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Education Secretary Urges State Leaders to Involve Public in ESSA Planning

Washington

U.S.  Secretary of Education John King Jr. on Thursday pushed hundreds of state policymakers at this year's annual Education Commission of the States' National Forum on Education Policy to engage as many stakeholders as possible while creating their education agendas under the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

"This is a great opportunity for states to be unified under one agenda," King said. 

The panel discussion was part of the group's annual conference that gathered state superintendents, legislators, state board members, and 52 teachers of the year.

The conference at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, featured panels on ESSA and pre-K,  school accountability systems, school finance, and  turnaround models, among other things. It will be held through Friday.

King addressed the conference a day after a contentious hearing on Capitol Hill where he defended his department's ESSA draft regulations that many members of Congress and state superintendents say will hamper innovation and revert states to cookie-cutter education models similar to the ones they had under the No Child Left Behind Act.

But King did not address those concerns during his short introductory speech and the subsequent panel with Massachusetts' teacher of the year and the state superintendents of Pennsylvania and Illinois—all of which lasted no more than 30 minutes.

Instead, he focused his remarks on engagment efforts between state education department  officials and local stakeholder groups as they draft their ESSA plans in the coming months. He encouraged states to think critically about the sorts of accountability systems they put in place to make sure they push schools to close the achievement gaps between student groups.

"The civil rights organizations need to be at the table until the very end," King said. 

Tony Evers, Wisconsin's superintendent of public instruction and the president of the Council of Chief State School Officers, didn't let an opportunity pass to voice his concerns over the ESSA draft regulations. Evers in the past has accused King's administration of being too heavy-handed during the rulemaking process, especially around federal funding of schools, the ratings of schools, and test-participation rates.

"The last thing we need is for stakeholders to be annoyed with you," Evers said, pointing at King. "The stakeholders will say the enemy is over here and that's a huge mistake."


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