A guide to notable changes in the law

Below we explore the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and the biggest changes made from the previous No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) .


  • States must administer tests annually to students in 3rd-8th grade, as well as once in high school
  • States may choose when and how they administer tests

Biggest change from NCLB: States now have much more flexibility in test administration than they did with NCLB. Today, there is also more openness to different types of tests.

Common Core

  • States may choose to adopt Common Core standards

Biggest change from NCLB: Common Core standards were not addressed when NCLB came into effect in 2002. Eventually, states were encouraged to adopt the standards, but today with ESSA, the Education Department remains fairly neutral on the subject.


  • Accountability goals are established by the states
  • Department of Education does have an oversight role, but it's limited

Biggest change from NCLB: There is now much less federal involvement and less of an emphasis on test scores.


  • ESSA authorizes $24.9 billion in spending for 2016, with that number likely to grow in the future

Biggest change from NCLB: The law was originally authorized for $32 billion in spending, with the actual spend much below that each year. The ESSA budget is much closer to the actual amount spent by NCLB.

Sources: Korte, G. (2015, December 11). The Every Student Succeeds Act vs. No Child Left Behind: What's changed? Retrieved January 20, 2016, from, Google Images