What You Should Know About the Every Student Succeeds Act | D2L
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Unpacking ESSA – What You Should Know About the Every Student Succeeds Act

  • 4 Min Read

Here’s how ESSA is empowering schools to use technology to transform teaching and learning.

With ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) being the new law of the land governing K-12 public education policy, the Center for Digital Education (CDE), in conjunction with other contributors, has pointed out some important implications when it comes to the role technology will play in the future of K-12 education.

Here’s what you need to know.

What ESSA does

ESSA, which is set to go into full effect in the 2017-18 school year—is empowering states and districts to use technology to improve the overall learning experience—and make high-quality education available to all students, by offering them more flexibility and control when it comes to how they use and pay for edtech.

Technology isn’t simply a pigeonholed piece of ESSA, it’s woven right into the fabric of its DNA. In the handbook ESSA, EdTech and the Future of Education, the CDE and its contributors lay out how the law encourages the use of technology in planning—the state, district and school levels—and offers opportunity for creativity and innovation:

  • ESSA highlights new models of learning and acknowledges the part technology plays in making them a reality. It introduces legislated definitions for concepts like “digital learning” and “blended learning.”
  • It positions technology as a valid and sometimes vital fix for a variety of educational needs, including areas like assessment, accountability, and school improvement.
  • The law gives states and districts flexibility to make technology a significant part of many initiatives and student supports.
  • ESSA encourages using technology in wide-ranging approaches to teaching and learning instead of siloed, technology-centered initiatives.
  • It openly backs professional development and capacity building for technology, and the use and safeguarding of data.

Learn how teachers can use Brightspace LeaP™ to personalize learning paths

The handbook also demonstrates how ESSA has put districts and states in control of their own technological destinies. By giving them access to more funding streams and flexibility—which they can use to invest in and better leverage technology to support digital learning, data use and staff capacity—the law has empowered them to determine how they can best use technology to transform teaching and learning in ways that make the most sense for their own communities

The funding allowances include:

  • A new Title IV block grant program called the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grant program through which districts can use up to 60% of funding for innovative technology strategies;
  • Title II funding for professional development that focuses on technology and the use of data;
  • and Title I flexibility, which provides new requirements and opportunities that could motivate states and districts to concentrate more on technology as part of broader initiatives, and with which states and districts can choose the practices and tools — including technology—that work best for their specific students, families, and educators.

At the end of the day, the goal is to encourage and give states and districts the means to think more strategically about using technology to support things like personalized learning, digital content, advanced assessment, and data analytics, as well as staff development so those tools can be used effectively.

ESSA’s tech priorities

The handbook also highlights several tech-related priorities ESSA promotes, for which its funding options offer greater support, and that are key to transforming teaching and learning in K-12 schools:

  • Increased use of data for reporting and accountability at the state and district levels, for which ESSA includes more stringent data requirements around student subgroups, school-level data, long-term English language learners, school climate factors, postsecondary enrollment, cross-tabulation of different types of academic data, transparency (reporting more info on report cards) and data literacy and privacy (training educators on how to use and safeguard data).
  • Personalized learning, which is a school experience tailored to the individual needs of students with a focus on flexible learning environments and instruction geared towards individuals, where a range of investments in digital content, data and assessment, and professional learning to support educators would be required.
  • Blended learning, which includes online or digital learning combined with supervised student-led learning, giving students some oversight on time, path or space.
  • Standards for high-quality professional development—ESSA emphasizes evidence-based and personalized professional development that revolves around sustained intense, collaborative, job-embedded, classroom-focused activities.
  • Universal Design for Learning (UDL), principles of which ESSA says states and districts should incorporate into assessment design and technology adoption. knowledge and skills

Here’s how Gwinnet County Public Schools are using tech to transform learning

ESSA is ultimately about enabling the elevation of technology into all areas of K-12 education. States and districts should take advantage of this new legislation and the ample opportunity it offers to create strategies that leverage technology to transform teaching and learning so that high-quality education is available to all students.


This material has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information does not constitute legal or other professional advice, and should not be acted on as such, and the contents may be changed without notice.

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