News & Press: Washington Policy Seminar

2017 Washington Policy Seminar Impact

Thursday, June 1, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Sarah McCann
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The annual Washington Policy Seminar, a capstone event of IEL’s 53-year-old Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) focused this year on a timely theme: Navigating Education Policy ChangeNearly 300 EPFP Fellows from across the country were introduced to the federal policy, the federal-state interplay, and national trends dominating the present policy atmosphere. This diverse cohort of leaders for and in education spent four days learning together and sharing expertise. They emerged significantly more prepared to lead the charge within their own organizations and communities.






Three pillars underpin the EPFP experience: policy, leadership, and networking. WPS is a key learning and networking opportunity that gives the national cohort of Fellows an opportunity to come together and engage in panel and breakout sessions, site visits, national forums, and simulations, all intended to broaden the Fellows’ understanding of public policy.


The National Forum, for example, gave space for cross-state sharing of strategies and insights, adding to the national education conversation. Fellows realized both how many different opinions and approaches exist around the country, but also the importance and potential of working together to improve the work around “hot topics” in education. Four days of learning together reinforced connections and partnerships that carry on well beyond the conference throughout Fellows’ careers. As EPFP Fellows graduate they join a network of nearly 9,000 alumni across all 50 states.


There were numerous opportunities for attendees at WPS to hear from and engage with education leaders. The event kicked off with an opening plenary on the history of the federal role in education featuring former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., now at The Education Trust, Dawn Williams, Dean at Howard University, and Mike Petrilli. President of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Jason Botel, Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, offered a short address from the Trump Administration, and Fellows attended informative breakout sessions on a host of topics based on their content interests. A highlight was Roscoe Jones, Sr.’s Civil Rights story-telling breakfast. Jones, an activist who draws on stories of his leadership during the summer of 1964 and throughout his life, inspired Fellows with his humility and commitment to justice. 

















 Experiencing the policy-making process at the Federal level enabled participants to more thoroughly understand their role in the education system, whether they work in pre-k, k-12, higher education, the business or non-profit sector, or as researchers and local elected officials. Activities such as the Congressional Insights Simulation provided perspective on the priority factors influencing legislative decisions, which pressures from above are negotiable and how, and which stakeholder voices and possible partnerships warrant greater consideration. After hearing from expert speakers, Fellows met with their own state representatives to learn more about the education policy contexts affecting their communities. 

The last morning of plenaries carried through the equity theme. The Samuel Halperin Lecture co-sponsored by American Youth Policy Forum featured Karen Pittman of the Forum for Youth Investment, and youth award-winner, Yasmine Arrington, who started ScholarCHIPS, a college scholarship for children of incarcerated parents. Kent McGuire, President of the Southern Education Foundation, challenged Fellows to bring back all that they learned in Washington to fulfill their calling as leaders across the nation. 


EPFP Fellows may have emerged with more questions than they came with, but they also gained networking connections, policy insights, and leadership skills in order to navigate education policy change in the current federal context. Additional pictures, tweets, and resources are available on the website:

The ’16-17 cohort are graduating and continue to live up to our vision statement Transform. Empower. Inspire. To join the ’17-18 or future cohorts visit:

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