Professional learning IS stronger schools: Title II-A funding and the federal education budget

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This policy briefing is a special convening of education leaders representing superintendents, principals, teachers, and the U.S. Department of Education to talk about how professional learning is critical to retain teachers, intensify academic recovery, and meet the needs of all students.

This timely discussion focuses on how Title II-A, the federal government’s largest direct investment in professional learning, supports activities such as instructional coaching, mentoring, and collaborative planning time, that improve teacher practice, student outcomes, and teacher and school leader retention.

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Roberto J. Rodríguez currently serves as assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development at the U.S. Department of Education, where he leads the development and review of the department’s budget and advises the Secretary on all matters related to policy development, implementation, and review. Roberto’s distinguished career in public service includes senior government roles in the White House, as deputy assistant for education to President Barack Obama, and in the U.S. Senate, as chief counsel to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Most recently, Rodríguez served as president and CEO of Teach Plus where he built an equity-driven teacher leadership movement that engaged thousands of teachers to shape public policy and instructional practice to deliver greater opportunity for students.

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Gladys I. Cruz has spent over 30 years in education, excelling as a teacher and leader at local, regional, and state levels. Currently serving as district superintendent for Questar III Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), she holds a dual role as the representative of the State Commissioner of Education and CEO of Questar III BOCES. In this capacity, she provides strong leadership, addresses local school district concerns, and oversees programs serving more than 650 districts in New York State. Cruz's accomplishments include expanding School Improvement services, fostering partnerships, and holding esteemed positions within national educational associations. This year, Cruz was elected as the 2022-23 president-elect of AASA. She serves as a commissioner of AASA’s Learning 2025 Network: A National Commission on Student Centered-Equity-Focused Education. She also serves as a lead teacher of the AASA Aspiring Superintendents Academy® for Latino and Latina Leaders and a mentor in the AASA National Superintendent Certification Program®. Additionally, she is a member of the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

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Kevin Armstrong, principal of DuPont Hadley Middle School in Old Hickory, Tennessee, currently serves as vice president on the NAESP Board of Directors. Armstrong will begin his one-year term as president-elect on Aug. 1, 2023, and will become the president of the NAESP Board of Directors on Aug. 1, 2024. Armstrong has served in school leadership positions for 18 years and has been the principal of DuPont Hadley Middle School since 2011. He’s been a member of NAESP for the past 12 years, and during his membership, he’s served on NAESP’s Board of Directors (as both director at large, middle level, and minority at large, middle level, director) and as a fellow in the NAESP Centers for Advancing Leadership. Armstrong was also recognized as Middle School Principal of the Year, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (2018), and a NAESP National Distinguished Principal (2017).

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Marla Ucelli-Kashyap is senior director for educational issues at the 1.7 million member American Federation of Teachers, where she serves as strategic advisor to AFT President Randi Weingarten and leads the union on key areas of policy, practice, technical assistance, and professional development aimed at helping teachers and their unions improve education quality and their profession. Previously, she was director of district redesign and leadership at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and a senior program officer at the Rockefeller Foundation. She has served on numerous boards and advisory groups including as a founding co-chair of Grantmakers for Education and as chair of the boards of Editorial Projects in Education (Education Week) and the Learning First Alliance. She was a member of the Education Agency Review Team for the Biden Presidential Transition.

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