Here’s how educators are using their voice to provide more opportunity for students as part of ESSA implementation across the country
South Carolina Local Association Spotlights ESSA’s Impact on students, educators, classrooms at Town Hall
On Feb. 6, the Beaufort County Education Association (BCEA) hosted a town-hall event in Beaufort County, South Carolina, parents, educators and other community members gathered to discuss how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives them a voice to change the direction of public education in their state. Participants heard an overview about ESSA from BCEA member and high school Chemistry teacher, Dawn Peebles. The event showcased how ESSA – if it’s implemented successfully – provides educators the opportunity to advocate for reductions in high-stakes testing, but most importantly how this new law can be used to help close the achievement gap for students in the state.
The South Carolina Education Association, which has hosted five ESSA-related town-halls across the state, is supporting a proposal by the S.C. Education Oversight Committee, an independent, nonpartisan group made up of educators, business people, and elected officials, to reduce testing by alternating when, and what subjects will be tested. The proposal was discussed at the town-hall, and was presented as just one of the many opportunities for educators and parents alike to take a seat at the table and influence multiple policy decisions around ESSA.
Hawaii’s Blueprint for Education
Very few states have seen the level of educator engagement on ESSA that has been occurring in Hawaii. Aloha state educators know this is their opportunity to add their voice to this conversation if ESSA implementation to advocate on behalf of their students and their profession.
In 2016, Gov. David Ige assembled an ESSA task force, made up of educators, lawmakers, parents and members of the private sector, charged with creating a “blueprint for education” to implement the law in the state. After an initial version was completed in late 2016, the task force took the design ideas back out to the community for further discussion, feedback and elaboration.
Prior to the passage of ESSA, members of the Hawaii State Teachers Association (HSTA) were already mobilizing around “Schools Our Keiki Deserve,” an evidence-based report by the HSTA Speakers Bureau used to guide public policy decisions around public education. HSTA member Amy Perruso, a nationally recognized social studies teacher and member of the ESSA taskforce, created the Speakers Bureau to organize the community in support of public schools, which had proved invaluable during the ESSA implementation process. The Speakers Bureau has been incredibly active in the ESSA town halls and other opportunities for community engagement that have been occurring in multiple locations on every island across the state.
“We are building not only a movement around the ‘Schools Our Keiki Deserve’ via ESSA organizing,” explains Amy Perruso, “but also school-based leadership familiar with the language and possibilities of ESSA that will help us as we move into implementation.”
Delaware Gets Ready to Submit State Plan
Throughout the spring of 2017, states will be submitting their ESSA implementation plans to the U.S Department of Education. Representatives from the Delaware State Education Association played a prominent role in these conversations. The Delaware Department of Education tapped into the expertise of all stakeholders in designing its plan. In September, state officials held two weeks of community conversations around the state to discuss student support and improvement, supporting excellent education for all students, and measures of school success and reporting. Additional discussion groups were held throughout the fall.
After the first draft was completed in October, stakeholders continued to provide feedback through February during the public comment phase.
The department of education will submit the final implementation plan in March. DEA is planning to educate and engage members around the state plan via social media, newsletters and local meetings, and ensure they have every opportunity to lend their voice to this conversation.
ESSA on Facebook Live
In early February, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García and Director of Education Policy and Practice Donna Harris-Aikens answered questions from educators and public education advocates about the Every Student Succeeds Act on Facebook Live. They covered topics such as the future of testing, teacher training, the role of parents, and whether new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos can make any changes to the law. This is definitely worth a watch and a share.