The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the most recent iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), the major federal law authorizing federal spending on programs to support K-12 schooling that was previously known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
ESEA was enacted in 1965 as part of the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty campaign. The law’s original goal, which remains today, was to improve educational equity for students from lower income families by providing federal funds to school districts serving poor students. School districts serving lower income students often receive less state and local funding than those serving more affluent children.
In 2002, with bipartisan support, Congress reauthorized ESEA and President George W. Bush signed the law, giving it a new name: No Child Left Behind (NCLB).
While NCLB put in place measures that exposed achievement gaps among traditionally underserved and vulnerable students and their peers, and started an important national dialogue on educational improvement, the law is long overdue for reauthorization.
Many parents, educators, and elected officials have recognized that a strong, updated law is necessary to expand opportunity for all students in America; to support schools, teachers, and principals; and to strengthen our educational system and economy.
In 2012, the Obama administration began offering flexibility to states regarding specific requirements of NCLB in exchange for rigorous and comprehensive state-developed plans designed to close achievement gaps, increase equity, improve the quality of instruction, and increase outcomes for all students. Thus far 42 states, DC and Puerto Rico have received flexibility from NCLB. Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law on December 10, 2015. This bipartisan measure amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, America's primary education law that voices the longstanding commitment of equal opportunity for all students.