Every Student Succeeds Act supports Agency’s focus on continuous improvement

17 February 2017

Secretary Rebecca Holcombe

Just over 50 years ago, in response to a national poverty rate of almost 20 percent, President Johnson introduced legislation known as the “War on Poverty.” His goal was “not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it." A central piece was the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), which emphasized equal access to educational opportunity and accountability for meeting equity goals. The Act mandated funds to support those goals. As President Johnson stated when he signed the bill into law: “…with your courage and with your compassion and your desire, we will build a Great Society. It is a Society where no child will go unfed, and no youngster will go unschooled.”

ESEA has been a powerful tool for advancing equitable education for vulnerable populations, including students who live in poverty, students who are learning English, and students who are members of groups that have experienced historical discrimination. By holding schools and states accountable for the learning of these students, while providing resources for their support, the federal government played a strong role in prodding states to care for these children. This investment, in the words of President Johnson, would provide a “passport from poverty.”

The ESEA now has been through several reauthorizations and revisions, but equity has always been its core purpose, even when the methods caused debate. As President George W. Bush stated when the ESEA was reborn as the No Child Left Behind Act, the purpose was to ensure that “every single child, regardless of where they live, how they’re raised, the income level of their family, every child receive a first-class education in America.”

In December of 2015, 50 years after President Johnson signed the first ESEA into law, President Obama signed the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind. All 50 states have been working to come up with new state plans for how they will meet the requirements of the new law. With the help of thousands of stakeholders across the state, the Vermont Agency of Education created our Vermont draft plan, rooted in Vermont values and the Vermont Education Quality Standards. The draft is currently posted on the Agency website for review.​

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