By Candice McQueen, Tennessee Commissioner of Education
Over the past few months, I’ve had the chance to talk with more than 3,000 teachers, parents, district and school administrators, school board members, advocates, employers, students, and community leaders to hear their feedback on how we can continue to improve Tennessee’s education system. They’ve shared their ideas and listened to what we are thinking as we craft Tennessee’s draft plan to transition to the new federal K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and build on the work we’ve started with our strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds. These conversations have encouraged us to focus on how we serve all students and the whole child, to continue strengthening and expanding students’ pathways to college and career readiness, and to ensure our educators are supported and growing in their profession.
As we have collected feedback, we heard common themes that make the opportunities for us in ESSA abundantly clear. You can read more about these on our website.
- Set high expectations that align to postsecondary and workforce readiness so all of Tennessee’s students are able to pursue their chosen path in life.
- Attend to the needs of all students in pre-K–12—especially historically disadvantaged students—so they can experience success after high school.
- Provide support, funding, intervention, and innovation for persistently low-performing schools.
- Focus on strengthening and supporting educators.
- Empower districts to drive toward student goals.
The feedback we’ve received has helped to solidify the strategies we will adopt moving forward. And now we have a chance to continue this discussion with you.
So far, I’ve visited four cities—Knoxville, Jackson, Memphis, and Nashville—to present an overview of our draft ESSA plan to more than 600 community members, and today we are officially kicking off the public comment period with its release. You, and all members of the public, can read the whole plan or whatever sections most interest you and provide feedback via our online feedback form. We also have posted our handouts from the town halls, the video of one of our presentations, as well as the online survey that mirrors the questions we’ve asked town hall participants. And if you have any questions, you can always reach out to us through ESSA.firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to keep hearing from you. In addition to the online feedback opportunities, we will host two more town halls in January: one in Chattanooga on Jan. 6 at Orchard Knob Elementary School and one in Bristol on Jan. 11 at Tennessee High School. You can find more details and RSVP on our website.
The public comment period will close on Jan. 31, 2017. After that, we’ll work to finalize the plan and expect to submit it to the U.S. Department of Education by their first deadline of April 3, 2017. The feedback you share with us during this window is critical. You are helping to build the strategies and strengthen the momentum for the work ahead, and your input will make us better able to serve all of Tennessee’s 1 million students.