Many of us take the start of a new year as an opportunity to take a big leap into action. While some of our resolutions end up centering around personal improvement (save more money, go to the gym, get a new job), 2017 presents an excellent opportunity to make a new and daring resolution: to improve education in your state.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in December 2015, is a federal law that empowers states to define what makes a good school and develop plans to measure their success.
States, and ESSA requires states to consult with everyone from teacher and principals to parents when developing their plans to implement the law. That means whether you are a parent, an educator, or a member of the general public, you stand to directly impact how your state defines and creates stronger schools.
January is the perfect opportunity to act!
So with the door wide open for affecting change, here are three steps you can take to make a difference for students across your state:
1. Get knowledgeable about ESSA, ASAP!
Knowledge is power. Under ESSA, there are lots of opportunities for change in states’ education systems. The law itself is long, but don’t be discouraged: there are great resources to help you understand what is happening in your state, and how the law addresses specific education issues like assessments or STEM education.
2. Figure out what you care about!
If you’re a music teacher, you may want to read more about ESSA’s call for a “well-rounded” education.” If you’re a math or science teacher, you may want to learn more about ESSA’s impact on STEM education. If you’re a parent, you might engage on the value of high-quality assessments for your kids, or the importance of keeping parents informed about their students’ progress. Honing in on one issue will help narrow the scope of the task at hand.
3. Speak up already!
As a parent, an educator, or a member of the public, you have a voice that deserves to be heard. Most state education agencies have an email address you can use to submit ideas about implementation or a survey you can complete. Find out more here.
While states have already created and convened work groups and advisory committees, some are still holding listening tours and public forums. You can check your state’s activity here.
Additionally, all states will submit draft plans to the U.S. Department of Education sometime in 2017, and you should plan to comment on that draft when it’s released.
While this process sounds intimidating – it is important to participate.
The education policies adopted by your state are impactful.
In 2017, be an agent of change.
In 2017, be an involved citizen.
In 2017, be an advocate for children across your state.