Two College of Education faculty complete training in education policy

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Gaining an understanding of education policy is a key step in becoming a more well-rounded educator. Two faculty members in Penn State’s College of Education recently completed a program in which they learned about the processes and outcomes of policy making and implementation at local, state and national levels.

In early December, Alicia McDyre, an assistant teaching professor of education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Ashley Patterson, an assistant professor of education in the same department, completed the Pennsylvania Educational Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), which is part of a “nationally recognized fellowship program that engages a diverse and collaborative community of strategic leaders to promote equitable education policy.” According to the EPFP’s website, the program content explores three core elements of professional development — policy, leadership and networking — with a focus on diversity and equity. 

Alicia McDyre Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

“I didn’t know much about (education policy) going into the program,” McDyre said. “It definitely opened my eyes to the way things work in our state and local governments. I’ve used a lot of the information in subsequent training sessions and professional development for the supervisors that I work with.”

“I think all of us need to have some working understanding of the nexus of educational institutions and agencies beyond classrooms and schools,” Patterson said. “Pre-service students, the way they’re being trained by us, have very limited bounds as to what they know about the world of education.”

Ashley Patterson Credit: Penn State / Penn StateCreative Commons

The EPFP was created in 1964 with funding from the Ford Foundation. Through the support and coordination of The Education Policy and Leadership Center (EPLC), Pennsylvania’s EPFP just completed its ninth year of operation. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the format and schedule of the 2019-2020 program was altered from the traditional program. Having started in fall 2019, the program was set to end in June 2020 but after the pandemic halted in-person activities, Ron Cowell, president of EPLC, announced that it would be extended into December. McDyre and Patterson both attended the recognition program for graduates of the program, held via Zoom on Dec. 8.

Over the course of the year, the fellows participated in dialogue with key decision-makers, influencers and practitioners in areas of statewide policy that impact children and their education. Monthly seminar topics included "Lessons in Strategic Leadership," "Making Public Policy in Pennsylvania," and "Standards-Based Education Reform."

As part of the EPFP, Patterson said, participants create and present a policy implementation. Her contribution, done in collaboration with McDyre, was “adapting some current forms that are part of the teacher certification process and embedding in them some more trauma- and equity-informed language.”

“I’m consulting on some development of trauma-informed modules for current teachers,” Patterson said. “The opportunity to do that research and work is informing the work I do with the individuals who are creating these modules.”

While the fellows were slated to present their projects at the Washington Policy Seminar, EPFP's national capstone multi-day capacity building event, in Washington, D.C., in April, the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the time when the fellows were able to safely meet in person, McDyre and Patterson said that they particularly enjoyed a group trip to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, last fall and spending a day at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At the War College, instructors from the U.S. Army Department of Command, Leadership and Management (DCLM) shared some of the strategic leadership concepts taught to military and government leaders at college.

An unforeseen benefit of participating in the program, Patterson said, was “how close Alicia and I have gotten this past year.” She added, “In my approach to social justice and education, I think relationship building is paramount.”

McDyre said that she benefited from learning about the diverse backgrounds of her EPFP cohorts, which included professionals from state agencies, public school districts, charter schools, state associations and nonprofit organizations. Those experiences could aid her in counseling some of her students who have expressed uncertainty about becoming teachers.

“It was nice to understand what (education) jobs are available,” she said. “Because I was around such a dynamic group of different people and heard about all their different careers and interests, I was able to give (students) more insight into different career opportunities.”

Last Updated December 19, 2020