The United States Senate passed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) S.1177 by a final vote count of 85 to 12. ESSA, for which the Music Education Policy Roundtable (of which AOSA is a member) has been advocating for the better part of the past year, includes a critical stand-alone listing for music in the legislation’s all-important new definition of a “Well-Rounded Education” (previously known as “Core Academic Subjects”). This definition connects to various provisions throughout the bill which have the potential to support music in a variety of ways:
• A New and Clear Intent to Support Our Nation’s Schools through a Well-Rounded Education: This is a sea change from NCLB, which focused heavily on the academic success of students narrowly defined as reading and math.
• Enumeration of Music as a Well-Rounded Subject: Replacing the Core Academic Subject language from NCLB, this language clearly articulates that music should be a part of every child’s education, no matter their personal circumstance.
• Requirements for Well-Rounded Education: Schools will now be able to assess their ability to provide a well-rounded education, including music, and address any deficiencies using federal funds.
• Flexibility of Title I Funds to Support a Well-Rounded Education. All Title I programs, both school-wide and targeted, are now available to provide supplemental funds for a well-rounded education, including music.
• More Professional Development for Music Educators: Funds from Titles I, II and IV of ESSA, may support professional development for music educators as part of supporting a well-rounded education.
• Flexible Accountability Systems: States must now include multiple progress measures in assessing school performance, which can include such music education-friendly measures as student engagement, parental engagement and school culture/climate.
• Protection from “Pull Outs”: The new ESSA discourages removing students from the classroom, including music and arts, for remedial instruction.
Says Ronny Lau, NAfME Legislative Policy Advisor and Chris Woodside, NAfME Assistant Executive Director, “It’s a new day for music education—let’s celebrate!”