The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) returns decision making for our nation’s education back where it belongs – in the hands of local educators, families, and communities – while keeping the focus on students most in need.

ESSA will help to ensure that all students have the resources and support they need regardless of ZIP code:

  • Providing more opportunity for all students including, for the first time, indicators of school success or student support (the “Opportunity Indicators”) to help identify and begin closing opportunity gaps
  • Including less focus on, and a decoupling of, the high-stakes associated with standardized tests, so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach
  • Empowering educators with a greater voice in educational and instructional decisions; and incentivizing collaboration of educators, families, and communities to support local schools

ESSA departs from the 14-year reign of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by delivering the time and flexibility needed by schools, families, communities, and educators to do what works for students:

  • The law requires state-designed accountability systems to include at least one indicator of school success or student support—such as access to advanced coursework, school climate and safety free from bullying, fine arts, regular physical education, and counselors or nurses—to ensure that states report on opportunity gaps and take action to close them.
  • ESSA will continue to require annual tests in grades 3-8 and once in high school; however, the law eliminates NCLB’s rigid system of Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) aimed at 100 percent proficiency in deference to state defined goals. The law also allows districts to apply to instead use another nationally recognized assessment in high school instead of the state standardized tests.
  • New provisions incentivize supports and interventions (including early childhood education and full service community schools programs) that are tailored to local needs while preserving the historic federal role in protecting the most vulnerable: children of poverty, students with disabilities, and English-language learners.

ESSA Timeline: All ESSA provisions are scheduled to go into effect by the 2017-2018 school year, so now is the time for educators to raise their voices and impact decisions:

  • December 10, 2015: President Barack Obama signs the Every Student Succeeds Act, ending the era of No Child Left Behind
  • December 2016: NEA releases initial guidance on ESSA implementation
  • January 2016: NEA convenes its National ESSA Implementation Team
  • March – April 2016: The U. S. Department of Education holds negotiated rule-making sessions with a negotiating team that includes NEA members, including a paraeducator and a teacher.
  • May 2016: The U.S. Department of Education publishes draft regulations implementing the accountability provisions of ESSA.
  • Summer 2016: NEA invites comments from members about the draft federal accountability regulations to inform its August 1, 2016 comment letter.
  • August 1, 2016: End of NCLB waivers
  • October 1, 2016: Effective date for changes to the funding for competitive grant programs in ESSA.
  • October 1, 2106: Effective date for Impact Aid
  • Fall 2016: Final ESSA accountability regulations published by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Spring – Summer 2017: State Plans due to U.S. Department of Education
  • July 1, 2017: Effective date for the changes to all formula programs under ESSA (e.g., Title I funding for disadvantaged students, Title II funding for educator supports, Title IV funding for well-rounded programs).

The ESSA Game Plan

Get Informed

Take your seat at the table:

  • Educators have a guaranteed seat at the ESSA decision-making table
    • Teachers
    • Paraeducators
    • Education support professionals (ESP)
    • Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (SISP)
    • Librarians and media specialists
    • Higher education faculty and staff are key partners in this effort
  • Is the state affiliate represented on the state’s ESSA team?
  • Is the local affiliate represented on the district’s ESSA team
  • Have you let your state and local affiliate know what you think about how to strengthen public schools?

Advocate for Opportunity

  • Participate in meetings with policymakers (state education agency, state legislators, the governor, school boards, district office, etc.)
  • Stakeholder engagement is key
    • Engagement of educators, parents, community activists, civil rights groups, disability rights groups, and others is paramount
    • Ensure that the engagement process is open and transparent
    • Make sure stakeholders are part of building plans and making decisions throughout the implementation process
  • Get involved in opportunity audits
  • Develop your ESSA Game Plan based on audit results
  • Help to collaboratively develop ESSA Plans
    • Build Accountability Plan that Shows Full Picture of Progress
      • Student Achievement
      • Graduation Rates
      • English Language Proficiency
      • Opportunity Indicators
    • Decide elements of Report Card
    • Build School Improvement Plans
  • Make sure progress and challenges are transparent

Key Questions for ESSA Implementation

  • “What makes a great public school?”
  • “Who do we need to work with to help achieve great public schools?”
  • “What are our goals for students and how will we achieve them?”
  • “How can we achieve great public schools together?”
  • “What resources, policies, and practices do we need to implement to achieve a great public school?”

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