Stakeholder Input for State ESSA Plans
It's easy to complain about laws and policies we don't like, much harder to craft policies that make complicated systems function effectively. When it comes to federal education law and policy, we're beginning the transition from No Child Left Behind to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The new federal act calls on states to gather stakeholder input as they develop a state plan for ESSA implementation, and last week, I had the opportunity to participate in that process. At the end of this post there's more information for Californians who want to be involved.
Here are some of my takeaway thoughts and observations from the experience.
Where are the teachers?
At the start of the meeting, our facilitator from the California Department of Education (CDE), Barbara Murchison, asked the 40-50 people present about our job description. There were only two teachers in the room. Later in the event, the number of attendees had grown with some late arrivals, so I don't know if the number of teachers increased, but it still wasn't enough. Most of the participants were district level staff and administrators, those who have the direct responsibility for following the laws and reporting to the CDE. I was glad to see that one of the questions from the CDE was how to improve outreach, and I hope they'll follow some of our suggestions. Those of us in attendance had learned about the meeting through an email from the CDE, and I would imagine very few teachers subscribe to CDE email lists. We suggested that the CDE needs to reach out directly to stakeholder groups through our professional associations and unions.
As for parent and student input and feedback, we asked if and when that would be part of the process, and were assured that the CDE has heard about the need to expand its stakeholder dialogue as the process continues.
I would also suggest to my teaching peers that more of us need to be proactive in seeking opportunities to influence policy, and participate in policy discussions at every level.
The California Way
In recent years, California has adopted or held on to a variety of education policies that have put our state at odds with federal education policy and priorities coming out of the Obama administration, especially during Arne Duncan's leadership at the Education Department. Race to the Top and NCLB waivers pushed states to pursue a variety of policies - mainly around testing and the use of test scores - that California resisted, and wisely so. My fellow EdWeek blogger, Charles Taylor Kerchner, writes the "On California" blog and has written frequently about "The California Way" - education policy that has emerged during the leadership of three top officials in the state: Governor Stakeholder Input for State ESSA Plans - Capturing the Spark: Energizing Teaching and Schools - Education Week Teacher: