March Madness: ESSA State Plans with Less Federal Oversight

March Madness: ESSA State Plans with Less Federal Oversight


As noted in our March 14th Advocacy Bulletin update, Congress has been busy in repealing Obama era education rules and regulations, including the State Plan and Accountability Rules under ESSA. On March 13th, the U.S. Department of Education released an updated ESSA State Plan Template, which strips the rules language from the requirements states have to follow in order to submit a completed ESSA State Plan for federal approval by the U.S. Department of Education. 

March Madnesss

Here are some highlights of the differences/similarities between the original template and the revised template, including opportunities for music education:

  1. The revised template includes only the narrative and accountability material required in the law. Period. In fact, general statements of assurance – places where a state simply agrees to what is required of the state – are not even included in the template and will be due at a later date to the Department.
  2. This is especially evident in the consultation with stakeholders language. The idea that states must confer with a broad range of the public and those working in public education is straight from the law – but in the assurances section of the Title I state plan So, it’s not directly addressed in the Revised State Plan Template.
  3. The revised template does NOT ask for a description of the state’s academic standards, including how such standards will be measured with the state level assessments (p. 6). This will, again, be asked for later. As figuring out state assessments, including those alternative assessments for students with special needs and how many students are eligible for the alternative assessments, is some of the hardest work states undertake in completing their federal plan. It appears that the Department is helping states out by deferring the submission of this information. At the same time, the decisions made regarding state assessments can at times drive the accountability decisions made by states. It’s difficult to build one without having the other in place.
  4. The revised template makes it easier, overall, for music and arts education advocates to press states to include access and participation in the arts in the accountability system due to the template referring just to the language in ESSA, which is broader than the rules which were just overturned (p. 11). As noted in EdWeek, several states are already undertaking this very thing; the revised template should make such a request easier for a state to defend through the federal review process.
  5. Information on Title IV-A funds and programs will be scant in the plans that follow the Department’s revised template. The template only requires a description of state level activities funded by Title IV-A (which can include music and arts education opportunities or capacity building) and how the funds for Title IV-A will be distributed by the state.
  6. While the original due dates of April 3 and September 18 remain for state plan submission (click here to see which YOUR state signed up for!), states which have selected the April 3 deadline can choose to get the plan to the Department by May 3, giving the states time to change their plans over to the new template.

Lynn Tuttle, Director of Content & Policy, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, March 15, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (