How Does Music Education Fare in the First Round of State ESSA Plans?


On Monday, April 3, states began to submit their plans for how they will use their ESSA funding within their state boundaries. While the Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Act outlines the overall use of federal education funds, the law places many areas of decision-making into the hands of the states. In order to access their ESSA funding, states must deliver a state ESSA plan to the U.S. Department of Education (ED) for approval through a peer-review process as outlined in the law. As of April 27, 12 states and the District of Columbia have submitted plans for review by the ED.

Music & Arts Education Highlights in ESSA State Plans

60% of the submitted plans address access and participation rates in music and arts education as part of state accountability and/or reporting systems

Six states are including access and participation rates in music and arts education as part of the state’s planned accountability system under ESSA: Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, and the District of Columbia. While the devil will be in the details of how this gets implemented, nearly half of all state ESSA plans incorporate music and arts education data into the accountability systems as part of a series of “additional indicators” as allowed under the law. Different states are focusing their attention in different ways, with Connecticut focused on access and participation at the secondary level, other states are looking K-12, and many states will take time to build these data sets prior to incorporating them into the accountability system with any weight. While the music and arts education data will not drive the accountability system, having these data included shows that music and arts are valued within the state’s public school system.

The Time Spent in Fine Arts, Music and Physical Education Indicator uses a 100-point index. This measure is the amount of exposure students have to courses in the fine arts, music and physical education. – Michigan’s ESSA Plan

An additional two states are including access and participation rates in music and arts education as part of the state’s dashboard or school report card system. While this is new for Nevada, New Jersey has been doing this work for the last several years, and in the next school year will be able to disaggregate the access and participation rate data based on sub-group populations, such as gender and race.

A dashboard will be created to determine the extent to which LEAs are providing students with a well-rounded education. The dashboard will serve as a springboard to attending to the needs of all of Nevada’s students where deficiencies may be evident.  – Nevada’s ESSA Plan

70% of the submitted plans address music and arts as part of a Title IV-funded well-rounded education

Title IV, Part A, or the Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant, represents the new funding opportunity to support a well-rounded education through ESSA. NAfME has created webinars and resources, including the 2015 Opportunity-to-Learn Standards, to help music educators access these funds beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. We have been waiting to see if states will talk about the importance of music and arts education within their own plans for Title IV, Part A, and the vast majority have to-date. Several states call out that Title IV funds can be used to right inequities in access to music and arts education (Michigan); others call out the need to support districts and schools in making local decisions based on their local needs (New Mexico).

Connecticut has made a public commitment to provide equitable access and a well-rounded education to each and every student. The CSDE recognizes that all students deserve access to an education that is broad and rich in content curriculum. Research shows that students, particularly historically underserved students, engage more deeply in learning when they are exposed to a variety of topics and can better connect what they are learning in the classroom with the real world. ESSA’s focus on well-rounded education opportunities improves the access to high quality educational opportunities by addressing the academic and nonacademic needs of students and students within subgroups. – Connecticut’s ESSA plan

Unfortunately, Congress will appropriate only $400 million for SSAE in FY 2017, which is just a fraction of its authorized $1.65 billion level.  Under this funding agreement, states will have the option to distribute the grant under a state competition, opposed to how it was originally intended, by formula. For more information on how this would operate, please visit our analysis of the funding agreement

38% of the state plans call out music and arts education within their after-school 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs.

Four states specifically list music and arts education as part of what their 21st Century Community Learning Center programs fund and support. These are after-school or out-of-school programs, and were first funded under No Child Left Behind.

To integrate cross-content information and skills, further the alignment of 21st Century Community Learning Centers to the school day and provide a seamless continuum of educational experiences, NJDOE requires 21st Century Community Learning Centers grantees to focus on one of the following themes:

  • STEM;
  • Civic engagement;
  • Career awareness and exploration; or
  • Visual and performing arts. – New Jersey’s ESSA plan

Music in State ESSA Plans

Music/Arts in Accountability?

Music/Arts in Dashboards/Report Cards?

Music/Arts in Title IV?

Music/Arts support Professional Development?

Music/Arts – 21st Century Learning Community Centers?

Music/Arts for Homeless Children and Youth?

Music/Arts resources for Schools in Improvement?

















 District of Columbia














































 New Jersey





 New Mexico























Additional Areas of Interest

States also included mention of music and arts education in other areas of the ESSA plans, including:

  • Music/Arts included in the review of supports needed for schools identified for improvement

Illinois specifically calls out that the resource review for schools identified for improvement should include all areas of the curriculum: Gaps in the impact of funding, supports and services, relative to allocation, for all students, relevant student groups, and teachers (e.g., gifted, fine arts, library and media specialists, school service personnel, and career and technical educators and programming) – Illinois’ ESSA plan.

  • Supports for Homeless Children and Youth

Illinois again specifically calls out the importance of curricular and extra-curricular activities for homeless children and youth and that the state and schools must make certain barriers are removed that might keep such children from participating: Therefore, homeless students must be allowed to enroll and participate immediately in class and other academic activities and extracurricular school activities, such as sports, music, and clubs. – Illinois’ ESSA plan.

  • Supports for professional development for all educators, including those teaching in the well-rounded education subjects, including music.

Massachusetts calls out the need for all educators to embrace and learn about the social-emotional learning (SEL) attributes, and is working to incorporate those within state content standards. Louisiana calls out that Title II funding can and should support teachers of all content areas: The LDE has also clarified for LEAs that Title II funds can be used to support training and professional development beyond classroom teachers, including other school professionals whose work is critical to supporting unique student needs and a well-rounded education for all students. – Louisiana’s ESSA plan.

What’s Next?

While the ED reviews the 13 submitted plans, the remainder of the states – 75% of them! – will be finalizing their plans over the summer for submission in September. Music education advocates can use the language from the submitted plans to bolster support for music and arts education within their own states, making the case for both federal funding and for accountability about the provision of music education in your state’s public schools.

Lynn Tuttle, Director of Public Policy & Professional Development, May 3, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (