Agents For Learning Competition Spurs Teacher Engagement In ESSA

By Learning Forward
April 2016

Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future (NCTAF) are hosting a competition that invites teachers to submit written proposals for the best use of federal funding for professional learning under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

As part of their effort to highlight the critical role of teacher agency in professional learning, Learning Forward and NCTAF will use the competition to amplify and support teachers in understanding the provisions of ESSA aligning the allowable uses of funds under the law with their learning needs.

Through the Agents for Learning competition, teams of educators will be invited to submit proposals for best uses of Title II and other federal funds under ESSA. The proposals will include:

  1. Analysis of teachers’ primary professional learning needs;
  2. An educator-informed theory of action around how to leverage professional learning to advance teaching and learning; and
  3. Specific recommendations for states, districts, and schools to consider as guides to their Consolidated State Plans and/or state and district Title II plans, a requirement of ESSA, and the design of effective professional learning in their systems.

Teams interested in participating will be invited to a series of webinars helping them to understand the new law, including the rights and responsibilities of states regarding use of federal funds for professional development, as well as how those funds can support a systematic vision for continuous improvement in schools.

Teams will then respond to several questions that will be reviewed by an independent panel. The finalists will travel to Chicago in July to participate in further training and feedback to develop their plans, then present their proposals to a panel of judges.

The finalists’ proposals will be available online, as will the presentations and feedback to be used as a planning tool for states, districts, and schools as they work toward ESSA implementation. Supporting partners will disseminate the plans to advocate for effective professional learning with their stakeholders.

A number of educator advocacy organizations (see box above) will support educator teams’ participation in the competition and deepen their engagement in advocating for the meaningful implementation of ESSA.

“Many teachers are already learning in effective and innovative ways alongside their colleagues in schools,” said Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward. “Our goal with this effort is to raise the visibility of the learning that helps teachers improve in service to their students, and to influence policymakers at all levels as they implement ESSA.”

Competition timeline

April 27, May 11: Informational webinars.

May 25: Live Q&A for support on team applications.

June 10: Applications due by 8 p.m. Eastern time.

June 21: Finalist teams announced.

July 21-22: Finalists present proposals in Chicago, Illinois.


Agents for Learning Sponsors

As of April 15

  • America Achieves
  • American Federation of Teachers
  • Center for American Progress
  • Corwin
  • Council of Chief State School Officers
  • Educators 4 Excellence
  • Hope Street Group
  • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
  • National Education Association
  • National Network of State Teachers of the Year
  • Scholastic Corporation
  • Teach Plus

Get Started

Gather your colleagues and your insights. Through the application process, you’ll share a vision for effective professional learning and identify your highest needs. You’ll also provide input on particular aspects of ESSA and how its implementation can most meaningfully support schools. See the tool on pp. 64-65 to begin the application process.

The deadline for applications is June 10. Learn more at

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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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