New Year, New Rules for ESSA

What States Must Do in the New Year to Create Their Accountability System and Plan for ESSA Implementation


As we head into 2017, the U.S. Department of Education has issued its final rules for state plans and accountability under the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA. Released on November 29, 2016, almost a year after the bill was signed into law by President Obama, the final rules provide clarity on what states must do to create their accountability system and plan for implementation of ESSA.

The final rules were released four months after the Department closed the comment period on earlier draft rules, having received more than 20,000 comments from the public, including suggestions from NAfME and the Music Education Policy Roundtable. The Department made several substantive changes to the final rules, including changes in areas where NAfME and MEPR had asked for revisions. While our requests were rarely accepted in total, the responses from the Department and the overall shape of the final rule provide better opportunities for music education than the earlier draft version published in May 2016.

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NAfME has created an analysis of the final rule, including areas of interest to music educators and music education advocates. Keep in mind that the final rule may not stand for very long, as members of the U.S. Senate have made noises about striking down the rule through exercising the Congressional Review Act. We will learn more as the new Congress begins in January.

Meanwhile, here are some topline takeaways and action steps for you to consider in support of music education under ESSA:

**The blue links in the headers will take you to the specific section in our analysis that addresses that particular takeaway.**

Be active! Be heard as a stakeholder as your state builds out its ESSA plan.

You can view a listing of state web pages designed for ESSA here. As your state builds out its ESSA plan, it must address issues brought forward by advocates such as yourself. This is a great opportunity to get on the record and make your voice heard in support of music education. You can connect to other music education advocates involved in this work through the Advocacy Leadership Force.

Make certain music and arts are included in your state’s Title IV-A written plan.

States can address any of the well-rounded areas – we want to make certain music as at the top of the list!

Advocate for access and participation rates in music and the arts to be included as one of the “additional indicators” of your state’s ESSA accountability system.

The new rule keeps some of the flexibility of the law intact and encourages states to think more broadly about what is included in the accountability system. If not access and participation rates in music and arts, what else might be included that would align well to music education – such as “soft skills” of collaboration, self-efficacy and perseverance? And… don’t forget that access and participation rates can be included in your state ESSA report cards – if not in the accountability plan (Section 1005 of the law).

Advocate for a dashboard approach to reporting on the accountability indicators, instead of just a summative score.

States must create one summative score per school under the new rule, but must also report out on each specific indicator of the accountability system. If you are successful in a getting a music-friendly measure included, you want it transparently reported out for all to see!

Encourage your state to broadly define the instructional resources included in school improvement analysis, including all areas of a well-rounded education.

This could help schools identified as in need of school improvement to include music and arts in their plans – and keep music programs in place (or perhaps even grow them!) while implementing their school improvement plans.

Identify how you want your state to define “out of content area” teaching for music educators in your state.

Each state will need to create definitions of “out of content area” teaching. What should that look like for music education – and how will you want that tracked? Provide input to your state after considering what this should look like – and we recommend you do this in consultation with your state MEA.

Consider whether you have music and arts based intervention programs which should be included on a state list of interventions to support schools in school improvement. has research-based interventions from Arizona and California for you to consider, and the Turnaround Arts program of the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities does, too.

Lynn Tuttle, Director of Content & Policy, Center for Advocacy, Policy, and Constituency Engagement, December 15, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (