM advocate? 

    Matthew Larson - 12/18/2016 11:17:42 AM

    Great question Zal. All of our letters and testimony are available for anyone to review at: