The Every Student Succeeds Act: Paying for Success in Education

How the Every Student Succeeds Act Rewards Results through Evidence-Based Programming

The following post was written by Nicole Truhe, America Forward’s Government Affairs Director.


Pay for Success is a funding method in which public resources are driven to approaches that achieve better outcomes from social programs than current practice and America Forward has been a leader in advancing the concept of Pay for Success since its inception in the United States just a few short years ago. Given the significant impact a strong education has on children and youth, America Forward believes using Pay for Success as a tool to ensure the system educating our young people is effective and achieving the desired outcomes we all want makes sense (click here to learn more about our Coalition’s work on Pay for Success).


All indications are in just a few short days, with the likely passage and enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), we will have our first update to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since No Child Left Behind was signed into law 14 years ago. The America Forward Coalition worked closely with Congress to shape key elements of the bill, including the development of language and advocacy around the addition of Pay for Success language and authority.


Here’s a closer look at the America Forward driven Pay for Success provisions included in ESSA:


  • Title I, Part D: Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk: In this part ESSA, funding is provided to improve the education services for children and youth who have challenges meeting State academic standards, helping children and youth make a successful transition between correctional facilities/institutions back into locally operated education programs, and working to prevent at-risk children and youth from dropping out of school or supporting those who have dropped out with the structure needed to get back on track. In addition to the Pay for Success authority granted in this Title, there is also language that services and interventions delivered, to the extent possible, be evidence-based. 
  • Title IV, Part A: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants: The purpose of this piece of the ESSA is to improve students’ academic achievement by increasing the capacity of states, local education agencies, schools, and local communities to provide a well-rounded education. The authority to use Pay for Success is associated specifically with Section 4108: Activities to Support Safe and Healthy Students, which emphasizes school coordination with other schools and community-based services/programs (i.e. substance use, mental health, violence, etc.) as well as parental involvement and partnership with higher education, business, nonprofit organizations, and other private entities. Like Title I, there is also an emphasis on the use of evidence-based practices strategies and programs when available in this Title. 
  • General Provisions: Additionally, Pay for Success is also defined in the General Provisions section of ESSA. This is the first time that Pay for Success is defined in Federal legislation and the comprehensive nature of the definition is important for implementation of the Pay for Success authorities in ESSA but is also helpful for use the overall use of Pay for Success in federal programs.


What does this mean for the future of Pay for Success?


With this allowable use of Pay for Success authority, states and school districts will now have the option of structuring funding decisions using outcomes as the driver of payment allocation. They will be able to use the independently and rigorously evaluated impact of programs and activities as the determinate of the allocation of Federal education dollars to best serve their students.


What’s next for the Every Student Succeeds Act?


The Senate will take up ESSA and likely pass the final agreement tomorrow, December 8. It will then be sent to the President for his signature. Be sure to follow America Forward on Twitter for legislative and coalition member updates throughout the week.

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