As soon as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law in December 2015, states and districts got to work planning its implementation. This latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) provides more state-level decision-making authority and increased flexibilities for title programs. It also doubles down on the importance of student data to hold states, districts, and schools accountable. More importantly, it supports the use of that data to improve student outcomes. Despite the increased flexibility ESSA provided, one thing remains constant: quality data is key.

So, what data is required in the law? ESSA maintains the data collection and reporting requirements of its predecessor, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This includes participation and achievement data at each grade level (disaggregated by subgroup), graduation rates, and information on teacher quality. ESSA adds three new categories for disaggregation – homeless students, students in the foster care system, and military-connected students. It also requires that report cards include certain Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) elements.

Accountability determinations must also include English language proficiency and a “5th indicator” – at least one additional metric of school quality or student success. The 5th indicator can take on several different forms with the most popular being postsecondary enrollment and attainment, workforce readiness, chronic absenteeism, and arts education participation. Beyond accountability determinations, the law places a significant emphasis on financial reporting by requiring that states publicly report school-based, per-pupil expenditures of federal, state, and local funds – a distinct shift from prior district level financial reporting.

If the data requirements don’t excite you, the opportunities for data use should! As we get more information on state plans, we’re also seeing more of the amazing things states and districts are doing to put that data to good use, particularly in supporting students and teachers. States are using data to set ambitious goals, develop indicators and metrics that support a better dialog with stakeholders, and apply evidence-based practice to support school improvement. Across the Ed-Fi network, states and districts are working in partnership to ensure teachers, parents, and students are receiving the information they need to make the right decisions.

When it comes to ESSA implementation, the devil is in the data. Luckily, our community is well-versed in tackling data challenges! As states turn from ESSA planning to implementation, we’re committed to making sure the Ed-Fi community is there to support your work.

Over the next few months, we will be completing an analysis of state plans and mapping your data and public reporting needs to the Ed-Fi data model. Please join us for the Ed-Fi Summit in October to connect, share, and learn with us about next steps on ESSA implementation!