The Ultimate Goal of ESEA

Boy and his motherThe primary goal of the current ESEA is to close achievement gaps between disadvantaged groups of students and their peers and to ensure that 100 percent of students are proficient on state assessments in reading/language arts and mathematics by 2013–14.

To assess progress towards this goal, states are required to test all students annually in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school in reading/language arts and mathematics and to set annual targets toward the 100 percent proficiency goal. Schools that attain the targets are said to have made “adequate yearly progress” (AYP).

ESEA requires each state to develop standards and assessments in math and reading/language arts and to define what “proficiency” means according to the assessments. However, the school improvement provisions that are tied to school performance apply only to schools that receive funds under the Federal Title I program, which is provided to schools with high concentrations of students from low-income families. Title I schools that fail to meet AYP are subject to sanctions and interventions, which increase in severity the longer a school does not meet AYP. School districts are required to provide disaggregated data by subgroup (e.g. Hispanic, white, low-income, special education) about student performance at the district and school level.