School board resolutions pave way for educators to have a voice in ESSA implementation

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by Brian Washington

It’s an important step to affirm that educators should shape the environment in which they work and the quality education our kids are entitled to receive. That’s how Andy Crisman, a 17-year education veteran and middle school music teacher in Colorado, is describing the resolution that his local school board just passed in relation to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new federal law that replaced No Child Left Behind.

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Crisman says the resolution means that the Thompson R2-J Board of Education is willing to work with educators and all other public school stakeholders to make sure that ESSA is implemented appropriately at the local level for our children.

“It honors the intent of ESSA by saying that all stakeholders should be involved in helping to shape policy and is required by ESSA,” said Crisman, who is also president of the Thompson Education Association, which represents hundreds of educators in the district.

In fact, part of the Thompson resolution reads as follows:

…The ThompsonR2-J Board of Education supports the collaborative development and implementation of a plan with the Thompson Education Association, parents, students, and community members to ensure the opportunities for a well-rounded education presented by the Every Student Succeeds Act are realized by including stakeholders in decision-making.

Public school employees have a wide variety of reasons for supporting ESSA and wanting to be involved in local implementation. For one thing, it could lead to districts redesigning the testing landscape and perhaps coming up with fewer, more authentic student assessments that don’t involve high-stakes tests.

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Colorado educator Andy Crisman

Meanwhile, the National Education Association, which represents more than 3 million educators across the country, believes the resolution approved in Thompson and in several other areas is an important step in helping public school employees claim their community space in regards to ESSA implementation. NEA hopes educators nationwide will team up with leaders in their communities to get more local school boards to adopt this resolution.

In fact, if you visit the association’s Get ESSA Right page, you’ll find a copy of the resolution available to download and push in your community or, at the very least, use to begin a conversation with school leaders about how ESSA should be implemented at the local level.

“Our board acted to pass the sample resolution at the very next meeting after they had received it, within a month,” said Paul Lowes, an Arizona educator in the Phoenix Union High School District and president of the Classroom Teachers’ Association, PUHSD.

“Our governing board happily realizes that teaching and learning are complex realities, best measured in complex–yes, holistic and multiple–ways.”

However, passing such a resolution in your community or, more importantly, getting school board leaders to collaborate with educators on ESSA local implementation may take some relationship building or, in more extreme cases, a new, more friendlier school board.

About two years ago in Thompson, voters elected a school board hostile to educators and public schools. However, the moment served as an opportunity for educators to rally the community to vote in a new school board in 2015.

“I think that it is gratifying to educators that the relationship with the school board has improved,” said Crisman. “And I think they see the passage of this resolution as result of their efforts.”

“From my perspective, it (the ESSA resolution) just means that our school board is wiling to work with us on this (ESSA implementation). It means that the board is committed to working with everyone–all the stakeholders–in its approach to ESSA and making sure our students get a quality education.”

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