Congress enacted the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015, which was not only momentous because it replaced the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act, but because, for the first time, the law requires middle and high school students to help make their schools more successful.

ESSA will be fully implemented during the 2017–18 school year, so the next nine months are a great time for advisers to work with their student councils and Honor Society (NHS and NJHS) chapters on a plan to make sure their voices are heard.

The greatest opportunity for student input comes under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants under Title IV of ESSA. This is a new $1.65 billion block grant intended to provide districts flexibility in how they use federal funds to ensure students have access to a well-rounded education. This includes improving school conditions for learning and supporting the effective use of technology.

In order to receive funding under this section, districts must conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of their schools and develop an application “through consultation” with students and other education stakeholders, including principals, teachers, and community-based organizations. Districts receiving more than $10,000 would have to ensure that funding is spread throughout the three buckets, but money could be used for college and career guidance and counseling programs, school-based mental health services, bullying prevention activities, and professional development for school leaders and teachers to personalize student learning through the use of technology, in addition to many other options.

This is a critical time for ESSA implementation, and NASSP is carefully tracking the FY 2017 appropriations and how they will affect the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. President Obama had requested only $500 million for the block grant, and the Senate Appropriations Committee allocated only $300 million in the bill that was considered in June. Fortunately, the House Appropriations Committee approved a whopping $1 billion for the block grant in July. We’ll work hard to ensure that is the final appropriation as the budget is completed in the fall.

Secondary school students must also be involved in the development of their school’s comprehensive improvement plan if it has a high percentage of low-income students and receives Title I funds. Again, the plans must be based on a comprehensive needs assessment of the entire school and include a description of how the school will help all students meet challenging academic standards. High schools that operate dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment programs that allow students to graduate with a high school diploma and some college credit or other postsecondary credentials have the flexibility to use these funds for teacher training, tuition, transportation, and instructional materials.

Engaging our student leaders in advocacy is a top priority for NASSP, and we’ll be developing resources for principals to collaborate with their advisers, student councils, and NHS and NJHS chapters.

In September, we recorded a webinar that shares more in-depth information about these provisions in ESSA. The webinar also provides tips on how to make sure students are included in the implementation process. More information is available at This is a great opportunity for your student leaders to have their voices heard!

Amanda Karhuse is the director of advocacy at NASSP. NHS, NJHS, and NASC are programs of NASSP.