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State Education Department seeks public input on ESSA

By CONNIE POTTER

As state leaders continue work on a new plan to improve teaching and learning in Oregon, they are asking for Oregonians to weigh in.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind, requires every state to solicit community input to develop a localized education plan. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) heard from Oregonians about their values, priorities and hopes for Oregon’s students at 13 community forums last spring. Officials will host another round of community meetings starting in November to share what they heard and to solicit additional input. Dates and locations will be announced soon.

Oregonians will also be able to review the information and offer feedback online at www.ode.state.or.us/go/ESSA. In addition, ODE will gather feedback at fall conferences of various education groups, including OSBA.

“We definitely are listening,” said Theresa Richards, ODE director of federal systems.

ODE will incorporate the feedback into a draft plan that will go to the State Board of Education in January. Additional opportunities for public input will be offered before the State Board approves a final plan in February. ODE will submit Oregon’s plan to the U.S. Department of Education in March.

Oregon will fully implement ESSA during the 2017-18 school year.

Five themes emerged from the initial community meetings, said Richards:

  • A desire for every student to receive a rigorous, relevant, well-rounded, engaging educational experience
  • A call to personalize learning to ensure students acquire the knowledge and skills best suited for their next steps
  • A desire for schools to embrace equity and be intentional in engaging students and collaborating with families, businesses and community members
  • A commitment to establish the conditions necessary for educators to provide effective and culturally responsive services to students, families and communities
  • A desire to measure the success of students and schools in multiple ways, including academic, social-emotional learning and the capacity of the school to prepare students for their next steps

“Generally, people are agreeing that we’re moving in the right direction,” Richards said.

Along with the community meetings, ODE established stakeholder work groups to develop recommendations in four key areas: Standards and Assessment, Accountability, School Improvement, and Educator Effectiveness. Under ESSA, states have more flexibility than in the past to design accountability and support systems, to set their own goals for improving student achievement and graduation rates, and also to decide how they identify and support struggling schools.

In addition, ODE is working to address reauthorization of other programs, including the education of migrant children, at-risk students, student support and academic enrichment grants, homeless education, and 21st century community learning centers. All of these components are required elements in Oregon’s education plan.

By reaching out to a wide array of stakeholders, ODE hopes to develop a plan that truly represents Oregonian’s shared vision and values for students, educators and schools, said Salam Noor, deputy superintendent of public instruction.

“This new law creates an opportunity for stakeholders to play a more active role in the creation of state policy,” he said, “and for ODE to foster relationships that will strengthen implementation and the launch of new initiatives.”

More information about ESSA, including the links below, can be found on the ODE website.