This past June, TESOL International Association held its first ever TESOL Virtual Advocacy & Policy Summit. Over 3 days, more than 300 TESOL professionals from all over the world came together to learn, network, and take action on a number of critical policy issues. This year’s summit was supported in part by TESOL’s strategic partner, the American Federation of Teachers.
With the goal of equipping TESOL professionals with the knowledge to become influential advocates on behalf of English learners (ELs), the summit saw attendees spend the first 2 days learning from policy experts, networking with other TESOL professionals, and understanding effective advocacy techniques and strategies. The summit concluded with an online day of action where TESOL advocates sent more than 2,000 messages and social media posts to members of the U.S. Congress.
Additionally, advocates had the opportunity to submit the new TESOL Advocacy Policy Interest Survey, where they submitted information to TESOL about local policy issues impacting their work. TESOL aims to expand its local and international advocacy efforts with the information gleaned from this survey.
Day 1: Policy Primer
Following opening remarks from TESOL International Association President Deborah Short and interim Executive Director Rosa Aronson, both of whom discussed the importance of everyday advocacy and collective action, the summit began with a detailed legislative update from TESOL’s David Cutler, Director of Advocacy and Outreach. From the very start, attendees were provided with a wealth of policy information focusing on significant issues facing all ELs. Cutler detailed the proposed FY 2021 federal budget for major education programs, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act and the Workforce Improvement and Opportunity Act; spoke about the numerous bills in Congress that aim to address undocumented students, such as the American Dream and Promise Act; and also spent time addressing TESOL’s primary policy focus during the summit: passing the Reaching English Learners Act.
Following this in-depth update, participants gathered for a session led by Roger Rosenthal of the Migrant Legal Action Program, who discussed the rights of immigrant children and ELs in public schools. Following Rosenthal’s session, Supreet Anand from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) highlighted the various initiatives that OELA is undertaking. Her session also offered a glimpse into the data that the office has collected on EL performance at the K–12 level. Additional organizations that presented sessions on the first day included the American Federation of Teachers, National Immigration Law Center, and National Coalition for Literacy.
The TESOL Advocacy Action Center
During the policy update session, participants were also given a firsthand look at the TESOL Advocacy Action Center. Launched last year, the TESOL Advocacy Action Center is a free resource for all advocates, TESOL members and nonmembers alike, to find and contact their members of Congress. In the action center, advocates will find calls to action from TESOL, where they can send prewritten messages to their members of Congress on important issues TESOL is tracking, such as the Reaching English Learners Act and HEROES Act.
Day 2: Policy Sessions With a Global Audience
The Summit opened its second day on Tuesday with a morning panel with representatives from several TESOL Affiliate Network members from around the world. The panel members detailed the advocacy issues they were focusing on in their respective countries. Following this informative panel, the global theme continued with a presentation by author and expert TESOL trainer Evan Frendo, who highlighted the need for English language skills in international business. Other speakers on the second day included Chris Coro, Deputy Director of the Office of Career, Adult, and Technical Education, who provided helpful information on his office’s current initiatives and the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act across the United States, as well as speakers from the Migration Policy Institute, Alabama-Mississippi TESOL, EnglishUSA, and UCIEP.
Day 3: TESOL Day of Action
On Wednesday, summit participants and other advocates from the United States and around the world participated in the first-ever online TESOL Day of Action. Over the course of 24 hours, advocates sent more than 2,000 messages in support of various TESOL policy issues impacting ELs and TESOL professionals. Advocates sent emails and social media posts to their members of Congress asking that they pass the HEROES Act, Reaching English Learners Act, Supporting Providers of English Language Learners Act, and more!
Stay tuned to the TESOL website and social media channels for the latest updates on TESOL’s advocacy efforts. Information on the 2021 TESOL Advocacy & Policy Summit will be announced in early 2021!