On December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law as Public Law Number 114-95. ESSA reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 “to ensure that every child achieves.”(1)
ESSA is the nation’s general education law and, as such, has been revised by Congress many times over the years. The last reauthorization took place in 2001 and was called the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The page you’re on right now replaces the information CPIR used to offer on NCLB.
Given the importance of education in the lives of children with and without disabilities, it comes as no surprise that the education community is highly motivated to learn the in’s and out’s of the ESSA—what’s new, what’s different, what must now change in how we approach and deliver education to the nation’s 50.1 million students in public elementary and secondary schools across the country.
CPIR is pleased to offer this page of resources on the ESSA and to streamline your search for accurate information on this newest version of our education law. This is a long page with a wealth of connections, so we’ve provided the quick-links menu below to help you jump quickly to your area of interest.
- Get a copy of the ESSA
- Quick look at the major titles of the law
- Reports from Congress on the new law
- From the authority on ESSA: The U.S. Department of Education
- Summaries of changes in the law
- How ESSA impacts students with disabilities
- Other voices from the field
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Many of the links we’ve included in this page will take you to a PDF file. These are identified as such, and we’ve tried to indicate how large each file is. If you don’t have the Adobe Reader, you can download the free viewer at:
Get a Copy of the ESSA
Public Law Number 114-95 is available online in hyperlinked, text, and PDF versions.
Hyperlinked version (which allows you to jump from the Table of Contents to specific sections of the law)
Text only (no hyperlinks)
What’s S.1177? | You’ll notice that, when any of these links open, the law you’ll see is called S.1177. This indicates that the text you’re looking at is actually the enrolled bill passed in the Senate. It’s what was sent on to the President and what President Obama signed.
Quick Look at the Major Titles of the Law
The ESSA is divided into 8 different titles, each emphasizing a different aspect of strengthening and supporting the educational systems of states and local educational agencies (LEAs). A look at the titles will give you a quick grasp of the law’s sweeping nature. The titles of the law are:
Title I—Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational 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 1 is the most well-known and prominent section of the original legislation passed in 1965 (the ESEA) and remains so in this latest reauthorization. The U.S. Department of Education provides Title 1 funding (through 4 formula grant programs) to LEAs with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards. (2) For the 2014 fiscal year, Title I, Part A was the single largest investment for K-12 education, with an estimated $14.4 billion allocated. (3)
Summary of Each of ESSA’s Titles | The National Conference of State Legislatures provides us all with a 13-page summary of the major thrusts of each of ESSA’s titles. Reading it is a good way to grasp what’s required and authorized under the law. You can find the summary (PDF, 537 KB) at:
Reports from Congress on the New Law
Congress is responsible for drafting federal legislation. Typically, the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives each drafts a version of a bill such as ESSA. The process can be lengthy and includes taking public input, receiving testimony from experts and stakeholders in the field, and working in committee. Differences between two versions of a bill (the House version and the Senate version) must then be reconciled into one bill that goes to the President for either signing or veto.
Legislation’s History | The entire history of a bill’s passage through the Senate and the House is diligently recorded and made publicly available. The history of ESSA’s travels through Congress and on to the President can be found at:
Conference Report | A conference report is usually issued to accompany the legislation. The conference report includes the actual legislation, as agreed upon by House and Senate, and identifies where there are major areas of disagreement. Sometimes called the joint explanatory statement, these sections of the conference report document the House position, the Senate position, and the recommended solution reached by members of the conference committee. (4)
The full report (PDF, 1.8 MB) | The Every Student Succeeds Act Conference Report to Accompany S. 1177 is available online at:
Summary of the conference report (PDF, 220 KB) | A much better read than the report itself, the summary is 3 pages long and focuses exclusively on what ESSA does.
From the Authority on ESSA: The U.S. Department of Education
The U.S. Department of Education is the federal agency charged with oversight of the ESSA. This includes writing federal regulations that will guide implementation of the law passed by Congress. Therefore, the Department is the first and most authoritative resource to consult about the rules and requirements of ESSA. It’s also an excellent place to connect with the abundance of resources that the Department has made available to states, LEAs, and stakeholders who now must understand and implement the reauthorized law.
The main ESSA page begins at:
Where to start? | Given the scad of resources available at the Department, deciding where to start can be a puzzler. Perhaps these 4 resources should be among the first to consult.
The Department’s Dear Colleague letter | Written to the Chief State School Officers, the letter is short, announces the exciting reauthorization, and reiterates the main purposes of the ESSA. It doesn’t, however, get into any particulars.
Sign up for email alerts about the ESSA | Great way to keep on top of emerging news, grant opportunities, and requests for public input!
How we’ll transition into the new law, including effective dates | In the coming months, the Department will provide ongoing guidance to support schools, districts, and states in the transition to the ESSA. This Dear Colleague letter begins this process and provides guidance regarding certain activities that are affected by this reauthorization, including deadlines. (PDF, 61 KB)
Webinars on ESSA reauthorization | On December 21 and 22, the Department held webinars on ESSA. These provided highlights of the Act and discussed the transition process from NCLB to ESSA. The slideshow is online in PDF (508 KB), but it’s not for the faint of heart nor “newbies” to the law. To understand many of the key transition points, you’ll need to know a LOT about NCLB, Title 1’s assessment peer review, states’ reporting requirements, ESEA flexibility waivers, and more.
