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Educators and Legislators Come Together on ESSA

“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”– Tony Robbins

Positive communication between educators and legislators can often influence the outcome of the legislative session and improve support for education in general.  This year, the Wyoming Teacher Champions have been working hard to build and strengthen relationships between our state legislators and educators.

The project started last November as we began preparing for the second annual “Take Your Legislator to School Day” by training teachers on ESSA and upcoming legislative issues. After sending the legislators invites and planning a daylong agenda, the teachers worked with a district administrator and chauffeured the legislators to all nine of our buildings for a full day of meet and greets, classroom visits, and a Q and A session.

After the event, we were challenged by the Collaborative for Student Success to continue to strengthen the relationships between the educators and legislators. I surveyed the legislators and found that they were most interested in learning more about ESSA, our state’s accountability plan and what implementation would look like.

Alongside three of Wyoming’s current and former district Teachers of the Year, I worked to develop an “at-a-glance” training of ESSA and our state plan, focusing on both the parts I knew were most important to our legislators and the strengths and weaknesses cited on CheckStatePlans.org.

On August 8th, we welcomed three of our legislators—Senator Dan Dockstader, Representative Evan Simpson and Representative Marti Halverson—and three Lincoln County School District #2 Teachers of the Year—Shirley Hall, Andrew Taylor and Tracey Sorenson—for the training.

In addition to discussing major changes in the law, like measuring academic growth, we also raised questions about how we can improve our state plan: How will our new state assessment, The Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (WY-TOPP), be factored into our state’s long-term goals for student achievement? How will we continue to involve the community in an ongoing conversation about how we best support teachers and students?

With a strong foundation for a meaningful partnership between educators and legislators already in place, I am excited to build upon this work and continue to strength educator relationships with policymakers.

Amanda McAdams, a former practicing attorney, works as the Director of Elementary Education and K-12 Literacy for Lincoln County School District #2 in Wyoming. Previously, she taught high school English and worked as an ELA curriculum administrator in Arizona, where she was the 2011 Arizona Teacher of the Year.