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NEA on the Department’s Dear Colleague Letter on ESSA Stakeholder Engagement

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García: Deep collaboration among stakeholders needed to successfully implement ESSA

WASHINGTON - June 24, 2016 -

The U.S. Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter that outlined its commitment to supporting states, districts and American Indian tribes to improve opportunity for all students, invest in local innovation, and ensure meaningful collaboration with educators, parents, students and other stakeholders.

Below is a statement from NEA President Lily Eskelsen García:

“The NEA supports the Department’s reminder to state policymakers to include educators, parents, students, local officials, civil rights groups and others in the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although many ESSA requirements do not take effect until the 2017-2018 school year, it’s imperative that stakeholder engagement starts now and that key stakeholders are involved now

Educators who teach, feed, heal and support students every day are ready to use their experience and expertise to help lead implementation efforts along with parents and others to ensure students’ needs drive the development of plans and policies related to ESSA implementation as well as throughout the implementation of the law.

“The kind of monumental transition needed to successfully implement ESSA will require deep collaboration among these stakeholders, some of whom are not used to working together. We need to ensure all voices are at decision-making tables. We will all need to put aside our differences and work together with the best interests of students in mind.

“We also commend the Department for recognizing the need to have education support professionals (ESP) and specialized instructional support personnel (SISP) involved in the implementation. It takes an entire team of educators to help students succeed. ESP are critical members of the education workforce. They include paraeducators, secretaries, custodians, tradespeople and technical staff. They also include school security officers, school bus drivers, food service workers and those who work in health and student services. SISP work to remove barriers to student learning and they include professionals such as school counselors, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists. 

“Though we must continue to fight for space and flexibility to allow state and local innovation to occur, it is important to take the time to emphasize the importance of stakeholder engagement in every part of the implementation process.

“For ESSA to become the gamechanger Congress intended it to be, the Department of Education, states, teachers, paraeducators and other ESP, SISP, school districts, higher education faculty and staff, parents, communities and other stakeholders must live up to their end of the bargain. No one is more excited than our educators for the opportunity that ESSA, if implemented correctly, could provide for our students in the classroom, especially those students who are most in need. We must stand up, speak out, and advocate for our students. And all of us must insist on keeping the focus where it belongs: on equity and opportunity for all students.”


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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, and students preparing to become teachers.