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Keep Us Involved in ESSA Plans, Unions and District Leaders Tell State Chiefs

Associations representing local superintendents, teachers, state lawmakers and others have sent a clear message to chief state school officers: Work with us on the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

On Tuesday, 11 groups sent a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers expressing their disappointment that the U.S. Department of Education removed a requirement that states detail their work with stakeholder groups in their consolidated plans for ESSA. Nonetheless, they say the group has an obligation to make sure each chief "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."

Requirements for state outreach in developing ESSA plans is in the law itself. And CCSSO recently told us that states have already conducted a large share of their work with various K-12 groups when writing their blueprint for ESSA. The group has indicated that many states will go above and beyond what that new template requires. But others are worried that the department's decision to downplay that kind of engagement by states means less oversight for the issue going forward, and potentially less of an emphasis on it once ESSA kicks in for the 2017-18 school year. 

Here's a key portion of the letter:

The department's omission of stakeholder engagement as a priority for state plans should not be a disincentive nor diminish the importance for state education agencies to ensure and document that the appropriate consultation required by the law has taken place.

Congress intended for ESSA state plans to reflect the vision of individuals with the expertise and firsthand knowledge of working with, and on behalf of, students every day through the consultative process

A top federal lawmaker said he knows one example of a state doing this work well. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told state chiefs on Capitol Hill Tuesday that he's been impressed with how his state chief, Candace McQueen, is approaching outreach to key groups in the Volunteer State.

She's been "very busy with stakeholders all over the state," said Alexander (the chairman of the Senate education committee), noting that McQueen has had workgroups on standards, assessments, accountability and more.

The letter was sent by AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Education Association, and the National Governors Association, among others.

Read the full letter below:

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