Background on ESSA

President Obama Signs Every Student Succeeds Act

Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon

Background on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), was previously reauthorized in 2002 as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, as the main federal law supporting K–12 public education in the United States.

Originally enacted in 1965, ESEA established federal policy and authorized federal funding for states and local school districts. ESEA’s goal is to improve the academic performance of all public school students regardless of economic status, race, ethnicity, proficiency in English, or disability.

ESEA was scheduled to be reauthorized in 2007. However, the provisions of the law—including many flaws—were extended through the congressional appropriations process.

Although Congress intended to improve academic achievement by all students, especially English language learners (ELL), students in poverty, and students with disabilities, the NCLB accountability framework became seriously flawed.

What evolved was a measurement framework that based its assessment of school quality on students’ performance on only a single assessment (an invalid standard for measuring student progress) and mandated a series of wide-ranging sanctions that did not prove to significantly improve student or school performance.

In the summer of 2015, the 114th Congress passed modernized bills out of both chambers. In the House, H.R. 5, the Student Success Act of 2015, was reported by the Education and the Workforce Committee and passed a final vote by the full House.

In the Senate, S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015, was passed unanimously by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and passed the Senate floor.

In December 2015, a conference committee released the Every Student Succeeds Act for consideration in both chambers of Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the legislation on December 2, 2015. The bill passed the Senate on December 9, 2015.

On December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law. The signing represents a significant move forward for local governance and NSBA stands committed to working with and through our State Associations for ESSA’s implementation in support of equity and excellence in public education.

    Go to top