THE NEW Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) allows for more authority at the state and local level, as opposed to the top-down, one-size-fits-all approach of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Specifically, assessment, accountability, and measuring student performance are now state and school district responsibilities — and cannot be based solely on standardized tests.

ESSA is an opportunity for educators to drive teaching and learning decisions, and to strengthen partnerships with parents and communities to advocate for what students really need. Here are some highlights.


NEW ACCOUNTABILITY SYSTEMS are not based solely on standardized tests, and must include:

• Math, reading assessments.

• Graduation rates.

• Multiple measures of student success.

• English language proficiency.

• At least one indicator of school quality (from a “dashboard” of measures such as access to advanced coursework, school climate, safety from bullying, fine arts, regular physical education, and counselors or nurses).

• 95 percent participation rate.


SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT is based on a state-created system to identify two groups of schools: Subgroup schools have consistently underperforming subgroups.

• Differentiation based on all indicators.

• Districts create the school improvement plan — must make progress in a certain number of years (defined by the district). Lowest-performing schools include the bottom 5 percent of Title I schools, high schools with lower than 67 percent graduation rates, and the lowest subgroup schools.

• Must do a resource equity plan; the district develops an improvement plan.

• Must improve within four years, or the state needs to do more.


EMPOWERS EDUCATORS with a greater voice in educational and instructional decisions.

• Calls for local committees of practitioners, including educators, parents and community members, to work together for school improvement.

• Includes engagement and specific mention of teachers, paraeducators and specialized instructional support personnel in decision-making.

• Focuses on the teaching continuum, including career ladders, mentoring, and professional development.

• Maintains NCLB’s paraprofessional qualifications.


AND THERE’S MORE! Other notable features of ESSA:

• Protection of collective bargaining agreements.

• New, positive language about restorative justice; ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

• Continuance of, and greater clarity around, options for students to opt out of testing (see page 50).

• Improvements to charter school transparency and accountability.

Source: NEA. For more information about ESSA, see