ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)


Every Student Succeeds Act

What are students expected to learn?

Under ESSA, each state gets to set what students are expected to learn in each grade and must apply these standards to all students, including those with learning and attention issues.  ESSA is very complex and confusing; however, the law’s requirements for annual testingaccountability, and school improvement receive the most attention so let’s take a look:

  • ESSA requires states to test students in reading and math annually in grades 3-8 and once in high school
  • States must also test kids in science once during elementary school, once in middle school and once in high school
  • Minimum participation rate of 95 percent required on state tests
  • Districts can use nationally recognized tests at the high school level instead of state assessments, with state permission, such as the SAT or ACT
  • States can create their own testing opt-out laws, and states decide what should happen in schools that miss targets
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ESSA requires states to hold schools accountable for how students achieve. States have to measure school performance based on at least five factors—four are academic, mandatory and have to be given priority, or greater weight in the school’s overall rating: academic growth and achievement, English language proficiency, and high school graduation rates.  The other is the state’s choice but must measure school quality or student success, for example, progress toward life goals, college and/or career readiness skills, behavioral health indicators etc.

States will use results from the above-mentioned accountability system to identify two main groups that need support and improvement:

  • “Comprehensive Support and Improvement” which include the lowest-performing 5 percent of the schools in the state that receive Title I funding, all public high schools that fail to graduate one-third or more of their students
  • “Targeted Support and Improvement” which are schools where any subgroup of students consistently underperforms.

Under ESSA, once a school is considered “struggling,” then states and school districts must create plans to try to help improve these struggling schools.


  • Title I: Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Education Agencies
  • Title II: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, or Other School Leaders
  • Title III: Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students
  • Title IV: 21st-Century Schools
  • Title V: State Innovation and Local Flexibility
  • Title VI: Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education
  • Title VII: Impact Aid
  • Title VIII: General Provisions
  • Title IX: Education for the Homeless and Other Laws



The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The original goal of the law, which remains today, was to improve educational equity for students from lower-income families by providing federal funds to school districts serving poor students.


Improving America’s Schools Act

Clinton reauthorized ESEA, called the Improving America’s Schools Act. This legislation changed everything. The IASA required that states adopt standards-based systems that enabled all K–12 students, including ELLs and Special Ed children, to strive toward the same standards. It’s where we first see accountability through testing (a/k/a test-based accountability), combined with the use of the content standards as the foundation for tests and performance. Instead of buying tests “off the shelf,” states created their own tests, and based them on their unique state standards. Neither participation nor consequences were clearly defined in the law, so it was not unusual for schools to purposefully prevent low performing students, i.e., students with disabilities, ELLs, from participating in the assessments — either by testing only high-performing students, or by not providing accommodations where needed. This would come to be termed in No Child Left Behind as “systematic exclusion.”


No Child Left Behind

In 2002, George W. Bush reauthorized ESEA with his signature educational legislation – No Child Left Behind. Testing requirements and associated accountability mechanisms were the most onerous ever, with exclusive focus on ELA and math in grades 3-8. Entire schools could be closed based primarily on test performance. The law divided children into testing subgroups defined by race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, disability, and ELL status, and compared these children one with another. NCLB addressed schools’ systematic exclusion practices by legislating that schools had to ensure that all students had an equal opportunity to participate in the assessments. That meant prohibiting administrators from cherry-picking out low-performing students. It also meant that every school was responsible for ensuring appropriate testing accommodations would be available to children who needed them. The legislation achieved this by mandating that 95% of all enrolled, test-eligible children, in all subgroups, be tested. NCLB was meant to hold states accountable to the federal government in exchange for funding, and about holding both levels of government accountable to the parents and children – not the other way around. Standardized testing was deemed the primary way of demonstrating accountability to the parents.



ESSA maintains many of the NCLB requirements, such as specific grade-level state assessments. However, ESSA reduces the Federal role in state accountability systems and prohibits the US Department of Education (USDE) from mandating any specific curriculum, assessments or evaluation system. States are responsible for most of the decisions regarding the consequences of the accountability system.


ESSA New Accountability System

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a law that outlines how states can use federal money to support public schools.  Under ESSA, states get to decide the education plans for their schools within a framework provided by the federal government.  ESSA requires that states identify the lowest performing schools and increase interventions if these schools do not improve.  

NY receives about $1.6 billion annually in ESSA funding.  In exchange for funding, states must have an accountability  system for measuring school performance and determining which schools need extra support.


What Will be Measured

For its accountability system, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has established a new set of indicators to measure school performance beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. The new indicators include:

student academic achievement;
student growth and school progress;
progress of English language learners;
chronic absenteeism; and
for high schools, graduation rates and preparing students for college, career and civic engagement.

  • For every school, these measures are applied to all students and specific student subgroups, such as members of racial and ethnic groups, students with disabilities, and English language learners
  • Accountability Subgroups: There are nine student subgroups for which a school can be identified as TSI:
    • Asian
    • African-American
    • Hispanic
    • Multiracial
    • Native American
    • White
    • English language learners
    • Low-income students
    • Students with disabilities

How Schools Are Measured 

For every indicator:

  • A score of “1” to “4” is given for all students at a school and
  • A score of “1” to “4” is given for each specific student subgroup at a school for which the school is accountable

For every indicator, a school is given a numeric score:

    • “1” is lowest
    • “4” is highest


How Schools Will Be Measured

How Schools are Identified

Under the old NCLB/ESEA Waiver system, low performing schools were identified as Priority or Focus schools. Under ESSA there will be:
Comprehensive Support Improvement (CSI)  
Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) Schools.
Targeted Support and Improvement Districts
Schools in Good Standing


ESSA Designations and Receivership

  • The newly identified Receivership Schools were in Priority status during the 2017-18 school year and are now newly identified as CSI Schools.
  • Current Receivership Schools that are not identified as CSI Schools will be removed from Superintendent Receivership at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

ESSA Designations and Receivership

  • Receivership schools are placed into Superintendent Receivership and must show Demonstrable Improvement beginning with the 2019-20 school year or will be placed into Independent Receivership.
  • School districts may choose to close, or close and replace the school with a new school, in place of having an Independent Receiver appointed.


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