Every Student Succeeds Act

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).

ESSA builds on key areas of progress made in recent years by educators, communities, parents, and students across the country. It helps ensure educational equity and opportunity for all students by:

  • Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers;
  • Ensuring accountability and guaranteeing that when students fall behind, steps are taken to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools where subgroups are falling behind;/
  • Continuing to ensure that parents and educators have annual assessment information they need about how students are doing, while supporting states and districts in reducing unnecessary, onerous and redundant testing;
  • Expanding access to high-quality preschool;
  • Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement; and
  • Strengthening competitive programs that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for U.S. students.

ESSA maintained a number of requirements for, and made a number of significant changes to, the Title I programs, including the following:

  • Maintaining the requirement for statewide assessments in at least reading/language arts and mathematics in grades 3-8 and once in high school; and in science in each of three grade spans (3-5, 6-9, and 10-12), while adding flexibility related to locally selected high school assessments and innovative assessment systems.
  • Eliminating the requirement to calculate adequate yearly progress (AYP) and replacing it with a requirement for each state educational agency to develop an accountability system that:
    • Includes state-designed, long-term goals and measurements of interim progress for all students and separately for each subgroup of students, on academic achievement and graduation rate, that expect greater progress from groups that are further behind;
    • Annually measures, for all students and separately for each subgroup of students, the following indicators: academic achievement (which, for high schools, may include a measure of student growth, at the state’s discretion); for elementary and middle schools, a measure of student growth, if determined appropriate by the state, or another valid and reliable statewide academic indicator; for high schools, the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate and, at the state’s discretion, the extended-year adjusted cohort graduation rate; progress in achieving English language proficiency for English learners; and at least one valid, reliable, comparable, statewide indicator of school quality or student success; and
    • Establishes a system, based on all indicators in the State’s accountability system, to differentiate all public schools on an annual basis. This system would provide substantial weight to each accountability indicator and, in the aggregate, a much greater weight than is afforded to the indicator or indicators of school quality or student success (e.g. achievement, growth, graduation rate, or progress in achieving English language proficiency).
  • Eliminating the requirement to identify schools for improvement, corrective action, or restructuring based on missing AYP over a number of years and instead requiring:
    • Identification of, and comprehensive, evidence-based intervention in the lowest-performing five percent of Title I schools, all public high schools with a graduation rate below 67 percent, and public schools in which one or more subgroups of students are performing at a level similar to the performance of the lowest-performing five percent of Title I schools and have not improved after receiving targeted interventions for a state-determined number of years; and
    • Identification of, and targeted, evidence-based intervention and support in schools in which any subgroup of students consistently underperforms.
  • Maintaining and updating the requirement that state Title I plans describe how low-income and minority children enrolled in Title I schools are not served at disproportionate rates by ineffective (this term was “unqualified” in the ESEA), out-of-field, or inexperienced teachers.
  • Expanding the list of elements that must be included in state and district report cards (e.g., adding a requirement to report per-pupil expenditures of federal, state, and local funds).
  • Maintaining the requirement that Title I, Part A funds be used to supplement, and not supplant, non-federal funds, but revising the manner in which a local educational agency (LEA) must demonstrate compliance with this requirement by requiring an LEA to demonstrate that the methodology it uses to allocate state and local funds to each Title I school ensures that the school receives all the state and local funds it would receive in the absence of participation in Title I.

ESSA – Title I Funding Facts:

  • ESSA changes the language from “improving the academic achievement of the disadvantaged” to “improving basic programs operated by state and local educational agencies.”
  • Spending under Title I, Part A of ESSA increases from approximately $14.4 billion to an authorized level of $15 billion in 2017, and to $16.2 billion by 2020.
  • Funding for reading programs (Part B), migrant education (Part C), and intervention programs for at-risk children (Part D) remains steady.
  • Under ESSA, the structure of the School Improvement Grant (SIG) program is eliminated, but the existing 4% set aside in Title I is increased to 7% to be used for school improvement activities. So, even though the SIG program is eliminated, states will now be able to use a larger share of Title I funding for the same purpose, with overall Title I funding increasing as well. So while the SIG program disappears in law, funding for its functions effectively remains intact.

ESSA – Title III Funding Facts:

  • Accountability for English Language Learners moves from Title III (the English-language acquisition section of the ESEA) to Title I (where everyone else’s accountability is). The idea is to make accountability for those students a priority.
  • States can include English Language Learners’ test scores after they have been in the country a year, as under current law.
  • During that first year, those students’ test scores will not count toward a school’s rating, but ELLs will need to take both of the assessments, and have the results publicly reported. In the second year, the state has to incorporate ELLs’ results for both reading and math, using some measure of growth. And in their third year in the country, the proficiency scores of newly arrived ELLs will be treated just like any other students’.

For more information, go to http://www.ed.gov/essa.