Every Student Succeeds Act

Every Student Succeeds Act


The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) 2015 is a law that came into being to streamline No Child Left Behind (NCLB) failures. NCLB entails the expansion of the federal government influence on local and state government’s education policies (Burnette II, 2018). The policy made Washington a powerful supervisor and controller of the U.S. education system, regardless of each region’s unique needs. The Act was legislated during President Obama’s era, underlining his efforts to promote equity in the education sector and improve the quality of the American education system that had been faulted for falling behind the European and Asian areas of reading and mathematics (Saultz et al., 2019). However, the ESSA was not implemented without criticism of overwhelming failures. Before 2015, the existing education policy as espoused in NCLB provided a rigid framework that states were to adhere to when managing education. The coming into effect of ESSA offered much flexibility, creating loopholes for failures.

Thesis statement

ESSA is a classic example of how policies can affect checks and balances, voting, public policy, and media’s impact on public opinion.

The Historical and Constitutional Basis of American Government’s Structure

The historical and Constitutional basis of the American Government’s structure was to create a system of separation of powers between various arms of government as well as governments. The tradition had been established to leave educational matters to local state governments. However, this tradition was dealt a big blow in 2001 when President Bush’s administration enacted the NCLB (Saultz et al., 2019). The federal government’s undue influence in matters concerning states arose as critics decried too much meddling by Washington in educational issues. However, at the heart of the contention lay the right to quality education and equal treatment.

The check and balances as envisioned in the constitution and history of the USA relates to the passage and implementation of ESSA because it brings the executive arm under the checks of the legislative. At the same time, the federal government through the congress check the power of states and local governments in testing and grading learners (Klein, 2016). Therefore, the policy proponents thought it was an opportunity avenue to reduce the federal government influence in states’ affairs.

Checks and Balances

ESSA policy entails aspects of checks and balances by requiring that states’ educational systems be accountable for how they test and grade learners. Congress created accountability by the Act of ESSA legislation, asserting the federal government influence in guiding education (Klein, 2016). Initially, local authorities enjoyed much freedom in determining the testing system and grading system. As a way of checking them, the NCLB and later the ESSA was enacted. In a balance of power system, no arm of government operates in isolation; its power has to be checked every now and then to ensure that it does not abuse its authority (Saultz et al., 2019). In this respect, the legislature is bound to check the executive arm of government at any given time.

Moreover, the ESSA offered an avenue for the federal government to check states and local government’s authorities. Without the equalizing federal government, each local authority can run a separate testing framework that may contribute to inequalities in the U.S. education system. There should be some standard criteria for testing and grading learners across the country for there to be some parity (Adler-Greene, 2019). The executive arms of government in local and states tried to resist ESSA as part of their attempt to check the Federal legislature’s interference in a domain they perceived to be their preserve without success. States may wish to have a two-system framework of accountability, but it cannot be guaranteed without consequences (Saultz et al., 2019). Checks and balances are two-way traffic, implying that even the executive arms can check the legislatures (Burnette II, 2018). However, this rarely happens. In the case of ESSA, the local and state governments had appellate options to try and question the effectiveness of the Act.

Public Policy and Elections

ESSA is linked to public policy and election because it is a product of a political process that should have had the input of all stakeholders. Public policies require the participation of members of the public and relevant stakeholders (Saultz et al., 2019). Congress should have collected enough information from local and state governments as well as education experts before legislating a law that affects testing in schools. ESSA was a reaction to an overreaction of NCLB on stagnation in education sectors. The republican administration under President Bush came up with an enormous law that increased Washington’s say in the educations system, bulldozing its way in states and local authorities. However, owing to the failures of the policy, ESSA was enacted (Adler-Greene, 2019). Under ESSA, students with limited language competency, those in poverty, students from African American get special education services were a major area of focus. For African Americans and low-income earners, they had a reason to support President Obama because they believed that this policy was a reliever (Rodriguez & Murawski, 2020). Moreover, the policy demonstrates how elections can affect how the country is governed. If President Obama had not been elected, ESSA would not have been passed, and if NCLB had been reviewed, it would not have been replaced by a policy similar to ESSA.

