I have been doing a great deal of work surrounding ESSA implementation for our state, and it's been swirling around in a great big cloud in my brain. But I just had to stop and explain it from the beginning to the ILA board, and it was really helpful to get my head around.
Here's my letter:
ESSA (the Every Student Succeeds Act) is the new No Child Left Behind, and it was just passed this spring. It's a giant education policy bill that mostly talks about what initiatives/departments/projects can receive money, and from where. One notable difference in ESSA is that, for the FIRST TIME in 50 years, it specifically mentions "effective school library programs" as being essential to student learning, and as such makes them eligible to receive federal funding from sources like Title I, as well as funds for professional development of library staff.
States have this legislative session to put together their policies about how they are going to meet the federal guidelines beginning in the 2017-18 school year. After this drafting period, ESSA will not undergo another update for at least three years.
The BIG DEAL for right now is that this is not only a huge opportunity to advocate for ourselves as essential school programs, but also to secure additional funding--ESSA only authorizes school library programs to receive these monies, it does nothing to compel states to do anything different than they are doing now.
In April, the state department of education (SDE) put out an application for teachers, librarians, and other stakeholders to serve in an advisory capacity to some of the committees that will be drafting various parts of Idaho's policy. There are several librarians represented on committees that will be proving input on policies related to about 10 different parts of the finished policy. So that's great.
Last month, my connections with Lilead and other school library leaders put me in a position to be approached by EveryLibrary.org, who is providing help in drafting an advocacy road map for state-level ESSA implementation. Between their high-level perspective, John's knowledge and connections here locally, and the interest and efforts of a number of interested school library staff, we hope to ensure that school libraries are in a position to not only draft/advise/consult state policy, but to start important conversations about the impact of school library programs and what kinds of programs and services we can expand with access to additional funding. In a meeting with EveryLibrary last week, it was suggested that an ideal voice for our work with SDE should be ILA. In order to be able to speak with legislators, SDE employees, administrators, and other stakeholders as representatives of ILA, Becky proposed the creation of an ad-hoc committee who would represent ILA in these conversations.
Besides contributing to and monitoring the work going on in the state committees who are drafting Idaho's ESSA implementation plan, this ad-hoc Idaho ESSA committee proposes to meet with the state superintendent to discuss broader policies impacting school librarians as a result of the legislation, most notably professional development for library staff and the creation of an evaluation tool to define "effective school library programs," as well as explore areas for collaboration with literacy initiatives that are not administered by SDE.
I have a half-dozen documents that I can share if anyone would like more specifics of the overview of state working groups, of the federal ESSA legislation, or plans for next steps as far as grant readiness are concerned. I am also happy to add anyone who is interested to a Google group so that they can stay informed about the advocacy work that is happening outside of ILA.