The Every Student Succeeds Act

On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind and includes language regarding “effective school library programs.”

There are provisions in the law that directly impact school libraries and school librarians. For an overview please see here.

The following provisions in ESSA specifically address school libraries and school librarians:

  • Under Title I, Part A, ESSA includes new provisions that authorize school districts to include in their local plans how they will assist schools in developing effective school library programs to provide students an opportunity to develop digital literacy skills and improve academic achievement.
  • Under Title II, Part A, ESSA includes new provisions that authorize States, as well as school districts, to use grant and subgrant funds for “supporting the instructional services provided by effective school library programs.”
  • Under Title II, Part B, Subpart 2, ESSA specifically authorizes school librarians to participate in required grant activities that focus on children in kindergarten through grade 5 as well as activities that focus on children in grades 6 through 12. In addition, ESSA allows all local subgrants (that serve children in kindergarten through grade 5 and/or children in grades 6 through 12) to be used to provide time for teachers and school librarians to meet, plan and collaborate on comprehensive literacy instruction.
  • Under Title II, Part B, Subpart 2, Section 2226, (Innovative Approaches to Literacy), ESSA specifically authorizes funds to be used for developing and enhancing effective school library programs which includes providing professional development for school librarians, books, and up-to-date materials to high need schools.
  • Finally, under Title IV, Part A, ESSA authorizes States to use funds to assist school districts in providing programs and activities that increase access to personalized, rigorous learning experiences supported by technology, including adequate “access to school libraries.” This Title also authorizes States to use funds to assist school districts in providing school librarians and other school personnel with the knowledge and skills to use technology effectively, including effective integration of technology, to improve instruction and student achievement.

All states are required to submit a plan to the US Department of Education that outlines and details the ways that they will enact the law. Montana’s ESSA information is located at located here.

MLA has been working very hard to ensure that the state plan includes school librarians as they implement ESSA here in Montana. An SLMD Steering Committee is working with John Chrastka, Executive Director of the nonprofit political action committee EveryLibrary. Thanks to a contribution from Roger Rosen, EveryLibrary is providing MLA with pro bono support in this endeavor.

MLA has submitted letters to Superintendent Juneau during the state plan development process and during the public commenting period (November 17-December 16, 2016).

Please see the following letters from MLA President Lisa Mecklenberg-Jackson:

ESSA Letter – Signed

MLA Response to ESSA Request for Public Comment

Superintendent Elsie Arntzen updated the draft ESSA State Plan and released it to the public on July 12, 2017. See for details. Comments on the draft plan can be sent to

ESSA April

MLA Letter to Elsie A – Signed

Please read through the plan and the attached letter and provide input by emailing The plan is due to the Governor on Friday, August 11, so please send feedback by Wednesday, August 9. The plan will be sent to the US Department of Education on September 14.

OPI needs to hear from the entire library community (school, public, academic, and special) and stakeholders such as parents and the general public. If each of us gets one parent to comment in support of these recommendations, we will have a broader impact.

As you write your email, consider the following:

• Identify your community and school.
• Indicate your support for MLA’s suggested changes to the draft state plan.
• Personalize your letter and provide specific examples of how school libraries and librarians support the outcomes as stated in the beginning of the letter.
• Comment on one or more of the suggested changes in the table, again providing specific examples of what’s happening (or could happen with ESSA funding) in your school.
• Thank the OPI for considering your suggestions.

If you have any questions, we are here to help and support you. Together we can make a difference for Montana’s K-12 students!

ESSA Steering Committee

  • Ann Ewbank, Chair (Director, Library Media Certificate Program- MSU-Bozeman)
  • Karen Mayhall (High School Librarian- Skyview High School-Billings)
  • Tava Smathers (Director, Library Media Programming- U of M- Missoula)
  • Liz Barnea (High School Librarian- Skyview High School- Billings)
  • Niki Keuch (Chief Joseph Middle School Librarian, Bozeman)
  • Dianne Mattila (Elementary School Librarian- Rose Park, Billings)