The policy is linked to elections on the premise that each political system tries to come up with policies that align with its ideologies. The NCLB was a policy by the Bush administration that bolsters the federal government’s influence in local education systems. When President Obama took over, he came up with ESSA, an education policy that resonated well with the Democrats. He continued with the aspects of NCLB ostensibly to protect minorities from possible discriminative testing and grading system. The voter chooses to elect the government that advocates for policies that echo his or her interests. However, this creates challenges for state and local governments, especially when a Republican state operates under a Democratic Federal government and vice versa. The clash between the two government systems would arise from differences in their political orientation, underscoring the influence of politics in policy formulation. Generally, in media, ESSA was praised as a step in the correct direction.

The policy has received mixed reactions in media, with conservative-leaning media terming it a failure while the liberals think it has been a success. Media plays an essential role in shaping public perception and even voting—positive coverage of a policy needed to get the public behind it. ESSA has been portrayed in media as fair in righting the wrongs of the NCLB (Adler-Greene, 2019). The republicans have wanted the federal government to roll back its influence in education by abolishing the post of Secretary of Education. Backed by conservative media, they have discredited the value of ESSA, claiming that the policy cannot attain its objectives. However, some of them, such as Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, backed the policy. As the architecture of ESSA, he is bound to project its good part (Adler-Greene, 2019). On the other hand, liberal media houses have questioned the impact of ESSA on promoted human rights.

Public Policy Impact on Voting

Voting is influenced by various factors, among others policies a particular political party or candidate propagates. The electorate is bound to support someone or the party that align by its interests (Klein, 2016). The two major political factions in the U.S. are the Republican and Democrat parties, which hold great sway on national politics. President Obama’s supporters thought the Bush administration and the entire Republican Party were a problem; therefore, they voted for Obama to correct the wrongs committed by the Republicans. The election of President Obama would culminate in several policy changes, including the ESSA. The pro-states autonomy voters thought that ESSA was the answer to reducing Federal government influence on state education systems. Ideally, voters ought to vote out a government that implements policies that adversely affect its welfare. However, this may not be the case for each policy (Adler-Greene, 2019). ESSA and NCLB were passed amid low public opinion about their value. Therefore, one would expect that voters would have turned up against parties that supported the law. Most importantly, each public policy has effects on the voters in varying degrees, which explains them different opinions when it comes to supporting or opposing the government based on the policies it enacts.

The public policy can influence the anti and pro existing administration to vote in large numbers. For the African American and other minority groups, they have opposed attempts by several states to reject the ESSA (Klein, 2016). They have done this majorly because the Act favors them than the previous testing and grading system. In this respect, these particular groups are likely to vote for Democrats to continue with the policy. In a situation where there is a major threat of Republican win, African Americans and other populations that benefit much from the policy are likely to vote in large numbers.

On the other hand, Republicans who feel that this policy is dangerous would come out in large numbers to vote for their own with a view of righting the unfavorable policy. The U.S. is a mature democracy, allowing candidates and parties to compete on issues. The electorate is more enlightened than it is in average democracies (McGuinn, 2019). In a nutshell, the policy has an influence on where its backers and opponent vote.


The ESSA is an example of how policies and politics interact in government. The Act also related to voting, checks and balances, and media influence on public perception of policies. The policy underscored the ability of the legislature to check the executive arm of government, regardless of the level of government that is involved. Congress overrode the attempts by executives in states such as California. Local authorities and state governments were also forced to align their educational policies with ESSA, accentuating the complex system checks and balances between federal and state governments.


Adler-Greene, L. (2019). Every Student Succeeds Act: Are Schools Making Sure Every Student Succeeds? Touro Law Review, Vol. 35(1) 4.

Burnette II, D. (2018). States Still Strain to Find One Path on Accountability. Education Week, 37(35), 1.

Klein, A. (2016). Assessing the Every Student Succeeds Act — How’s it Working Out? govtech.com. https://www.govtech.com/education/k-12/assessing-the-every-student-succeeds-act-hows-it-working-out.html.

McGuinn, P. (2019). Assessing state ESSA plans: Innovation or retreat? Phi Delta Kappan.

Rodriguez, J. A., & Murawski, W. W. (2020). Special education law and policy: From foundation to application. Plural Publishing Inc.

Saultz, A., Schneider, J, & McGovern, K. (2019). Why ESSA has been reform without repair.  Kappan.

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