The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

"With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamentally American ideal—that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make of their lives what they will."

— President Barack Obama

A New Education Law

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, and represents good news for our nation’s schools. This bipartisan measure reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students.

The new law is an opportunity, not an inevitability. It is more vital than ever before to acknowledge that states' rights have not always been synonymous with equitable treatment of all students. To realize the promise of flexibility, states will need to take more seriously their obligations to ensure that the students who need the most help—students of color, foster children, English-language learners, students in poverty, and first-generation students—get the resources and attention they deserve.

The new law builds on key areas of progress in recent years, made possible by the efforts of educators, communities, parents, and students across the country.

ESSA includes provisions that will help to ensure success for students and schools.

 

How Should States Respond?

Student success depends on a wide range of factors—from quality early-childhood education, to high academic standards and access to rigorous coursework, to social-emotional learning. Yet, for more than a decade, states have focused almost exclusively on math- and reading-test scores as ways to measure school and student progress. While teachers and school leaders have worked hard to offer their students a well-rounded education, the incentives in their states' accountability systems have gone too far in pushing educators to teach to the tests.

Increased federal intervention under No Child Left Behind was prompted by a lengthy record of states not taking full responsibility for educating all of their students. States must now take advantage of a new opportunity to show that local control doesn't mean a lowering the bar for success, but rather more rigor and more innovation with locally designed solutions that support every student.