Learning Forward and NCTAF Name 12 Finalist Teams in Agents for Learning Challenge

Twelve states represented; finalists to convene in Chicago to present plans detailing ESSA-ready professional learning strategies to panel of educators and experts

WASHINGTON – June 23, 2016 – Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF) today announced 12 finalists in its Agents for Learning challenge, a nationwide call to action designed to engage educator teams in advocating for the best use of federal funding for professional learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The 12 teams — representing 56 teachers, administrators, and learning leaders from 12 different states — proposed plans that described a comprehensive vision for effective professional learning for their states, identified needs that exist and strategies to address them, and outlined roles and responsibilities for states, districts, and individual educators to achieve their visions. In addition, the plans discussed how educators would advise states and districts to use Title II funding to address critical needs of teachers and directly impact student learning outcomes.

The finalists will travel to Chicago July 21-22, where each team will present its plan to a panel of judges and a moderator:

  • Virginia Edwards, Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Education Week (moderator);
  • Stephanie Banchero, Program Director for the Education Program, Joyce Foundation;
  • Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year;
  • Chris Minnich, Executive Director, CCSSO;
  • Rachel Wise, Chair, Nebraska Board of Education, NASBE.

“We’re so grateful to all of the educators who participated in the challenge. We were proud to offer an opportunity to amplify teachers’ voices in advocating for the professional learning that will make a difference for educators and students,” said Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward. “States tell us they are looking for ways to capture stakeholder input, and the creative and bold ideas in the applications show how much these engaged educators have to offer as we enter the implementation phase of ESSA. I can’t wait to learn more from them during our time in Chicago,” continued Hirsh.

Before presenting their plans, teams will have time to engage in learning and coaching to refine their plans and build skills in advocating with policymakers. Learning Forward and NCTAF will webcast the presentations and disseminate the finalists’ plans on the Learning Forward website to serve as models for educators around the country. Prizes and recognitions will be awarded to finalists by sponsors of the challenge.

As states and districts work to develop comprehensive plans to implement ESSA, Learning Forward and NCTAF believe it is critical that teachers’ expertise, experiences, and input are heard. “As one of our finalist teams noted, ‘teachers are an untapped resource to reform professional development,’ and through this challenge we are incorporating the expertise of our nation’s educators into the broader policy conversation,” said Melinda George, president of NCTAF. “The plans submitted by these teachers make it crystal clear that great teaching for all students will only happen when teacher voice is included at every level – school, district, state and national. Including their insight into what works for students, themselves and their colleagues makes the difference in successfully transforming teaching and learning.”

Visit Agents for Learning for more information on the challenge. For additional information or questions, or to request interviews or credentials to cover the event in Chicago, please reach out to the media contacts listed or send an email to

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Learning Forward is the only professional association devoted exclusively to those who work in educator professional development. We help our members plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so they can achieve success with their systems, schools, and students.

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