Every Student Succeeds Act – Alabama Takes the Lead

image-Teachers(Special from the National Governors Association)

Alabama, operating under a waiver from No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has a reprieve from unworkable federal education policies, but faces new requirements not authorized by Congress. Alabama’s short-term waiver extensions leave schools, students and teachers with uncertainty and prevent the long-term planning necessary for a high-quality education system.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and provides Alabama relief from NCLB and the federal waiver process, allowing for flexible education policies that accelerate innovation, fuel state economies and allow states to take the lead.

ESSA in AlabamaNCLB/WaiversESSA
Waiver from NCLB?Yes, three-year conditionalNot necessary
Waivers? Conditional?Yes and YesYes and No, the Secretary is prohibited from issuing waivers conditional on new state requirements
State-set academic standards?Not protectedProtected from federal interference
Flexible funding across all titles?NoYes
Teacher evaluation system required?Yes, with measures determined by federal governmentNo
Who determines if a teacher is qualified?Federal governmentStates and local districts
Teacher compensation?Not addressedResources to expand performance-based compensation
What’s included in accountability systems?Primarily test scoresMultiple measures must be used
Who determines if a school is failing?Federal governmentStates and local districts
How many strategies can districts use to improve failing schools?5 federally-designed strategiesUnlimited state- and locally-designed strategies
Use of tests?Test and punish schools/studentsInnovative assessments, with resources to reduce unnecessary tests
Annual testing?YesMaintained
Pre-K Resources?No, but funded through appropriations for the last several yearsYes, with resources to align K-12 with Pre-K


Replacing NCLB is a top priority for governors. The Every Student Succeeds Act is common-sense legislation that shifts control of K-12 education back to Alabama’s schools, teachers and parents.

While the Every Student Succeeds Act does not abolish the federal role in education, it dramatically reduces the federal footprint in every state.

Alabama can now take the lead in governing their education system; designing an accountability system that works best for their students; supporting student-focused strategies to improve low-performing schools; and empowering teachers and principals to prepare children for a successful life.

What does ESSA mean for students?
It means that the one-size-fits-all path mandated by NCLB for the 32 million children in our nation’s public schools is abolished. Schools and teachers can now customize teaching methods to fit the needs of the child.

What does ESSA mean for parents?
NCLB used data to require schools to make decisions about our nation’s children and, through waivers, forced states to use that data to make decisions about teachers. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, that same data now empowers parents to know how to support their children and gives teachers the tools they need to improve learning in their classrooms.

What does ESSA mean for state and local government?
On average, federal dollars make up 7 percent of state spending on K-12. NCLB leveraged that 7 percent to heavily influence how states spend the other 93 percent. The Every Student Succeeds Act shifts the balance back to states with the states determining how to best utilize the 7 percent. In Alabama alone, this flexibility means more than $38.3 million annually1 can now be spent on improving educational quality instead of failed federal education programs.

Why is Pre-K in ESSA a good thing?
NCLB’s silo approach to education made it difficult to coordinate and align state-led preschool programs to ensure students were prepared for kindergarten. The early education program in ESSA reforms an existing program funded through appropriations and will help governors break down the traditional barriers that have separated K-12 and early education. This bill helps states better utilize and coordinate current pre-K resources.

If Congress does not pass the Every Student Succeeds Act, Alabama’s schools and students will be left to languish under unworkable federal policies and federal micro-management of schools through waivers.

The Every Student Succeeds Act is a good deal for the nation’s students and gives local districts the increased flexibility prepare them to compete in a 21st century workforce.

States, schools, parents and teachers must take the lead to improve our nation’s schools. The Every Student Succeeds Act report swings the balance of authority over education back to them.

The Every Student Succeeds Act is “must pass” legislation and governors urge Congress to pass it without delay.

Click here to download the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Contact Stephen Parker ([email protected]) or David Quam ([email protected]) if you have any questions or need additional information

1Approximation using Fiscal Year 2015 EASA Title I allocations and EASA flexibility application data. Total calculated by Fiscal Funds Information for States.