The Implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act

What practical changes can music educators expect to see?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) could be the law that puts music back in all classrooms. ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In terms of emphasis on requirements, it might not be that different than No Child Left Behind, but as for philosophy on reform, it is radically different, according to Lynn M. Tuttle, Director of Content and Policy at the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).

Since 1965, Title I has focused on serving disadvantaged or poor children. In the new law, Title I serves the basic programs of state and school districts. The funds are not about the kids but about the schools and how their programs support children. “This is a real moment of opportunity for those of us who do something other than reading, writing, and math. Congress is signaling a change of intent,” says Tuttle.

“This is a real moment of opportunity for those of us who do something other than reading, writing, and math.”

With this law, there are no longer core subjects. Instead, there is a definition for well-rounded education, “For the first time, music is listed as a stand-alone subject. What’s really powerful is how the phrase ‘well-rounded education’ is found throughout the bill. It is found in Title I, so Title I funds can support a well-rounded education, which could mean supplemental funds to support music and the arts. The phrase is found in Title II, Title III, and Title IV. All of these opportunities get opened up as possibilities and places where funds can make music education more available,” says Tuttle. “While we have seen schools include support for music programs in their schoolwide Title I programs, I have never seen programs like that in Targeted Assistance schools. Now, at risk kids can be provided with supplemental music education.”

NAfME's ESSA Resources

NAfME has many resources to help districts, teachers, and parents understand how ESSA is going to affect their classrooms.

Everything ESSA
This page on NAfME's website includes links to toolkits, updates, analysis, and more. Recommended resources include:

ESSA Toolkit
ESSA Fact Sheet
Free ESSA Archived Webinar

There is also a Twitter hashtag through which teachers can gain and share information: #MusicStandsAlone.

Another important part of the law notes that students should not be pulled from class for remediation. “The law is encouraging schools to think creatively about scheduling,” says Tuttle. “It doesn’t forbid pulling kids out of music classes, but it frowns on it. We need to help our parent advocates know that they can protest if their child is missing music for remedial math or reading. They have a voice.”

Another section of the law is exciting because it has actual dollars attached to it. Under Title IV, grants will be given to districts to be spent on school safety and culture, educational technology, and well-rounded education. By next summer, each district in each state must do a needs assessment on how they provide access to well-rounded education to all students. NAfME has been working to ensure that members are aware of this. According to Tuttle, “We are asking if they are part of the needs assessment team that’s going to be formed.  Do they know what the needs are for music education for all kids? Where could these supplemental federal funds help?”

This article orginally appears in the August 2016 issue of Teaching Music, published by the National Association for Music Education (NAfME).
Photo: Students in CoMUSICation, a choral program for disadvantaged youth in the Twin Cities area. CoMUSICation was featured in a Chorus America article on the El Sistema choral movement in the US, published in the Winter 2015 issue of The Voice.

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