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Stakeholder Engagement

Why is this important?
Following ESSA’s enactment in December 2015, Department leadership and staff met with thousands of educators, parents, families, students, advocates, business/industry leaders, legislators, researchers, and other stakeholders to ensure that its approach to ESSA planning and implementation is aligned with the needs of Pennsylvania’s students, schools, and communities. These conversations helped shape Pennsylvania’s ESSA Consolidated State Plan, and provided opportunities to inform other policy and programmatic changes that can improve education in the commonwealth.
Phase One:  PDE convened stakeholder workgroups comprised of teachers, charter school and district level administrators, advocates, civil rights leaders, former policymakers from both parties, and others to study key aspects of the law and develop framework recommendations for consideration by the Department in four key areas of the law: Assessments; Accountability; Educator Preparation; and Educator Evaluation.
Pennsylvania’s Phase One stakeholder engagement activity garnered national attention including a visit from USDE Secretary John B. King with representative members of the stakeholder workgroups in July 2016. By the conclusion of the August 30 session, the four workgroups had collectively identified 13 consensus-based framework recommendations to present to the Department for consideration in the development of Pennsylvania’s ESSA plan. These recommendations were summarized and placed in the context of relevant research by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in a report, released at the fourth and final Phase One stakeholder engagement event held on October 18.   
Phase Two: Phase Two of the Department’s stakeholder engagement strategy began in November 2016 with the planning of six “Listening Tour” events advertised to and open to the public to inform and engage diverse stakeholders across the commonwealth. At these Listening Tours, PDE presented the developing State Plan, answered questions and took comments. Local legislators were invited and where possible, participated in the planning of events. The Power Point presentation used at these listening tour events is posted on the Department’s ESSA website in both English and Spanish.
Phase Three: The third phase of stakeholder engagement focused on presentations and engagements with membership and advocacy organizations and groups of stakeholders, taking advantage of their existing schedules of meetings and gatherings. This strategy provided the opportunity to present and discuss key elements of Pennsylvania’s proposed state plan as it was being developed with superintendents, teachers, curriculum coordinators, school board members, math teachers, federal program directors, parents, school librarians, the governor’s Special Education Advisory Committee, and the Title I State Parents Advisory Committee. 
The Department also worked closely with a multi-state group of stakeholders convened by the Wallace Foundation to focus specifically on strategies to improve school leadership. The Pennsylvania group, called the ESSA Leadership Learning Community, met several times over the course of the 2016-17 academic year and will continue to meet next year. Pennsylvania participants included members of the advocacy community (Urban League of Pittsburgh, A+ Schools), representatives of multiple institutions of higher education (University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University), staff from School District of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Public Schools, and national organizations (Wallace Foundation, CCSSO, Council of Great City Schools). These collaborative conversations informed Pennsylvania’s state plan development, particularly focused on development of strategies for school leadership.
Phase Four: On August 2, 2017, the Department published its draft ESSA Consolidated State Plan, kicking off a 30-day formal public comment period. Stakeholders were invited to provide feedback through an online survey, or by submitting comments through hard copy or email. From August 2-31, PDE received 445 comments from 399 individuals – including parents/caregivers, educators, school counselors, and community leaders – and 46 organizations. Copies of all comments received through the online survey, via email, and in writing are available here.
On September 18, 2017, Pennsylvania submitted a final proposed ESSA Consolidated State Plan that included changes and clarifications based on feedback received during public comment. (A summary of updates is included in Section 2 of the State Plan.)
Other Stakeholder Engagement and Consultation: In addition, beginning in the spring of 2016 and throughout the planning and development of Pennsylvania’s Consolidated State Plan, the Department held regular meetings with members and staff of the General Assembly.  These communications included testimony before two joint hearings of the Senate and House Education Committees, as well as briefings with individual members and monthly, then semi-monthly, briefings with House and Senate education and leadership staff. PDE has made every effort to provide timely, meaningful, and transparent information to the legislature.
The Department also consulted with national nonpartisan policy and technical experts including American Institutes for Research, Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Commission of the States, and the Mid Atlantic Comprehensive Center@WestEd to solicit additional insight, feedback, and suggestions for specific plan components.
up to 120 days to review and approved states’ plans. Over the next several months, PDE will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that Pennsylvania’s approach to ESSA implementation and education policy are aligned with our commonwealth’s vision of opportunity and success for all students.
Throughout its stakeholder engagement activities, including public comment, the Department received feedback that, while not directly tied to ESSA’s requirements, is relevant to the shared work of creating a better education system for Pennsylvania’s students. The Department remains committed to incorporating within the agency’s policy and program initiatives the ideas and suggestions shared by stakeholders, where relevant and appropriate.