Preparing the Education Policy Leaders of Tomorrow    

We need strong, knowledgeable leaders to guide our education system into the next generation. Whether working in a classroom, district, state agency, or nonprofit, it’s critical for our aspiring leaders to reflect on their own leadership styles and understand their roles in the education system as a whole. That’s why we run the Massachusetts chapter of the Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).

EPFP, a program of the Institute for Educational Leadership, has 17 sites across the nation. The program has been preparing leaders and policymakers in education and human services since 1964.

Here in Massachusetts, we work with about 30 fellows each year during a ten-month professional development program aimed at fostering leadership skills, understanding public policy, and cultivating a network of local, state, and national fellows and alumni. Participants include teachers, principals, and those who work in districts, state agencies, nonprofits, higher education, and business.

Each year, the program kicks off with an overnight retreat. Fellows then meet monthly to hear from guest speakers and discuss leadership and education policy.

“EPFP has really opened my eyes to the huge range of job descriptions, initiatives and philosophies that fall under the umbrella of Massachusetts Education. I got to put on so many different lenses through which to view my own daily work with students. Now I want to empower my students more than ever. I want to give them more control over what we do in the classroom, and arm them with more knowledge about why we do what we do and how their education system works,” said Emma Weinreich, EPFP Fellow and 8th Grade Teacher in Braintree Public Schools.

“After more than 20 years leading public and private special education programs, participating in EPFP was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge about leadership and policy. Most of my work has been on the ‘practice’ side.  It was beneficial to network with leaders in other areas of education and to learn more about the ‘policy’ side of the work,” said Fran H. Rosenberg, EPFP Fellow and Executive Director of the Northshore Education Consortium.

Fellows also participate in a two-day tour focused on Massachusetts civil rights history. This year the group visited Boston’s African Meeting House and Museum of African American History, walked the Black Heritage Trail, heard from experts on the history of civil rights in Boston—including the Boston busing era—and discussed contemporary issues in civil rights impacting students of color, LGBTQ youth, and students with disabilities.  

“The Civil Rights Tour was a highlight of my experience. Having done lots of work around diversity and cultural competence in my schools, it was humbling to realize the gaps in my knowledge. The program gave me the opportunity to experience the Black Heritage Trail, hear some excellent speakers, and discuss complex issues with a diverse group of peers,” said Rosenberg.

“We visited a pulpit where Frederick Douglass spoke, saw the home of Lewis Hayden who escaped slavery and harbored more than 100 slaves in his house as a stop on the Underground Railroad, and learned about Elizabeth Freeman who sued the state of Massachusetts because slavery was inconsistent with the state’s 1780 Constitution. Walking on this ground and hearing these stories made me think deeply about the decisions that those activists made,” said Weinreich.

Every winter, the fellows spend a day at the Massachusetts State House. This year’s group heard from Representative Alice Peisch, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, had meetings with legislative staff, and talked with lobbyists and activists.

“In my current position as Executive Director of a Collaborative, I have opportunities to interact with a range of district superintendents, state agency officials, and policy makers. I am finding that having a deeper understanding of policy is helping me think about how to most effectively use my voice to advocate for legislative and/or regulatory change,” said Rosenberg.

The group also travels to Washington each year, joining fellows from across the country for a four-day conference. In additional to full group sessions on the national education policy landscape, our Massachusetts group spends a day on Capitol Hill. This year’s group met with former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., Representative Joseph Kennedy III, and an education policy advisor for Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“It was fascinating to hear from others across the country about successes and challenges through the lens of the ‘equity Index.’ I learned how policy, implementation and interpretation of policy show up differently in different states, districts and schools,” said Ray Porch, EPFP Fellow and Manager of Diversity Programs at Boston Public Schools.

“A key takeaway was the realization that despite challenges, we have made progress in key areas such as drop-out rates, innovative/cross-sectoral programming for youth, and expanding higher education opportunities. Yes, there is more work to be done, but it’s important to step back and assess real gains before forging ahead,” said Dr. Carmen N. Veloria, EPFP Fellow and Associate Professor of Education Studies at Suffolk University.

EPFP fellows say the program as a whole has a big impact on their knowledge and perspective.

“I came away with a stronger belief that today more than ever there is a stronger need for our educational leaders to be knowledgeable, multi-faceted and dynamic in their leadership. And that the next or current phase in this long history of policy and its impact will really take shape through our state-level educational leaders,” said Porch.

“I am looking at data more closely, and perhaps a bit more critically, to explore ways to expand on promising practices that yield good outcomes. I have also been thinking about lessons that can be learned from looking at data sets to take proactive approaches to broadening access and opportunities,” said Veloria.

If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge around education policy and leadership, join us next year. We are accepting applications for the 2018-2019 program on a rolling basis until June 8. Apply now!