The Every Student Succeeds Act significantly improves upon No Child Left Behind by, among other things, giving more power back to states and local schools. We’re working to help policymakers and educators take advantage of the law’s new flexibility, especially when it comes to creating smarter school accountability systems, prioritizing the needs of high-achieving low-income students, and encouraging the adoption of content-rich curricula.


Our many ESSA-related blog posts are listed below.

Fordham's ESSA experts:

David DeSchryver

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, there has been buzz about the change to the “supplement, not supplant” requirement for Title I, Part A. The Obama administration tried to saddle the requirement with regulations and conducted negotiated rulemaking on the matter, but they never found consensus nor finalized any rules. The Trump administration rejected regulations but promised guidance. That was two years ago. School administrators have been in a holding pattern all the while.

The wait is over. On January twenty-fifth, the Department of Education (ED) released its clarifying document. What does it mean?

For the uninitiated, the requirement basically states that grantees may not use Title I funds to replace state and local investments or reduce the local responsibility to deliver quality educational programming. The idea is straightforward, but the methods of ensuring compliance prior to ESSA were so technical and granular that grant managers who valued their jobs tended to use the funds in very conservative ways. Good ideas for new student services and programs suffered bureaucratic deaths at their hands.

Recognizing the problem, Congress made a significant change. Instead of examining every item purchased with Title I to ensure compliance,...


The use of standardized tests as a measure of student success and progress in school goes back decades. This practice was formalized by the 2001 passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which established the broader use of test scores as a measure of school quality nationwide. The 2009 Race to the Top federal grant program promoted teacher evaluation reforms that also included the use of standardized tests as a component of a teacher’s evaluation.

But there has been pushback against the use of tests. Some academics and advocates, prominently including the teachers’ unions, have raised various concerns about the consequences of reliance (or overreliance) on test scores for school and teacher accountability purposes. And while there is certainly academic and policy disagreement about the efficacy of using test scores for accountability purposes, there is no doubt that policymakers are scaling back the mandated use of tests. The 2015 passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), for instance, continues NCLB’s requirement that students be tested annually from third to eighth grade, but eliminates much of the federal role in enforcing test-based accountability.

More recently, however,...


Weighted student funding, also known as student-based budgeting (SBB), is a funding mechanism that aims to allocate school resources more equitably. Rather than having districts fund schools based on staffing and resource needs, SBB requires districts to provide a base amount to each school for each student and then adds supplemental funding based on student characteristics such as poverty, disability, limited English proficiency, or academic proficiency. Transitioning to a SBB model doesn’t necessarily give schools more money—it just changes how school leaders are able to use allocated money. (For more information on SBB, see here, here and here.)

Two of the biggest differences between SBB and traditional school funding formulas are flexibility and transparency. In districts that use a traditional funding model, school leaders have limited knowledge about how central offices choose to dole out funds and almost zero control over how to spend the funds they receive. School leaders in districts that use SBB models, on the other hand, can easily determine how funds are awarded and have more autonomy to direct their schools’ funds toward student needs. 

To promote SBB, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act authorized a pilot program for districts interested in this...


When state report cards are released this fall, it will be the first time that overall letter grades are assigned to districts and schools. It will also be the first time that these overall grades are used to identify the state’s lowest performing 5 percent of schools, a requirement of ESSA.

It’s been a while since Ohio’s ESSA plan was in the news, so here’s a quick refresher on how the Buckeye State promised to implement the law’s provisions related to struggling schools. ESSA requires states to identify two separate groups of low performing schools: comprehensive support schools (which include the lowest-performing schools in the state) and targeted support schools (which include schools struggling with certain subgroups). Ohio chose to rename each of these categories—comprehensive support schools are known as “priority schools,” and targeted support schools are known as “focus schools.” Priority schools will be identified every three years starting this September. According to the state’s ESSA plan, there are three ways a school can be identified as priority:

  1. It is part of the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title I schools, based on the report card’s overall grade methodology.
  2. It is a high school with
  3. ...

An increasing number of headline-grabbing graduation scandals have renewed the public’s interest in how students earn a high school diploma. A recent paper from the Center for American Progress adds to the discussion by examining high school graduation requirements in all fifty states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to determine whether they are aligned with college admissions requirements and a variety of quality indicators.

To complete their state-by-state comparisons, the authors reviewed the state-level high school coursework needed to earn a standard diploma, as well as the admissions requirements for each state’s public university system.[1] These requirements were divided into two categories: years of study within each subject area and the course type and sequence within each subject.

The authors used Carnegie units to measure the years of study required by both high school graduation and college admissions standards; one Carnegie unit is equivalent to 120 hours of class time. States were placed into one of three categories based on their coursework requirements for math, English, science, social studies, foreign language, fine arts, physical education/health, and electives.[2] In states where both the high school and public...

Stacey Childress

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.

