What is ESSA?

Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015
A CAPSO Primer on the Reauthorized ESEA

Introduction| What is ESSA? | ESSA & Private Schools | Consultation | The Titles

What is ESSA?

ESSA is an abbreviation of the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” one of the nation’s major federal education laws.  ESSA, NCLB, and ESEA all refer to the same law.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was established in 1965 as a component of president Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” legislative program. More than 40 years later, ESEA remains the nation’s most important federal education law, and the single largest source of federal aid to K-12 schools nationwide.


In December, 2015 the U.S. Congress reauthorized ESEA as the “Every Student Succeeds Act.”  Whenever ESEA is reauthorized, which means that it is rewritten and re-enacted in its new form – it receives a new “nickname.”  When ESEA was reauthorized in 2001, it was called the “No Child Left Behind” act (NCLB).

How is the law organized?

ESSA is organized into ten major divisions called “Titles.”

Title I:       Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies
Title II:     Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, or Other School   Leaders
Title III:    Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students
Title IV:    21st Century Schools
Title V:      State Innovation and Local Flexibility
Title VI:    Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Alaskan Native Education
Title VII:   Impact Aid
Title VIII:  General Provisions
Title IX:     Education for the Homeless and Other Laws

Some titles are divided into parts, which denote different programs.  All titles are divided into  sections, and subsections, which are often further divided.  Thus, the specific portion of ESSA that establishes a state-level ombudsman responsible for monitoring and enforcing various provisions of Title I relating to private school students is found in Title I, Part A, Section 1117(a)(3)(B) – where “(a)(3)(B)” denotes various subsections.  Most citations of this specific portion of the law would simply be written as follows: ESSA §1117(a)(3)(B).


Think of titles, parts, sections, and subsections as you would a file cabinet with drawers, dividers, folders, and individual documents.

How is ESSA funded?

Once the reauthorized legislation has been passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, Congress must approve accompanying appropriations legislation that commits actual dollars to the programs contained in the law. Congress could conceivably appropriate no money for a program that has been (re)authorized, or it could fund a program to its full authorization limit, or appropriate a lesser amount of funding.

The reauthorization and appropriations process often involves a complex series of political negotiations between the Executive and Legislative Branches of government and between Democratic and Republican members of Congress. The President’s veto power assures that the Executive Branch’s education proposals will receive serious consideration by members of congress.

Next: ESSA and Private Schools

Watch the ESSA signing ceremony (12/10/2015)

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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



  • Private Schools and the Every Student Succeeds Act.”  The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) has published a free resource describing the federal education law and the services it makes available to students and teachers in private schools.
  • CAPE has also produced a side-by-side comparison of private school provisions in the previous (NCLB) and new (ESSA) versions of the law.


The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Non-Public Education is a great source for obtaining information concerning those aspects of federal education laws that are relevant to private schools.