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Goodbye, No Child Left Behind. See You, Waivers. Hello, Every Student Succeeds.

President Obama has officially signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, once and for all doing away with the long-expired No Child Left Behind Act.

Here are some fast facts you need to know about the Every Student Succeeds Act:

1. Mandated Testing Stays

The Every Student Succeeds Act does not do away with testing. Students in grades 3 through 8 need to be tested in reading and math and again at least once in high school.

But while test scores will still matter in how student performance is judged, test scores can no longer be the sole determinant of student achievement. Non-academic factors such as a measure of school climate, student engagement and access to advanced courses will have to be included, too.

The 95 percent testing quota still remains, and low-testing participation still must be in state’s accountability system. But states will now be able to decide how to deal with low participation and will not be subject to the threat of penalization if less than 95 percent of students are tested in schools.

2. Subgroup Student Data Required

One of the big changes under the Every Student Succeeds Act is the mandate that schools must compile data into “subgroups” of students to best ensure that every student, in fact, succeeds. Examples of the subgroups defined include ELL, special education students, minorities and low-income students. The ESSA also includes special provisions for tracking of military-student data to ensure that students with family in the military get the support they need, too. 

Unlike under many existing waivers, schools will have to measure how each subgroup is doing separately of each other.

3. Education Secretary, Federal Government Limited

States will be responsible for setting their own academic goals, doing away with the mandated all-students-proficient-by-2014 goal that NCLB set and also significantly reducing the scope of the Department of Education’s power.

States have a certain guideline to follow while creating their goals, but so long as they include test proficiency, graduation rates, and a determination to help underperforming student subgroups succeed, anything goes.

Under the act, the Secretary of Education cannot push or even encourage any set of standards (most notably Common Core) over any others. States are free to adopt whatever “challenging” standards they desire.

4. Accountability Still Exists

Though states are able to create their goals, the act still mandates that states identify and fix the bottom five percent of performing schools.

Both low-performing schools and schools with low-performing subgroups must be identified once every three years at the least. If a school has a graduation percentage of less than 67 percent, schools must also intervene.

But how a state chooses to intervene is entirely up to them. States monitor turnarounds efforts on their own. Federal money still exists to help states out with turnaround efforts regardless of reduced involvement; seven percent of a state’s Title I funds is available for states to utilize in turnaround efforts however it should so chose.

5. Early Childhood Education Gets Nod

Increasing program coordination, quality, and access to early-childhood education is part of the law through “Preschool Development Grants,” overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with the Education Department.

6. More Support for Students with Learning Disabilities

The legislation provides educators and families with tools to identify learning disabilities as early as possible so students have the support they need from an early age. 

According to, ESSA sets up two new programs that will, among other things, help train teachers to learn effective instructional practices for teaching students with learning disabilities.

ESSA also sets up support for schools to ensure students with learning disabilities are on-track to obtain a standard high school diploma. This is all in addition to the requirement that schools must track how students with learning disabilities are performing. 


Compiled by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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