Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act to Enhance Equity and Excellence

So much of the strength of our communities, and our country, is derived from the promise of opportunity—the idea that if you work hard, you can make of your life what you will.

For that promise to be realized, we must be committed to providing all students—regardless of their background or circumstances—with a high-quality college- and career-ready education. As President Obama has said, this is the civil rights issue of our time.

Our new, federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), provides a powerful opportunity for educators, administrators, school leaders, parents and families, and everyone who works on behalf of our children’s future, to ensure excellence and equity in our public schools—and to reclaim the promise of a truly high- quality, well-rounded education for every student.

ESSA replaces the one-size-fits-all approach of its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and creates a new federal-state partnership that provides greater flexibility for states and districts. And unlike NCLB, which incentivized states to lower standards, ESSA also sets the important goal for schools across our country to ensure that all students graduate prepared to thrive in college and careers.

Toward those ends, today, the U.S. Department of Education is releasing for public comment a set of proposed regulations to give states the clarity they need as they rethink their accountability and school improvement systems. This marks an important step along the path to implementing ESSA in a way that allows the law to live up to its potential as a tool for enhancing educational excellence and equity.

To get to this day and to this announcement, the Department of Education considered hundreds of comments from the public and held well over 100 meetings and events across the nation, receiving input from students, parents, educators, school leaders, state and local administrators, tribes, civil rights organizations, and business leaders.

Because of this input from people who care deeply about education, we believe today’s proposed regulations hold great promise as a tool for helping schools in every community become more equitable so all students get what they need to learn, grow, and succeed.

The Department is interested in hearing even more from stakeholders—and we look forward to receiving comments during the public comment period, beginning on Tuesday, May 31, and over the next 60 days. Consider making your voice heard. We are taking these comments very seriously, understanding that our final regulations will be stronger because of that input.

In addition to added flexibility for states, the proposed regulations offer a more holistic approach to measuring a quality education. This means that NCLB’s narrow definition of school success, which was based primarily on test scores in math and English language arts and graduation rates, will be replaced with a broader view, to include such things as student growth, college and career readiness, school climate, or students’ progress toward English language proficiency.

Importantly, the regulations also uphold ESSA’s critical civil rights protections and enhance equity for historically underserved students by including all students and each subgroup in decisions related to school support and improvement. This will help ensure that meaningful action is taken in places where whole schools or groups of students are falling behind, and that clear and transparent information on critical measures of school quality and equity are provided to parents and community members. Furthermore, the regulations help to ensure more transparency for parents, educators, and community members around resource equity measures, such as access to preschool, access to rigorous coursework, and school discipline, including requiring that this information be made public on state and local report cards.

Where NCLB prescribed top-down interventions for struggling schools, the Department’s proposed regulations provide flexibility for schools and districts to implement evidence-based, locally designed solutions to support and improve struggling schools. The regulations also reinforce ESSA’s strong commitment to transparency and define a clear role for parents, families, teachers, school leaders, and a broad range of other stakeholders in the development and implementation of state and local plans and the school improvement process; and a planning year will ensure this work is done thoughtfully.

For an at-a-glance reference guide for the ways in which these proposed regulations differ from NCLB, see below.


Today’s proposed regulations are a critical step toward realizing the potential of ESSA. Taken together, they will promote a more well-rounded, holistic education while upholding critical protections to ensure the progress of all students toward success in college and careers.

If you’re interested in learning even more, read a summary of the regulations or the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. For more information on ESSA implementation and resources, visit Remember, your voice matters in the effort to expand opportunity to every child. We welcome your input starting on Tuesday, May 31 and over the next 60 days. The proposal we’re announcing today will require that all of us—at every level—work together to implement ESSA in a way that enlarges the potential of all our students and ensures that those who need extra supports receive them.

Tiffany Taber is Chief of Staff for Communications Development in the Office of Communications and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in learning even more, read a summary of the regulations or the full Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. For more information on ESSA implementation and resources, visit Remember, your voice matters in the effort to expand opportunity to every child. We welcome your input starting on Tuesday, May 31 and over the next 60 days. To submit a formal comment on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, visit the posting on the Federal Register’s website. The proposal we’re announcing today will require that all of us—at every level—work together to implement ESSA in a way that enlarges the potential of all our students and ensures that those who need extra supports receive them.


