Advocacy in Action around ESSA Implementation in Kentucky

By: Misty Lay, Kentucky NASP Delegate

With the passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state school psychology associations were given an opportunity to have an impact on policies and practices which could expand the role of school psychologists to improve the academic and mental health of students in our schools.  NASP has provided a tremendous number of guidance and advocacy tools, this can seem overwhelming.  Let's talk baby-steps....

In Kentucky, when our education commission announced that he was going to be holding a series of town-hall meetings across the state last spring, seeking input from all stakeholders, our state association sprang into action.  Working with NASP leaders, we developed a short list of talking points and began scheduling for at least one school psychologist to be at each of those town hall meetings.  We empowered those in attendance to share personal stories about the impact of school psychological services for students, families, and schools and encouraged each attendee to use important key words when speaking with the commissioner, using the ESSA Fact Sheets provided by NASP.  

School psychologists were well represented at those meetings, and we had opportunities to speak at nearly two-thirds of the sites throughout the state.  To leave a last impression, we left postcards about school psychologists and our effect on positive outcomes for schools with the commissioner and his staff.  Individually, I met with a legislator who is vice-chair of the state house education committee (who used to be my principal) and shared a copy of the crosswalk provided by NASP.  This was a less intimidating way of sharing the work of school psychologists and emphasizing how we want to be a part of the implementation of ESSA.  This gave me an opportunity to be part of future conversations at the state level, which may impact policy.

Our state association annual conference is coming up in the next month or so.  I have planned on organizing a meeting with members of our executive council in October to organize a strategy for getting individual school psychologists motivated to advocate and have a voice for input at the state and local levels.  I also plan, along with our Government and Professional Relations Committee chair, to have an "ESSA advocacy" table at the registration site to share resources and information about the importance of advocating.  Lastly, I can't emphasize how important  it is to keep members informed of such things as the timeline for implementation of ESSA at the state level, the process of providing feedback during the review/comment period, and how to link what we do as school psychologists to the critical pieces of ESSA, like Title 4 and accountability.  This important information can be routinely shared through your association's newsletter and website.  My experiences from above have created a pathway for school psychologists to have input on the development and implementation of ESSA at the state level.  What the overall impact will be is yet to be known.  However, by seizing the opportunities put before us, we are now part of the conversations being shared about ESSA.