PROCESS and PROTEST: Promising Practices

2. TRANSPARENCY: Show Your Work

Make your decision-making process transparent: all communities should be able to easily see when and how to participate, as well as how participation is valued and has real impact.

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State Examples:

New Jersey provided context: The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) made special efforts to clearly communicate to stakeholders that the development of the state’s consolidated ESSA plan was one piece of a broader, ongoing effort around school support and improvement. In the development of the state ESSA plan, NJDOE clearly articulated differences in federal, state, district, and local roles, and highlighted the use of performance data in decision making across these levels. To help build trust around these efforts NJDOE not only co-convened meetings with partner organizations, but also collaborated with these partners in jointly reporting out what had been discussed at the meetings.

Colorado built a network: The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) utilized a “hub and spoke” approach to the development of its consolidated state plan. The “hub” and all “spokes” were stakeholder advisory groups comprised of a mix of representatives from different organizations, CDE, and other governmental officials. While the “spoke” groups were topically focused and responsible for developing and reviewing specific sections of the state plan, the “hub” committee was charged with overseeing the overall development of a draft of the state plan. Membership on the “hub” and “spokes” was informed in part by feedback provided by stakeholders, and while the formal structure of “hub and spoke” has technically ended, the individuals and groups that were involved continue to meet periodically with Colorado’s Commissioner of Education.

Illinois communicated decisions clearly: The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), in collaboration with Partners for, produced a series of Readers’ Guides that were released at the same time as each of ISBE’s draft ESSA state plans. These Readers’ Guides identified decisions that needed to be made, presented the decisions in ways that were more easily understandable to local community-level stakeholders, and contextualized the decisions in terms of legal and regulatory requirements. In the time since it submitted the final state plan to US ED, ISBE has produced an updated Readers’ Guide that includes a timeline for the first year of ESSA implementation, with clearly articulated expectations for LEAs and schools.

Room for Growth For All States:

Use multiple methods of engagement and be clear about the weight of input: For the purposes of equity and excellence, SEAs are well-served to clearly identify and focus on common themes that appear across feedback submitted by differently situated groups. Specific interests that are clearly shared across demographic sectors, across socioeconomic and political divides, can often provide a blueprint for bipartisan action.

Additional Resources:

Additional examples of promising practices from states with recently submitted state plans (September and October, 2017) are forthcoming.