EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT
On December 10, 2015, in a South Court ceremony, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The signing capped a remarkable week of Congressional activity, with the House (359-64) and Senate (85-12) overwhelmingly approving the bipartisan legislation to replace the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the previous version of the ESEA that has been up for reauthorization since 2007.
The ESSA includes many of the key reforms the Administration has called on Congress to enact and encouraged states and school districts to adopt in exchange for waivers offering relief from more onerous provisions of NCLB. It helps ensure educational opportunity for all students by:
- holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers;
- ensuring accountability by stipulating that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works 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 with achievement gaps;
- empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence;
- reducing the burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests do not crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear, annual information parents and educators need to know their children are learning;
- providing more children access to high-quality preschool; and
- establishing new resources for proven strategies that will spur reform and drive opportunity and better outcomes for American’s students.
In further recognition of the ESEA’s legacy as a civil rights law -- upholding critical protections for disadvantaged students -- the ESSA holds schools to account for the progress of all students, prescribing meaningful reforms to remedy under-performance in those schools failing to serve all students; maintains dedicated resources and supports for students with disabilities, English Learners, Native American students, homeless children, neglected and delinquent children, and migrant and seasonal farmworker children; and keeps states and districts on task with the work they began this year to ensure all students have equitable access to excellent educators.
There is much to be figured out as the nation moves to implement the new law, but the White House and the Department have released a number of materials to help educate the public about the ESSA, including:
- a White House fact sheet on ESSA;
- a White House report on progress made in elementary and secondary education and how ESSA will cement that progress;
- Secretary Duncan’s blog post, “Finally a Fix to No Child Left Behind;”
- Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz’s blog post, “What You Need to Know About the Fix to No Child Left Behind” (with a side-by-side comparison of NCLB, ESEA flexibility, and ESSA);
- excerpts from the Secretary’s prepared remarks at the Learning Forward conference; and
- a Dear Colleague letter from both Secretary Duncan and incoming Acting Secretary King on ESSA.
Many of these materials are posted on the Department’s ESEA web page, and additional materials will be posted as they become available. In the meantime, questions may be directed to ESSA.firstname.lastname@example.org.