  1. If we are truly to embrace success among all children in a holistic and fair method, then we must include parents. We must recognize that many parents are undereducated, working more than one job to survive, or come from cultures that either limits their ability to communicate effectively in English and/or maintain a belief system that the school administrators and teachers are in charge and to be trusted completely without need for much of their involvement. I do oppose the testing that makes conservative testing companies wealthy and impacts children with learning disabilities or test “nerves” negatively. The teacher is the true measure of a child’s success, not a testing company.

  2. High-stakes testing is not working. The third-fifth graders in my after school program have never-ending packets of test prep homework that becomes daunting beginning in January. There are always tears, breakdowns, tantrums and anger during testing weeks. Weeks of testing for 8, 9 & 10 year old children! Imagine! I will under no circumstances subject my 5 year old to that amount of stress in a few years. I am fortunate to be in a position to choose a school that values inquiry, exploration the arts and doesn’t teach to the tests and focus all its resources on test prep. Most of the kids I work with don’t have that opportunity. It’s madness. Punishing states with high numbers of parents opting-out of the tests rather than listening to the parents opting out is so unfair. High-stakes testing is unjust.

  3. Students are stressed out enough. Teachers need to be given more credit than the get. They already bring their own supplies and work at home if needed. Teaching to the test is not the reason why a college student becomes a teacher. There is a “calling” to become an educator.

    4 tests per year is an outrageous. More money will be going into the scoring companies and not to each individual school.

    This should not be a federal issue. This should be decided by the state as well as the school districts. I say, “NO” to the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act. OPT OUT!

  4. STOP THE TESTING MADNESS!!!!! The high stakes tests that are eating 25% of our classroom time are not doing anything AT ALL to raise student outcomes. They have produced the death of teaching, the death of the love of learning in our kids, the death of a rich curricula across disciplines, the damage of mental health in students and teachers, and many other negative consequences. These tests also suck vital financial resources from our schools while the states cut education budgets. The bullying by the Department of Ed to make schools comply with the 95% testing rate is simply wrong. How are schools supposed to teach our children not to bully when they are the victims themselves? The laws passed that allowed the school districts to throw out every other rule should be extended to testing, so that they can listen to their parents and students and STOP THE TESTING.

  5. ESSA and the new proposal will not work because parents, teachers, and their supporters will not tolerate the high-stakes testing regime. John King was kicked out of NY for his “my way or the highway” attitude towards parents and teachers. It is time for the Dept of Ed to see that PARENTS, not the Dept of Ed, know our own children. We are allowed to make decisions which are best for them. Local control of school districts is important and necessary. On Long Island, you purchase your home based on many factors- school district is one of them. If the Government wants a one-size, fits all approach to education then we are no better than dictatorship countries. It is time for Parents to take back our school systems. High stakes testing that is forced on children even with major learning disabilities, even on children in HOSPICE, is not what education should be this country. It should be about teachers using creative, fun, hands on methods to instill a love of learning in younger students and allowing students to achieve their best throughout their K-12 education. These proposals do not allow for that at all.

  6. The moment student testing is used for any purpose other than assessing the student’s individualprogress is the moment it becomes useless for that original purpose.

    If we, as parents and taxpayers, remove a significant amount of your budget and then simply demand that you perform your job to a higher degree, will you be able to do so?

    Research has proven that it is important to test students several times and in different ways to truly determine the depth and breadth of knowledge each student possesses. High stakes testing does not follow those standards and is, therefore, unreliable.

    Testing companies actively solicit test scorers on Jon boards such as Indeed and Craig’s List. Not only do they not require anything other than a degree (in any field, not necessarily education), an ad I saw specifically instructed applicants to leave their resumes at home. The individuals scoring essay responses on high stakes testing are, for the most part, recent college grads with no experience, earning as little as $11/hour in some areas. They are unqualified by any reasonable standard.

