ESSA for Beginners: A Guide for Private School Officials

ESSA: A Starter Kit for Private School Educators

Introduction| What is ESEA? | ESSA & Private Schools | Consultation | The Titles
HeadacheYou’ve been asked to attend an Every Student Succeeds Act orientation conducted at a public school district office.  Five minutes into the presentation you wonder what language is being spoken.  Ten minutes later you’re convinced you’re the only person in the room who didn’t go to law school.  As the session winds down you find yourself in full panic mode.  What will you report back about the presentation?  How will you explain why a highly intelligent person with an advanced degree from a top-tier university – YOU – could have understood so little?

Is this for me?

If you’ve suffered through such an experience, know someone who has, or never want to be a HappyPencilperson who does, CAPSO’s Every Student Succeeds Act “starter kit” was written just for you.  In fact, if you’re anyone who’s interested in learning what ESSA is, what opportunities it extends to private school students and educators, and how those benefits can be accessed, you’ve come to the right place!

We’ll explain the nation’s most important federal education law in language you can understand, focusing on the content that’s specific to private schools.  We’ll unpack key terms and concepts, provide examples of how funding is determined, offer helpful suggestions, and direct you to online resources where you can go deeper and learn more.  In short, we’ll give you the knowledge and tools you need to pursue the federally funded benefits afforded by ESSA, with clarity and confidence.

What this isn’t:

  • Our ESSA Starter Kit isn’t an exhaustive guide to ESSA.  We’ve devoted greater attention to the programs that are most frequently utilized by private school students and educators, and less attention to others.
  • It isn’t the final word.  As new regulations and guidance are issued (and yes, we explain what those terms mean), we’ll update our content, correspondingly.
  • It isn’t legal advice.  While we’ve made every effort to be accurate, nothing contained in this set of web pages is intended to furnish a legal opinion, nor should it be so construed.


We’ve written this guide for nonprofit private school officials.  When we employ the pronoun ‘you‘, we have private school principals, heads of school, other administrators, board members, and teachers in mind.

Next: What is ESSA?

Click on a section to go there

What is ESSA?
ESSA & Private Schools
Title I:       Improving Basic Programs
Title II:      Professional Development
Title III:     Language Instruction
Title IV:     21st Century Schools
Title V:      Innovation & Local Flexibility
Title VIII:  General Provisions
Title IX:     The Homeless & Other Laws



Each page of the Guide contains two columns.  The left-hand column contains the primary exposition of the law and its relevant sections.  The right-hand column unpacks various terms and concepts, provides nutshell summaries of relevant ESSA programs, offers suggestions for good practice, and points to additional resources.

“Appropriate Private School Officials”

Federal law contains multiple references to “appropriate private school officials” without ever defining what appropriate means.  It’s an important term, because ESSA imposes certain obligations upon state departments of education and public school districts that require communication with legitimate representatives of private schools.  As a rule of thumb, if you are a private school principal/head of school, or another administrator, teacher, or board member so designated by a principal/head of school, then you are an “appropriate private school official.” The designation can also extend to others, such as attorneys, school administrative unit staff members (e.g., diocesan staff members, in the case of Catholic schools), and other representatives of other school organizations with which a school is affiliated.