Now is the time to use our voices!

Last year around this time, I asked NEA members to “spring into ESSA,” the new federal education law, by getting familiar with the opportunities it opens up. But we’ll only have those opportunities if we use our voices to shape how the law is put into action, and now is the time to do that.

How? Well, I’m glad you asked! You can start by going to MySchoolMyVoice on the NEA website to show what your school and your students need.

Your voices matter! We don’t want someone like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos telling our schools what they need. Educators work with students every day, so head straight to Your School Checklist. Here’s a little background on what the checklist is all about.

The checklist is a way to figure out what your students have now and what they lack in terms of programs and other resources that we believe create a supportive and nurturing environment for them.

Here’s a very simple way of assessing where your school is:

Take a $3.50 clipboard, a piece of paper and a #2 pencil and walk into the best school in your state. Write down what you see: a band; teachers who are certified to teach physics and calculus; counselors to help students make life-altering choices; caring and supportive staff who welcome families into the school; theater class; girls’ volleyball; a chemistry lab; classes that offer college credit; debate; robotics; foreign languages, for example.

Those things — the things that make schools great, the things that build curiosity and instill a love of learning — that’s your state standard. That’s what every child deserves. And it shouldn’t be available based on how much their parents make, what language they speak at home, and certainly not what neighborhood they live in.

Your School Checklist includes more than 30 items ranging from a welcoming front office and written materials in the languages that the school serves, to advanced courses and a pathway to advancement for every student.

That list is a good guide for thinking through where the gaps are. It will help you work with local and state elected officials, parents, and community groups on how to move forward.

You can also join NEA edCommunities to link with others working on closing these opportunity gaps.

And there’s more! We’ve got “Conversation Starters” to help you talk with others at your school, school board members, or community groups about what your students need most. There are Practice Guides with more detailed information, and summaries of what some states are already doing to deliver on the law’s promise.

Thanks to this new law, educators must be part of decisions about our public schools. If you need more information and resources, check out MySchoolMyVoiceto find out how the law affects you, your students, and your school.

The best opportunities for our students happen when we’re at the table making our voices heard and driving the discussion. As the professionals who know the kids by name, we can determine what success looks like for each and every student.

Originally published at