What is ESSA?

The Every Student Success Act (ESSA) is the most recent version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, our nation’s federal civil rights law that governs kindergarten through 12th grade education in the United States. While ESSA was signed into law by President Obama in December 2015, the core intent of the law remains just as critical today as it did 50 years ago. In fact, when President Johnson signed the original ESEA into law in 1965 he did so to ensure a federal guarantee to a quality education for every child regardless of income, race or zip code. Today, this law is an important tool for parents and stakeholders to advocate that more be done to address academic achievement gaps and education inequities for students of color.

See our ESSA term glossary to help you navigate the law.

How does ESSA impact you?

ESSA, the nation’s civil rights law in education, makes funds available to each state in support of eliminating the disparities between student groups in elementary and secondary education (K-12). With this funding, the federal government has developed rules, guidelines and expectations for states to follow as they provide an excellent education for all students. ESSA requires states to pay attention to the most vulnerable students who have been historically disadvantaged in the education system.

ESSA opened the door for states to define what it means to provide students with a high-quality education. Each state had to create a plan for how ESSA would be implemented and submit it to the federal government for review and approval. ESSA also presents an opportunity for educators, families, and community advocates to provide direction on creating state plans under the law and hold states accountable to them. Now that all state plans have been submitted, each school district must create its own implementation plan. This plan must be based on the approved state plan which adheres to rules set out by ESSA. The development of the district plan represents an ideal opportunity for educators, families, and community advocates to once again engage and shape these plans at the local level. See our advocacy resource guide for more.

Students in the communities served by the Urban League Movement have a right to an education that:

Understanding the Law