Patton group in Washington D.C.

Dr. Gibbs, Ms. Ray, Mr. Liptrap, Dr. Patterson, and Ms. Stewart spent the day at the Capitol during AACTE’s Day on the Hill

Photo courtesy of: Patton College of Education

Sen. Rob Portman with group

Senator Portman (left) met with our group to discuss issues that impact education in Southeast Ohio

Photo courtesy of: Patton College of Education

Group visited Sen. Sherrod Brown in Washington D.C.

The Patton College representatives were honored to meet with Senator Brown’s staff in President Obama’s former office

Photo courtesy of: Patton College of Education

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Advocating for education: The Patton College attends AACTE Day on the Hill in Washington, D.C.

The Patton College of Education organized a mix of teachers, students, and administrators to attend AACTE’s Day on the Hill in Washington, D.C., where they spoke to elected officials about proposed regulations on higher education teacher preparation programs.

Participants included Dr. Connie Patterson, The Patton College’s Assistant Dean for Academic Engagement and Outreach; Joe Liptrap, a senior in The Patton College’s early childhood education major; April Stewart, a middle childhood teacher at Athens High School; Jennifer Ray, a high school math teacher at Berkshire Jr./Sr. High School, which is in a rural district outside of Cleveland; and Dr. Theda Gibbs, assistant professor in The Patton College’s Teacher Education Department.

The event, held June 7-8, started with AACTE’s Government Relations division providing tips on how to speak to legislators, suggested talking points, and advice on how to work with legislators in their local districts.

“There is a process that needs to be taken in order to advocate on Capitol Hill,” said Ray. “We were given a day to learn how to advocate and what issues through AACTE we really wanted to drive home. Then, our group met in order to determine how to tell our story for Ohio University in particular.”

While meeting with Senator Portman, and legislative aids for Congressman Stivers, Congressman Johnson, and Senator Brown, each of the participants took turns talking on different topics. Namely the group advocated for The Rural Educator Support and Training Act and The Equal Access to Quality Education Act.

The Rural Educator Support and Training Act amends the Higher Education Act of 1965 and the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965 to establish several new grant programs for students training to become educators in rural schools and enhance federal student loan forgiveness for rural educators.

The Equal Access to Quality Education Act requires the US Department of Education to award competitive matching grants to partnerships between high-need local educational agencies and institutions of higher education to establish or support teacher preparation programs and teacher induction and retention programs.

Patterson spoke about the TEACH Grant Program and how it is important to keep it funded as is versus implementing a loan forgiveness plan. TEACH Grants support access to higher education for a diverse population of teacher candidates, including those seeking to teach in rural or urban environments. These grants are also used as a tool for recruitment of candidates into a teacher preparation program. TEACH Grant recipients agree to teach high-need subjects in high-need schools for at least four years within eight years of graduation.

Gibbs spoke about the shortage in the teaching profession and how the Equal Access to Quality Education Act would require teacher preparation program participants to complete at least one year of residency followed by at least three years of teaching at the local high-need schools.

Liptrap talked about The Patton College Clinical Model and how he has personally been involved with the partnerships OHIO’s PCOE has with local school districts to offer services that otherwise would not be possible.

Ray spoke about the shortage of teachers in high-need content matter such as high school math and illustrated how The Rural Educator Support and Training Act and The Equal Access to Quality Education Act will help with this issue.

And Stewart closed with how the new proposals regarding the TEACH Grant will affect recruitment, as students may not be able to attend schools without receiving the TEACH Grant in advance of their schooling.

 “This experience was unlike the profession I do on a daily basis, and it was awesome to get to experience,” said Ray. “I now know how to advocate for any cause that I may want to bring to a Senator or Congress member. I am thankful for Ohio University inviting me on this trip and for giving me the opportunity to learn how to advocate for teacher preparation.”

“I learned how to collaborate with a team to present and advocate to legislators about something we were all passionate about,” said Liptrap, who is entering the master’s fellowship program at The Patton College next year. “We were able to talk about the bills and how they would benefit and continue to support our wonderful program at The Patton College of Education.”

Liptrap said one successful outcome was establishing a relationship with the legislators for future interactions. “We asked them to join and be partners with us to discuss any questions they have about education in the future. They were very accepting and appreciated us reaching out to them.”

Patterson agrees, “Not only did we all learn how to be better advocates for higher education, our visit helped ensure that Ohio University is seen as a resource for legislators when they need information on rural education.”