Brief Summary of the Every Student Succeeds Act

The “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) was signed into law December 10, 2015 to put an end to the No Child Left Behind Act – onerous federal policy that has dogged schools for over a decade. The rewrite of the law was accomplished through a bipartisan legislative process – a process that has been increasingly rare in Washington. Principals can review a full summary prepared by NAESP that highlights major sections of the new law important for school leaders.

Over the past eight years, NAESP has been leading the charge on Capitol Hill on behalf of Pre-K-8 principals to address the many challenges that educators have faced due to the shortsighted one-size-fits-all federal accountability requirements, misguided school improvement schemes, and little to no capacity-building for educators to ensure effective practice is supported. Fortunately, the new law not only provides unprecedented recognition for the role of principals and prods states to put effective principal recruitment, preparation and on-going professional learning in place, but provides opportunities for states and districts to put in place programs that foster a complete and well-rounded education for all students.

Principals should note that the law dramatically shifts authority of our nation’s system of public education back to state and local control. The law was passed in 2015 and in 2017 states drafted their plans, which included new accountability systems based on multiple measures that include factors other than test scores; conducting needs assessments for struggling schools and learning communities facing the greatest challenges in order to tailor support and intervention when needed; developing clear and concise plans for targeting federal funding in ways that meet the needs of students in the school; and implementing programs and monitoring their progress in collaboration with educators. 

The bill also contains several other provisions that NAESP has been advocating for tirelessly on behalf of the nation’s Pre-K-8 principals, such as authorization of the Preschool Development Grants for states to expand early learning opportunities, targeted programs to support literacy instruction, afterschool program funding, as well as the opportunity for funds to be used to address student mental health, arts integration and deeper professional learning for principals and other educators on use of technology in learning.