How School Policies Are Created
The school board adopts policies for the district after substantive discussion in open meetings. Board members may present policies following the recommendation of the superintendent, administrators, teachers, or any citizens in the district. Board policies provide overall goals and governance while not detailing or micromanaging the specific details of implementation. While there is often a great deal of discretion with the development of policies, most school policies are developed based on federal, state, and local laws or mandates.
State and Federal Law
Since most of the funding of education comes from the state and the local government, local policy mostly comes from those two sources. There are some federal laws that districts also follow in keeping with the fact that there is some funding related to these programs from the federal government. Some of the better-known examples include the following:
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – ensures early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities: https://www.tn.gov/content/tn/education/student-support/special-education.html
- Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) – Beginning in August 2016, ESSA replaced No Child Left Behind (NCLB), and Tennessee fully transitioned to ESSA in the 2017-18 school year with the existing path of more rigorous coursework that prepares students for college and careers, aligned assessments focused on problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and evaluation and accountability systems that measure the effect of these practices. Additional details including plans to implement ESSA in 2017-18 are located at the following link: https://www.tn.gov/education/essa.html
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) -protects the privacy of student education records: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
When lawmakers amend state or federal law, school district policies must be modified to reflect those changes. The Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 49 contains current laws regarding Tennessee Education including higher education. Refer to http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/tncode/, then click on any chapter within Title 49 that indicates the information you are seeking.
If you move from one district to another in Tennessee, you may notice that policies are not exactly the same from one district to another. Federal and state laws often leave some flexibility to the local districts with the development of policies. Some districts follow a different plan for how to embed federal and state requirements into local policy. Thus, not all districts within a state are exactly alike in policy just as they are not alike in size, demographics, socio-economic status, and regional training options for high school graduates. In order to make the school district a good fit for all students and families, the school board considers the needs of the residents and policies that are best suited to those needs while still following the law. As local needs change over years, the school board revises their policies to reflect those changes.
How Parents Can Influence Policy
Board members and the administration discuss policies during school board meetings that you can attend. Remember that the local community elects school board members, so you have a say in who gets a seat on the board. School administrators may seek input from parents and citizens before proposed policies or procedures become final, so make your opinions known!
Since school board meetings are open to the community, find out when the regular meetings are held. Attend meetings on occasion to keep up with changes to existing policy. Also, check the district web page or the local paper for reports on what is discussed at the meetings, especially if you are unable to attend meetings.