Fortunately for teachers, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) presents many promising opportunities. The law mandates that stakeholders, including teachers, are meaningfully engaged as states make decisions about implementation and develop their accountability plans. While new guidance from the Department of Education relaxes this requirement, we hope states continue this important endeavor – for their benefit as well as teachers’.
Educators for High Standards’ new report “Teacher Engagement and Perspectives on ESSA: An Eagerness to Engage and Be Heard,” uncovers the often-disregarded opinions of classroom teachers on a variety of issues related to the current state of education. A national survey of more than 800 teachers and teacher advocacy leaders, the survey asked questions to better understand:
- Teachers’ understanding and perception of ESSA;
- Teachers’ expectations for the impact of ESSA on their classrooms and profession; and,
- Teachers’ perception of their role regarding implementation.
While teachers were disillusioned with the current state of public schools, believing they are headed in the wrong direction, almost all – 96 percent – believe it is important for teacher voice to influence education policy. EFHS also found that:
- The majority of teacher advocacy leaders feel that they understand ESSA reasonably well, but teachers overall are less confident in their – and their colleagues’ – understanding of the law.
- Teacher advocacy leaders are more optimistic than the overall teacher population about the type and magnitude of impact they believe ESSA will have, but both groups are skeptical about whether their own state will actually make significant changes under the law.
- Only half of teachers believe that their state has sought adequate teacher input in the development of their state’s plan to implement ESSA.
- Teachers have clear recommendations on how schools should be held accountable for performing across multiple measures, ranking teacher qualifications and the development of social and emotional skills highest.
- Teachers have specific requests for how Title II funds are spent, yet only a third of teachers and half of teacher advocacy leaders believe that the additional flexibility in ESSA will result in improved professional learning.
Even after the passage of the law in 2015, it is clear that many states are still not capitalizing on the benefits ESSA presents. States should know that teachers have strong, informed opinions about the direction of education in their states and take their input seriously as a driving force behind education policy decisions.
ESSA is an opportunity — one we must work to see through the eyes of teachers if we want to improve our nation’s schools.