More than 2,000 Tennesseans weigh in on how to implement new federal law
NASHVILLE—Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen released a new report today highlighting the feedback gathered from educators, advocates, parents, students, and the public to determine how to implement specific components of the nation’s new education law: the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The department is using the input to draft Tennessee’s plan to transition to ESSA, which was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and replaces No Child Left Behind.
Over the past six months, Commissioner McQueen and department leaders have hosted dozens of in-person and virtual feedback sessions across the state to gather input on how to craft a Tennessee-specific ESSA plan. More than 2,000 Tennesseans, representing 83 counties and 132 school districts, have participated in the discussion so far, with more opportunities in the future. Outreach efforts included inviting all of Tennessee’s 146 school district leaders to join regional meetings over the summer, participating in more than a dozen regional sessions hosted by the Tennessee School Boards Association to speak with school board members, and leading dozens of in-person and virtual sessions with classroom teachers and educators who serve in a variety of roles.
Additionally, the department hosted a public feedback opportunity through an online form with supplemental questions for parents and students, which were translated into Spanish to further extend outreach to families. Further feedback methods were used to gather input from a variety of groups, including business leaders, school choice organizations, community groups, civil rights organizations, and other education advocates. Six working groups, comprised of about a dozen members each, are using the feedback as they work through specific policies.
“ESSA has given us an opportunity to build on what is working in Tennessee. We are the fastest improving state in the nation because of the groundwork our educators, families, and students have laid over the past few years, and we want to keep moving on that path. But we know we have room to continue to grow, and ESSA empowers us to make decisions that make the most sense for Tennessee’s children so we can do just that,” McQueen said. “Public feedback and support has been critical in Tennessee’s success, and as the state has drafted its transition plan to the new law, building on existing relationships and developing new connections has been a focal point.”
Through the various avenues of feedback, some areas of consensus appeared, such as that the Tennessee ESSA plan should align to the state’s strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, and start with our current accountability framework. The most complex issues discussed by working groups and stakeholders tended to fall into three areas: accountability, assessment, and preparing students for postsecondary. The department will continue to engage with stakeholders during the next five months in preparation for submission of the Tennessee state plan to the U.S. Department of Education.
The department and working groups are still in the early stages of drafting the state plan, which will be available for public comment by the end of the calendar year. In early spring 2017, the department will work with stakeholder groups, the State Board of Education, and the Tennessee General Assembly as needed to recommend changes to state law and policy, as well as develop further guidance for school districts.
To view the report and to find more information, including a complete timeline and an outline of the current education laws and policies in Tennessee, visit the department’s ESSA webpage. For media inquiries, contact Sara Gast at (615) 532-6260 or Sara.Gast@tn.gov.