STATEMENT: CAP’s Carmel Martin on House Passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act

Washington, D.C. — Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement tonight after the U.S. House of Representatives approved the the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, by a vote of 359 to 64. The ESSA would update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, known most recently as No Child Left Behind.

For nearly a year, the Center for American Progress—together with the teacher, civil rights, business, and education communities—worked with Congress to move an education bill that better serves all students, particularly those who are most disadvantaged. Thanks to House and Senate leaders such as Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA),we have bipartisan legislation—on the cusp of becoming law—that will move us past the outdated No Child Left Behind.

The Every Student Succeeds Act closely aligns with a set of principles that the Center for American Progress outlined early in January of this year. The ESSA preserves annual assessments and the use of disaggregated data to ensure that at-risk students are not falling behind, but it also allows states and districts to take a more holistic approach to measuring progress—beyond test scores—by using additional measures of school and student success.

Importantly, the legislation requires action in the lowest-performing schools and those where subgroups of students are struggling. The bill authorizes important investments in early childhood education, teachers, and innovation. The final bill also rejects attempts to redirect funding from the neediest schools to wealthier ones, respecting that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is at heart a civil rights bill designed to support at-risk students.

The ESSA strikes a balance between accountability for closing achievement gaps and educating all students with flexibility to allow state and local actors to meet local student needs. Many states have already moved in this direction under ESEA waivers. With flexibility comes responsibility, and it will be critical for states and districts to step up to the plate by ensuring that all students and teachers have the supports and resources they need to graduate from high school ready for college and a career.

CAP advocated for a number of key elements in reauthorization of the ESEA, including the following provisions of the Every Students Succeeds Act:

  • A new $250 million program for high-quality early childhood education
  • Protection for students with special needs by putting a 1 percent cap on the use of alternate assessments on alternate achievement standards, limiting their use to only students with the most significant cognitive disabilities
  • New funding for audits of testing regimes so that districts can reduce the number of duplicative tests and reduce overtesting
  • A new pilot program for weighted student funding to help districts direct more resources to the students who need them the most
  • A new program for evidence-based innovative interventions modeled after the Investing in Innovation, or i3, program
  • Rejection of Title I portability, which would have taken money from poorer districts and given it to wealthier districts

With ESSA poised to pass Congress, Martin also added:

While this bill represents progress on many fronts, in order to improve instruction and ultimately improve student outcomes, policymakers must now turn their attention to improving the systems through which we recruit, prepare, support, and compensate educators. While the nation has substantially raised expectations on students, teachers, and schools over the past several decades, we have not made commensurate investments in improving the systems and context in which educators operate.

Click here to view CAP’s work on ESEA reauthorization.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at  or 202.478.6331.

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