A Million Thanks!

Nine and a half years ago, I started Eduflack as cathartic tool. I was looking for an outlet to express my thoughts, I wanted to write more, and the idea of education blogging was just taking off. I wrote my first post in March 2007. It was before I joined Facebook. It was before I signed up for Twitter (even though I thought it was an incredibly silly platform at the time, after all, who wanted to blog in fewer than 140 characters). It was even before my daughter was born. 

So it is with extreme gratitude that I want to thank everyone who has read and shared this blog. As of this week,  there have been 1 million visitors to Eduflack. What I once thought no one would ever read has attracted enough eyeballs to win an election in a questionable country. 

I’m truly humbled by the continued readership and interest. I recognize I font wrote nearly as frequently as I once did, and that my @Eduflwck Twitter feed gets far more attention these days. But I am grateful for every single reader and will work harder to share thoughtful, thought provoking posts in the future. 

A million thanks to you! 

Think Education is a 2016 Campaign Issue? Think Again.

Every election season, the same debate seems to happen in edu-circles. We discuss how important education issues are in this particular election. Such talk often will refer to a recent Gallup poll that places education fifth or eighth on the list of things people most care about. We mention the role of unions, particularly teachers unions, in turning out the vote. And we convince ourselves that education policy will matter this election year.

Earlier today, EdWeek’s Andrew Ujifusa provided a nice dive into what the Democrats’ education platform looks like, while last week his partner Alyson Klein reported on Donald Trump’s eduspeak at the GOP convention. We even have multiple edu-bloggers writing in recent days on the WikilLeaks DNC email dump and DNC staff referring to Common Core as the “third rail” this political season.

A lot of words, yes, but how does this translate to the average voter and the average campaign issue? To be fair, I don’t expect national campaigns to be running on campaign issues. I’d be shocked if Trump even mentions education again over the next three-plus months, other than have some of his surrogates mention Common Core and federal takeovers of our schools (and maybe bathrooms) as red meat for the base.

And while I don’t believe the key to Hillary Clinton picking up enough undecided voters to secure a plurality of voters come November is going to be edu-speak, I do expect education to be part of the discussion for the future. I believe a strong society and a strong future depends on a strong educational infrastructure. Whether that is managing student loan debt, improving access to postsecondary options including career and technical education, enhancing early childhood opportunities, and, yes, raising student test scores. Education is a key strand in the DNA of what so many are seeking when it comes to their futures.

So I was quire surprised when I received an email from the Hillary Clinton campaign this morning, asking me to fill out a survey to share what issues matter most to me and my family. I was asked the issue that mattered most to me, and was provided 14 choices (plus an other box). As you’ll see in this photo, choices included everything from gun violence prevention to criminal justice reform to climate change to Wall Street reform to disability rights. But no education.

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When I checked “other,” I didn’t get a free-fill box to write in my choice. So what “other” means to be will never be revealed to those tabulating what is most important to my family.

And when asked what the second-important issue was to my family, I got the same list.

I can only hope that those compiling the results from this survey (and from similar surveys being done by Team Trump) recognize that education is the non-negotiable in all of these. Looking at the 14 options provided, Eduflack can’t see how any of these issues cannot be fully addressed without improving the P-20 educational systems available to our families.

But I’ve also done enough political campaigns to know that subtlety and nuance are not things found to be effective in such efforts. When lists like these are provided to the average voter, we internalize that these are the issues most important to the American people. And we subconsciously acknowledge that education just isn’t on our list of the top 14 issues the country is facing.

And that’s a cryin’ shame.

 

Many, Many Thanks

I am incredibly fortunate to do work that I really enjoy. Those who have heard my story know that I fell into strategic communications by accident. I went to college thinking I would become a lawyer. Early in my postsecondary experience, I thought I’d instead be a college professor (but my college professor and college president of a father greatly discouraged it).

An internship on Capitol Hill led to my experiencing what a press secretary does. The rest is history. I never acted on the acceptance letters to law school, instead choosing to go back to Capitol Hill. I’ve spent most of the past 20 years working with not-for-profit organizations and government agencies on public engagement. Much of that time was spent in the education space.

Why this walk down memory lane? Today, PR News named me is Non-Profit/Association PR Professional of the Year. I’m incredibly moved by the award, and for being part of an impressive list of honorees who show, day in and day out, the impact meaningful communications can have on changing policy and public behavior.

I’m doubly fortunate to earn this recognition for my work with the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, as we work to reinvent how higher education in general, and teacher preparation specifically, is addressed in the United States. Change can be hard. But I am incredibly lucky to be working as part of such a terrific team, all superstars in their own right.

I get that many folks don’t understand what I actually do for a living. If you ask my kids, they will tell you “daddy talks for a living.” Some hear my job title and think I’m “just a publicist.” In actuality, I am fortunate enough to work at the intersection of education research, policy, practice, politics, and communications. Each day, I get to figure out how those five pieces fit together in a way that improves teaching and learning for both the educator and the child. And I’m grateful for each of those days.

So thank you to PR News for this wonderful honor. Thank you to those who somehow determined I was the top non-profit communicator in the nation for the past calendar year. And thank you to all of those people who work in education communications, those who inspire me, who advise me, who encourage me, and who remind me why we do what we do.

 

“Determination and Savvy”

Shameless self-promotion alert. Over at Bulldog Reporter, they have a terrific article (at least the edu-mom and edu-daughter would say it is terrific) about my ongoing work at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and Bulldog Reporter recently recognizing our communications efforts at Woodrow Wilson on the issue of teacher education.

To be honest, and many won’t believe this, but such write-ups make me uncomfortable (though i’ll admit, I don’t mind being seen as determined and savvy, certainly better than the alternative). It often doesn’t reflect the full team effort that goes into play, and it can too often make the story about the individual, and not the work itself. But I do like how they boiled down some of my blather to a few key lessons for those in the communications sector:

“First, the most successful messaging focuses on the positive and meaningful change,” he says. “Negativity and attacks may sell, but they have a short shelf life. Second, nothing is more powerful than personalizing the story and showing how scary change impacts the individual. Third, don’t be afraid to fail. Particularly when you are starting with a blank canvas, try it all, quickly jettison what isn’t working, and focus on what is most successful.”

When I say it, can I then add a “well said?”

Communicating in the Garden State

It has been a few weeks, and I’ve thus been negligent in sending major thanks to the good folks over at the Public Relations Society of America – New Jersey. Earlier this month, PRSA-NJ named me its communicator of the year. 

It is great to be back home in New Jersey, making a real difference to improve educational opportunities. It is great to be recognized for all of the terrific communications work we are now doing at the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. And it is even greater to be recognized by my peers at PRSA-NJ for this work. 

Thanks to all who made it possible. I have a lot to live up to, but I look forward to the opportunity. 

  

Saying Nothing

I’ve spent a great deal of my career managing crisis communications. And this is an important lesson we all should be mindful.

In the education sector, we just have too many people who are speaking just for the sake of speaking. We should speak when we have something to contribute. Silence should be treasured, and see as a form of endorsement.

Ah, to dream …

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