Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Opt-Out
March 14, 2018

Fact Sheet 18-3: Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Overview

Source: NYSUT Research and Educational Serivices

Table of Contents

  • Statutory Summary
  • Why ESSA Matters
  • New York State’s Accountability System
  • Plan Development
  • Required Elements of the Accountability System Under ESSA
  • New York State Indicators for Accountability
  • Meaningful Differentiation
  • Using the State Indicators to Determine School Category Placement
  • Participation Rates – Opt Outs
  • Identification of the Lowest Performing Schools
  • School Supports and Interventions
  • Establishing Long Term Goals and Targets
  • State and District Annual Reports
  • Supporting Excellent Teachers – ESSA Title II
  • Additional Resources

Statutory Summary

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was reauthorized as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and enacted in December 2015. The statute was previously amended by the 2001 reauthorization, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. NCLB introduced the concept of school accountability based on student proficiency on standardized tests and increased the federal role in state accountability systems. During the Obama administration, the Federal role increased through the ESEA waiver process. ESEA waivers granted states some flexibility on student performance goals but added additional requirements, such as commitments to teacher evaluation systems that required student performance. 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.

Why ESSA Matters

ESEA is the federal law that outlines how states can use federal money to support public schools. Funding is allocated to states through formula grants. Some ESSA programs can provide additional funding through competitive grants. Currently, New York receives approximately $1.6 billion annually from ESSA Title I, the section of the law that addresses improving academic achievement for the disadvantaged. The overarching goal of ESSA is to provide disadvantaged students opportunities to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. A new requirement of ESSA is for the states to assess and report how it provides equitable access to its federally-assisted programs. Districts will be required to report how much each school is spending per student and from what source. States are encouraged to use this data to highlight instances where districts should consider reallocating resources to support schools with the greatest needs.

New York State’s Accountability System

Plan Development


ESSA places responsibility on States to develop and implement a plan that meets the statutory requirements of ESSA. USDE must review the plan for compliance but the U.S. Secretary of Education is prohibited from dictating specific mandates. Stakeholder groups must be included in the development of the plan. New York’s State Education Department (SED) obtained feedback through the Regent’s Think Tank, a diverse stakeholder group, regional meetings and surveys. NYSUT was actively engaged through participation with the stakeholder group, the Committee of Practitioners (COP) and one-on-one meetings with the Commissioner. NYSUT also submitted public comments on the draft plan (link to NYSUT comments in the resource section).

States were required to submit ESSA plans within two review windows, spring and fall of 2017. New York’s draft ESSA plan was submitted to USDE during the fall window and was approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education in January 2018. Approval of the plan ensures that New York will continue to receive Title I federal funds.

Timeline for Implementation

  • The first year the lowest performing schools will be identified will be in the 2018-19 school year, using the 2017-18 school year results.
  • The 2018-19 school year will be a district/school planning year.
  • Improvement plans will be implemented in the 2019-20 school year.
  • The first year schools will be identified based on subgroup performance will be in the 2019-20 school year.

Required Elements of the Accountability System Under ESSA


States must provide an assurance that the state has adopted challenging academic standards and assessments. States must set college- and career-ready standards, as well as goals and targets for progress. Student performance must continue to be disaggregated by student subgroups, including: economically disadvantaged, major racial/ethnic groups, English Learners, and students with disabilities (SWD). In New York, major racial/ethnic groups include: American Indian or Alaska Native, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Asian or Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander, White, and Multiracial.

The accountability system maintains the NCLB testing requirements in grades 3 through 8, once in high school for math and ELA, grade span for science, graduation rates and at least one additional measure of school quality and student success. The same assessments must be used for all schools and subgroups with some exceptions:

  • Alternative assessments are allowed for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities.
  • Students enrolled in eighth grade who take high school mathematics and science are allowed to take the Regents exam in place of the eighth grade state assessment.
  • Districts may choose to administer a nationally recognized high school assessment, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate. However, all students must take the alternative assessment.

New York State Indicators for Accountability


NYSUT has advocated for a multiple measure system that includes conditions of learning. ESSA provides some opportunity to move beyond ELA and math scores. However, this is limited by whether there is an appropriate measure for the indicator that can be collected consistently by districts and can be desegregated by subgroup. For this reason, the Regents have approved a list of indicators to be used initially with the possibility of adding additional indicators in the future. The following chart includes the performance indicators that were used under NCLB and what will be used under the ESSA plan initially.

Additional Resources


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