Since the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was enacted in 2015, All4Ed has worked with policymakers and advocates to preserve the law’s legacy of protecting students’ civil rights. Our work analyzing ESSA implementation aims to show how well states have used the law’s opportunities to advance equity and meaningfully improve outcomes for all students. Compared to its predecessor—the No Child Left Behind Act—states and districts have greater flexibility under ESSA to measure school and student success and to determine the interventions needed in low-performing schools. While this flexibility creates possibilities for local innovation, it also poses risks if states and districts shirk those responsibilities or make policy choices that perpetuate historical inequities.
When Equity Is Optional
All4Ed studied data from the first several years of ESSA implementation in ten states. Our findings 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. And even when schools are identified for support, our data also show that students in those schools do not consistently receive the extra resources they need. Many identified schools spend less per pupil after being identified, not more.
Click to view Each When Equity Is Optional Report
Learn More About Equity in ESSA Implementation
The fact sheets below explore whether state plans followed ESSA’s equity guardrails to include historically underserved students.
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 all students have access to an equitable and excellent education. It requires states to set ambitious goals for student achievement, measure and report the progress of all students and groups of students (by race, disability status, socioeconomic status, etc.), and take action in schools where students need additional help. Specifically, ESSA requires states to provide comprehensive interventions in at least the lowest-performing 5% of Title I schools and high schools where fewer than 67% of students graduate on-time. States and districts also must provide targeted interventions to schools with groups of students who need extra support. We developed a series of one-page primers to explain ESSA on topics ranging from assessments and accountability systems to teachers and school leaders, rural schools, digital learning, and more. Learn more by clicking “ESSA Explained” below.
ESSA in Your State: All4Ed State Plan Equity Dashboards
Our When Equity is Optional fact sheets take a deeper look at ESSA in 10 states, focusing on how accountability systems affect historically underserved students. In addition, All4Ed’s ESSA Equity Dashboards rate all 50 states’ ESSA plans on 14 equity-focused policies.