ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)

Every Student Succeeds (ESSA)

  • ESSA is a federal law that outlines how states can use federal money to support public schools
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the nation’s main education law for all public schools
  • The law holds schools accountable for how students learn and achieve
  •  In September 2017, New York State submitted its plan for the approximately $1.6 billion New York receives annually under ESSA

What are students expected to learn?

Under ESSA, each state gets to set what students are expected to learn in each grade and must apply these standards to all students, including those with learning and attention issues.  ESSA is very complex and confusing; however, the law’s requirements for annual testingaccountability, and school improvement receive the most attention so let’s take a look:

  • ESSA requires states to test students in reading and math annually in grades 3-8 and once in high school
  • States must also test kids in science once during elementary school, once in middle school and once in high school
  • Minimum participation rate of 95 percent required on state tests
  • Districts can use nationally recognized tests at the high school level instead of state assessments, with state permission, such as the SAT or ACT
  • States can create their own testing opt-out laws, and states decide what should happen in schools that miss targets

ESSA requires states to hold schools accountable for how students achieve. States have to measure school performance based on at least five factors—four are academic, mandatory and have to be given priority, or greater weight in the school’s overall rating: academic growth and achievement, English language proficiency, and high school graduation rates.  The other is the state’s choice but must measure school quality or student success, for example, progress toward life goals, college and/or career readiness skills, behavioral health indicators etc.

States will use results from the above-mentioned accountability system to identify two main groups that need support and improvement:

  • “Comprehensive Support and Improvement” which include the lowest-performing 5 percent of the schools in the state that receive Title I funding, all public high schools that fail to graduate one-third or more of their students
  • “Targeted Support and Improvement” which are schools where any subgroup of students consistently underperforms.

Under ESSA, once a school is considered “struggling,” then states and school districts must create plans to try to help improve these struggling schools.


  • Title I: Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Education Agencies
  • Title II: Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, or Other School Leaders
  • Title III: Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students
  • Title IV: 21st-Century Schools
  • Title V: State Innovation and Local Flexibility
  • Title VI: Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native Education
  • Title VII: Impact Aid
  • Title VIII: General Provisions
  • Title IX: Education for the Homeless and Other Laws




The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

The original goal of the law, which remains today, was to improve educational equity for students from lower-income families by providing federal funds to school districts serving poor students.


No Child Left Behind

NCLB introduced the concept of school accountability based on student proficiency on standardized tests and increased the federal role in state accountability systems. 



ESSA maintains many of the NCLB requirements, such as specific grade-level state assessments. However, ESSA reduces the Federal role in state accountability systems and prohibits the US Department of Education (USDE) from mandating any specific curriculum, assessments or evaluation system. States are responsible for most of the decisions regarding the consequences of the accountability system.

ESSA New Accountability System

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is a law that outlines how states can use federal money to support public schools.  Under ESSA, states get to decide the education plans for their schools within a framework provided by the federal government.  ESSA requires that states identify the lowest performing schools and increase interventions if these schools do not improve.  

NY receives about $1.6 billion annually in ESSA funding.  In exchange for funding, states must have an accountability  system for measuring school performance and determining which schools need extra support.

For its accountability system, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) has established a new set of indicators to measure school performance beginning in the 2018-2019 school year. The new indicators include:

student academic achievement;
student growth and school progress;
progress of English language learners;
chronic absenteeism; and
for high schools, graduation rates and preparing students for college, career and civic engagement.

  • For every school, these measures are applied to all students and specific student subgroups, such as members of racial and ethnic groups, students with disabilities, and English language learners
  • Accountability Subgroups: There are nine student subgroups for which a school can be identified as TSI:
    • Asian
    • African-American
    • Hispanic
    • Multiracial
    • Native American
    • White
    • English language learners
    • Low-income students
    • Students with disabilities

How Schools Are Measured 

For every indicator:

  • A score of “1” to “4” is given for all students at a school and
  • A score of “1” to “4” is given for each specific student subgroup at a school for which the school is accountable

For every indicator, a school is given a numeric score:

    • “1” is lowest
    • “4” is highest


Under the old NCLB/ESEA Waiver system, low performing schools were identified as Priority or Focus schools. Under ESSA there will be:
Comprehensive Support Improvement (CSI)  
Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) Schools.
Targeted Support and Improvement Districts
Schools in Good Standing

How Schools are Identified

Comprehensive Support Improvement (CSI) 

Targeted Support and Improvement Schools (TSI)

Targeted Districts

Good Standing Schools

ESSA Designations and Receivership

  • The newly identified Receivership Schools were in Priority status during the 2017-18 school year and are now newly identified as CSI Schools.
  • Current Receivership Schools that are not identified as CSI Schools will be removed from Superintendent Receivership at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

ESSA Designations and Receivership

  • Receivership schools are placed into Superintendent Receivership and must show Demonstrable Improvement beginning with the 2019-20 school year or will be placed into Independent Receivership.
  • School districts may choose to close, or close and replace the school with a new school, in place of having an Independent Receiver appointed.


Refuse the Test

Download 2020 Refusal Letter

Refuse the Test

Download 2020 Refusal Letter

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