NASP Priorities in ESSA State Plans

Posted by Kelly Vaillancourt Strobach, NASP Director, Government Relations

The first deadline for states to submit their ESSA state plans has passed, and 15 states plus the District of Columbia have submitted their plans.   Many advocacy policy oriented groups, as well as many journalists, have been analyzing these plans to see if any trends are emerging and to get an idea of states will take the opportunity to be innovative, or if they will largely conduct business as usual.   (Education Week developed an interactive guide looking at some elements of the state plans submitted thus far.) Those states that have not yet turned in their plans have until September 18th to do so.

How are NASP Priorities Addressed in Current Plans? NASP was successful in securing many of our policy priorities in the Every Student Succeeds Act including:

  • Increased focus on school climate and school safety in school accountability metrics
  • Encouraged use of multi-tiered systems of support (e.g. RTI, PBIS) to address comprehensive student need
  • Required stakeholder engagement in various school improvement plans and activities
  • Increased funding for job embedded and relevant professional development for school staff and specialized instructional support personnel  (which includes school psychologists)  
  • Increased recognition (and funding) of the importance of mental and behavioral health in promoting school and student success

Since the passage of the law, we have focused great effort on educating school psychologists and state school psychology association on the important aspects of the law and helping ensure they have a 'seat at the table' as states decide how they want to approach school improvement under the purview of the new law.  As states slowly begin to turn in their state plans, we are beginning to see the major issues and reforms that state hope to undertake.   NASP has created this spreadsheet  that outlines how key NASP priorities are, or are not, included in the ESSA state plans that have been submitted thus far.  To compile this spreadsheet, we searched for a variety of key words and phrases, all of which are included for your review.  We will continue to update this as more states turn in their plans.  You are encouraged to check out your state's plan if you have not done so already.   Here is a current snapshot of how NASP priorities are mentioned in the state plans submitted thus far:

  • Five state explicitly mention the use or school psychologists or school psychological services in certain school improvement efforts
  • Four states plan to use either student engagement or school climate as the indicator of school quality in their accountability plans.(it will be interesting to watch how these states choose to measure climate)
  • Many states indicate they will focus on improving high quality professional development to help teachers and school staff better understand and implement evidence based practices related to bullying prevention, suicide awareness and prevention, school climate, mental health first aid, and trauma informed practices.
  • Several states plan to use the MTSS framework to continue to address academics and expand to address the needs of the whole child, including students impacted by trauma and bullying.
  • Many states plan to maintain and/or increase their efforts to improve school climate, mental and behavioral health, and improve overall student wellness.
  • Some plans indicate they plan to partner with external agencies to address student mental health, signaling a continued lack of understanding of the role of school psychologists and other school employed mental health professionals. 

What should state associations and school psychologists be doing to facilitate effective ESSA implementation?

If your state has not yet submitted their ESSA state plan, continue to be engaged and provide feedback when the opportunity arises.  Many states have indicated they will have a public comment period over the summer months, so be sure to participate when the time comes.  All of NASP's ESSA resources are available online here. Once all state plans are in and have been approved by a peer review panel (there is no expectation that states will have their plans denied), school psychologists and state associations need to shift their focus to ensuring ESSA is implemented in the most effective manner.  States provide the framework and districts will be the ones responsible for putting those plans into action in a way that makes the most sense given their unique student population.   As such, districts are also required to develop their own plans for how they will meet the State ESSA requirements, and stakeholder engagement is required for district level plans in the same way it was required for state level ESSA plans. In the coming months, NASP will be developing additional resources to help school psychologists effectively advocate for their role in various district level initiatives to help ensure that ESSA is implemented in a manner that most effectively meets the needs of all students.