Friday, April 7, 2017

Stakeholder Engagement: Early Challenges and Promising Practices

Source: PTA One Voice Blog

This post was originally published on the blog for the Learning First Alliance.

With the transition to a new presidential administration, change abounds in the federal education policy world. As we await action from a new Secretary of Education, we’ve also seen President Trump issue an executive order pausing the accountability regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), followed by a move by Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to overturn them. Those rules, finalized last November by the Obama administration, were intended to guide states in submitting their accountability plans to the federal government.

Despite the uncertainty that states are facing, work on these plans continues. And a key part of that work comes in the form of stakeholder engagement.

The stakeholder consultative process outlined in ESSA (and unimpacted by the president’s executive order) presents an important opportunity to fundamentally change how education policy is made. If implemented as intended, it will ensure that the expertise of the parents, educators and other leaders working with, and on behalf of, students every day informs the development of state and local policies and practices. In support of this process, we at the Learning First Alliance issued guiding principles to help states and districts as they began this important work.

But it is not easy. This level of stakeholder engagement is an entirely new way of doing business for most policymakers, particularly at the state level. And expecting all states and districts to get it right immediately is unrealistic. As with all new programs and policies, there will be a learning curve. What’s critical is that we—the collective “we,” including those in the education community that this process engages, the state and local policymakers charged with implementing it and the federal policymakers who legislated it—work through the challenges that come along. To avoid going back to business as usual, we need to commit to continuously improving in this endeavor.

The National Association of State Boards of Education recently released a policy update to help in these efforts. Drawn from reviews of 51 state education agency (SEA) websites and in-depth interviews with representatives from 15 SEAs, ESSA Stakeholder Engagement: Early Challenges and Promising Practices identifies five common challenges that states are facing in this work:
  • Identifying diverse stakeholders and casting a wider net
  • Overcoming time and resource constraints
  • Communicating effectively with stakeholders
  • Maximizing meetings’ impact
  • Organizing and incorporating feedback into a state plan

One especially interesting finding: Parents are cited as a particularly difficult group to engage. Noting that SEAs have much more experience reaching out to teachers and administrators, the authors acknowledge that parent and family engagement is new to many state officials.

So how should SEAs and local education agencies (LEAs, which are typically school districts), when they begin this work, address this concern? The brief offers a few promising practices related to the overall challenge of identifying diverse stakeholders and casting a wider net, including utilizing existing networks to expand the pool and allowing for a dynamic process so new stakeholders can be engaged even after the process as begun.

Speaking specifically regarding parents, Laura Bay, president of National PTA, notes that there are multiple aspects of conducting effective parental stakeholder engagement—such as transparency, inclusion, information sharing and multiple opportunities for input—and achieving perfection in all areas is challenging for any one state.

To help overcome it, Bay encourages SEAs and LEAs to partner with their state and local PTAs.

“PTAs want to be a part of the solution. PTAs are a trusted messenger and a valuable resource to be able to reach all families, encourage families to get involved and provide input and ensure all parent voices are heard,” Bay said.

National PTA has identified the following best practices for engaging parents in ESSA:
  • Ensure there is at least one dedicated parent representative on any ESSA state- or local-level committee
  • Partner with PTA to:
    • Disseminate information on ESSA and any meetings, forums or webinars
    • Co-host ESSA-related forums
    • Leverage parent and community leaders to gather input from other parents and families in the community
  • Show how parent input has been considered and/or incorporated in state plans and policies
  • Ask for specific input and feedback on topics and in parent-friendly language
  • Build in structures and opportunities for ongoing engagement and feedback
The association has also created a wide variety of resources accessible at to support states, districts and schools in engaging families in ESSA.

Monday, April 3, 2017

National PTA Announces the #ThankATeacher Contest to Celebrate Educators Nationwide

ALEXANDRIA, Va., (April 3, 2017)National PTA today announced the #ThankATeacher Contest, in which over $20,000 in prizes will be awarded to teachers across the country during Teacher Appreciation Week. The contest is now open and all schools and PTAs are encouraged to participate.

“Teachers deliver so much to our students every day, and their work and impact extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom,” said Laura Bay, president of National PTA. “Teacher Appreciation Week is the one week of the school year when teachers take center stage and are recognized for their impact on the lives and futures of students. We are thrilled to deliver our gratitude to teachers in a big way through the #ThankATeacher Contest.”  

The #ThankATeacher Contest encourages PTAs to share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram examples of how teachers deliver for the students in their school using #ThankATeacher. Two grand prize winners will be selected to each receive a Google Express shopping spree worth up to $4,500 to help spruce up their school’s teachers’ lounges. Four first place winners will receive either a snack or wellness delivery worth up to $2,500 each to help stock up their teachers’ break rooms. All winners, including 25 runner up winners, will receive a Google Home for their school.

“We are proud to partner with National PTA in celebrating and honoring our educators during Teacher Appreciation Week,” says Brian Elliott, general manager of Google Express. “Teachers play a pivotal role in shaping the future of our children, and we’re delighted to support them as a way of giving thanks.” Google Express is a shopping service that connects shoppers with big brand retailers for fast, convenient delivery of household items, groceries, school supplies and more.

Three PTAs will also be awarded a special visit to their school from an author or “I Can Read” costumed book character as well as an “I Can Read” book set from Harper Collins. Ten additional PTAs also will receive an “I Can Read” book set for their school. The contest runs through April 17, 2017, and the winners will be announced during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“Teachers make a profound difference in the well-being and long-term success of children. It is vital that they have our support, and that we give back to them,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of National PTA. “We are grateful to our sponsors Google Express and Harper Collins for helping us support and give back to teachers. We encourage everyone to join us in celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week and thanking the teachers in their lives.”

National PTA has also created a Teacher Appreciation Week toolkit for schools, PTAs and families, which features:

National PTA has celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week since 1984. For more information about Teacher Appreciation Week and the #ThankATeacher Contest, visit