What You Need To Know About Education Policy Today Sad news: the passing of Dennis Mithaug In Memoriam: Alum Claire Fagin (M.A. …

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Civically engaged TC alumni, friends and students convened in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 10 for a special reception featuring faculty and alumni experts at the forefront of crafting education policy in the United States. 
At a critical time for education and at the beginning of an election year, the recent TC education policy gathering marked an important opportunity to rally key minds dedicated to the challenging quest towards more effective, equitable education policy for all of America’s students. 
“Our definition of success — our victory lap — is seeing the change that TC alumni make in the world,” said KerryAnn O’Meara, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost and Dean of the College. TC’s Provost, professor and recognized scholar in higher education, O’Meara also reflected on today’s challenges to effective, equitable policy and the “the sense of urgency that TC, talented students, staff, and faculty have about change now.” 
Find key takeaways below from the latest TC gathering in America’s capital. 
Meaningful policy change is not for the faint of heart.
For TC’s Sharon Lynn Kagan (Ed.D. ’79), who annually immerses students in the inner workings of D.C. as part of her Federal Policy Institute (FPI) course, preparing students to work in policy making is far more complex than getting the answers right. It is more about asking the right questions. 
“Our job is to provoke thought, engender spirited inquiry, and to tackle some of the deep-seated but very real policy issues that our nation faces,” explains Kagan, who connected this year’s student group with 35 leading policy experts who work across governmental bodies, political parties and professional organizations with the intent of immersing students in the complexities and realities of making durable educational change.
A leader in creating the field of early childhood policy, Kagan is TC’s Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood and Family Policy and the co-director of the National Center for Children and Families. Since the late ’90s, FPI has offered “a hands-on and a hearts-in experience,” Kagan explained, in which “theories that we’ve studied are actually really put to the test.” 
And while Kagan and her students gained insight from DC insiders about policy at this moment (don’t expect any big changes between now and Election Day), she still has hope. “Policy can be the most potent tool to let us reach our aspirations on behalf of children and families.” 
[Learn more about how to get involved with TC alumni here.] 

Dedicated, hard working people can make a difference in policy.
While interviewing TC alum Jessica Cardichon (Ed.D. ’03) for her first job on Capitol Hill, Sen. Bernie Sanders sat down with her for an hour-long discussion on the nuances of education policy. “I would not have been able to have the conversation with him that I had if I had not gone to Teachers College, and [he] took a chance on me,” recalled Cardichon, who now serves the White House Domestic Policy Council as special assistant to President Joe Biden on education issues. 
After several years as a classroom teacher, Cardichon has spent more than a decade in education policy across the public sector and research institutes. And while officials’ interest in her deep knowledge of policy launched her career, it is also what gives her hope about the future of education. 
“[Policymakers] want to know, “What does the research say?’ And if that’s the starting point, that’s really helpful,” says Cardichon, emphasizing her gratitude for the emphasis on research among the officials with whom she’s worked.  
Touching on what she sees as today’s major challenges (school funding inequity, social-emotional wellness and policies that threaten inclusion), Cardichon connected with fellow alumni and TC students following her remarks. 
“There’s more work to be done, but I think we’re making progress,” she said. “I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I had at Teachers College. It is really foundational to me both personally and professionally.”

Pictured (from left to right: Matthew J. Camp (Ph.D. ’21), Director of Government Relations & Community Engagement.; Sharon Lynn Kagan (Ed.D. ’79), Virginia and Leonard Marx Professor of Early Childhood and Family Policy; KerryAnn O’Meara, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost and Dean of the College; TC Trustee Jay Urwitz, Senior Fellow at the American Council on Education; and Jessica Cardichon (Ed.D. ’03), special assistant to President Joe Biden on the White House Domestic Policy Council. (Photo: TC Archives) 

TC alumni, students and friends met new people who share their passions.
The DC gathering was one of the first opportunities for the TC community to connect in the new year. 
“TC alumni are over 90,000 strong around the world, making true change across education, psychology, health and of course policy,” said Matthew J. Camp (Ph.D. ’21), Director of Government Relations & Community Engagement. “Coming together to discuss critical issues of education policy with others who share the same passion for justice and equity is what this is all about.”
TC’s Alumni and Community Engagement office also called attention to opportunities for members of the TC community to get involved — from participating in Civic Education Week and Impact Day this spring, to helping register voters as part of the All-In Campus Democracy Challenge and more. 
Working together to make the world better is part of TC’s very fabric, O’Meara reminded the crowd, reflecting on her own desire to join TC last summer because she was “pulled toward TC’s history of leadership, its social justice mission, the amazing people who have come through those halls and gone on to make an impact” and the stakes at hand today. 
As part of her work, O’Meara is teaming up with leadership and the community to help TC consider core questions related to its commitments through ongoing community dialogues, which will help map the College’s future. 
“With that talent and the profound legacy that’s handed to us by such an important institution in the world, I know even better days are ahead,” O’Meara remarked. “We look forward to being in touch with you as we hear your ideas about how to live our commitments and the opportunities we create in the next five years.”

Published Friday, Jan 26, 2024

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