LFA Drafts Guidelines on Stakeholder Engagement in ESSA

By Joetta Sack-Min

For the first time, the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) recognizes the expertise that educators can bring to the policymaking process and calls for collaboration by practitioners and policymakers – but it gives few details on how those groups should work together. To facilitate that process, Learning First Alliance (LFA) today proposes principles to guide stakeholder engagement.

ESSA requires states and localities to bring together educators, parents, and other leaders to determine policies and practices under the new law.

“We appreciate that lawmakers have recognized the shared and overlapping responsibilities of education decision making,” said Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward and chair of the Learning First Alliance. “ESSA creates a process to integrate the expertise and firsthand experiences teachers, principals and other school staff can bring to policymaking. Ultimately, this collaboration will bring more stability to our education systems as it ensures the expertise of those who have the greatest stakes in our public schools have a hand in developing policies and practices.”

ESSA gives little guidance on how the process should take place, so further steps are needed to ensure that the right people are at the table and the process works as the lawmakers intended, Hirsh said.

Among the principles proposed, LFA is requesting that the consultative process: 

  • Be a discussion process that includes goal-setting and development of principles aimed at defining and executing policy, not just information sharing;
  • Be sustained, with stakeholder participation in discussions at the decision-making, implementation, and evaluation stages;
  • Include participants who have a stake in the law and represent groups or individuals who will hold their representatives accountable;
  • Be initiated or reinitiated by a participant if the process stalls;
  • Be transparent and open to the public.

The principles are intended for the states and districts that have not yet started the consultative process or are in the beginning stages, or those who are undertaking the work in a manner inconsistent with the intention of the law.

Below is a summary of key stakeholder engagement provisions in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, including provisions that reference multiple constituencies of education practitioners and/or community members. Those provisions that require only consultation with local educational agencies (such as those surrounding the implementation of academic assessments) are not included. Read the complete Act at https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114s1177enr/pdf/BILLS-114s1177enr.pdf.

State Title I Plans: State Title I plans must be “developed by the State educational agency with timely and meaningful consultation with the Governor, members of the State legislature and State board of education (if the State has a State board of education), local educational agencies (including those located in rural areas), representatives of Indian tribes located in the State, teachers, principals, other school leaders, charter school leaders (if the State has charter schools), specialized instructional support personnel, paraprofessionals, administrators, other staff, and parents” § 1111(a)(1)(A)

Local Educational Agency Title I Plans: Each LEA must have a local plan approved by the SEA that “is developed with timely and meaningful consultation with teachers, principals, other school leaders, paraprofessionals, specialized instructional support personnel, charter school leaders (in a local educational agency that has charter schools), administrators (including administrators of programs described in other parts of this title), other appropriate school personnel, and with parents of children in schools served under this part” § 1112(a)(1)(A)

Local Flexibility Demonstration Agreement: LEAs that desire to participate in the demonstration program included in ESSA that allows LEAs to develop and implement a school funding system based on weighted per-pupil allocations must provide “an assurance that the local educational agency developed and will implement the local flexibility demonstration agreement in consultation with teachers, principals, other school leaders (including charter school leaders in a local educational agency that has charter schools), administrators of Federal programs impacted by the agreement, parents, community leaders, and other relevant stakeholders” § 1501(d)(1)(G)

Title II State Applications: In developing an application for Title II funds, a state must “meaningfully consult with teachers, principals, other school leaders, paraprofessionals (including organizations representing such individuals), specialized instructional support personnel, charter school leaders (in a State that has charter schools), parents, community partners, and other organizations or partners with relevant and demonstrated expertise in programs and activities designed to meet the purpose of this title,” as well as describe how the State will use data and “ongoing consultation” with the above stakeholders to continually update and improve the activities supported § 2101(d)(3)(A) & § 2101(d)(2)(K)

Title II Local Applications: In developing an application for Title II funds, LEAs must “meaningfully consult with teachers, principals, other school leaders, paraprofessionals (including organizations representing such individuals), specialized instructional support personnel, charter school leaders (in a local educational agency that has charter schools), parents, community partners, and other organizations or partners with relevant and demonstrated expertise in programs and activities designed to meet the purpose of this title,” as well as describe how the LEA will use data and “ongoing consultation” with the above stakeholders to continually update and improve activities supported under this part § 2102(b)(3)(A) & § 2102(b)(2)(D)

State and Specially Qualified Title III Plans: These Title III plans must provide an assurance that “the plan has been developed in consultation with local educational agencies, teachers, administrators of programs implemented under this subpart, parents of English learners, and other relevant stakeholders” § 3102(d)(3)(G)

Title III Local Plans: Each eligible entity shall offer assurance that, among other things, it “consulted with teachers, researchers, school administrators, parents and family members, community members, public or private entities, and institutions of higher education, in developing and implementing” its plan – § 3116(g)(4)(C)

Local Title IV Part A Applications: A local educational agency, or consortium of such agencies, shall develop applications through “consultation with parents, teachers, principals, other school leaders, specialized instructional support personnel, students, community-based organizations, local government representatives (which may include a local law enforcement agency, local juvenile court, local child welfare agency, or local public housing agency), Indian tribes or tribal organizations that may be located in the region served by the local educational agency (where applicable), charter school teachers, principals, and other school leaders (if such agency or consortium of such agencies supports charter schools), and others with relevant and demonstrated expertise in programs and activities designed to meet the purpose of this subpart.” In addition, the LEAs shall engage in “continued consultation” with the entities described above “in order to improve the local activities in order to meet the purpose of this subpart and to coordinate such implementation with other related strategies, programs, and activities being conducted in the community” § 4106(c)(1&2)

State Title IV Part B Applications: A state’s application for Title IV Part B funds must, among other things, provide “an assurance that the application was developed in consultation and coordination with appropriate State officials, including the chief State school officer, and other State agencies administering before and after school (or summer recess) programs and activities, the heads of the State health and mental health agencies or their designees, statewide after-school networks (where applicable) and representatives of teachers, local educational agencies, and community-based organizations,” as well as “a description of any other representatives of teachers, parents, students, or the business community that the State has selected to assist in the development of the application, if applicable” § 4203(a)(12)(A&B)