Every Student Succeeds Act: What You Need to Know

Last Updated On: 8/11/2017 7:22:09 PM

What is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)?

ESSA is a bill signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015 that replaced No Child Left behind (NCLB).

NCLB held schools responsible for the academic growth for all students by focusing on testing.

What is the purpose of the ESSA?

To “provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.”

Where can I find ESSA?

Who does the ESSA affect?

The ESSA affects all children in the school system, including children with the “most significant cognitive disabilities.”

Children with the “most significant cognitive disabilities” are given equal chances to succeed together with their peers. It is up to the State to define “most significant cognitive disability.”

When should ESSA go into effect?

All of ESSA should be in place during the 2017-2018 school year.

What standards are the states required to adopt?

States must select “challenging academic standards” to apply to all students.

States cannot be forced to pick a certain set of standards including Common Core.

What are the factors for “challenging academic standards”?

The factors are:

  • Apply to all public schools and all public school children
  • Prepare students for college
  • Support state career and technical education standards
  • Adopt language standards for English learners
  • Allow for other standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities

What is the meaning of a regular diploma?

A regular diploma is the typical high school diploma awarded to students and meets the state’s academic standards.

It does not include a GED, certificate of attendance, or any alternative award.

It can also include a “higher diploma.” A higher diploma is awarded to students who go above and beyond what is needed for a regular diploma.

What other standards are used for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities?

The state may adopt alternate standards that:

  • Meet the challenging state academic standards
  • Encourage access to the general setting, consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
  • Reflect the highest possible standards likely for such students
  • Provide the individualized education program (IEP) consistent with IDEA
  • Ensure that a student with an alternate education plan is on track for college or employment

What is the meaning of an alternate diploma?

As defined by the ESSA, it is:

  • Based on standards,
  • Consistent with the state standards for the regular diploma,
  • Received within the time period the student is to receive a public education consistent with the IDEA, and
  • Not a general diploma, certificate of completion, or certificate of attendance

Are there any other standards schools will have to plan for?

Yes. Schools will have to have a plan in place for reducing

  • Bullying and harassment,
  • Removing students from class for discipline reasons, and
  • Behavioral intervention.

What are the credentials needed for special education teachers?

Special education teachers no longer need to be highly qualified.

The teachers do need:

  • Full training as a special education teacher (this can include certification through alternative routes),
  • To have passed the State special education teacher licensing examination and hold a license to teach special education in the state,
  • An active special education license that has not be revoked for any reason, and
  • To hold at least a bachelor’s degree

What is an emergency status for teachers?

An emergency status deals with states’ lack of teachers. It is not defined by the act. However, it lets people become teachers without getting the training usually required. 

What right does the parent have to know about a teacher’s background?

When asked for by the parents, the agency that provides funding must timely provide information regarding professional background of the student’s classroom teachers. 

The agency must tell the parents if the teacher:

  • Has met the education and licensing standards for the grade level and subject area the teacher is teaching,
  • Is teaching under emergency status, and
  • Is teaching in the subject in which he/she is trained

The agency must also provide information if the child is given services by paraprofessionals, and if so, their education.

How much testing is needed under the ESSA?

States must test reading and math in grades 3-8 and one time in high school. Science must also be tested once between the grades 3-5, 6-9, and 10-12.

Can high schools use the SAT or ACT, college acceptance tests, in lieu of state assessments?

Yes, districts can choose to use the SAT and ACT to replace the state tests in high school.

How will students with the most significant cognitive disabilities be impacted by testing?

States are still required to offer alternate testing for those who need it.

States are also required to offer the proper accommodations when testing.

What is the required involvement for those with the most significant cognitive disabilities?

ESSA requires a 1% participation cap for each subject. This breaks down to about 10% of students in special education can take an alternate test.

The schools can apply for a federal waiver if it needs to exceed the 1% cap.

What is new to the alternative testing guidelines?

States must make sure parents are informed and understand the decision to take an alternate test.

States must make sure the parents know how the alternate test may affect the child finishing standards for a regular diploma.

