Advocacy: Let’s Work Together

  • March 2019

    In my first President’s Message, Together We Move Forward, I stated that as NCTM President I intend to “…Become more visible with NCTM’s advocacy in mathematics education. I would like to continue NCTM’s political advocacy and expand it to include social advocacy that acknowledges mathematics teaching and learning are framed and affected by social and cultural histories and contexts.” Much of my advocacy work has been primarily in social and community spaces because I recognize that education is not divorced from politics. As educators we must engage in political advocacy to improve the conditions of education and to provoke structural changes to those policies and practices of schooling that exacerbate inequities within society.

    In February, many members of the NCTM Board of Directors and I visited Capitol Hill to meet with the offices of Members of Congress to introduce the work of NCTM, to share key educational issues and the impact they have, and to build relationships. During the visits, we made connections with the educational staffers and shared stories of the positive impacts that policies have had in their schools, districts, universities, and states and of the challenges that still exist. NCTM Board members shared how Title II-A and Title IV-A under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the Teacher Quality Partnership program and TEACH Grants that are found in the Higher Education Act (HEA) are important for supporting teaching and learning.

    • Title II of the HEA emphasizes strengthening the clinical components of preparation programs and ensuring that all candidates are prepared to teach students with special needs or English language learners. The HEA authorizes TEACH Grants of $4,000 per year to students who agree to teach for four years at a qualifying elementary or secondary school that serves low-income students.
    • Title II, Part A of ESSA is authorized to help schools and districts improve teacher and principal quality for the purpose of increasing the academic achievement of all students. This includes teacher preparation and qualifications of new teachers, recruitment and hiring, induction, professional development, and retention.
    • Title IV, Part A of ESSA authorizes activities in three broad areas:
      1. Providing students with a well-rounded education, including programs such as college and career counseling, STEM, arts, civics, and International Baccalaureate/Advanced Placement.
      2. Supporting the safety and health of students with programs for comprehensive school mental health, for prevention of drug use and violence, for teacher training on trauma-informed practices, and health and physical education
      3. Supporting the effective use of technology that is backed by professional development, blended learning, and education technology devices.

    I visited the offices of my Members of Congress: Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner, and Representative Denver Riggleman (5th District of Virginia). I discussed the importance of investing in teacher professional development, supporting teacher preparation programs, and initiatives NCTM has taken to support mathematics teaching and learning within the broader STEM space. I shared stories of teachers who received TEACH Grants and because of that support, were able to fulfill their goal of being teachers. I spoke about the critical challenges addressed in Catalyzing Change in High School Mathematics: Initiating Critical Conversations to ensure that each and every student has the mathematical experiences necessary for future personal and professional success. Overall, the educational staffers were receptive toward supporting teachers and students as well as open to continuing the conversations to address the challenges that impact teaching and learning.

    It is important that NCTM and its members speak up and draw attention to important issues that impact education and to leverage our experience and expertise in mathematics and STEM education in guiding decision makers toward solutions grounded in research and practice. On March 11, I issued a statement in response to the Administration’s fiscal year 2020 proposed budget which threatens to eliminate many federal investments in education, including the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant Programs of HEA, and Title II-A and Title IV-A of ESSA. In fiscal years 2019 and 2018, similar budget proposals were made by the Administration, but Congress appropriated funding for critical investments in education. For fiscal year 2020, I urge Congress to authorize the same level or increased funding for education.

    I want to invite the NCTM membership and all stakeholders to actively engage their Members of Congress to support funding for professional development, teacher preparation, classroom instruction, and the many other programs, services, and expertise that nurture teaching and learning. In order to engage your Members of Congress, I encourage you to review the list below:

    • Identify your Members of Congress. Use this resource, which connects you to their websites, and see what Committees they are on and their positions on education issues.
    • Follow your Members of Congress on social media. Members of Congress use social media to inform their constituents on their activities.
    • Review the NCTM 2019 Legislative Update.
    • Read a few Capitol Reports to get the latest on happenings on the Hill.
    • Utilize NCTM’s Advocacy Toolkit, which includes the basic tools to act on behalf of teachers on issues that affect you, your students, our schools, and mathematics education.
    • Work to find a compelling story from your school, district, or state that highlights a need or use of a specific program.
    • Many Members of Congress have local offices, and you can find the addresses on their congressional web pages. If possible, visit the local offices of your Members of Congress to tell your compelling story and to explain how a particular problem or issue is affecting a particular group or organization.
    • Or call or email the offices of your Members of Congress to tell your compelling story and to explain how a particular problem or issue is affecting a particular group or organization.
    • After making your contact with the offices of your Members of Congress, I encourage you to use Twitter to tweet out about your contact using #NCTMontheHill. Feel free to tag me on your tweet @robertqberry.

    Advocacy is part of NCTM’s Strategic Framework. Let’s work together to focus, raise awareness, and influence decision makers and the public on issues concerning high-quality mathematics teaching and learning.

    Robert Q. Berry III

    NCTM President