ESSA: The Every Child Succeeds Act

A Quick Reference for District Leaders

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law an update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This law replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

For friends of ISA, the key provisions of the ESSA legislation include the following: (Source: EdWeek)

Low-Performing Schools

  • States have to identify and intervene in the bottom 5 percent of performers. These schools have to be identified at least once every three years.
  • States have to identify and intervene in high schools where the graduation rate is 67 percent or less.
  • States, with districts, have to identify schools where subgroups of students are struggling.

School Interventions
For the bottom 5 percent of schools and for high schools with high dropout rates:

  • Districts will work with teachers and school staff to come up with an evidence-based plan.
  • States will monitor the turnaround effort.
  • If schools continue to founder, after no more than four years the state will be required to step in with its own plan. A state could take over the school if it wanted, or fire the principal, or turn the school into a charter.
  • Districts could also allow for public school choice out of seriously low-performing schools, but they have to give priority to the students who need it most.

For schools where subgroup students are struggling:

  • Schools have to come up with an evidence-based plan to help the particular group of students who are falling behind, such as minority students or those in special education.
  • Districts must monitor these plans. If the school continues to fall short, the district would step in, though there’s no specified timeline.
  • Importantly, there’s also a provision calling for states and districts to come up with a “comprehensive improvement plan” in schools where subgroups are chronically underperforming, despite local interventions.
  • The School Improvement Grant program is consolidated into the bigger Title I pot, which helps districts educate students in poverty. States could set aside up to 7 percent of all their Title I funds for school improvement, up from 4 percent in current law.

Key Resources to Enhance Your Understanding

Quick Links to
EdWeek Summary
Accountability Plans
Accountability Goals
Accountability Systems
Low-Performing Schools
School Interventions
Transition From NCLB
English-Language Learners
Students in Special Education
Weighted Student Funding

The Every Student Succeeds Act: An ESSA Overview from EdWeek is a comprehensive overview of the legislation.

Everything You Need to Know About the Every Student Succeeds Act: The Alliance for Excellence in Education has created a series of bite-sized materials—both print and video—that provides concise but comprehensive analyses of several key areas within ESSA.

New ESSA Legislation Places Evidence-based Reform Front and Center: “ESSA, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), puts important emphasis on improving the quality of low-performing schools. Under ESSA, accountability and support are provided to the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, high schools that graduate less than 67 percent of their students, and schools in which traditionally underserved students are consistently underperforming.  ESSA further requires (provides funds for) schools and districts to implement evidence-based solutions for school improvement. Unlike NCLB, which imposed one-size-fits-all federal solutions, ESSA empowers states and local decision makers to develop or choose which evidence-based school improvement solutions to implement.”

A Rocky Road to Regulation of the Every Student Succeeds Act by Phillip Lovell at the Alliance for Excellent Education: “Although both parties passed ESSA, they are worlds apart on how to implement it. House Democrats want the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to hold states accountable for equity. House Republicans want to hold ED accountable for state flexibility.”

The ESSA Q&A from Whiteboard Advisors: This working document provides a summary of the key changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The first page is an “at a glance” summary, the subsequent pages provide questions and answers.

This Edsurge and Whiteboard Advisors webinar “offered a detailed analysis of ESSA’s major changes. EdSurge reporter Blake Montgomery guided an expert discussion with Whiteboard Advisors’ Senior Advisors Governor Bev Perdue and Andy Rotherham, along with Carissa Moffat Miller of the Council of Chief State School Officers. We covered a lot of ground, including the new bill’s potential impact on assessment, accountability, technology, and funding, as well as participant questions about the changes that states and districts can expect in the coming months.”