We are pleased to introduce Rachel Magee, EdPolicy Leaders Online’s latest featured participant. Rachel recently completed Securing Our Nation’s Future: The Urgent Need for Education Reform, one of ExcelinEd’s three free, self-paced online courses available for policymakers.
Rachel Magee was born and raised in Monroe, Louisiana, and currently serves as a school psychologist for the Ouachita Parish School System. She graduated from the University of Louisiana-Monroe with her Masters in Psychology in 2009, and her Specialist in School Psychology in 2010. During her six year career as a school psychologist, Rachel has served as a regional representative for her professional organization as well as Nominations and Elections Chair. Rachel previously served on the Louisiana Believes Teacher/Educator Advisory Committee, and currently works as a member of Louisiana’s Accountability Commission. Both opportunities were provided by Superintendent John White and the Louisiana Department of Education. Rachel has been included as a member of Worldwide Who’s Who and recognized as a Top Female Executive in her field. She remains steadfast in the belief that everyone should be afforded access and opportunities to reach their full potential. Rachel is a devoted and proud mother of son Kerr, who attends public school in Louisiana.
We asked Rachel:
1. Why are you passionate about education reform?
So this is a loaded question for me, and I can be effusive in describing
My passion for education;
- My individual journey leading up to my involvement and through my continued involvement with education reform over the last three-and-a-half years;
- What I have professionally and personally seen in terms of applying knowledge gained over the last three years;
- The progress and results of that work where I had opportunities to lead some within my role in districts and schools;
- My ever increasing deep respect for many with whom I have worked on education reform initiatives and in schools embracing and working through the challenges to see the successes; and
- The continued strengthening and deepening of a passion that was first really unlocked and fostered under the leadership of, communication with, and learning from our (Louisiana) State Superintendent, John White.
That said, through the whole journey—a) experiencing initial excitement of having the opportunity to expand my own learning through being open to new ideas and having access to professionals with diverse experiences and backgrounds; b) applying new knowledge and principles learned to solve issues within systems I work; c) seeing the results of implementation at small scales—individual student level, school level and across the work of several schools within one district; d) questioning at times and then reflecting and challenging my own assumptions and fears; e) committing to coming back to the table; and f) being willing to trust and have patience with the process and accept support, I have come to gain a much deeper appreciation for the education reform mission and for all leading and contributing their unique knowledge and talents to solve significant issues of our time.
What has also been important for me is to remain cognizant of what specifically has contributed to my own growth and successes so I can continue in a learning and growth-oriented direction to continuously expand my knowledge and provide effective services in education no matter my role. When I bring the full picture across all training and professional experiences over the last 12 years into view, my background, personal and professional ideals and values as a counselor, evaluator, instructor, interventionist, trainer of professionals, advocate for kids, partner with parents and professionals, and consultant to schools with the underlying commitment to continuously learn what I need to learn to best serve on teams and serve all families, communities, schools and students to ensure progress and success based on demonstrable outcomes, I found the mission of education reform and those committed to that mission
embody those ideals and values. The initial transition into education reform was natural and seamless given my professional training, values inherent within my own profession and personal values and experiences that led me into the field of psychology.
What I specifically experienced and was notably different over the last three and a half years that I attribute to my learning through education reform and those leading that mission and from whom I was learning were:
- The articulation of a comprehensive systemic vision and logical plan to create the necessary conditions to allow professionals to remain faithful to and carry out those values and ideals;
- The presence of strong leadership to remain steadfast in that mission and ensure meaningful and sustainable progress toward realizing the full the vision and ensuring our state remained on track to making it a reality for all kids and families;
- The opening of doors to expanded opportunities for learning and gaining deeper knowledge across many areas impacting education; expanded opportunities to be involved and contribute to problem solving around real-world issues; expanded access to education stakeholders from all walks of life and views with whom to partner; and
- The presence of a deep individual and collective belief in all kids, sense of responsibility as education stakeholders and service providers; and a strong sense of internal accountability to kids and each other in seeing we fulfill our long held promises to all kids.
