Key differences between the new ESSA act and No Child Left Behind


We’re big fans of the new ESSA act.

And unless you’ve been on Mars for the past few months you’re likely aware of the new education law that replaced No Child Left Behind.

But what are the differences between the two laws?

ESSA act differences

Download the ESSA guide

We would argue that the biggest difference between the two laws is ESSA’s focus on greater autonomy for each individual state.

Put another way, this gives each state more control over education standards and policy than No Child Left Behind did.

Ok, so more power to the states, that’s all well and good but what does that mean in a practical sense? What does that mean for my school and district?

Let’s dive deeper:

  1. Under NCLB education standards and funding were under the control of the federal government in Washington. ESSA, on the other hand, gives states more control over education standards and the funding that schools receive. This is a good thing. As we’ve written about before, who knows your school or district better than the people who have their boots on the ground?
  2. With the ESSA act in effect, proficiency standards are now within state control, meaning, test scores will now be subject to standards set by your own state (unlike federal standards under NCLB). You can be assured that these, more local, standards will take into account the unique learning environment, demographics and educational climate of your state.
  3. The question of how to intervene with failing schools will fall to the states as well. Under NCLB states were required to support failing schools with one of five federal models. Under ESSA each state can now choose how they would like to help an underperforming school. In order to support this new responsibility, states have increased the set-aside for Title I allocations for school improvement from 4% to 7%.
  4. Under NCLB schools were required to have, at least, 95% of eligible students participate in standardized tests or risk punishment. ESSA, on the other hand, now gives the power to the states to determine how much weight is given to a school’s participation in assessment testing.

Are you sensing a theme here? Greater freedom for states to control the current and future climate of education themselves.

We feel this is a step in the right direction.

If you want to know more about ESSA we created a handy little guide that summarizes the new law.

 Download the ESSA guide