President Obama signs Every Student Succeeds Act into law

Posted by Aja Williams on
Screenshot/White House Live Stream

Thursday morning, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is the successor of the expired No Child Left Behind Act.

The new act, as noted by several media reports, moves control and a number of decisions to the state and local levels. Annual testing of particular grade levels will remain as well as a breakdown of data based upon students’ race, income and disability status, but other factors to measure student performance will be left up to states.

In addition, states and school districts will be able to set goals and strategize on how to improve low-performing schools. For the first time, the act also provides $250 million in annual funding for early education.

President Obama noted the signing of the bill was an early Christmas gift for the country and it makes long overdue fixes to the former No Child Left Behind Act.

The bill also has a strong call for communities to have stronger focus on high school graduation rates among one of the measures of progress.

According to USA Today, states will be allowed to intervene into their bottom five percent of schools as well as those high schools with graduation rates below 67 percent as they see it. 

For the past four years, public media stations across the country, including Nine Network of Public Media, have been working with local organizations, schools and other partners to ensure youth have the best opportunities to thrive and succeed.

There is great value in the new legislation to enable schools, especially those struggling to deploy “integrated student supports,” which could include a broad array of social services – within and outside the school, for academic and for non-academic needs – that can help at-risk students succeed. 

In general, as we have worked on American Graduate we have found that there is no single silver bullet to boost graduation rates. Rather, communities need to provide multiple high-quality supports to students – what we might call a “silver buckshot” approach.

High on the list of successful interventions is the presence of supportive, caring adults who can help at-risk students navigate the many challenges they face to perform well and complete high school.

For example, at the Nine Network, our own American Graduate initiative has most recently worked on the following:

  • A community town hall, Suspended Futures: The School Discipline Debate, focused on alternative ways of reaching young people and keeping them in school. (Available online at
  • Created the space and impetus for innovative partnerships with schools and education advocates to generate dialogue on new ways of engaging teachers and youth.
  • Empowering young people to find their voices and providing them innovative tools through Nine Lab digital storytelling and production classes to express their own stories and challenges and engage in peer-to-peer conversations.

As the new legislation becomes enacted across the nation, we’re committed to continue working in our community to convene, converse and cover the ideas and issues that are helping keep students on track in the 21st century.


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