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    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed into law by President Barack Obama replaces the deeply flawed No Child Left Behind (NCLB). NEA members and public education supporters accomplished something incredible in their work to pass ESSA, finally getting lawmakers to realize what educators have been saying all along – that test scores alone cannot accurately measure the quality of a school.

    Now states can rely on more than just math and reading test scores when determining a school’s success. They can look at things like robust arts and athletics programs. Full time counselors and nurses and librarians. Strong parent and family engagement programs. Rigorous AP classes and engaging electives. So tell us: what’s on your Opportunity Dashboard?

    If you list your priorities, NEA can better communicate with lawmakers about the features and systems that should be included in each state’s ESSA plans. And, if you tell NEA what you want to see on the Opportunity Dashboard in California, they'll be able to connect you with chances to talk with those lawmakers yourself, and other ways to get involved in the vital work to implement ESSA where you live.


    President Obama, on Dec. 10, 2015, signed into law a new version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) with a bill that fixes the failed NCLB. The NEA-supported Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), puts an end to the "one size fits all" NCLB era after 14 long years. The U.S. Senate on Dec. 9 overwhelmingly passed the bill - S. 1177 - with the House of Representatives having voted YES just days before. President Obama's signature on the bill begins a new chapter for public education. 


    ESSA furthers all three of NEA’s core goals by:

    • creating an opportunity “dashboard” to help ensure equity and opportunity for all students;
    • reducing the amount of standardized testing and decoupling test scores and high-stakes decision making;
    • ensuring that educators’ voices are part of decision-making at the federal, state, and local levels.


    Ushering in a new era in public education, ESSA ensures that every child has equal opportunity to a high-quality education, regardless of ZIP code. It empowers educators as trusted professionals to make school and classroom decisions while keeping the focus on the students most in need.

     CTA President Eric C. Heins' statement
     NEA Today article
     NEA President Lily Eskelsen García's statement
     Key points on ESSA
     US Dept. of Education Transitioning to ESSA FAQs


    Working up to the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA):



    Back on July 16, the Senate voted 81-17 to pass the bipartisan, NEA-supported Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177). The victory was a product of unprecedented member engagement that included 216,000 emails and 15,000 phone calls to Congress; 32,000 tweets; 26,000 petition signers; 367,000 views of; and nearly 2,000 face-to-face meetings with members of Congress and key staff by state affiliate leaders, NEA officers and board members, and lobbyists.

    The bill improves upon current law significantly in many ways, including all three of the top areas where progress is needed according to our members: 

    • Providing more opportunity for all students, including a “dashboard” of key indicators to identify and help close opportunity gaps;
    • Reducing the high-stakes associated with standardized tests, so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach; and,
    • Empowering educators by giving them a greater voice in decision making. 

    S. 1177 returns decision-making to the people who know the names of the students they educate—a paradigm shift from No Child Left Behind that will help restore the original focus on providing opportunities for all students, especially those most in need.  

    Read CTA President Eric C. Heins' "Thank You" message to California educators for their efforts in helping get the bill passed. View "Thank You" video by NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, who applauds educators nationwide for standing together and fighting for our students. 


    April 11, 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The landmark federal education law, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1965, was the first general aid-to-education program ever adopted by Congress. Focused primarily on delivering federal aid to help level the playing field for poor and minority students, ESEA was part of Johnson’s War on Poverty.

    In the years since it was first enacted, reauthorizations of the law have expanded the federal role in mandating accountability standards and consequences. 2001’s No Child Left Behind took those mandates to a new extreme, implementing a system where schools were labeled “failing” and imposing grossly underfunded requirements and sanctions on schools that failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress (a new standardized test based measure) toward NCLB’s admirable but unrealistic goal of universal student proficiency by 2014. NCLB’s “one size fits all” approach to school improvement was widely criticized by educators from its inception and throughout its fifteen year implementation.

    On December 10, 2015, President Barack Obama signed the latest incarnation of ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), replacing the deeply flawed No Child Left Behind. The new law promised to de-emphasize the high stakes testing associated with NCLB so students have more time to learn and teachers have more time to teach. The law uses multiple measures to assess school success, and empowers educators with a far greater voice in educational and instructional decisions. The new law was passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress.

     View History Timeline

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