None of this work over the last few years for me has happened in a vacuum. It has taken the work of many at all levels of the system and many with different views and experiences in education and life. When I ask the simple question though of whether the broader reform vision and mission has the potential to achieve the goal of ensuring
expanded access and opportunity for all kids to reach their highest potential and thrive in society through an equitable educational landscape and whether we have made observable and significant progress toward that goal, my response is absolutely and I believe we must continue in that work together and across divides.
Through involvement over the last few years in different initiatives and applying knowledge gained, I have seen what can be achieved for my own son, for me as a parent working with him, and in my own growth as a psychologist in breadth and depth of my professional services and having long been committed to serving communities, families, schools and kids and seeing the barriers within our schools and systems in providing those services.
Success with my individual journey has taken and will continue to take being open, embracing and committing to the changes our nation, state and local systems and schools are making, and remaining committed in times of celebration and struggle to staying together in order to overcome the normal challenges that come along with success and the process of stretching our minds; being willing to even at times “unlearn” or shed certain assumptions; revisiting current mindsets and practices that are deeply ingrained to be free enough to be able to objectively rethink systems, strategies, approaches, partnerships, structures, the roles of power and where decision making makes the most sense in order to achieve systemic efficiency in both delivery of services and rate of progress for kids to remain on track to being both prepared and successful in their future endeavors and as productive citizens.
I am in general passionate about all of the learning opportunities; struggles in implementation; challenging myself; being humble in admitting my own errors and coming back to the table; experiencing successes; seeing progress; seeing myself, my colleagues and students we serve grow and rise to higher expectations; and the continued promise and actual benefits that have come along with that full journey in my experiences thus far. For me, education reform and its current leaders and contributors within the state of Louisiana and across the nation provide everyone with opportunities to connect, learn, serve and meaningfully contribute to what I consider a significant, worthwhile, multi-faceted, and necessary mission to secure the future of our kids, families, communities, schools, states and our country.
2. Why did you enroll in Ed Policy Leaders Online?
- In general, I love learning from others, and I am passionate about new ideas and current changes in education.
- Many of the selected presenters I was familiar with through reading educational articles, had followed several on twitter and/or had read articles authored by the presenters. Through that, I had great appreciation for their services, work and accomplishments. In addition, Superintendent White heads our state’s education system, and I have learned a great deal from him and through his leadership – through opportunities to be involved on committees (currently one member of the Accountability Commission) since he has been our State Superintendent. I have greatly benefited and grown through that learning in that it has added depth to my own practices and services as a school psychologist, as well as, introduced me to many educators in different roles and from various backgrounds across our state with whom I continue connecting, learning and sharing practices that are working and addressing areas still in need of attention in implementing changes. With those experiences in mind, I saw this course as another opportunity to continue in that learning and growth based both on the content that would be covered and the presenters selected.
- Since I am serving on Louisiana’s Accountability Commission, I also saw the course as an additional professional learning and development opportunity that would help me gain more knowledge to serve in that role.
- I wanted to learn more about the history of the movement and learn more about the experiences of and what drew current reform leaders from across the country down their paths to effect change in education; lessons from the past and current thoughts based on successes, as well as, challenges they see remain; and with that experience and knowledge to date, what presenters’ areas of interests are today and what they envision moving forward in those areas of interest.
3. What was your biggest takeaway from Securing Our Nation’s Future: The Urgent Need for Education Reform?
- We absolutely must continue forward to ensure all kids and professionals have increased access to global knowledge and identify professionals who are intrinsically motivated and driven to seize opportunities available and continue learning, applying that knowledge and contributing the knowledge base in education based on their own successes to best serve all of our kids based on our kids’ unique needs.
