The Era of ESSA begins… sort of

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Monday, August 1st marked the end of No Child Left Behind as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) became the major K-12 federal education law of the land. NCLB isn’t ending its reign that easily, however, as the 2016-2017 school year is a year of transition for schools across our nation.  That means that NCLB is still being enacted as the standing education law to allow schools, districts and states to build their school, district and state plans to meet the goals of ESSA for the 2017-2018 school year. This timeline of ESSA implementation from the Foundation for Excellence in Education is a good resource to understand how ESSA will roll out across the nation, keeping in mind that states may move more quickly in developing their state level plans than the deadlines included here.

End of Waivers – for real!

August 1st did mark, however, the end of ESEA waivers offered by the U.S. Department of Education. These waivers, held by 46 states, drove education reform across our nation under the Obama administration, including requiring state data systems; the implementation of College and Career Ready Standards (most often Common Core State Standards); the creation of teacher evaluation systems tied to measures of student growth (often tied to the tested subject areas); and a focus on supporting the persistently lowest achieving schools via school improvement grants. With the exception of the focus of school improvement, much of what was required under the system of waivers is now optional under ESSA. Of particular interest to music educators will be how states handle teacher evaluation systems moving forward – will they continue as they are or consider other options which may be a better fit for the 69% of teachers who do not teach in the tested subject areas like music?

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NAfME submits comments to ED on accountability and state plans in partnership with MEPR

On behalf of the Music Education Policy Roundtable, NAfME submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Education on Monday, August 1st regarding draft rules or regulations for accountability systems and state plans under ESSA. NAfME expressed concern with the requirement that any nonacademic indicator states select for their accountability systems be supported by research linking that measure to student performance. Such limitations could hinder states including music education-friendly indicators such as access and participation rates in music and arts education. In addition, NAfME commented on the created of a summative score for each school, voicing a concern that such a score, heavily weighted in tested subject results, could unintentionally limit student access to music and the arts just as Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB kept administrators focused on reading and math to the detriment of all other subjects.

NAfME Hill Day 2016
Photo: Mark Finkenstaedt |

Get Involved – States seeking input from stakeholders on their ESSA plans

Many states are in the process of seeking input from people like you – music teachers and music education advocates – about what your state plan should look like under ESSA. NAfME encourages you to get involved and give input on your state plan. You can look at a template of possible state level asks for music education here.

As always, if you should have any questions at all, please contact your state MEA or the NAfME policy team.

Lynn Tuttle, Director of Content & Policy, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, August 5, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (