What is ESSA?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into federal law on December 10, 2015. The ESSA reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and replaces the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. ESSA will take effect on July 1, 2016, and schools are projected to implement new policies and procedures by the 2017-2018 academic year.

Among a number of changes, states have been required to develop their own plans regarding how curriculum and assessments will comply with federal requirements. The new law continues to focus on student level assessments for all students in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8, science assessments at least once in the elementary grades and at least once in the middle grades, college and career readiness in the high school grades, and accountability for all student subgroups. Each state has been required to develop their own ESSA plan, with stakeholder input, addressing issues of school accountability, student assessments, and support for struggling schools among other elements. The state's accountability plan includes goals for
  • academic indicators (improved academic achievement on the state assessments, a measure of student growth or other statewide academic indicators for elementary and middle schools, graduation rates for high schools, and progress in achieving proficiency for English Learners),
  • a measure of school quality and student success (e.g. student and educator engagement, access and completion of advanced coursework, postsecondary readiness, school climate and safety, etc.), and
  • participation rates on statewide assessments.

The bulk of school counseling provisions and opportunities for funding are found in Title IV, part A: “Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants” of ESSA, but also within Title I, Title II, and referenced in Title IX. A related document, NC The Every Student Succeeds Act and School Counseling, can be found below under School Counseling Specific Resources.

The following is from the American School Counselor Association:
The purpose of Title IV is to increase the capacity of states, school districts, schools and communities to:
  • Provide all students with access to a well-rounded education (This section refers to STEM, the arts, PE and other subject areas.)
  • Improve school conditions for student learning (This section has several school counseling provisions, including the language “provide mentoring and school counseling to all students.”)
  • Improve the use of technology to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students

In NCLB, this same section was composed of multiple competitive grant programs, allowing very few school districts an opportunity to implement new programs.
In ESSA, Title IV will now be formula funded much like Title I. Its expected authorization, which is based on law outlined in the Budget Control Act, should include a sizeable amount of money that would be formula funded to the states and in turn formula funded to school districts. At least 20 percent of these funds must be spent on the “well-rounded” students programs, and at least 20 percent must be spent on the “school conditions and student learning” programs. Additionally, any school district receiving at least $30,000 will be required to complete a needs assessment to show where the funds are needed most and to outline the district’s plans for these funds. ASCA is extremely pleased with the dedicated funding provision as well as the addition of a needs assessment.

Additionally, school districts receiving Title I dollars will be required to fill out a state plan. That plan will now include explicit language around comprehensive school counseling services, professional development for school counselors and career counseling services. Furthermore, language was added to include input from school counselors and other school staff on the required School Wide Program Plan, which will replace the current School Improvement Plans.

ASCA is also pleased that Title II will now explicitly list school counselors as allowable recipients of federal professional development dollars.

Finally, the title “pupil personnel service provider” has been replaced with “Specialized Instructional Support Personnel,” which includes school counselors and other support professionals working in schools.
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Below are resources that may be helpful to stakeholders, educators, coordinators, and administrators for staying informed about the legislation.

General Resources

School Counseling Specific Resources