The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, and represents good news for our nation’s schools.
This bipartisan measure reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), enacted on April 11, 1965, under President Lyndon B. Johnson, its goal is to combat widespread national poverty, mainly by providing all children with equal access to a quality education, and was previously considered the nation’s national education law and longstanding commitment to equal opportunity for all students.
The new ESSA law builds on key areas of progress in recent years, made possible by the efforts of educators, communities, parents, and students across the country.
For example, today, high school graduation rates are at all-time highs. Dropout rates are at historic lows. And more students are going to college than ever before. These achievements provide a firm foundation for further work to expand educational opportunity and improve student outcomes under ESSA.
The previous version of the law, renamed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, was enacted by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. NCLB represented a significant step forward for our nation’s children in many respects, particularly as it shined a light on where students were making progress and where they needed additional support, regardless of race, income, zip code, disability, home language, or background. The law was scheduled for revision in 2007, and, over time, NCLB’s prescriptive requirements became increasingly unworkable for schools and educators.
Recognizing this fact, in 2010, both the Congress and the Obama Administration responded to a call from educators and families to revise and strengthen a law that focused on the clear goal of fully preparing all students for college and career-ready success in both the national and global economy.
Why is This Important to NAPE?
A goal of ESEA is to increase equity in education by providing critical funding for low-income schools, largely through Title I, the government’s flagship program for distributing funding to schools with a high percentage of low-income students. The act also includes provisions for providing aid to students who speak limited English and/or possess disabilities, along with other underrepresented minorities. An important subpart of ESEA is Women’s Educational Equity Act, the only federal education program focused solely on advancing gender equity in education.
January 18, 2017: Department of Education issues guide to STEM funding through ESSA.
January 21, 2016: NAPE submitted comments in response to the Department of Education’s Request for Information to solicit advice and recommendations on regulations to implement programs under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.
November 30 2015: Bipartisan leaders on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions released the final legislative text for improving K-12 education and replacing No Child Left Behind. The final bill is being released after legislative proposals passed separately by the House and Senate in July and embodies the reforms agreed to by members serving on a joint conference committee earlier this month. The House-Senate conference committee approved the proposed reforms reflected in the final bill by a vote of 38 to 1. To read the final bill, click here.
November 19, 2015: For the first time since 2001, the U.S. Senate passed a major rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) otherwise known as No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the nation’s federal K-12 law, which if enacted would significantly roll back the role of the federal government in public education and give states more flexibility in the process. Learn More
August 2013: ESEA is due for reauthorization. Congress is working on bills that could potentially reauthorize and reform ESEA. In the mean time, states can be granted waivers for NCLB. To receive a waiver, states must establish a state-led education reform plan that maintains high standards of achievement and accountability (including college- and career-ready standards for students). To date, DC and 37 states have received waivers, and 8 states, Puerto Rico, and the Bureau of Indian Education are awaiting decisions. Although the Obama Administration believes that these waivers will address some of NCLB’s rigid and outdated prescriptions, some people have expressed concern that waived states may no longer be required to meet ESEA standards for providing crucial funding and aid to underrepresented minorities, such as low-income, disabled, and immigrant students.
July 19, 2013: The House passed a sweeping overhaul of ESEA/NCLB—the Student Success Act—that would significantly reduce the government’s role in education. The bill would roll back much of the landmark 2001 education bill, ending federal progress goals and letting states set their own targets for how much students learn. The bill would also keep the Education Department from encouraging states to adopt common academic standards. The bill faces a veto threat from President Obama and is not likely to be passed in its current form by the Senate.
June 24, 2013: The Department of Education sent a letter to ESEA state Title I directors, which stated that on July 1, 2013, many states and LEAs would begin to experience funding decreases due to sequestration and other budgetary factors.
June 11, 2013: The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee approved the Democrats’ ESEA reauthorization bill, the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, on a party-line vote of 12-10. Education Week has developed a side-by-side comparison of the House and Senate bills. It is very likely that both bills will be substantially amended and debated, making it unclear whether or not an official ESEA reauthorization will be able to occur in 2013.
June 6, 2013: House Republicans on the Education and the Workforce Committee introduced their proposal, the Student Success Act.
NAPE urges Congress to reauthorize and strengthen ESEA in order to improve educational opportunities for special populations and commit resources within schools to promote Career and Technical Education (CTE) as a standard priority. Read NAPE’s Public Policy Agenda for specific recommendations.
Resources and Publications
- NASDCTEc: ESEA webpage
- U.S. Department of Education: ESEA webpage
- A Blueprint for Reform Accelerate Achievement: The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (U.S. Department of Education, March 2010)
- Equity and ESSA: Leveraging Educational Opportunities through the Every Student Succeeds Act (The Learning Policy Institute)
- Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Guide for Advocates (The Leadership Conference Education Fund)
- Don’t Leave Accountability Behind: A Call for ESEA Reauthorization (Alliance for Excellent Education and Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind, February 2010)
- Letter to House Education and Workforce Committee outlining need to increase funding for Career and Technical Education in Student Success Act (ACTE and NASDCTEc, June 2013)
- Recommendations for 113th Congress ESEA Reauthorization (NASDCTEc)
- Recommendations for Reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (CLASP, March 2010)
- Testimony to the House Committee on Education and Workforce Regarding ESEA Reauthorization (American Association of University Women, February 2011)
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