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There is much swirl today around public education in the United States, with buzzwords like “school choice”, “vouchers”, and “common core”, and it can be difficult to know exactly how educational policy affects the children in your life and community. But within the swirl, the goals for our children are clear: We want our children to graduate from high school, receive a college degree, find a good job, and achieve their dreams.

You’re not alone. All of us want the children in our lives and communities to have the opportunity to learn and thrive. And all of us also have a responsibility to do what we can to ensure all young people have access to the high-quality public education they need to succeed.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) seeks to do just that. Signed into law in December 2015, ESSA determines how the U.S. Department of Education supports state and local education systems and schools with funding and guidance.

Get to know these four key facts on ESSA:

  1. At its core, ESSA is a civil rights law. ESSA seeks to ensure that each child has the same opportunities and access to a high-quality education—no matter their race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status—while providing more resources for the schools that need the most help.


  1. ESSA has replaced No Child Left Behind, and it differs from the previous law in some important ways. For example, under ESSA, states and districts have more responsibility for determining how to:
  • Evaluate schools
  • Step in to improve schools that aren’t educating their children
  • Administer student tests, including whether to reduce testing and/or use different types of assessments


  1. In every state, leaders are creating plans for implementing ESSA. Each plan will outline how state resources will be spent and the way in which the state intends to improve schools. The U.S. Department of Education will review and approve each state’s plan before the plans are implemented in the 2017-18 school year.


  1. Parents, caregivers, and community members can make their voices heard. Your input as a parent or someone who wants to see the children in their life succeed is imperative. Visit your state’s Department of Education website to learn about your state plan and ways to let leaders know what you want for your schools and children.

To become more involved in ESSA plans for your state, sign up for alerts and follow the organizations listed below:

The “Dignity in Schools Campaignhttp://www.dignityinschools.org/essa-state-plans

The 74 million: https://www.the74million.org/

The TNTP blog https://tntp.org/blog/

Edutopia https://www.edutopia.org/

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