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The Every Student Succeeds Act

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act through fiscal year 2020. ESSA shifts greater authority for academic standards, school accountability, and education policy back to states, school districts, teachers, and parents, creating a more balanced role for the federal government in education policy.

ESSA also affords paraeducators, referred to as “paraprofessionals” in the bill many opportunities, including a voice in key decision making and professional development opportunities at the federal, state, and local levels.

Selected ESSA Provisions to Highlight

  • ESSA introduces the national accepted and NEA preferred term “paraeducator” into federal statute for the first time;
  • ESSA maintains paraeducator standards and qualification requirements in Title I that were existing in state law on December 9th, 2015.
  • In developing State and Local Plans to receive Title I funds, the state department of education (and district for Local Plans) must consult with a number of stakeholders, including paraeducators.
  • The Local Plan must describe how educators, including paraeducators, working in a targeted assistance school program will identify eligible children most in need of services.
  • The School Wide Program Plan must be developed with educator consultation, including paraeducators.
  • The state committee of practitioners must include a paraeducator.
  • ESSA provides multiple opportunities for professional development. Funds may be spent to provide professional development to paraeducators in several titles including Titles I, II, III, IV, VI.

For a full analysis of the paraeducator provisions in ESSA, download the following ESSA resources:

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To learn about other federal policies that NEA supports or to take action on an issue, visit NEA’s Legislative Action Center.