The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) returns to the states much of the education authority the federal government claimed under No Child Left Behind. Gone are the days of AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and a harshly prescribed schedule of penalties that overemphasized performance on a single test at a single point in time. That’s all good news, but it is still not completely clear what is going to replace it.

That’s where you come in.

Because ESSA provides a framework for education rather than a specific set of requirements and penalties, each state is now in the process of determining what its accountability program will be, what tests it will use, and how educators will be supported to move students toward high standards. The state-level advocacy you do now will profoundly shape the future of education in your state. You simply can’t afford to be silent.

We know that reaching out to elected officials and other policymakers can be intimidating and that such outreach rarely takes high priority in the context of a principal’s busy day. We also know that advocacy is a skill few leaders learned in school. So we have made it easy for you, with the newly launched ESSA Toolkit for Principals.

Written with the busy principal in mind, the toolkit translates the most important provisions of ESSA into layman’s terms and indicates the areas where your advocacy to state policymakers will have the greatest impact. From there you can access the tools you need to tell your story to policymakers and convey a clear picture of the provisions schools need to help students reach their full potential. Specifically, the ESSA Toolkit for Principals includes:

ESSA fact sheets. We don’t expect most principals will read the complete text of ESSA, which exceeds 1,000 pages. Our user-friendly fact sheets distill the most important information and highlight the provisions that have the greatest impact on the school leader’s work. These go-to resources also indicate how parts of the law are funded, so you can approach conversations knowing exactly what kind of discretion and authority a policymaker has to put dollars behind the specific provisions.

Tools to amplify your voice. Once you know the message to convey, the toolkit helps you maximize your efforts via online tutorials that provide tips for delivering your message to various audiences in various contexts. This guidance includes simple messages that can be translated to different media, a prescriptive list of tips for writing op-eds, and specific tools such as social media posts and template language and letters to send to policymakers and influencers in your state.

Model legislation. When you use these tools to their greatest effect, policymakers will need to know what language the state provisions should include. The toolkit has you covered there as well. We have drafted model legislation you can present to state leaders, particularly on federal provisions that allow states to set aside funds specific to principal development.

Although ESSA was signed into law more than a year ago, our advocacy work is far from done. The work you do now can affect education in your state for the next decade or more. You will never have a better opportunity to insert the principal’s real-world experience into laws that govern your work. We hope you use the toolkit to make a difference. 

Bob Farrace is director of public affairs at NASSP.