Are we headed in the right direction?

I must first start by applauding my state for still attempting to get it right with its ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

As a Tennessee Educator and parent, I am in constant watch of the ever-changing educational landscape and its policies that govern it that affects not just teachers, the parents, but our students who I would argue, all of us as stakeholders want the very best for.

It is from this perspective that I write this piece and conclude that maybe even after much discussion around student achievement, access and equity, we just might be headed in the right direction. Or at least, turning the wheel in the direction of ensuring all students succeed, because ultimately, that's the bottom line right?

“Our state’s commitment to education is why Tennessee is the fastest improving state in the nation, and Tennessee’s ESSA plan supports our belief that every child should have access to opportunities and a great education regardless of zip code or income level,” Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam said. “This plan builds on progress we’ve made to increase support for our educators and students. Most importantly, it focuses on ensuring all students are on track and ready for their next steps into college, the workforce, or the military – a goal that not only strengthens our economy but shapes our children’s future and the future of the next Tennessee.”  The Chattanoogan.com

I can appreciate several things about this

A.    The mere fact that it was time to revisit the 2001 enacted No Child Left Behind Act. I am still weary over the fact that so many children, at least from where I sit, were indeed left behind. I often wondered at what point in history would someone make the conscientious efforts to address what NCLB didn’t do-though I can applaud the traction made with at least keeping the achievement of students at the forefront of policy and the national agenda. Again, I wonder what groups of students benefited the most from NCLB’s efforts. I can definitely smile that Tennessee is leading such a charge that redefines student achievement.

B.    The conversation around equity has been gaining momentum throughout the years and it's past time from simply discussing to put some concrete practice and measures in place to ensure all students have the opportunity as educational sustainment and success.

C.    I am sure schools will appreciate the modifications of reporting and how schools are designated. The areas in which schools will be held accountable match a broader scope of the their programming and I believe will provide one snapshot of school performance in the various areas.

D.   Having worked alongside colleagues whose schools fell on the priority list and the anxiety this caused within entire communities, I can definitely go with the priority being delayed and then re-introduced reflecting the A-F school designations. I don’t know of any school that was thrilled about landing on this list, but at least we have the opportunity to review, understand, and communicate with community members about the various designations.

I am hopeful that just by being more intentional around student equity that Tennessee is well on its way to seeing some huge gains around student achievement. I am interested to see how each county responds to the new plan, specifically my own county of Shelby County and am already excited about what this plan means for students across the state. As a parent and educator, I have to be both concerned and hopeful. As a Tennessean, I simply rest on the excitement that we can possibly get something right. I am hopeful.