State Planning at ESSA Town Hall Meeting in Missouri

By: Katie Eklund, PhD, NASP Government and Professional Relations (GPR) Committee Chair

I recently had an opportunity to attend a Town Hall meeting on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in my local community.  Hosted by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, six regional meetings were held around our state.  Meetings were designed to obtain stakeholder feedback, demonstrating state leader interest in learning what educators and community members in Missouri cared about when designing state level ESSA plans. 

As you may have read in some of the recent published NASP materials, the new ESSA regulations require that states develop an accountability system that includes: 

  • At least two indicators of student academic achievement-One indicator must be based on student performance on statewide assessments. The second indicator may be based on student growth, formative assessments, or other valid and reliable indicators the state wishes to include. 
  • At least one indicator of school quality or student success, such as student engagement or school climate and safety. 

As every state will likely get to determine two of these three indicators, federal regulations highlight that states must obtain stakeholder feedback when developing plans.  As a result, Missouri elected to hold meetings around the state to begin the process of gathering feedback from professionals and community members about what they value.  Four questions led these discussions:

1. What does student success look like to you?

2. What do school communities need to do to prepare students for a success after graduation?

3. How will you know Missouri schools have been effective in preparing students for success after graduation?

4. From our discussion tonight, what matters most to you in public education> Please share your thoughts and next steps.

At the forum, we were placed in small groups of 6-8 people. We had a chance to discuss each question for 10 minutes and then report out to the larger group on our key points.  I had the good fortune to sit with a group of school principals and superintendents from schools anywhere from 10 to 100 miles away from the meeting.  None of these individuals were shy about sharing their opinions!  When answering the second question, one of the superintendents talked about how his district was the fortunate recipient of a grant that allowed them to employ one full time school psychologist or counselor in every building.  His solution to helping prepare students to be successful post-graduation was to help address their social-emotional and behavioral needs now by hiring one full-time school-employed mental health professional in every school.  This comment was shared with the entire group, including the superintendent of public education.

The development of quality state plans is critical to the future of public education for all students.  I hope that all school psychologists will take this tremendous opportunity to help.