College of Education discusses ESSA’s impact on Maryland

Photo by Allison O'Reilly.

The Maryland Equity Project within the College of Education hosted a variety of panelists April 5 to discuss the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) and its implications on education in Maryland.

The topic of the evening was essentially how ESSA impacts the way academics, parents, teachers, students and others can hold schools accountable for any inequalities that they might have.

The panelists included Janet Wilson (Associate Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools and a member of the Maryland ESSA Stakeholders’ Committee), Nancy Shapiro (Associate Vice Chancellor for Education & Outreach at the University System of Maryland and a member Maryland ESSA Stakeholders’ Committee), assistant professor Campbell Scribner, Jessica Cardichon (Director Federal Policy at the Learning Policy Institute in DC) and Sean Conley, the Baltimore City Public School Chief Academic Officer.

The panelists, put together, had a broad perspective on the implications of ESSA and brought different ideas to the table. Gail Sunderman, the Director of the Maryland Equity Project, said she brought these people together for that exact reason.

“The structure of it was bringing together all the different levels of policymaking,” Sunderman said.

Scribner opted to share his own confusion in terms of ESSA, opening doors to discussion, and how people in Maryland can meaningfully impact the states’ education plan.

Shapiro gave insight into how ESSA impacts the ways states asses and measure student achievement and what that means for equity.

Conley spoke on how Baltimore City is working to define various things under ESSA and how school districts and the state can interact.

“We are trying to figure this out together instead of having them doing it for us,” Conley said of Baltimore City’s work with the State Department of Education.

Wilson talked primarily in terms of Montgomery County, and how important it is that districts stay transparent so they are actually working for their communities.

Cardichon claimed that ESSA is a civil rights bill, stating that it comes down to: “Are we doing right by all students in the state in every district?”

This panel gave a lot for the audience to think about. The audience consisted of students, faculty and people unaffiliated with the university.

“(Scribner), the first presenter, laid it out very well in saying to some extent we are in a very challenging policy environment,” Sunderman said. “In some ways, we don’t know what is going to happen with federal education policy. This law is in place, it will remain, but obviously this administration is much less predictable than what we had before. It’s a challenge to write accountability plans, and I think ‘how can you use ESSA to really help the population of students’ was a question at least raised.”