Music Education & Final State ESSA Plans

How Does Music Education Fare in the Final Round of State ESSA Plan Submissions?

In May, NAfME published an analysis of how music and arts education fared within the first round of ESSA state plans submitted for review to the U.S. Department of Education. The final submission deadline for states to submit plans was September 18th. Since then, the NAfME Public Policy Team has been reviewing the 38 state plans submitted since last April.

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, participating states are required to 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.

Music & Arts Education Highlights in Final Round of ESSA State Plans

The message was clear in the review of the first 13 state ESSA plan submissions, including the District of Columbia: advocacy by music and arts educators at the state level had been successful and music and arts education were found in several key areas of the plans, including 60% of those first round plans which contained music and arts within the accountability systems designed by the states under ESSA.

In this larger cadre of state plans, the work of music and arts education advocates is still found, but in a variety of places and spaces.

29% of the new state plans acknowledge music and arts education within accountability systems

Many of the states submitting plans by the September deadline were conservative in their plan development and accountability system designs, keeping their reporting systems focused squarely on the No Child Left Behind indicators of reading and math. Even in the midst of an overall more conservative approach to accountability, five additional states embraced including music and arts indicators in their accountability system: Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, and Wyoming. While Kentucky has worked with arts education indicators as part of their state monitoring of schools for several years, this is a new “lift” for the other four states which included arts education within their accountability systems. Maryland, Minnesota and Wyoming focus on access to arts classes, as well as participation rates for students within a school building. Georgia is not only looking at access but also measures of student performance in selected fine arts classes at the elementary and middle school levels.

Along with the five states listed above, New Hampshire includes the arts as part of the College/Career Ready Indicator for high schools, as does Arizona, although only for International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement arts classes.  Oregon grants local school districts the “right” to include music and arts indicators in their local district plans, and South Dakota wrote with an eye toward the importance of a well-rounded education within its accountability system.

In addition, Ohio and New York acknowledged the request from advocates to include music/arts access indicators in their state systems. While not part of the original accountability design, both states are convening stakeholders, including leadership from their state music educator associations (OMEA and NYSSMA), to determine how to do this in the future.

55% of new state plans in this cadre call out music and arts education with Title IV, Part A

In the new federal block funding grants for school districts, found in Title IV, Part A of the law, 18 states included specific mention of music and arts education within their ESSA plans. An additional state, New Hampshire, spoke about how state level funds from Title IV, Part A would be used to support arts learning, and an additional 6 six states took time describing the importance overall of a well-rounded education.

24% of the new state plans make explicit support for music and arts education in Title I Schools or in School Improvement Schools.

States ranging from New Hampshire to Arkansas called out music and arts education as part of the programs which could be supported via supplemental Title I funds as part of a Title I Schoolwide strategy. In addition, states ranging from Georgia to Colorado spell out how schools that are in school improvement should include music and arts education as part of the offerings available to students.

18% of the new state plans specifically call out music and arts education as supported through the after-school 21st Century Community Learning Centers program

Seven additional states joined the thirteen states in the first round which included music and arts as specifically fundable activity areas for the after-school programs funded with 21st Century Community Learning Centers funds from ESSA.

Music and Arts Education show up in a wide range of additional programs, from support of Migrant children to Rural and Low Income School funding options.

As in the first round of plans, states included music and arts education in a variety of ESSA-funded programs, showing that access to and participation in music and arts needs to be available for all students. These programs include:

  • Supports for Homeless Children and Youth
    Several states included language about making certain to break down barriers to children’s participation in music and arts activities if the children were identified as homeless, including Missouri, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.
  • Supports for Migrant Children
    New this time around – 2 states – New York and California – included language about making certain students who are identified as migrant children having access to music and arts education. Migrant children are children who move schools throughout the school year in order to be with families who are migrating for work, such as farm workers.
  • Supports for Neglected and Delinquent Children
    Also new this time, Utah’s state plan spoke of the need for students who are identified as Neglected and Delinquent (including those returning to public schools after being in detention) to have access to music and arts education.
  • Support for Rural and Low-Income Schools
    For the first time, two states included mention of music and arts education in their application dealing with Rural and Low-Income Schools. Like supports for Migrant Children and Neglected and Delinquent Children, RLIS programs receive separate funding under ESSA to support schools with extreme poverty and/or located in isolated, rural areas. New York and Missouri both spoke to the importance of music and arts education for students in these schools.

(check mark indicates music or arts education spelled out explicitly; asterisk indicates well-rounded education included in that section of the plan)

Thanks to the hard work of music and arts education advocates from across the country, ESSA state plans reveal support for music and arts education in a variety of places and ESSA funding streams. But, the work doesn’t stop here. 

  • At the federal/national level:
    Your national policy team is working to convene the states who include music and arts education in their accountability plans to share information across states on what these accountability models look like, and to help share out and broadcast best practices as they emerge from states across the country.  And, of course, we continue to work each and every day to get ESSA’s funding streams fully funded by the U.S. Congress through the ongoing budget and appropriations processes.
  • At the state level:
    States will be developing guidance on how schools and districts can spend their ESSA dollars. Unlike under No Child Left Behind, where that guidance came from the federal level, we expect this guidance will develop at the state level under ESSA. We encourage you to continue being in dialogue with your state department of education and requesting music and arts education friendly language in the guidance currently being developed. And, of course, thank your state for the places where they did include music and arts education in their state ESSA plan!
  • At the local level:
    Now that you have a sense of where your state is supporting music and arts education with ESSA funding streams, you are better equipped to participate in making requests for these supplemental dollars to benefit students in your school. To learn more, you can use our ESSA at the Local Level webinar, now available for download here.

Lynn Tuttle, Director of Public Policy & Professional Development, December 13, 2017. © National Association for Music Education (