- We must continue to hold ourselves accountable to each other and to kids for our services and commit to continuously expanding educational opportunities and providing the space, supports and conditions for both professionals and kids to accomplish that work together, as well as, providing families with options and the ultimate decision regarding who they want to serve their children.
- We also must have the information necessary to confirm we are remaining diligent in ensuring equity for all kids; that we are in fact meeting their needs; and that when we are persistently not fulfilling that promise, that we make responsible decisions and continue forward purposefully until we confirm we are fulfilling that promise to all kids and families.
- Finally, we must recognize that we have made great progress and we need to continue to identify professionals to serve in our schools, communities, and within local, state and federal agencies who will work together to:
- Creatively solve the issues we face in education;
- Continuously learn from each other in increasing our collective understanding of the global issues of our time and how we can each contribute to solving those;
- Develop and maintain a culture that embodies a deep sense of commitment and accountability to each other in ensuring a prosperous future for our next generation and continued growth for our country;
- Ensure all kids make progress and starting early are on track to acquiring and mastering the knowledge and skills necessary to communicate across different perspectives; work through disagreements; see many perspectives and be open to different ways of solving problems; have the abilities and dispositions to serve as leaders in some way in their classrooms, schools, communities; and in contributing to forward progress in their state and our country to preserve meaningful democracy, ensure economic opportunity and prosperity for all, serve as engaged, knowledgeable and productive citizens and contributors in the jobs they choose, and continue through future generations building a society and nation of leaders.
4. Did the course help to address specific challenges you face in your current role? How do you think it can help others involved in education reform?
For me, and more specifically at this particular time in my career, the course, in addition to hearing parent experiences in modules, helped me to see from others similar challenges I see exist and further expanded my knowledge base in terms of possible solutions for what is an ongoing process of addressing challenges and barriers I
see and face in my current role as a school psychologist serving students with disabilities in schools and within a traditional system of delivering educational services. The course also provided me with the opportunity to learn even more from accomplished leaders in the field around the country with whom I would enjoy connecting more especially in the area of serving our students with disabilities.
For my role on our state’s Accountability Commission—the course was extremely beneficial to me in gaining deeper knowledge to better serve as one member of a team working together to take in feedback, study our accountability system, and make policy and additional training opportunity recommendations to our Department of Education and State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
What I have seen over the last several years in Louisiana is a breaking down of barriers among education stakeholders, and that’s huge. I have met or been in some type of contact with more legislators and BESE members. And I have been more active during legislative sessions, worked with and learned from a much more diverse group of professionals within our state department, through organizations with which I became affiliated through meeting a broader network of educators across our state in serving on state level commissions than ever before. Taken in full, it’s a set of experiences words really cannot do justice.
Furthermore, when I think about the notion and significance of providing our students with a more global knowledge and skill base, education stakeholders have to do the same to bring in that information and know where to access it. For where I am currently in my career and experiences, and similar to my transition and gravitation toward education reform and leaders in Louisiana, it felt natural and logical given my professional background, ideals and experiences prior to 2012. This course too felt like another logical step at this juncture to seize another opportunity provided and expand my knowledge and network of professionals across the country as a way of continuing to learn and broaden my knowledge base and then seek out the best ways I can apply that knowledge in my contributions and services and continued learning and applying knowledge gained at local and state levels.
I think this course would benefit all education stakeholders. I also think the course will be meaningful to participants in different ways depending on their various roles and depending on the particular problems they see and are driven to solve. That points to one of many aspects of the course I enjoyed and viewed as a real strength: it can be beneficial to such a broad audience and anyone who has an investment in education and wants to learn more—professionals serving at national, state and local levels of education; parents; business and community leaders; educational entrepreneurs; politicians, etc.
I would absolutely recommend the course and encourage participation for anyone directly involved in education or who has a stake in the future success of our educational system in serving kids now and for generations to come and who is invested in the continued growth of our local communities, states, and our nation—everyone essentially.
To begin your own learning experience, sign up for EdPolicy Leaders Online today.
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