    Education should be a partnership between the student’s parents and local school. It should not be a partnership between politicians and corporations. There is no evidence that high stakes testing is effective. There is much evidence that it is, in fact, damaging. We cannot afford to throw away the education of a generation of American school children while politicians and corporations use them for experimentation and profit!

  7. My (middle class) children attend a culturally and economically diverse NYC public school. As we have lost 1.5 million dollars in funding, class sizes have risen, students with disabilities have been mainstreamed into our community school (least restrictive environment) without the funds to offer them proper support, and testing culture has consumed their education. This federal overreach is harming poor children. My children will always be read to, will travel, will have art and music and history in their lives. But for less fortunate children, school may be the only safe haven where their light can be lit – where they can be inspired by Art, find a hidden musical talent if given the opportunity, realize a dream of success. When (young) children’s education consists solely of inappropriately difficult high level math and reading tasks, and all else (social studies!?!) falls by the wayside, when children are told over and over they have failed to meet the rubric, when RIGOR is the word used to describe our educational aspirations (Latin: severity, strict) then WE, the parents and the teachers, have a duty to stand up for our less fortunate children until our Government recognizes that these federal regulations are harming our children. #optout

  8. The single greatest problem I see with ESSA is the continued focus on testing. Regardless of whether the federal government creates tests to judge schools or whether state governments create tests to judge schools, the emphasis remains on test scores and not on learning and creating systems that help students gain the skills they need to become well-rounded and knowledgeable citizens. When the emphasis is on testing, the entire school year becomes about getting the students to pass the test. There are more problems with this approach than I can list. One enormous problem is that for subjects like Language Arts, there can be several right answers to a question, but the test only allows one. A student could make a compelling argument that the main idea of a piece is X, but the test wants the student to say Y. Teachers have to push all their students to think in one box to get to the right answer, and that punishes our gifted students and divergent thinkers. Then there are students who are functioning below grade level, and rather than teaching them on their developmental level and celebrating their gains, schools are forced to push those students as hard as they can to get them to meet an arbitrary standard. That leaves the student overwhelmed and less rather than more able to learn. The focus on testing also takes away from the school’s role in teaching social skills and group work. Tests don’t judge students on how well they work together, even though this is a vital skill for the workplace. Testing culture leads to educational failure, and it’s high time the US moved away from high stakes testing.

    I would love to see our legislators reach out to universities and base the new law on the input of professors of Education. Ask them what would help our children learn best. I suspect they would suggest we do a great many of the things countries like Finland are doing, things that have allowed those countries’ students to lead the world in educational achievement. Finland does no standardized testing until near the end of high school, their students start school at age 7, their preschools are not academically focused, they have abundant recess time, students learn less content, which means what they do learn they learn deeply, schools are uniformly funded, and the focus is on helping the whole child grow and develop. We know these sorts of methods work. If the Obama administration is serious about improving the quality of education in the United States, it will move away from standardized testing, heed the advice of our academics who have studied learning, and choose to emulate systems that work rather than blindly following the advice of testing companies and private organization like the Gates Foundation.

  9. This is the same misdirected approach that had parents, teachers and others who actually understand education outraged in NY. If education becomes all about ratings based on tests, all that is taught is what will be on those tests, in the manner of those tests. Worksheet after worksheet (or computer quiz after computer quiz) will slowly suck the life and love of learning out of every student no matter what is said about including arts or multi-modal approaches because everyone knows all that tests accurately measure is the ability to take that test (and the income level of the parents). Using only one measure of assessment also leaves out children with learning disabilities like dyslexia or dyscalculia for whom that format does not work, and underestimates the achievement of ELLs. Who will want to teach IEP and ELL students if the school is rated by their performance on an assessment that cannot work for them? How much money is spent on these tests from companies that have no real grounding in educational theory or the science of assessment?

