Did you miss the Education Policy Trek to D.C.?

Julia Thompson – April 5th, 2017

Didn’t get a chance to make the Education Policy Trek up to D.C. on March 24? Don’t worry! Here’s a quick summary of what went down…


We first met with members of the American Youth Policy Forum, a nonpartisan convener that brings policymakers, practitioners, and researchers together to frame issues, inform policy, and create conversation about improving education and young people's lives.

What we did: They discussed some of the work they do, such as facilitating conversation during Capitol Hill Forums, going on Study Tours to see learning strategies in practice, and producing easy to read publications that can be utilized by actors in the arena. They also emphasized their focus on serving “The Forgotten Half” -- 18 to 24 year olds who may have been a part of the justice and/or foster system, and how to create a pathway for them to post-secondary education and later, entry into the workforce. They posed questions such as--what do you we want young people to be able to know and do? What type of experiences and learning environment will foster that?

Career Advice:

  • If you want to get into the field, experience that shows a connection to and passion for education.

  • On a resume, make sure to expand on what you did during those experiences.

  • It’s really important to know the organization with which you are applying for a position. For instance, if applying for a position with the AYPF, don’t just know they are education involved; know what topics they are working on and what specific groups they target their research.


After trudging through a mile in unexpected rain (I admit I took an Uber), we reached CityBridge Foundation, a nonprofit that finds the most promising practices in public education, invests in the creation of transformation school, and engages their city (D.C.) in sustaining and supporting this work. At City Bridge, we were greeted by two UVA alumni--Caroline Hill and Andrew Plemmons Pratt.

What we did: To get an idea of the type of work CityBridge does, we did a design thinking activity. We split up into groups and thought about the question: What are the changes that have taken place over the last decade? Then, each group wrote as many answers as we could come up with in five minutes; answers included the internet and technology, first female presidential candidate, LGBTQ+ rights, war on terror, increasing cost and need of higher education… Then, we wrote down what skills would be needed in light of these changes: technology skills, ability to communicate and work with others, writing skills, empathy... Finally, we thought about what schools would need to give students these skills. This transitioned us to learning about the three central design principles that guide educational programs CityBridge helps to fund: intentional equity, commitments to deep and personal learning, and expansive measures of success. Following the activity, we talked a little more about CityBridge’s statement of purpose, which reads “The moral task at the center of our work is to rally the city around equity and opportunity for all children,” and the two values that guide this work and these interactions are a spirit of generosity and a belief in abundant possibility.

Career Advice: To get involved in education policy or in transforming the education system, do you need to have experience as a teacher?

  • Although some people in the field do not have direct experience as educators, it does stand out to employers because it lends valuable experience and perspective as someone on the receiving or implementation end of changes made.

Reading List: Stamped From the Beginning (by Ibram Kendi) & Waking Up White (Debby Irving)


Our last stop was the National Education Association, a professional employee organization committed to advancing the cause of public education and advocating for those involved in public education. The NEA unites its members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education, so that every student is prepared to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.

What we did: Here, we met with various individuals who work within different parts of the organization, including a representative from the Center for Social Justice and a lobbyist. We also heard from Andy Coons, the Director of the Center for Great Public Schools. They all spoke about their roles within the organization; for instance, the lobbyist position includes advocating for NEA members on Capitol Hill on a range of issues that affect those members--it’s not just limited to education.

Career Advice: There was A LOT.

  • Teaching gives you “street cred” before entering the policy/administrative arena, and you learn the applicability of policy rather than just theory.

  • Refine your policy background. Develop relevant skills--namely writing and problem solving.

  • Be open to saying yes because every experience adds something. Your career path is unique, and most likely will not be a straight shot--focus on the process and let it be messy.

  • Conduct informational interviews, where you can ask questions. Making connections between you and someone in the field can lead to finding a mentor; and then, when you’ve advanced your career, pay it forward by being a mentor. Advocate for yourself.

Reading List: Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project (by Robert P. Moses)

Ultimately, the ed policy trek to D.C. was a great opportunity to see ed policy in action in three very different ways, and learn more about potential careers in the education policy arena!