The US Department of Education released its draft rules for accountability under Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) on May 26, 2016. According to the Department’s announcement, the new law “replaces No Child Left Behind’s narrow definition of school success based primarily on mathematics and English language arts test scores with flexibility for states to take a broader view of what makes for a successful school.”
The proposed regulations would require states to guarantee that school districts are implementing “accountability” systems based on multiple measures. The states have significant discretion on how those systems with the federal government requiring that states “assign a comprehensive, summative rating for each school to provide a clear picture of its overall standing,” as well as report on a school’s performance on each indicator. The proposed regulations also require that states intervene in consistently underperforming schools, and declares that “robust action” must be taken against schools that don’t test 95 percent of students.
The Education Department participated in well over 100 meetings and events and received hundreds of public comments prior to the release of the regulations. The department will encourage additional feedback on the proposal from parents, teachers, and other stakeholders through a 60-day public comment period, beginning on May 31.
In Congress, key Democrats have supported the regulation process thus far, but it appears certain that Senate (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander and other Republicans will challenge parts of the proposed rule in public comments this summer. The accountability rule comes after Senator Alexander and others highly criticized the Education Department for draft language that they see as too prescriptive on “supplement, not supplant” — a provision of the law covering Title I spending that says districts can’t replace state and local dollars with federal funding for impoverished students.
NAfME Submits Non-Regulatory Guidance Comments
Within the scope of music education, NAfME will continue to build on its advocacy that created language in ESSA that for the first time recognizes music education as part of a well-rounded education. NAfME will work with its members and the music education community to provide comments to ensure that students have access and participation in music measured as part of state accountability systems.
Additionally, NAfME and members of the Music Education Policy Roundtable submitted non-regulatory guidance on May 25, 2016. Non-regulatory guidance is not binding and does not impose any new requirements beyond those in the law and regulation. Rather, it is intended to help the public understand the law, how the Department is interpreting the law, and to provide clarification and examples of best practices. Among NAfME’s requests were to disaggregate data for music teachers, and encourage states to include access to and participation rates in music education. NAfME also requested that federal guidance on Schoolwide Programs include examples of how music programs can be part of a whole school reform effort, as well as how music programs can be utilized to help children receiving support in targeted assistance programs.
Tooshar Swain, Legislative Policy Advisor, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, May 31, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)