States must make sure that a decision to take an alternate test does not stop a child from trying to finish a regular high school diploma.

States must promote student inclusion in the regular setting.

What do local educational agencies (LEAs) have to give to the public before testing starts?

It is important that parents know:

  • The subject matter assessed,
  • The purpose for the testing,
  • The requirement for the testing,
  • Where the information for the testing is available,
  • The amount of time the students will spend taking the test,
  • The schedule for the test, and
  • The time and format for getting the results after testing is over.

Is there a difference between school report cards and State report cards?

School report cards reflect individual test scores. Schools provide parents with their child’s specific test report. Schools also can report on how each student tests in relationship to the other students in the school. 

State report cards reflect all the schools in the State. These reports look at the progress of all the schools in the state.

Do schools need to continue to publish assessment report cards?

Yes, the tests will produce individual data about success that let parents, teachers, principals, and other school leaders understand and address specific schooling needs of students.

The results must be provided as soon as possible to the parents after the test is given.

The results should be shown in a clear format and language the parents can understand.

Do states need to produce a yearly report card?

Yes, a state must produce a report that is clear and understandable and in a language that parents can understand.

It must also be widely available to the public.

What is required on the state’s yearly report card?

The state is required to include a clear and concise account of the state’s accountability system. This includes:

  • Minimum number of students in the subgroups
  • Long term goals for all students
  • Number and names of all public schools in the state identified for support and improvement
  • Measures of school quality, climate, and safety
  • Professional credentials of teachers in the state
  • Results of the state academic tests in reading and mathematics in grades 4 and 8

What does the state need to include about school safety?

The State must include:

  • Numbers of students placed in:
    • In-school suspension
    • Out-of-school suspension
    • Expulsion
  • Number of students arrested for school-related incidents
  • Number of students referred to police
  • Truancy issues
  • Rates of violence
    • Including bullying and harassment

What does the state need to publish about the teachers’ backgrounds in the yearly report card?

The State needs to publish:

  • The percentage of inexperienced teachers, principals, or other school leaders
  • Teachers with emergency credentials
  • Teachers who are not teaching the subject/field in which they are licensed for

What is a subgroup?

A subgroup can be:

  • Each major ethnic and racial group,
  • Economically disadvantaged students versus non economically disadvantaged students,
  • Children with disabilities versus children without disabilities,
  • English achievement status,
  • Gender, and
  • Migrant status

Are there any new subgroups under the ESSA?

Yes, the ESSA now recognizes being homeless, being in foster care, and being a child with a parent as a member of the Armed forces as new subgroups.

What is needed to be on the state report card about students in the subgroups?

The state should report on:

  • The progress reports of each student
  • Data for the new subgroups (homeless status, status as a child in foster care, and status as a student with a parent who is a member of the Armed Forces)
  • Data on the performance
  • High School graduation rates
  • Data on meeting the state’s long-term goals
  • Percentage of students tested and not tested
  • Percentage of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities who take alternate tests

How do accountability plans work?

A state will create its own plan now and send that plan to the Department of Education for review and approval.

The state is required to make yearly findings.

The act does not allow the federal government to interfere.

What are the factors the states must look at to evaluate school performance?

States must look at:

  • Yearly testing
  • A measure of student progress or other academic measure for elementary schools
  • Graduation rates for high schools
  • Progress of English Language Learners (ELLs) in achieving skill
  • At least one ‘additional’ measure of school quality and student success

What are some examples of an ‘additional’ measure a school can look at?

Additional measures can include:

  • Student and educator engagement
  • Student access to advanced coursework
  • College readiness
  • School environment and safety
  • Any other indicator the state chooses that meets the policy

Do any factors have greater weight?

Yes, the first four factors have a much greater weight than the ‘additional’ factors.

ESSA still requires states to place a large importance on yearly testing to hold schools accountable.

When and how often will states begin looking for schools that need improvement and support?

This review will start in the 2017-2018 school year.

Every three years states need to identify these schools by looking at:

  • The 5% lowest performing in the state,
  • Graduation rates less than 67%, and
  • Subgroups of students that are often underachieving
This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.