Annual Conference: 3,000 educators with 1 shared purpose

We are heading into the most exciting part of the year for Learning Forward. This is the week we head to Orlando, Florida, for our Annual Conference. We look forward to greeting 3,000 educators who are committed to ensuring great teaching and learning for every child every day.

While we’re together, we also connect with many other groups and networks essential to advancing Learning Forward’s vision. We meet with our board of trustees and bring them up to date on our progress toward our annual goals and benefit from their insights and experiences as we plan for the second half of our fiscal year. We support ongoing learning for our Academy participants and celebrate the graduation of the members who completed 2½ years of intensive study and demonstrated new learning by making significant progress toward resolving a substantive problem of practice. Leaders of our state, provincial, and international affiliates gather for their own learning and to hear the latest from Learning Forward. The board of the Learning Forward Foundation also meets to plan, celebrate their scholarship winners and donors, and encourage ongoing giving.

At this year’s conference, we launch three new initiatives:

The Global Learning Summit with representatives from across the globe, cosponsored by the National Center for Education and the Economy and The Lastinger Center at the University of Florida, will initiate a conversation about a professional learning agenda for the U.S. based on learning from abroad. This is the 10th anniversary of the release of our influential study Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: A Status Report on Teacher Development in the United States and Abroad and the perfect time to begin such work.

The What Matters Now Network will convene leaders from four states to examine what it means to become a networked improvement community and how a collaborative focus on shared problems of practice can add value and accelerate improvements in their own domains.

Finally, we launch the Student Success Learning Network, a continuation of the Redesign PD Community of Practice, convening 14 leading school systems and one education service center. These systems share a deep commitment to increasing the number of students in their school systems who graduate prepared for success in their careers and post-high school education studies.

In addition to these special events, we will have close to 900 educators share their expertise and learning in more than 300 sessions. These educators represent the best of the best on the improvement agenda. They were carefully screened and selected from more than 900 proposals. There are also 30-plus full-day preconference sessions that feature some of the most knowledgeable people in education on subjects that matter most to us.

From practitioners to distinguished researchers and experts, there are sessions for everyone. Attendees can absorb the sage advice of researchers and recognized practitioners, authors, and technical assistance providers through the Thought Leader strand, which this year features such names as Eric Hirsch, Ben Jackson, Tom Guskey, Doug Reeves, Andy Hargreaves, Stephanie Jones, Michael Fullan, Susan Moxley, and more.

Our keynoters will educate and inspire this year. Reinforcing the importance of the global agenda will be Fernando Reimers. Reminding us of what it takes to make substantive change in schools will be Kaya Henderson, former chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools. Inspiring the change agent within all of us will be Hahrie Hahn.

I am excited about reconnecting with colleagues and friends who have been attending for years. I am equally excited about introducing an entirely new group of educators to Learning Forward in hope that it becomes an essential part of their journey as an educator. When we turn up the lights on the very first general session and look out at more than 3,000 educators convened for one shared purpose — excellence in teaching and learning — my faith and confidence in our public education system is renewed.

If you aren’t joining us, I hope you’ll follow #LearnFwd17 and learn with us virtually. And we welcome anyone who wants to walk into the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort to register for a day or more. Our registration desk will be in the Convention Foyer on the third level of the Dolphin.

The role of professional learning in achieving the dreams of public education has never been more critical. We intend that a significant outcome of the conference will involve strengthening our knowledge of effective professional learning and how it can advance improved practice and results for students. We will use our deepened understanding to influence decision makers who have resources to support our endeavors and we will have greater impact because of our collective engagement.