—William Pollard

Which forces and trends will drive the next twenty years of K–12 education innovation? We’re asking this question at NewSchools Venture Fund as we celebrate our twentieth anniversary this year.

In this spirit, here are three big, important questions for 2018, the answers to which have implications not only for the coming year, but for the next decade and beyond.

Is education technology poised for a new wave of innovation?

Several years ago, I often frustrated ed tech entrepreneurs and investors by pointing out that the last thing teachers wanted was another online gradebook. I’d say, “We already have a bunch of those.” Nonetheless, it was the most frequent pitch I heard from 2009–2011.

Fortunately, this imitative drought gave way to a flood of innovation. Investment in K–12 ed tech increased fourfold from 2010 to 2015. The sheer volume of instructional content and tools produced during this period resulted in many high-quality digital offerings in segments such as math, classroom management, and school communications.

But over the last...

Kate Kreamer and Ryan Reyna

The movement to expand career readiness is growing across the country. After reviewing all fifty-one state Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans for our new joint brief, “Mapping Career Readiness in State ESSA Plans,” we found that almost all include at least one strategy to advance this work. Much more so than in the past, states are simultaneously creating more of these opportunities and holding schools accountable for their number of career-ready students. This is a significant shift in state policymaking that, if implemented in equitable and high quality ways, has the potential to benefit millions of learners.

Unfortunately, it is too soon to declare victory because most states failed to fully leverage ESSA’s flexibility to advance career readiness. For example, few states aligned their long-term goals to their vision for success, leaving many states’ overall strategy for supporting learners’ college-and-career readiness little more than rhetoric. And very few states leveraged ESSA to promote the integration of academic and technical instruction into their professional development or standards.

Seven findings—some good, some bad—are particularly noteworthy:

  • Forty-nine states’ ESSA plans included at least one strategy to expand career readiness.
  • Thirty-five plans included a career-focused metric in their high school accountability
  • ...

Last week, Bellwether Education Partners (in partnership with the Collaborative for Student Success) released its review of Ohio’s plan to comply with the federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This was part of a larger project gauging the strengths and weaknesses of each state’s ESSA plan. Ohio policymakers should give careful thought to their feedback; but what should they take away from this evaluation? Let me offer three points of strong agreement with their Ohio review—and one different viewpoint. Note: I participated in this project as a peer reviewer but did not evaluate Ohio’s plan.

The areas in which the reviewers’ opinions were spot-on are as follows.

  • Ohio’s accountability system is too complex. Under its summary of weaknesses, Bellwether writes: “The sheer number of measures included creates a complicated system and tends to dilute the value of many individual measures as a result.” Amen. Ohio now includes up to fifteen district or school ratings, including an overall rating, six component ratings, and eight subcomponent ratings (i.e., ratings within a larger component). This creates a noisy, cluttered report card that can lead to confusion rather than clarity on school and student performance. State legislators
  • ...

Advocates for gifted and talented education will always face an uphill struggle. Garnering support for policies that, by definition, benefit a small subset of students is hard—and harder when so many people assume that these kids will do fine regardless.

The inevitable—but foreseeable—result is the emaciated condition of programs designed to serve such children in U.S. public schools: scarce, often thin, and frequently staffed by ill-trained educators.

Weakness in gifted education undermines the country’s long-term prosperity. It’s also inequitable and bad for social mobility. The students most harmed are able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, who depend far more than upper-middle-class students on the public education system to support them.

One partial remedy for this neglect is to ensure that policies that focus on all students truly benefit high achievers, too. Properly crafted, such policies can be significant boons for bright, motivated pupils, while sidestepping the “elitist” label that too often gets applied to gifted-centric initiatives.

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) presents just such an opportunity for broad-gauged policy improvement at the state level—and it’s heartening that most of the new state accountability plans for schools under that statute are likely to do some good for...


When Congress enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), shifting much education decision-making back to the states, many reformers, especially on the left, voiced concern that states would give up on rigorous accountability systems. “Federal pressure is a hard thing for people to swallow,” said Conor Williams, a senior researcher at New America, “but this law doesn’t give enough federal pressure for enough schools and doesn’t define the guardrails we need.”

That worry wasn’t unreasonable. Conventional wisdom indicated that opponents of results-based accountability—the teachers unions, superintendents, and other establishment groups, especially—wield enormous power in the states. With many of the “guardrails” of No Child Left Behind removed, nothing would keep vested interests in the education status quo from dismantling consequential accountability. In correcting NCLB’s flaws, states might throw the baby out with the bathwater.

We’re pleased to report that such fears turn out to be mostly unfounded. So we find and document in Fordham’s new study, Rating the Ratings: An Analysis of the 51 ESSA Accountability Plans. While there’s still plenty about the accountability systems of many states to criticize—and implementation challenges lie ahead for all of them—the school ratings at least represent more of...