Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

What is the Every Student Succeeds Act?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is an Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization bill that was signed into law on December 10, 2015. It creates a long-term federal education policy that gives states more flexibility, encourages innovation, and requires accountability.

Highlights of ESSA include:

  • Maintenance of annual assessments for grades 3-8 and high school
  • Creation of opportunities for states to pilot innovative assessment systems
  • Increase in state flexibility to design accountability systems, interventions and student supports
  • Ability for states to have increased flexibility to work with local stakeholders to develop educator evaluation and support systems
  • Increase in state and local flexibility in the use of federal funds

Why does it matter?

Accountability systems set goals for student learning, measure progress on those goals, support interventions for progress towards the goals and publicly communicate progress to stakeholders. In recent years, states across the country have put in place new, rigorous academic standards and assessments. Illinois State Learning Standards, detailing what K-12 students should know and be able to do in English language arts and mathematics at the end of each grade, were?implemented in 2014. A year later, the state implemented a high-quality assessment, the?Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), to ensure students are on track with the new standards.

Accountability systems provide data on proficiency and growth, and provide schools and districts steps to improve. This expectation of action is critical if we want all students to graduate high school ready for whatever they wish to do next — be it attend a certificate program or two-year or four-year college.

Our guiding ESSA principles

Advance Illinois and its partners are seeking an accountability system that is:

Fair for all schools no matter the characteristics of the student body
Clear: Simple and understandable for parents and educators
Supportive: Intervenes and provides resources to schools with needs instead of simply punishing them

The?Illinois State Board of?Education?is seeking public feedback on its draft ESSA plan. We believe the ESSA plan for the accountability system should include the following:

  • Realistic but ambitious long-term goals for student performance (SMART goals: goals are strategic, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound).
  • Summative measures that provide a clear sense of student progress and focus on student growth. Additional data such as funding levels and school context should be used to make determinations about how the state supports or—as a last resort—intervenes with schools.
  • Emphasis on reporting the progress of high-need subgroups of students—such as English learners, low-income, minorities and students with disabilities. It should be clear if students in these groups are or are not making progress.
  • The system should be valid for English learners including assessing students in their native language (based on updated language arts standards) and using English Language Proficiency assessment appropriately.

The ESSA plan should not include the following:

  • Summative measures that do not provide communities with actionable information
  • Unfair penalties for schools or penalties that overemphasize student proficiency

For more information on ISBE’s process: www.isbe.net/essa

For more on accountability: www.edtrust.org, keyword: ESSA



This is a summary of the Every Student Succeeds Act created by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Education Trust has examined what ESSA means for equity.

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has compiled a variety of resources on ESSA, organized by the sections in the act.