    Assessment is about seeing the strengths and areas for growth of the student, pointing to what should come next. These tests are not assessment, they are a punitive exercise for ranking. No useful information is ever shared with teacher, student or family. One can’t see the children’s work. in many cases the tests are scored by unqualified hourly workers forced to cover a quota, or worse, there is now talk of having a computer grade essays, which has been a method shown to be easily tinkered with by using large and many words with no care for sense or content.

    How dare you continue with threats of punishment for families, teachers or school administrators who refuse to enter this foolish profit-driven game? How much listening to stakeholders have you really done if you continue with this nonsense?

  10. Every year the Opt Out movement grows stronger. Punishing schools and school districts because parents are exercising their right to refuse state tests is wrong headed and frankly, a lawsuit in waiting. The Federal Government should get ahead of this problem and acknowledge the rights of parents to refuse the state tests without consequence to their schools or their children. It doesn’t matter why parents are refusing the tests (though the reasons range from believing that high stakes tests do no not serve students living in high poverty, students with special needs, or English Language Learners to a loathing of federal overreach to research that shows that tying test scores to school/teacher assessments is corrupts and degrades classrooms and schools.

  11. This new proposal will not work because as parents, teachers, and our supporters, we will not tolerate the continued high-stakes testing regime. The 95% participation rate is a threat to necessary funding, and the most in need will be punished twice. Once, because they are living with underfunded public schools and have the most needs, and twice, if they stand up to fight by opting out, they will be punished. How is it that the USDOE continues to use invalid measures to push bad policies on our children? Educators and parents see through this injustice. We are fed up with those at the top pushing down on our schools. These are public funds and the public needs to have more control of how these funds are handed out, and what strings are being attached to those public funds.

  12. Why are there punitive consequences for parents, students, districts and states that opt-out? This is a legitimate response to a poorly thought out, knee jerk submersion into a testing paradigm that has been proven to be flawed in many ways. Many of the ELA tests have proven to be on the inappropriate lexiles, thus are neither valid or reliable. The APA has said that this abundance of testing has caused many students irreparable psychological harm, and it has proven a tremendous waste of resources for already heavily strapped districts. This seems so obviously wrong, why would the Department of Education do this? Especially given the experience of John King in NYS?

  13. Should comments be submitted only on the blog? Are there other modes of communication available?

  14. Education is the legal mandate of each state. Under this administration , the Dept of Ed has overreached it’s authority by issuing edicts to state and local school systems by threatening to withhold federal funds for non compliance. The latest set of rules simply appear to instruct states to implement an accountability/ improvement program they already have. The negative comments about NCLB, appear to be politically motivated. I taught HS for 34 yrs 1969- 2003. Our system required a school improvement program I helped produce. The county and state implemented year end assssments in various subjects that teachers could use to determine grades. Now, the assessments do not count for grades. Unmotivated students ignore them giving a skewed picture of student achievement. What do the buzz words ” equity” and ” empowerment” really mean? To me equity means equal opportunity to succeed or fail based on meeting accepted , consistent standards through individual effort. Empowerment means you as an individual are responsible for your life ; not the
    “System” or society. Everyone pays lip service to a ” quality” education but is not willing to make the moral,societal or financial commitments to help implement “quality”

  15. My daughter is 13 and very shy, she does not like raising her hand or speaking in front of the class. She prefers writing out her math problems then using the calculator and writing on paper before typing it on the laptop. I personally do not see this as a problem but the school has documented this on her IEP as a problem that needs to be remedied.
    My daughter feels like she is being pressured into doing things that she does not feel comfortable doing, and honestly so do I. Does this sound reasonable to you?

  16. The NCLB law states that parents must receive 1% of Title I Funds for which can be used to attend workshops and conferences that will empower them to help educate their children. Also part of that 1% is used for supplies and refreshments for workshops that is conducted by parents in their school Parent Centers.
    Students succeeds more effectively when their parents are empowered.
    (1.) What funds and resources will the new law ESSA (Every Students Succeed Act) offer to parents so they can continue empowering themselves to educate their children?
    (2.) What funds and resources will the New ESSA law provide for supporting Parent Centers with the necessary tools needed to empower the parents as NCLB have done prior to this new law?

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