Wednesday, August 1, 5:00-5:30, SUB Room 233, Theme: Leadership

The purpose this session is to present lessons learned during the 2017-2018 Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program (MSEPFP) about building capacity for rural leadership and rural education advocacy. MSEPFP, designed by state coordinators in collaboration with the national Institute for Education Leadership, was a year-long convening of education stakeholders who engaged in the study of rural education policy issues (e.g., teacher shortages), prepared for and met with state and federal elected officials, honed communication skills, and participated in a variety of advocacy learning opportunities (e.g., role plays, panel discussions with stakeholders, etc.)

The session will be presented by both a program coordinator and program participant, who will describe the fellowship and its impact on rural education leaders in Mississippi. Data are drawn from the 17-18 cohort of MSEPFP and include descriptions of each days’ session (e.g., plans, coordinators’ notes) as well as participants’ written feedback (e.g., surveys, follow-up interviews).

Findings suggest that the EPFP model built understanding of policy processes and strengthened education leaders’ ability to advocate for rural education. Participants built relationships with state policy makers and valued the networks of advocates they built.

MSEPFP has  implications for others who wish to support education leaders’ ability to engage in the important work of advocating for rural education. State and federal policy often fails to address the unique needs of rural schools. Rural educators must learn to advocate for education policy that recognizes the strengths of rural communities and accounts for the realities of rural schools.