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Every Student Succeeds Act

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Every Student Succeeds Act

By Alyson Klein — January 06, 2016 3 min read
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We know, we know. You just can’t get enough information and analysis on the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. So, just for you, we have created a very special section of Education Week explaining the ins-and-outs of the newest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

First off, a big picture overview on accountability: What makes ESSA different from No Child Left Behind? What are the overall politics at play?

Then check-out these stories, each exploring a central aspect of ESSA:

Previewing regulation: What are the U.S. Department of Education’s next steps? How might the regulatory process play out? Congress will be watching—Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has already announced that he plans to hold three ESSA oversight hearings. I synthesize some past Politics K-12 posts in this story.

Funding flexibility: ESSA aims to give states and districts way more control over their federal dollars. Andrew walks you through some wonky provisions, like maintenance of effort. Plus, he takes a look at that big block grant consolidating a whole bunch of programs, including Advanced Placement and school counseling. Spoiler: Many districts may not get very much of that block-granted money.

Teacher evaluation: ESSA takes away the requirement for teacher evaluation through test scores, which the Obama administration had pushed hard. So which states are going to stick with the policy and which can’t wait to ditch it? Steve Sawchuk explains it all.

New indicators of school success: ESSA calls for states to look beyond just test scores and graduation rates and include at least one other measure of school quality, like school climate, teacher engagement, or access to advanced coursework. But are these factors really ready to be used in accountability? Evie Blad takes a look.

Not just one big test anymore? ESSA allows states to use interim assessments instead of one big summative score. Good idea or bad idea? Catherine Gewertz has the story. And speaking of testing...

The Rise of SAT and ACT for accountability? ESSA lets districts use these college entrance exams instead of state assessments, as long as states give the okay. Good way to eliminate one test for eleventh graders? What’s the fall out for high school instruction? Gewertz explains.

“Evidence” based is the new watchword when it comes to research: Forget that old NCLB stand-by of “scientifically based"—ESSA wants real evidence. But is all evidence created equal? And will states know good evidence when they see it? Sarah Sparks tells us.

Turnarounds: States and districts are in the driver’s seat when it comes to fixing low-performing schools. Are they ready? And just who is in charge here, states, districts, or both? Daarel Burnette’s got you covered.

Early Childhood: You may have heard that ESSA enshrines the popular Preschool Development Grant program into law. But did you know the new version of the program doesn’t have many of the same quality measures as the previous version. For instance, states that want the grants won’t necessarily be required to make sure all teachers have a bachelors’ degree, and they won’t have to offer full day programs. Will that matter, or will states who are farthest along end up with the money any way? More from Christina Samuels.

Literacy: Remember Reading First? It’s still a thing of the past but that doesn’t mean there are no literacy provisions at all in ESSA. Liana Heitin’s on it.

STEM: ESSA gives states and districts a broader array of STEM options, including resources for teacher training. Heitin again.

Why are arts education advocates toasting ESSA’s passage? Jackie Zubrzycki explains.

ESSA requires states to measure English Language Proficiency for the first time in accountability. That’s a big deal. Plus there are a lot of other pieces of the new law that could be a sea change for kids who are still trying to master English. Corey Mitchell fills you in.

ESSA calls for some big changes to how states measure student achievement. And special education advocates (like the civil rights community) want to be in the mix as states find their way through this new accountability landscape. What do they want? Christina Samuels has you covered.

Want even more? You can still find our handy cheat sheet here.