Office of Education

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

On Dec. 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. ESSA is the most recent version of the federal government’s most comprehensive K-12 law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which went into effect in 1965. Below is an overview of ESSA and its key provisions, updates on ESSA regulations, next steps for ESSA implementation, and additional resources.

September 7, 2016

The Arizona State Department of Education released the first draft of Arizona’s State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) on September 7, 2016. ESSA, which is designed to replace No Child Left Behind as the primary federal legislation addressing America’s public education system, was passed into law by Congress in December 2015 and will take effect in the 2017-2018 school year. ESSA is marketed as affording states greater flexibility, and the new law encourages states and schools to innovate while maintaining a focus on accountability, state and local systems of improvement and a more balanced assessment system.

Under ESSA, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) is responsible for creating a State Plan that reflects a shared statewide vision for Arizona's students and schools on topics such as accountability, funding, school improvement and grant-making systems. To create the state plan, ADE committed extensive statewide outreach and engagement efforts to hundreds of thousands of Arizonans, including policymakers, educators, tribal organizations, business leaders and parents. Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas held We Are Listening Tour events statewide to allow all Arizonans the opportunity to provide their comments in person; ADE is also accepting input on its website, by email or through any of its social media channels. The Arizona Department of Education has already received over 18,000 unique pieces of input that have helped develop the initial draft.

ADE will continue to modify this document based on the vision of all Arizonans and is looking for continued feedback on the proposals. Superintendent Douglas'  We Are Listening Tours will continue through the end of the year to give the public the opportunity to voice their thoughts in-person and ADE's website, email and social media channels will remain open until the plan is finalized later this year.

August 29, 2016

As part of its continued efforts to provide all Arizonans with detailed information about the upcoming transition to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) released a webinar detailing its draft responses to the initial Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) released by the U.S. Department of Education (USED) for achievement assessments and innovative assessments.

The rulemaking process is an opportunity for both states and individuals to provide feedback on the proposed regulations that, once finalized, will govern the implementation of ESSA. The webinar explains the process in detail and summarizes ADE’s initial thoughts on USED’s proposed rules for assessments.

The webinar is available here.

August 1, 2016

On May 31, 2016, the United States Department of Eduation (USDOE) released proposed regulations on accountability, consolidated state plans, and data reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The proposed rules were subject to a 60-day public comment period that closed on August 1, 2016. 

Following convenings with a comprehensive group of Arizona's education, business and philanthropic orgnizations, Governor Ducey has provided the following commentary on the proposed rulemaking implementing Title I accoountability and state plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). 

PDF iconessa_letter_8-1-16.pdf

August 1, 2016

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) appreciates the opportunity to comment on the proposed rules related to accountability and state plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Under the flexibility waivers of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), ADE was able to develop, in collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders, effective school accountability measures that have promoted improvement in student learning and school/teacher effectiveness as measured by Arizona student performance on NAEP. (Read more...)

July 27, 2016

The Dept. of Education issued federal guidelines today for states and school districts to better serve homeless students. The guidelines include prioritizing the identification of homeless students, including designating and training a ‘school liaison’ within each district to help provide students with professional development and college readiness. These guidelines will become mandatory on October 1, 2016. (Click here to find guidelines)

May 31, 2016

The United States Department of Education (USDOE) has recently proposed regulations on accountability, consolidated state plans, and data reporting under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The proposed regulations were published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, May 31, and are available here.  These proposed rules are subject to a 60-day public comment period, with comments due by August 1, 2016.  The U.S. Department of Education has provided a summary of these regulations here


With the enactment of  ESEA in 1965, the role of the federal government in K-12 education was expanded. This also led to the expansion of Title I, the law’s signature program aimed at helping districts cover the cost of educating disadvantaged students. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which considerably broadened ESEA’s testing requirements and defined specific interventions for schools that failed to make sufficient progress. In 2011, ESEA reauthorization stalled in Congress, and the Obama administration offered states waivers easing many NCLB mandates that penalized states failing to meet difficult-to-attain goals. While providing flexibility in several areas, these waivers  required Arizona and other adopting states to embrace standards that prepared students for college and the workforce, along with teacher evaluation measures that incorporated student outcomes.

With the enactment of ESSA in 2015, less emphasis was placed on standardized testing, the federal government’s role in setting accountability requirements and academic standards eased, and states are once again responsible for addressing underperforming schools. While easing many federal requirements, ESSA requires that every state set long-term goals for increasing the percentage of students who reach state standards in reading and math and requires each state to raise its graduation rates. These goals must ensure faster improvement for student groups that are further behind. Additionally, ESSA requires that states consider factors other than test scores in designing accountability systems, such as how many students have access to advanced courses, and how many graduate with college credits. 


Currently, the US Department of Education is going through a "negotiated rulemaking" process on three sections of ESSA law—standards, assessments, and supplement-not-supplant.  The Department will continue to issue regulations in the upcoming months that define how states should interpret and comply with the new law.

All ESSA requirements, except those pertaining to accountability, go into effect in the 2016-17 school year. This school year (SY 2015-16), states must comply with waiver requirements, which officially expire on August 1, 2016. New accountability systems must be in place by 2017-18, but the Department still needs to clarify whether the new ratings and identification will be based on SY16-17 or SY17-18 results.

The following graphic provides a detailed timeline for ESSA Implementation:

ESSA Timeline


For more information about ESSA, explore the following sources: 

      • Understanding Essa

Federal Activity

State of Arizona

State by State Level

      • Education Week

Inside the Every Student Succeeds Act

      • The Education Trust

The Every Student Succeeds Act: What’s in it? What Does it Mean for Equity? 

      • Foundation for Excellence in Education

Federal Law: The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 

      • US Department of Education

Transitioning to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Frequently Asked Questions 

      • Arizona Charter Schools Association

Support Webinars: The Every Student Succeeds Act and Its Impact on Arizona Charter Schools 

      • Arizona Department of Education

Every Student Succeeds Act