STATEMENT: With the Every Student Succeeds Act Headed to the President’s Desk, CAP’s Carmel Martin Says the Bill Will Strengthen Schools, Strikes Right Balance of Accountability and Flexibility

Washington, D.C. — Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, released the following statement today after the U.S. Senate voted in favor of the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, on a margin of 85 to 12. Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the ESSA by a vote of 359 to 64, meaning that the bill is now headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law. The ESSA would update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, known most recently as No Child Left Behind.

The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—a key part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty—as well as the eighth year since the law was due for reauthorization. As a result of the efforts of Senate and House leaders, including 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), bipartisan legislation to update the nation’s most significant K-12 law is now headed to President Barack Obama’s desk.

In keeping with the ESEA’s civil rights intent, the Every Students Succeeds Act helps protect at-risk students—including black students, Hispanic students, English-language learners, and students with disabilities—by preserving annual assessments and the use of disaggregated data to ensure that subgroups of students are not falling through the cracks. The law will also empower states to take action and work to turn around the lowest-performing schools, or in those in which subgroups of students are falling behind. Critically, the Title I funding intended to serve the nation’s most impoverished schools and students will remain intact, thanks to the rejection of so-called portability provisions that would have opened the door for states to redirect resources away from high-poverty districts and into more affluent ones.

Importantly, the bill strikes an appropriate balance between accountability and flexibility by allowing states and districts to use additional measures of school and student success beyond test scores to measure progress—as many already have under the Obama administration’s waiver program. This more holistic approach will serve schools, teachers, and students better than No Child Left Behind, but states must keep in mind that with flexibility comes responsibility. As states and districts work to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, they must continue to ensure that all students are prepared to graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the challenges of college or a career.

CAP advocated for a number of key elements in reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 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 or 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

Click here to read “Leaving Behind No Child Left Behind,” a column from Carmel Martin and Scott Sargrad in U.S. News & World Report.

Click here to view all of 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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