#NASBE16: Stakeholder Engagement Under ESSA

Live blogging

Moderated by Abigail Potts, project manager at NASBE

Potts: Stakeholder engagement - federal requirement under ESSA. Work under ESSA is daunting: Early childhood education;
Teacher requitment, preparedness; Privacy
All just the tip of the iceberg
Perception: state DoEs will engage for a time, check the box.
Experience with states is they are taking very seriously.

Chris Hofman, Rachel Man, Teach Plus
Ben Rarick, Washington State Board of Education Executive Director
Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas Commissioner of Education

Hofman: Will talk about our own research and experiences
Man: Found 5 major challenges:
1. Identifying stakeholders and engaging a broader voice
2. Overcoming time and resource constraints
3. Educating stakeholders
4. Organizing stakeholder feedback and incorporating feedback
5. Planning for future engagement

Man & Hofman: Key take-aways from the above challenges:
  • Use networks you have to build relationships with previously unreached groups; allow your groups to be dynamic adding stakeholders as necessary
  • Difficult to find time and resources to meet all stakeholders F2F meetings are best but difficult to schedule (Vermont did this very well); partner with local biz to provide food for meetings (Alaska did this) due to limited manpower, resources in SEAs
  • Are we using friendly language (not jargon); clarifying misconceptions; structuring meeting times to maximize to get at the heart of issues - - know when to go broad and specific, balancing is beneficial (Florida did this well with their surveys - they created 9 different surveys with links to specific parts of ESSA)
  • Not all feedback will be incorporated in the plan, still provide meaningful engagement. Can provide the feedback to the public, to know where everyone is, taking that and synthesizing into actionable steps (Pennsylvania did this - providing a report and organizing into very clear steps)
  • Planning for long-term engagement; maintaining coalitions of support - - needs to become the norm, so need to be thinking about this as much as possible. 
Common Challenges in Stakeholder Engagement (The view from the other side):
  1. Meaningful engagement vs. checking a box
  2. Transparency
  3. Adequate representation of ALL stakeholder groups
Rarick: ESSA - Ensuring Meaningful Stakeholder Engagement
There's a big difference between engaging people and having a meeting. Stakeholder engagement, especially as far as implementing ESSA is concerned, should be something that has a positive impact on students. Jotted a set of questions to ensure we are not just attending a bunch of meetings, but engaging on important questions; acknowledge that the process was a collaborative process with the SBE. Held 7 forums across the state. Six primary themes emerged:
  1. supporting all students
  2. supporting all students, part 2
  3. challenging academic standards and academic assessments
  4. accountability, support, and improvement for schools (not as defined by the state assessment...)
  5. supporting excellent educators
  6. consultation and coordination
ESSA Focus Groups:
  • statewoie MAAC-tribal compact schools
  • library/media state organization
  • pasco-latino coalition
  • charter schools
  • tribal leaders
  • private schools
  • WA school attorney's organization
  • migrant education conference with parents and students
ESSA Workgroup structure:
  • accountability system
  • learning and teaching
  • student assessment system
  • school and district improvement
  • effective educators
  • ELLs
  • fiscal
  • report card
  • parent and community involvement
  • early childhood education
  • students with disabilities
  • federal programs
Decision to do engagement on the front end and the back end. Subtle elitism creeps out and that's unhealthy. Tendency to see some comments as "oddball", not relevant; your first instinct to dismiss, but you're learning how people are interacting with this law. There is real value to be had out of those comments. Commitment is the take-away:
  • Commitment to involving stakeholders on the front end of the plan development
  • Commitment to deeper engagemnet with focus groups
  • Commitment to travel
  • Commitment to combine forces among entities that have overlapping or related state authorities
  • Commitment to engage and get feedback both in person and through tele-town hall/webinar mechanisms
- Parents can't show up at 2:00 in the afternoon
- Break into small groups at tables to mitigate repeating same 30 comments
- Don't know how you can do this without traveling

Watson: Update from Kansas - Kansas CAN. Shout out to the five Kansas SBEs here at this conference. Are we going to manage? Or are we going to lead? The law will give us the framework to do it and we chose to lead to listen. 20 different community locations with over 1,800 participants. Three key questions of all:
  • What are the skills, attributes, and abilities of a successful 24-year-old Kansan?
  • What is K-12's role in developing this successful Kansan, and how would we measure success?
  • What is higher education's role in developing this successful Kansan, and how would we measure success?
Watson: We allowed no one to speak at a podium - engaged in small groups. Also had an Online presence for those who could not make any location of the listening tour. Didn't have very good turnout from business, so asked Chamber to engage biz and went out on 7 more tours just for them. Then, went back out to all in 10 locations across the state and said:
  • Here's what we heard from you all, did we get it right?
  • Two Board retreats.
  • New Vision launched in the fall of 2015 at the KSDE Annual Conference.
Defining Success (it's how we value):
  • Academic preparation
  • Cognitive preparation
  • Technical skills
  • Employability skills and
  • Civic engagement and giving back to others
State Outcomes (handout):
  • Kindergarten readiness
  • Individual plan of study focused on career interest
  • High school graduation rates
  • Post secondary completion/attendance
  • Social/emotional growth measured locally (teachers need that info to drive, state doesn't need it)
Q & A
Potts: I think I'll kick it off with ability to reach a diverse group of stakeholders - those who have not been heard. How would you recommend closing that gap? Watson: We have some inherent advantages to students and families of color. We had to adjust and visit at different times. Not just from people who are organized. It's not easy. Keep trying. Rarick: Standard approach - flyers, same people, same times...established networks. Need to be intentional. Reach leaders within different networks, partnerships. Man: There's a second part - once you're at the table, is your voice really being heard or are you just checking the box? Hard to ensure you're really doing that. Key is to touch back with stakeholders to ask if there's anything to change to improve engagement. Rarick: It's really hard work. Really hard. We were energized by those who took pride in designing the process. Watson: Teacher voice is so important. We took former Kansas Teachers of the Year, put them together in teams of 3, went out over the summer; created a voxer group to engage.

Potts: Pre-plan and After-plan. Gets difficult for a time. It's more than just listening. Using feedback to make decisions. Any advice about informing the decisionmaking process and being open and transparent? Rarick: Define what success is. If definition is that you walked out of every engagement feeling thrilled, then you're missing something and didn't engage very well. Watson: We're asking Kansas to fundamentally change school, meaning I have to change the agency b/c so much is about compliance. Engaging voice, implementing plan. Important. Not there yet. Hofman: Not all decisions will be based on points of advocacy, but feel your voice has been heard. Rarick: One of the messages: "Geez, thanks for engaging us...? Why did it take a federal law to engage with us...?" Now, how are we going to sustain?

Nebraska Q: Perception is that the decision has already been made. Watson: We asked very open-ended questions, then followed up to ask, "did we hear you correctly?"

Washington Q: What happens to the state office? It is compliance oriented? How does it change? Watson: Maybe I'll talk about that in Atlanta next year [at NASBE Annual Conference]. Expanded convos.

Massachusetts Q: Clarify that your Voxer group was just for Teachers of the Year? Watson: No. Created three groups: Teachers; Superintendents; Administrators. They can discuss among themselves when they have time b/c they have very little time to meet together.

Nebraska Q: Private and Public colleges to participate?? How did you do that?? Watson: Yes. You ask.

And - that's a wrap!