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States Share Lessons from Their Efforts to Engage Stakeholders on ESSA


For Immediate Release: January 19, 2017

Contact: Renee Rybak Lang, renee.lang@nasbe.org, 703-740-4841

Alexandria, VA—The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires state education agencies (SEAs) to collaborate on their state plans for implementation with school districts, civil rights organizations, principals, teachers, “other school leaders,” parents, and many others. A new NASBE report, ESSA Stakeholder Engagement: Early Challenges and Promising Practices,” identifies five challenges in engaging these stakeholders and promising practices to address them.

Authors Rachel Man and Chris Hofmann, both public school teachers and TeachPlus fellows, analyzed SEA websites and interviewed staff in 15 states in July and August 2016 to understand state engagement efforts. “Although states were providing stakeholders with opportunities to participate in the process, not one state was confident they were doing everything right on stakeholder engagement,” write Man and Hofmann. As states prepare to submit ESSA plans in April and September 2017, these five challenges persist, and states continue to identify strategies to engage stakeholders meaningfully and sustain these efforts throughout ESSA implementation.

  • Identifying diverse stakeholders and casting a wider net. North Carolina and Washington state leverage their existing networks to expand the stakeholder pool by asking questions such as “Whom are we missing? Whom have we not invited?”
  • Overcoming time and resource constraints. States have gotten around resource constraints by partnering with community groups and organizations. Alaska has worked with the state affiliate of the National Education Association to reach teachers, while Michigan has partnered with a local public relations firm to publicize meetings and conduct virtual focus groups, a cost-saving tactic many states are using.
  • Communicating effectively with stakeholders. Many SEA officials struggle with explaining ESSA to groups not familiar with education policy language. Some states have found it helpful to begin by finding out what is critical to the stakeholder and then explaining how the state plan might or might not be able to address it.
  • Maximizing meetings’ impact. Face-to-face meetings are the ideal form of engagement but are only meaningful if they are well structured. States need to balance time spent informing stakeholders with time for authentic conversation. As every teacher has had to learn, “getting rich input from students means allowing them to fully engage.” The application for stakeholder engagement is clear.
  • Organizing and incorporating feedback into a state plan. Whether feedback is collected via listening tours or surveys, it must be documented and publicly available and then turned into actionable recommendations. Transparency is critical.

“Although it is challenging, stakeholder engagement is critically important work that can give voice to concerns, make ESSA state plans better, and foster greater commitment and buy-in for the new state system,” write Hofmann and Man. “By learning from early SEA experiences, all SEAs can meet the challenges of stakeholder engagement and build collaborative networks that will sustain the hard work of implementation in the months and years to come.”

Read ESSA Stakeholder Engagement: Early Challenges and Promising Practice

The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, promote excellence in the education of all students, and ensure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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