Education Department Previews New Policies that Better Support Students

Wednesday, December 07, 2016 | 10:51am

NASHVILLE—Education Commissioner Candice McQueen released details today about how Tennessee is planning to transition to the new federal K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Specifically, the department has published new materials that outline five opportunities and proposed strategies for how Tennessee’s education system under ESSA will increase equity, share more information with communities, and better support a well-rounded education that prepares all students to be successful after high school.

Across the country, states are working with their education communities to prepare plans that outline what their policies will look like under ESSA, which replaces No Child Left Behind. In May, Commissioner McQueen launched a statewide listening tour that gathered input from more than 2,500 Tennesseans to inform the draft ESSA transition plan, which will be out later this month. Ahead of its release, as the department looks toward finalizing the plan next spring, Commissioner McQueen has launched a series of town hall discussions beginning this week to share some of the takeaways from the process so far and gather additional feedback in key areas.

“ESSA has provided an opportunity to continue the conversation about how we can build on our successes in Tennessee and leverage ESSA’s state-centered focus to determine what we want our education policies to be,” McQueen said. “Across the state, our educators, parents, and advocates believe we are on the right track, and they want to help us go further in areas like better supporting our historically disadvantaged students, providing more access to early postsecondary opportunities like dual credit and AP classes, and increasing the focus on supporting our whole child. We are taking key steps to do just that.”

Last fall, Commissioner McQueen released the state’s strategic plan, called Tennessee Succeeds, which outlined the five-year vision of education in our state. The ESSA state plan will align to Tennessee Succeeds and expand on five specific opportunities, which are outlined in more detail on the department’s website today:

  1. 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.
  2. Attend to the needs of all students in pre-K-12—especially historically disadvantaged students—so they can experience success after high school.
  3. Provide support, funding, intervention, and innovation for persistently low-performing schools.
  4. Focus on strengthening and supporting educators.
  5. Empower districts to drive toward student goals.

At the town halls, Commissioner McQueen and department leaders will share more details about the policies within each opportunity and ask attendees a series of questions, which are also posted on the department’s website today for the public to read and respond. The questions will be posted through January. In addition, the department will also gather public comments on the draft ESSA state plan once it is released.

Dates and locations for the regional town halls are posted on the department’s website, and anyone is welcome to attend. To view the new documents, questions, and other ESSA-related materials, please visit tn.gov/education/essa. For media inquiries, contact Sara Gast at (615) 532-6260 or Sara.Gast@tn.gov.  

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