Transitioning to ESSA: Frequently Asked Questions | Just released on February 26, 2016! The Department has prepared these FAQs to support States and LEAs in understanding expectations during the transition to full implementation of the ESSA. More questions and answers will be added in the coming months, too. (PDF, 319 KB)
Summaries of Changes in the Law
The resources we’ve listed below focus broadly on the changes in the law, not necessarily how those changes affect students with disabilities. It’s important to remember that ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act, “reinforced that students with disabilities are general education students first” (5), thus making changes in the law extremely relevant to all parents, including those whose children have disabilities.
Summary Analysis of the Every Student Succeeds Act. (PDF, 592 KB)
From the Education Counsel, this 11-page summary gives extensive coverage to key changes in the law and how these impact states, LEAs, schools, parents, and students.
Every Student Succeeds Act, Summary of Title I Provisions. (PDF, 1.5 MB)
This 35-page summary was developed by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) for the School Administrators Association of New York State. It goes far beyond merely summarizing Title I provisions, but the majority of the report is presented in easy-to-grasp bullet form.
Q&A: What You Need to Know About the Fix to No Child Left Behind Act.
This Q&A from the White House answers common questions about ESSA and includes a side-by-side comparison of NCLB and the bipartisan bill that passed Congress as ESSA.
ESSA: A Progress Report on Elementary and Secondary Education. (PDF, 963 KB)
Released by the Obama White House (and since removed from the White House website under the Trump Administration), this 10-pager is now archived here at CPIR and summarizes the progress the country’s schools have made since 2008 (e.g., higher academic standards, increased graduation rates, investments in early childhood education) and describes how ESSA will help our schools build on that progress.
What ESSA Means for School Boards. (PDF, 190 KB)
The National School Boards Association has prepared this 6-page primer on what ESSA means for local school boards, including a transition timetable and frequently asked questions.
Everything You Need to Know About the ESSA.
The Alliance for Excellent Education has created a series of bite-sized materials—both print and video—that provides concise but comprehensive analyses of several key areas within ESSA—specifically, Accountability, Assessments, High Schools, Teachers and School Leaders, Linked Learning, and Deeper Learning.
How ESSA Impacts Students with Disabilities
With all that’s been said on this page and all the resources mentioned, the burning question for Parent Centers and disability advocates is… how does the reauthorization affect students with disabilities? What should parents of children with disabilities know about student rights and responsibilities under ESSA? Here are several resources that will help you answer these questions.
ESSA and Students with Disabilities: Analysis & Comments.
The Advocacy Institute and the Center for Law and Education examine several key provisions of ESSA along with comments of how the provisions may impact students with disabilities.
CEC’s Summary of Selected Provisions in ESSA. (PDF, 159 KB)
CEC (The Council for Exceptional Children) has prepared this 3-page summary of selected provisions in ESSA that relate to issues relevant to children and youth with disabilities and gifts and talents. The summary includes new provisions as well as those provisions eliminated.
AUCD Preliminary Summary of Provisions within ESSA Impacting Students with Disabilities. (PDF, 163 KB)
AUCD is the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. Just before President Obama signed S.1177 into law as Public Law 114-95, AUCD released this summary, which identifies the ESSA provisions that most directly impact students with disabilities. Highlighted and succinctly explained are the following: annual statewide testing and accountability systems, alternate assessments and 1% cap, educational goals, bullying and restraints and seclusion, and the extent of Federal authority.
Webinar | ESSA of 2015: What it Means for Students with Disabilities.
This webinar was hosted by the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), and the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD). The link above takes you to a description of the webinar, the PowerPoint slides, and the option to listen to and view the webinar itself. If you view the webinar, don’t be alarmed by the fuzzing out of the first “introductory” slides. When the archive reaches the first content slide, the webinar proceeds at its normal pace.
The New Education Law: 6 Things to Know.
From NCLD’s Public Policy & Advocacy Team, this succinct article focuses on the 6 important things for parents to know about the new law, with emphasis on how it affects students with disabilities and the need for parental involvement and advocacy.
What about the Testing Cap for Students With Disabilities?
From Disability Scoop, here’s a short look at one of the major changes that the reauthorized law brings to the lives of children with disabilities.
Other Voices from the Field
Naturally, everyone has an opinion—-and recommendations, concerns, and suggestions. In no particular order, here’s a sampling of reactions and input from the field.
From the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools. (PDF, 445 KB)
A 2-page letter of support for ESSA’s provisions regarding charter schools and how these can support the education of students with disabilities.
From The Coalition for Teaching Quality. (PDF, 409 KB)
A 3-page letter of appreciation for the passage of ESSA, with expressed concern that the reauthorized law eliminates a meaningful minimum entry standard for teachers and the need for states and districts to correct ongoing inequities in access to high quality teachers.
Education Technology in the ESSA.
Discusses important education technology provisions included in ESSA, including a significant new statutory authority for states and districts to pursue innovative educational technology (edtech) strategies (apparently buried in Title IV and referred to as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program). From the American Action Forum.
From the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities. (PDF, 190 KB)
A letter of appreciation to the Congress on its bipartisan bill and a spare listing of provisions that relate to students with disabilities.
1 | The Every Student Succeeds Act, Public Law 114-95, page 1.
2 | U.S. Department of Education. (2015, October ). Laws and guidance / Elementary and secondary education: Improving basic programs operated by local educational agencies (Title I, Part A). Washington, DC: Author.
3 | Miller, C. (2015, April 2). Funding the child: Analysis of Title I portability. Washington, DC: American Action Forum.
4 | Davis, C.M. (2015, June). Conference reports and joint explanatory statements. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.