NEA Parents' Resources

Why the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Matters

In 2001 Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which set measurable goals for students to meet.

In 2001 Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which set measurable goals for students to meet through standardized testing. Over time, this led to students only learning what they thought they’d be tested on, hindering their overall education.

Today the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has replaced this law, and puts the decisions of education back in the hands of local educators, parents, and communities – while keeping the focus on students most in need.

Breaking Down ESSA

You can read the full text of the Act here, and key provisions of ESSA are outlined below.

  • Authorizes national grants to be distributed to statewide organizations called Family Engagement Centers. These centers provide training on parent education and how families and schools can work together to help students learn best
  • Requires assurance that states will collect and disseminate information to local educational agencies and schools
  • Provides resources to improve schools, like including school safety initiatives and activities to address bullying and harassment
  • Supports programs that communicate with parents and families where they are, including at home, in the community, and at school
  • Includes provisions for the Community Support for School Success program, which provides grants for schools that encourage coordination of academic, social, and health services through partnerships
  • Authorizes a new $250 million early childhood education program
  • Requires school districts to inform parents and guardians of opt-out policies, which allows parents to have their children opt out of statewide standardized tests where state and local policies permit

ESSA will ensure every student has access to a high quality education, regardless of ZIP code, and that strategies to engage families and communities are central to school improvement efforts.

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