President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on December 10, 2015. The new legislation held true to the intent of the original federal education law – Elementary and Secondary Education Act – that every student should have an equal opportunity to earn a high-quality education.
The Every Student Succeeds Act reflects many of the administration’s priorities, including:
Providing more children access to high-quality preschool
ESSA expands opportunities to increase access to high-quality preschool through new flexibility in several federal funding streams such as Title I (federal funding for low-income students) and the continuation of early learning grant funding.
Continued support for high, rigorous, college-ready state academic standards
States are required to adopt challenging academic standards that prepare students for college and a career. Most states have already made a significant investment of time and resources in setting rigorous standards through collaboration with higher education institutions or by adopting Common Core State Standards, which provides significant research, best practice, and lessons learned for states still in the planning or development stages.
Knowing and reporting the academic performance of all students
The Education Department will continue to require that states test students in math and English Language Arts for grades 3-8 and once in high school, with data broken out by subgroup. The testing data must then be included in comprehensive state plans for assessing the quality and performance of state education systems. There is flexibility for states to choose additional performance metrics however, state plans will also have to address high school graduation rates and English-language proficiency.
Formally recognizing and strategically supporting low-performing schools
Every three years, states must recognize their bottom 5 percent of schools in terms of performance and all high schools with a graduation rate of 67 percent or less. These low-performing schools are then required to pursue an evidence-based improvement plan overseen by their district.
Pursuing more equitable education funding
ESSA offers districts the opportunity to pilot new education funding models based on actual per-pupil expenditures to increase spending in the highest poverty schools. Through the pilot, districts can allocate and use Title I and other federal formula funds in a more flexible manner to support comprehensive plans that improve achievement and outcomes for their highest-need students. District are then required to report on actual school-level expenditures, allowing the public to see the amount of federal, state, and local funding distributed to each and every school.
Continuing What Works
The Every Student Succeeds Act builds on the strong foundation established by the Obama administration through the continuation of key programs. Dynamic and unprecedented funding streams for early learning, wraparound services, moderning teacher and learning, and growing teacher and school leader talent have been cemented into the federal education law to produce greater positive outcomes for students. Continued programming includes the Preschool Development Grants, Education Innovation and Research grants (formerly “Investing in Innovation”), Promise Neighborhoods, and the Teacher and School Leader Innovation Program.
The new law takes full effect in the 2017-18 school year.