Every Student Succeeds Act
|Long title||An original bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that every child achieves.|
|Enacted by||the 114th United States Congress|
|Public law||Pub.L. 114–95|
|Acts amended||Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965|
|Acts repealed||No Child Left Behind Act|
|Titles amended||20 U.S.C.: Education|
|U.S.C. sections amended||20 U.S.C. ch. 28 § 1001 et seq.|
20 U.S.C. ch. 70
|Education in the United States|
United States portal
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a US law passed in December 2015 that governs the United States K–12 public education policy. The law replaced its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and modified but did not eliminate provisions relating to the periodic standardized tests given to students. Like the No Child Left Behind Act, ESSA is a reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which established the federal government's expanded role in public education.
The Every Student Succeeds Act passed both chambers of Congress with bipartisan support.
The bill is the first to narrow the United States federal government's role in elementary and secondary education since the 1980s. The ESSA retains the hallmark annual standardized testing requirements of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act but shifts the law's federal accountability provisions to states. Under the law, students will continue to take annual tests between the third and eighth grades.
ESSA leaves significantly more control to the states and districts in determining the standards students are held to. States are required to submit their goals and standards and how they plan to achieve them to the US Department of Education, which must then submit additional feedback, and eventually approve. In doing so, the DOE still holds states accountable by ensuring they are implementing complete and ambitious, yet feasible goals. Students will then be tested each year from third through eighth grade and then once again their junior year of high school. These standardized tests will determine each student's capabilities in the classroom, and the success of the state in implementing its plans. The states are also left to determine the consequences low-performing schools might face and how they will be supported in the following years. The USDOE defines low-performing schools as those in the bottom ten percent of the state, based on the number of students who successfully graduate or the number of students who test proficient in reading or language arts and mathematics. Another primary goal of the ESSA is preparing all students, regardless of race, income, disability, ethnicity, or proficiency in English, for a successful college experience and fulfilling career. Therefore, ESSA also requires schools to offer college and career counseling and advanced placement courses to all students.
The No Child Left Behind Act was due for reauthorization in 2007, but was not pursued for a lack of bipartisan cooperation. Many states failed to meet the NCLB's standards, and the Obama Administration granted waivers to many states for schools that showed success but failed under the NCLB standards. However, these waivers usually required schools to adopt academic standards such as the Common Core. The NCLB was generally praised for forcing schools and states to become more accountable for ensuring the education of poor and minority children. However, the increase in standardized testing that occurred during the presidencies of Bush and Obama met with resistance from many parents, and many called for a lessened role for the federal government in education. Similarly, the president of the National Education Association decried the NCLB's "one-size-fits-all model ... of test, blame and punish."
Following his 2014 re-election, Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who had served as Education Secretary under President George H.W. Bush, decided to pursue a major rewrite of No Child Left Behind. Alexander and Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the HELP committee, collaborated to write a bipartisan bill that could pass the Republican-controlled Congress and earn the signature of President Barack Obama. At the same time, John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, pushed his own bill in the House. In July 2015, each chamber of the United States Congress passed their own renewals of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. President Obama remained largely outside of the negotiations, though Alexander did win Obama's promise to not threaten to veto the bill during negotiations. As the House and Senate negotiated for the passage of a single bill in both houses, Bobby Scott (D-VA), the ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, became a key player in ensuring Democratic votes in the House. By September 2015, the House and Senate had been able to resolve most of the major differences, but continued to differ on how to evaluate schools and how to respond to schools that perform poorly. House and Senate negotiators agreed to a proposal from Scott to allow the federal government to mandate specific circumstances in which states had to intervene in schools, while broadly giving states leeway in how to rate schools and in how to help struggling schools. Other major provisions included a pre-K program (at the urging of Murray), a provision to help ensure that states would not be able to exempt large swaths of students from testing (at the behest of civil rights groups), and restrictions on the power of the Education Secretary (at the urging of Alexander and Kline). The surprise resignation of Speaker John Boehner nearly derailed the bill, but incoming Speaker Paul Ryan's support of the bill helped ensure its passage. In December 2015, the House passed the bill in a 359–64 vote; days later, the Senate passed the bill in an 85–12 vote. President Obama signed the bill into law on December 10, 2015.
