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Mini-Plenary Descriptions

July 23, 4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Historians Discuss the 1963 March on Washington
The 1963 March on Washington, whose 50th anniversary we commemorate this August, is considered by many to be the key moment—symbolic and concrete—of the modern civil rights movement. In popular thought, the March is the march of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; its message is that of King’s dream. That portrayal is both incomplete and misleading, for it erases the role played by African-American labor activists in making the march a reality, on the one hand, and obscures the march’s economic agenda, on the other. This panel’s participants will explore these often obscured dimensions in their reconstruction of the march’s origins, character and consequences.
Presenters: William P. Jones, associate professor of history, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Eric Arnesen, professor of history, George Washington University; David Garrow, research professor of history and law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law

A New Era for Teacher Evaluation: Bringing All Teachers to the Table
As new teacher evaluation reforms are implemented in school systems nationwide, it is becoming increasingly apparent that when the critical voice of teachers is left out, new policies often hit more stumbling blocks than necessary. This session is specifically for union leaders and activists who want to be more involved in teacher evaluation reform and related policies. The session provides a new model for designing approaches to assessing and increasing teacher effectiveness that has teacher voice at the center. Free videos, PowerPoint and discussion templates, and a moderators’ guide from the hot-off-the-press book, Everyone at the Table: Engaging Teachers in Evaluation Reform, will be presented. Participants will emerge with strategies for involving teachers in their schools in conversation and policy formulation around teacher effectiveness.
Presenters: Ellen Behrstock-Sherratt, research and policy associate, American Institutes for Research; Meagan A. Schwen, Grade 6 language arts teacher, Lakes Elementary, Lacey, Wash.

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Preschool in the United States: Trends in Funding and Accessibility
Expanding excess to high-quality early learning has made headlines with President Obama’s landmark call for increased investments. However, many states are cutting back on their public pre-K programs. Early childhood expert, Steven Barnett, author of the “State of Preschool 2012,” will examine the current state of pre-K across the country and discuss what President Obama’s early learning initiative could mean for America’s youngest learners.
Presenter: W. Steven Barnett, director, National Institute for Early Education Research, Rutgers University

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The Pressure to Write: A Common Core Experience
In this workshop, Deborah Brandt draws on recent conversations with more than 100 everyday Americans to explore the rise of writing as a second stage of mass literacy. For the first time in U.S. history, writing is overtaking reading as the critical skill of consequence, and reading is being subordinated to writing in people’s daily experience. These changes are brought on by rapid changes in the nature of work and the emergence of digital communications. What do we need to understand about these escalating pressures on people’s writing skills? What makes writing so different from reading as a basis for literacy development? What are the implications of these shifts for teachers, students, workers, parents and government?
Presenter: Deborah Brandt, professor emerita of English, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Professional Development for the Inclusion Class
Do you have general education students, students with special needs, and English language learners in one classroom? What kind of instructional strategies can you employ immediately that will work for everyone? What should you look for in high-quality PD to make sure you make the most of the little time you have for professional learning? And, finally, what are some resources you can access right away to enhance your repertoire? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, then this mini-plenary is for you!
Presenters: Giselle Lundy-Ponce, associate director, AFT Educational Issues Department; Melanie Hobbs, assistant director, AFT Educational Issues Department

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Safe Communities—Conversations with Members
While lawmakers remain gridlocked at the national level, decisions about how to create safe schools for students are being left to states, school districts and local communities. There have been a few examples of communities taking swift action to curb gun violence; others have passed laws to arm teachers. AFT members have demanded action to curb violence in our communities, and the AFT Safe Communities Task Force was launched to help in this effort. After a brief overview of some of the laws popping up around the country, we will discuss what some unions and states are doing to curb violence and support students, as well as solicit ideas and experience from participants.
Presenters: AFT Safe Communities Task Force; Jennifer Rodriguez, deputy director, AFT Political Department

The School Discipline Gap
The consequences of out-of-school suspension and expulsion continue to fall unequally on students, by race, gender and sexual orientation, placing those students at increased risk for academic disengagement, dropping out, and involvement in the juvenile justice system. This panel will provide an update on the most current data on disparities in discipline, as well as recent developments in policy and intervention designed to reduce the discipline gap in America’s schools.
Presenters: Daniel Losen, director, Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles; Judith Brown-Dianis, co-director, Advancement Project

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Stop Bullying, Speak Up
A safe and supportive environment is an essential component of school effectiveness. Learn how one district in West Virginia has developed a robust bullying prevention program through professional development, and explore how you can use free resources produced by Cartoon Network and other organizations to combat bullying and promote an inclusive learning environment.
Presenters: Alice Cahn, vice president/social responsibility, Cartoon Network; Greg Merritt, instructional coach in elementary mathematics and president of AFT-Wood County; Amelia Wolfe, classroom teacher

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Supporting Grieving Students
The AFT, in partnership with the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, and the New York Life Foundation is raising awareness on how to support grieving students. Teachers, paraprofessionals, school nurses, and other school personnel, know all too well that grief has an impact on student behavior, affecting academic progress. Grieving students are frequently distracted by thoughts or worries related to their loss, making it difficult for them to retain information and concentrate in class. During this mini-plenary, Dr. David Schonfeld will draw from more than two decades of experience and research in the field of child bereavement to help participants better engage and support students who are currently battling grief. This session will offer concrete strategies and materials you can use to help children understand death and cope with difficult feelings.
Presenter: David Schonfeld, M.D., director, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement

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Teacher-Driven Expanded Learning Time
In Meriden, Conn., the Meriden Federation of Teachers and the school district have partnered to expand learning time at several elementary schools with the help of a grant from the AFT Innovation Fund. Teachers are designing schedules and experiences to meet students’ needs in a collaborative environment, and are seeing gains in attendance and students’ excitement for learning.
Presenters: Erin Benham, president, Meriden Federation of Teachers; Mark Benigni, superintendent, Meriden Public Schools; Dan Coffey, principal, Casimir Pulaski Elementary School; Anita Gennaro, literacy facilitator; Meriden Public Schools