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Essential ESSA Resources

ESSA Resources to Prepare You for Implementation

This year the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will start rolling out in districts and schools across the country. Here's our round-up of white papers, toolkits, blogs, and other resources to help tackle ESSA implementation.

ESSA was passed in late 2015 and gave states greater flexibility—and responsibility—on policies from assessment and accountability to interventions for school improvement, while maintaining important protections for vulnerable student groups. States have spent the last couple of years crafting ESSA-aligned strategic plans, which are on track to start rolling out in the fall.  

Thankfully, a host of news outlets and education organizations have amassed a trove of resources to help stakeholders better understand the many opportunities or challenges that could arise from education’s new law of the land. Below is a summary of those resources to help you stay up-to-date on all things ESSA. Have another great resource to share? Email us and we'll add it to the list.


Knowledge Works

ESSA and Personalized Learning: After a year of poring over more than 50 ESSA plans to better understand how states are leveraging the law to enable personalized learning, KnowledgeWorks published  a series of helpful resources. They include a nifty infographic with fast facts on ESSA, a 40-page publication covering the trends that emerged from their review, and state profiles that can tell you what your home state has in store to advance personalized learning under ESSA.

Christensen Institute

The State Innovator’s ToolkitThis 26-page guide is a deep dive into change management that toggles between the conceptual and the practical. Authors Julia Freeland-Fisher and Thomas Arnett compile a series of frameworks for thinking about how systems can successfully manage innovation under the new law. It includes sections on managing innovation (why there’s a need for both ‘sustaining’ and ‘disruptive’ innovations) and funding opportunities under ESSA

Aspen Institute

Seizing the Moment: A District Guide to Advance Equity Through ESSA: This comprehensive guide, produced by Aspen Institute Education & Society Program in collaboration with Chiefs for Change, Education Counsel, and Education First, explores how districts can access ESSA funds to advance initiatives that prioritize the needs of underserved student groups. This suite of tools includes briefing materials and a series of eight white papers that outline key policy areas, from instructional materials to school improvement to social and emotional learning

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ESSA on the Runway (Education Week): Hot of the presses last month, this special report looks at “the state of ESSA implementation on the eve of the law’s operational debut, from teaching and testing to the political pain points that may shape just how successful that rollout proves to be.” The report was compiled by five EdWeek experts and includes 10 articles on a wide range of topics, from how states are— and aren’t— embracing innovative assessments to the trickiness around ESSA’s evidence-based requirements.



Collaborative for student success

ESSA Advance (Collaborative for Student Success): Every Wednesday for more than two years, the Collaborative for Student Success has reliably sent out weekly news blasts with the latest ESSA updates. Packed into the email are local and national news clips and trends, op-eds, reports and publications, and other media coverage of ESSA. The newsletter was born out of theCollaborative’s Understanding ESSA page, a standalone site that hosts a comprehensive and critical review by 45 experts of all ESSA state plans (co-produced with Bellwether Education Partners).

Weekly updates not enough? Get your daily fix by checking out The 74’s ESSA Essentials or on Twitter by following @ESSA_Update.

Get up-to-date news on personalized learning

Publications: Whitepapers and Policy Briefings

Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change has produced a range of policy reports and white papers to help state and district education chiefs with some of ESSA’s finer points and provisions. They include:


iNACOL's Center for Policy Advocacy houses a trove of resources on a variety of topics about systems and new learning models that support student-centered learning, from accountability and assessment systems to competency-based learning to capacity-building programs for teachers and leaders. Here are a few that are are centered around ESSA:

Council of Chief State School Officers

Principles of Effective School Improvement SystemsESSA empowers states to design their own systems of school improvement and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) has developed 10 guiding principles to support this work. (Ex. If everything is a priority, nothing is; Put students at the center so that every student succeeds; One size does not fit all.) This bottom page includes a set “deep dives” into each principle, by CCSSO & EducationCounsel, which are also useful for local school districts. Also check out CCSSO's ESSA page for the up-to-date articles and announcements

Logo for National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado

State Assessments and Teacher Evaluation Systems after ESSA: Some Steps in the Right Direction: A June 2018 policy brief by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado Boulder takes a close look at accountability in the wake of ESSA's passage, which reduced federal oversight and gave states more control over their assessment and accountability systems. This brief looks at the early impact, including an examination of each state's ESSA assessment plan and a survey of key personnel across 34 states and the District of Columbia. One conclusion is that greater local control has led to "encouraging signs" that states are making efforts to redefine student growth beyond test scores and movement away from high-stakes consequences.

Blogs and Resource Pages

Fordam Institute

ESSA is one of the policy priorities at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and their ESSA page includes a combination of longer publications (What ESSA means for high-achieving students) as well as the latest ESSA-related blog posts (Are High School Diplomas Really a Ticket to College and Work?)

The Every Student Succeeds Act category on Education Next's web site is also a good running tally of research reports, op-eds and articles that have been curated from the Education Next Quarterly Journal.

Geoff Decker