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Every Student Succeeds Act


Since the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was enacted in 2015, Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) has worked with policymakers, civil rights organizations, and advocates to preserve the law’s legacy of protecting students’ civil rights. Our work analyzing ESSA implementation across the country aims to show how well states use ESSA’s opportunities to advance equity and meaningfully improve outcomes for all students. 

When Equity Is Optional: ESSA Outcomes Across States

Two of ESSA’s most important requirements are that states (1) rate school quality and (2) identify low-performing schools to receive support. To evaluate the impact of ESSA, we examined data from the first year of implementation in ten states. Our analyses show the consequences for students When Equity Is Optional. States have used ESSA’s flexibility to take such varied approaches that students in low-performing schools—who are more likely to be students of color or from low-income families—have dramatically different odds of getting the supports and resources they need.

Our ESSA Accountability Results fact sheets highlight results and trends from each of the ten states’ accountability systems, focusing on whether they are equitable for historically underserved students. In addition to analyzing ESSA results in ten states, we previously reviewed approved ESSA plans for all fifty states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. These ESSA Equity Dashboards rate plans on fourteen equity-focused policies, including long-term goals and accountability for subgroups of students.

To use the map below, first select your view and then select a state.

Trends in State ESSA Plans

Under ESSA, states have flexibility to chart their own path to educational success, but the U.S. Department of Education must approve each state’s plan for how it will reach these goals and comply with the law’s requirements. Our resources below compare key policies across state plans that affect historically underserved groups of students.

Understanding ESSA

ESSA is the latest version of the nation’s most important K–12 education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Its purpose is to ensure that all students in every state have access to an equitable and excellent education. It requires states to set ambitious goals for student achievement, measure and report the academic progress and graduation rates of all students and groups of students (by race, gender, disability status, socioeconomic status, etc.), and take action in schools where students need additional help to succeed. Specifically, ESSA requires states to provide comprehensive interventions in at least the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title I schools and schools where one-third of students do not graduate. States and districts also must provide targeted interventions to schools with groups of students who need extra support.

Compared to its predecessor—the No Child Left Behind Act—states and districts have greater flexibility to measure school and student success and to determine what interventions they will implement in low-performing schools. While this flexibility creates opportunities for local innovation, it also poses risks if states and districts shirk those responsibilities or make policy choices that perpetuate historical inequities. We developed the following resources to explain ESSA and its opportunities for promoting equity.

ESSA Fact Sheets
A series of bite-sized materials that provide analyses of key areas under ESSA, including accountability, assessments, high schools, teachers and school leaders, and more

ESSA Technical Assistance
Agendas, materials, and video from All4Ed convenings to help state leaders and advocates navigate and manage ESSA implementation in ways that promote equity

ESSA Policy Positions
All4Ed congressional testimony, official comments on state plans and proposed ESSA regulations and guidance, legislative recommendations, coalition letters, and statements of support

ESSA Toolkits
Information for school and district leaders to leverage ESSA’s opportunities to transform high schools

ESSA in the States
Interviews, conversations, and webinars with state leaders and experts on ESSA implementation

ESSA Commentary
All4Ed in the news on ESSA implementation and All4Ed’s blog posts about ESSA

Contact Us

If you have questions about any of these resources or want more information about ESSA and All4Ed’s work, contact Anne Hyslop, Director of Policy Development; Ziyu Zhou, Policy Analyst; or Phillip Lovell, Vice President of Policy Development and Government Relations.

Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.