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 year of ESSA implementation in ten states. The findings in our fact sheets 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.
Click to view Each When Equity Is Optional Fact Sheet
When Equity Is Optional: Students of Color More Likely to Attend Low-Rated Schools
When Equity Is Optional: Low-Graduation-Rate High Schools and the 67% Threshold
Learn More About ESSA Implementation
The fact sheets below explore whether state plans followed ESSA’s guardrails to include historically underserved students.
Too Many States Minimize Student Subgroup Performance in Accountability Systems
Screened Out? Some States May Underidentify Schools with Low-Performing Student Subgroups
Ensuring Every Student Matters What Is N-Size and Why Is It Important?
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 Reviews State Plans
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.
Click Here to Find your state
When Equity Is Optional: Do School Ratings and Accountability Systems Send Consistent Signals?
ESSA in the States: How Good is Your State’s Education Plan?
Federal Flash is All4Ed’s video series on important developments in education policy in Washington, D.C., including ESSA implementation, funding, and oversight from the U.S. Department of Education and Congress. To view or read a transcript of our most recent episode, click “Watch Now” below. For more frequent updates on education news and policy, follow @All4Ed on Twitter or check out our “New In Policy” page.