ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015. ESSA includes provisions that will help to ensure success for students and schools across the country, including Kentucky.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, ESSA:

  • Advances equity by upholding critical protections for America’s disadvantaged and high-need students.
  • Requires—for the first time—that all students in America be taught to high academic standards that will prepare them to succeed in college and careers.
  • Ensures that vital information is provided to educators, families, students, and communities through annual statewide assessments that measure students’ progress toward those high standards.
  • Helps to support and grow local innovations—including evidence-based and place-based interventions developed by local leaders and educators—consistent with our Investing in Innovation and Promise Neighborhoods
  • Maintains an expectation that there will be accountability and action to effect positive change in our lowest-performing schools, where groups of students are not making progress, and where graduation rates are low over extended periods of time.

Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), state education agencies, including the Kentucky Department of Education, are required to submit a plan detailing the implementation of the law and how federal education dollars will be spent.
The latest version of Kentucky’s Consolidated State Plan was most recently approved by the U.S. Department of Education in September 2019.

ESSA provided an opportunity for Kentucky to create a new accountability system that will be used as the basis to better our schools and celebrate their educational progress. The goal is to produce a system that will improve the education and readiness of ALL Kentucky students and is fair, reliable, and valid. The Kentucky General Assembly provided further direction- how the accountability system should work when it passed Senate Bill 1 (2017).

Kentucky’s new accountability system has students at its center – ensuring that they are well-rounded, transition ready and prepared with the knowledge and skills they will need to be successful after high school graduation.

Beginning this year, with the release of 2018-2019 school year assessment data, parents, educators, lawmakers and education stakeholders across the Commonwealth will have a new and more transparent way to understand how their local schools are performing. The new system, which can be found online at, provides an overall rating for each Kentucky public school ranging from 1 (the lowest) to 5 (the highest) stars.

Accountability for 2018-2019 is based on student performance on state assessments, the ACT college entrance exam at the high school level, as well as selective school quality indicators:

Elementary and Middle School:

  • Proficiency – reading and mathematics
  • Separate Academic – science, social studies and writing
  • Growth – reading and mathematics; proficiency/English attainment (English learners only)

High School:

  • Proficiency – ACT – reading and mathematics scores
  • Separate Academic – science and writing
  • Graduation – four- and five-year rates
  • Transition Readiness – ACT, college placement exams, dual credit, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, industry certificates, career and technical education end-of-program exams (tied to articulated credit), apprenticeship, exceptional work experience, ACCESS for English learners
  • In alignment with ESSA, schools also are assigned federal classifications based on their accountability system performance.

In the fall of 2018, 418 schools were federally classified as Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) Tier II because they had one or more subgroups performing as poorly as all students in any of the lowest performing 5% of schools by level. Those TSI Tier II schools met the requirements and expectations under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) and were federally reported as ATSI schools pursuant to ESSA Section 1111(d)(2)(C)-(D). Beginning with reporting in the fall of 2019, Kentucky has adopted the ATSI terminology, which was introduced by Senate Bill 175 (2019) and aligns with ESSA, and will designate for ATSI any school identified as TSI Tier II in the fall of 2018 that failed to demonstrate continued progress on the data that served as the basis for identification.

There will be no new schools identified for ATSI in fall 2019. The next round of ATSI identification will occur in fall 2021. Additionally, there will be no TSI designations in fall 2019. Beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, and annually thereafter, the department will identify schools for TSI.

Schools that were federally classified in the fall of 2018 as Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and failed to demonstrate continued progress on the data that served as the basis for identification will remain in CSI status for the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition, ESSA and KRS 160.346(3) require KDE to annually identify for CSI:

  • The lowest-performing 5% of all schools by level based on the school’s performance in the state accountability system;
  • High schools with a four-year cohort graduation rate that is less than 80%; and
  • Schools identified for Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) that fail to exit that status.
  • NOTE: The earliest an ATSI school can be identified for CSI is 2021-2022.
  • Funding will not be withheld from a school or a district if it does not rate highly in the state’s accountability system. In fact, schools federally classified as CSI receive extra funding and support from KDE to help implement research-based strategies aimed at increasing student achievement.

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