Groups say ESSA stakeholder engagement is vital

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The AFT joined with a coalition of national education and policy groups this week and urged the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to stay the course on collaboration—preserving meaningful stakeholder engagement in the development of state plans tied to the Every Student Succeeds Act. The joint letter was sparked by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who this month maneuvered to diminish that vital grass-roots input.

At issue is a new template DeVos rolled out for implementing ESSA at the state level. It removes reporting of how states have worked to engage all voices—and in doing so, disregards sections of ESSA that require "state education agencies to meaningfully consult a wide variety of stakeholders that are vital to the implementation and success of the law," the coalition's March 21 letter warns.

The letter also was prompted by another DeVos ploy: States, which are no longer permitted to use existing templates based on a bipartisan agreement, can either submit their plans using the revised template or an alternative developed by the state in concert with CCSSO. Clearly, the CCSSO positioned itself "at the center of the process to determine components that should be included in ESSA state plans," the coalition letter stresses.

"Since the [Department of Education] has relinquished responsibility to work with states on this process to CCSSO, we believe the organization is obligated to make certain that every chief state school officer demonstrates clearly and explicitly in each state plan how stakeholders were involved in its development, and how they will continue this engagement during implementation, review, and future revisions."

Other groups joining the letter are: AASA: The Superintendents Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Education Association, National Governors Association, National Parent Teacher Association, National School Boards Association and the National Association of School Psychologists. The letter also was sent to House and Senate lawmakers who were key in ESSA enactment.

[Mike Rose]