America Forward Coalition’s Education Task Force worked hard to secure, including pilot competency-based learning programs, ways to measure student achievement outside of test scores, and incentives for states to partner with community organizations. Eager to maximize these opportunities and drive impact at a local level through ESSA, America Forward launched a partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

America Forward’s Director of Advocacy Sarah Groh speaks with Ace Parsi, Personalized Learning Partnership Manager for Coalition organization National Center on Learning Disabilities (NCLD):

SG: What do you think local non-profit organizations need to know about working with State Education Agencies?

There are two major things that come to mind here. First, SEAs have to deal with a lot of competing pressures, not just from districts and schools, but from parents, from legislatures, governors, state boards of education.  Those all reflect different pressure points and opportunities to engage and work with the SEA. The other important consideration is turnover. SEAs have a lot of turnovers. The key here is to think about your engagement not as a speech you’re giving to an audience, but as a parade—it has to be constant, continuous, and even repetitive.

SG: As part of this engagement we specifically focused on the potential of personalized learning efforts to take an equity lens and focus on our most underserved students. What advice would you give state and local stakeholders who want to bring an equity lens to this work?

AP:  Traditionally, disadvantaged populations and the people who represent their interests must be included in the conversation about personalized learning at the earliest stages. States can and should ensure that these groups – which include the students themselves, their families, educators, and other experts that work with them – help design an inclusive and accessible system.

Read the full interview about personalized learning at America Forward.