Students with disabilities
The Every Student Succeeds Act also sets new mandates on expectations and requirements for students with disabilities. Most students with disabilities will be required to take the same assessments and will be held to the same standards as other students. ESSA allows for only one percent of students, accounting for ten percent of students with disabilities, to be excused from the usual standardized testing. This one percent is reserved for students with severe cognitive disabilities, who will be required to take an alternate assessment instead. This is a smaller percentage of students than under past mandates, mainly because there is not enough staff available to administer the assessments to the students one-on-one. The Department of Education does not define disabled, rather, each state decides its own definition in order to determine which students will be allowed to take the alternate assessment. This could prove to be more challenging, though, when it comes to comparing students to one another because not all states will define disabled the same way. The ESSA has also recognized that bullying and harassment in schools disproportionately affects students with disabilities. Because of this, the ESSA requires states to develop and implement plans on how they will combat and attempt to reduce bullying incidents on their campuses.
Reception and Opinion
Libby Nelson of Vox wrote that the ESSA was a victory for conservatives who wished to see federal control of school accountability transferred to states, and that states could choose to make less effort to improve schools serving impoverished students.
State Testing under ESSA
According to the October 24, 2015 U.S. Department of Education Fact Sheet: Testing Action Plan, state testing programs implemented under No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top were "draining creative approaches from our classrooms", "consuming too much instructional time" and "creating undue stress for educators and students." 
Federal mandates and incentives were cited as partly responsible for students spending too much time taking standardized tests.  ESSA provided states with flexibility to correct the balance and unwind "practices that have burdened classroom time or not served students or educators well." 
The Every Student Succeeds Act statute, regulations and guidance give states broad discretion to design and implement assessment systems.  Neither the statute nor the regulations apply any specific limits on test design,  however United States Department of Education guidance documents say it is essential to ensure that tests "take up the minimum necessary time." 
Section 1111(b)(2)(B)(viii)(1) of ESSA presents states with the opportunity to meet all Federal academic assessment requirements with a single comprehensive test.  As of 2018-19 some states like Maryland continue to fulfill ESSA assessment requirements by administering four or more content-specific state standardized tests with testing windows that stretch from December through June. 
The Every Student Succeeds Act prohibits any officer or employee of the Federal Government from using grants, contracts or other cooperative agreements to mandate, direct or control a state's academic standards and assessments. It also explicitly prohibited any requirement, direction or mandate to adopt the Common Core State Standards and gave states explicit permission to withdraw from the Common Core State Standards or otherwise revise their standards.  On January 31, 2019, Florida's Governor signed an executive order “eliminating Common Core and the vestiges of Common Core” from Florida’s public schools. 
Suspension of accountability requirements
An inauguration day directive on January 20, 2017 from President Donald Trump’s Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” delayed implementation of new regulations, including portions of the Every Student Succeeds Act. On February 10, 2017, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wrote to chief state school officers that “states should continue their work” in developing their ESSA plans and noted that a revised template may be issued.  In March 2017, Republican lawmakers with the support of the Trump administration used the Congressional Review Act to eliminate the Obama administration's accountability regulations .
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- page 21. Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 [As Amended Through P.L. 115–224, Enacted July 31, 2018], Title I – Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged, Part A – Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies, Subpart I – Basic Program Requirements, Sec. 1111 [20 U.S.C. 6311] State Plans, (b) Challenging Academic Standards and Academic Assessments, (2) Academic Assessments, (B) Requirements, (viii), (I) https://legcounsel.house.gov/Comps/Elementary And Secondary Education Act Of 1965.pdf
- MARYLAND STATE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Student Testing Calendar School Year 2018‐2019, Official as of September 3, 2018, http://marylandpublicschools.org/programs/Documents/Testing/MSDETestingCalendar.pdf
- p. 424, Every Student Succeeds Act, January 6, 2015, SEC. 8526A. [20 U.S.C. 7906a] PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL MANDATES, DIRECTION, OR CONTROL https://legcounsel.house.gov/Comps/Elementary And Secondary Education Act Of 1965.pdf
- p. 431, Every Student Succeeds Act. January 6, 2015, SEC. 8544. [20 U.S.C. 7924] STATE CONTROL OVER STANDARDS https://legcounsel.house.gov/Comps/ElementaryAnd Secondary Education Act Of 1965.pdf
- p. 431, Every Student Succeeds Act. January 6, 2015, SEC. 8544. [20 U.S.C. 7924] STATE CONTROL OVER STANDARDS. https://legcounsel.house.gov/Comps/Elementary And Secondary Education Act Of 1965.pdf
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- Full text
- Congress.gov bill profile
- U.S. Department of Education Fact Sheet: Testing Action Plan
- Maryland State Department of Education Testing Calendar 2018-19
- Elementary And Secondary Education Act Of 1965 (As Amended Through P.L. 115-224, Enacted July 31, 2018).pdf
- Districts Tackle the Tough Work of Making ESSA a Reality - Education Week, April 2019