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How Does Funding for ESSA’s Testing Requirements Work?

By Alyson Klein — July 23, 2018 2 min read

Welcome back to answering your ESSA questions! Today’s question on the Every Student Succeeds Act comes via Twitter from Nicholas Tampio, a professor of education policy at Fordham University. (We love when you tweet us ESSA questions. Keep doing it)



First off, what are ESSA’s testing requirements? ESSA, like its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, requires states to test students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, in math and reading. States also have to test in science in certain grade spans.

A small percentage of students with severe cognitive disabilities can be given alternative tests. English learners (regardless of grade level or whether they just got to the United States) are required in ESSA to take the state’s English-language proficiency test. And newly arrived English-language learners are supposed to get access to tests in their native tongue, if it’s one of the most commonly spoken languages other than English in the state.

ESSA put some new twists on testing. States can offer their districts a choice of a nationally recognized high school exam (think the SAT or ACT) instead of the state test as long as the state can show they are comparable. And states can apply for a pilot program to try out new forms of testing in a handful of districts before taking them statewide. (There’s no money attached to that pilot, though.)

So where does the money come from for all this? From the state, mostly. In fact, testing cost states a whopping $1.7 billion way back in 2012, according to a report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.

The feds help with a small piece of that. There’s a nearly $380 million State Assessment grant program. Once a state has developed standards and assessments in the grades and subjects the law requires, these funds can be used for a variety of assessment-related things. That includes conducting testing audits, improving accommodations for students in special education; developing tests in subjects besides reading, math, and science; improving English-language proficiency tests, and more.

Big thanks for help in answering this question to Anne Hyslop, assistant director of policy development and government relations at the Alliance for Excellent Education, a research and advocacy organization in Washington.

Got an ESSA question? Email it to or Or tweet at us @PoliticsK12.

Want to see what other readers are wondering? Here are links to past installments of this feature:

Does ESSA Require Teachers to Be Highly Qualified?

Can Districts Use ESSA Funds to Buy Crossing Guard Signs?

How Are States Handling Testing Opt-Outs Under ESSA?

Can Districts Use the SAT or ACT for School Accountability Without State OK?

Which States Are Eschewing School Grades?

How Can Districts and States Use ESSA to Bolster STEM and Computer Science?

What’s Going on With Testing Audits?

What’s Up With ESSA Block Grant Funding?

Is Testing the Only Way a Student Can Achieve Success Under ESSA?

Want to learn more about the Every Student Succeeds Act? Here’s some useful information:

Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

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