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Volume 29, Number 4
July/August 2013

Educators Speak Out

Organizations offer teachers new avenues for influencing education policy


Teacher/activist Jessica Keigan explains the state's new evaluation system to the staff at Horizon High School in Thornton, Colo.

During her first seven years of teaching, Jessica Keigan rarely contemplated education issues outside of her own school and district. A high school English teacher in the Denver suburbs, Keigan served as a department head at her school and sat on various district committees. But she did not engage in broader political debates or think much about how federal and state policies affected her work.

That all changed in 2010, when a colleague invited Keigan to join the Denver New Millennium Initiative, a project of the North Carolina–based Center for Teaching Quality aimed, in part, at helping teachers shape education policy. “My blinders came off after years of just being in the classroom, and I’ve been catapulted to the 30,000-foot view,” says Keigan. “Now I have one foot in the classroom and one foot in policy.”

The Denver initiative, since renamed Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ)–Colorado, is one of several new or expanding groups trying to organize teachers outside of traditional union structures. Some, like Educators 4 Excellence, advocate for specific policies, often related to teacher hiring, firing, and evaluation. Others, like Leading Educators, provide leadership training for classroom teachers eager to stay in education but rise up the ranks.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.