No Child Left Behind Nears End – Congress Passes New Education Law with Stand-Alone Listing for Music!

By Christopher Woodside

education reform

On December 9, the United States Senate passed the “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA) [S. 1177] by a final vote count of 85 to 12, and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was reauthorized. With the President’s signature, hopefully in the days to come, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) will be no more. ESSA, for which NAfME has been advocating for the better part of the past year, includes a critical stand-alone listing for music in the legislation’s all-important new definition of a “Well-Rounded Education” (previously known as “Core Academic Subjects”). This definition connects to various provisions throughout the bill which have the potential to support music in a variety of ways:

  • A New and Clear Intent to Support Our Nation’s Schools through a Well-Rounded Education: This is a sea change from NCLB, which focused heavily on the academic success of students narrowly defined as reading and math.
  • Enumeration of Music as a Well-Rounded Subject: Replacing the Core Academic Subject language from NCLB, this language clearly articulates that music should be a part of every child’s education, no matter their personal circumstance.
  • Requirements for Well-Rounded Education: Schools will now be able to assess their ability to provide a well-rounded education, including music, and address any deficiencies using federal funds.
  • Flexibility of Title I Funds to Support a Well-Rounded Education. All Title I programs, both school-wide and targeted, are now available to provide supplemental funds for a well-rounded education, including music.
  • More Professional Development for Music Educators: Funds from Titles I, II and IV of ESSA, may support professional development for music educators as part of supporting a well-rounded education.
  • Flexible Accountability Systems: States must now include multiple progress measures in assessing school performance, which can include such music education-friendly measures as student engagement, parental engagement and school culture/climate.
  • Protection from “Pull Outs”: The new ESSA discourages removing students from the classroom, including music and arts, for remedial instruction.

Please  take a moment to check out our brand new ESSA Implementation Toolkit. The toolkit is the first of its kind, and music educators will simply not find this level of comprehensive guidance for ESSA implementation anywhere else.

This is the top of the mountain, music educators. Enjoy it.

For decades, NAfME (and in its previous iteration, MENC) has been devoted to music education advocacy. A fundamental commitment to ensuring that every student, regardless of circumstance, has access to a high quality program of music instruction, taught by a certified music educator, is written in the DNA of this organization. Today, that dream is one major step closer to becoming a reality.

The passion of the NAfME membership fully drives the institution’s advocacy and public policy work. Throughout the process of pursuing ESEA reauthorization, NAfME members sent more than 20,000 letters to Capitol Hill in support of including a stand-alone listing for music. Those letters mattered. That passion resonated. Music education is serious business on Capitol Hill now, and music educators are the reason.

There are others to thank. NAfME has many wonderful partners, both in the music education community and in the music industry. The Music Education Policy Roundtable represents a coalition of organizations and companies dedicated to the preservation and furthering of music education in federal law. They should all be commended for their efforts throughout this process. Similarly, NAfME has a very special relationship with the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), who serve as a trusted ally, and represent the other half of a unique and special partnership between education and business.

If it seems as though you may now be reading the end credits to a really great movie, then get ready for the surprise scene that pops up after everything fades to black.

Because we’re not done. Not even close.

Passing this law with music listed as a stand-alone subject simply kicks open the door of opportunity to ensuring music’s place in every school—and leading in the decision-making for what that looks like.


The adage is true: there is strength in numbers. Your membership has never meant more than it does today. With the passage of a new federal education law, NAfME will be your absolute best source for “Everything ESSA.” NAfME will provide training and resources enabling each of you to become successful advocates. Stick with us and we will make sure that you are completely and totally prepared to teach music under the new law.

And if you haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to join! By mobilizing your personal networks and connections, you will positively influence how the ESSA is interpreted locally. To this end, we are also launching a Refer-A-Friend campaign giving current members the opportunity to refer new members. Please share the link,, with potential new members you know.

social media

Enjoy the moment. Participate in our online celebration Use the hashtag #MusicStandsAlone while changing your profile picture on your social media channels and help spread the word. Then take a moment to send a letter of thanks to your members of Congress for making a difference for music education in America.

music education




Please donate to the cause, and share the donation link ( — select “Advocacy” on the Designation drop-down menu) with fellow music advocates. You can help ensure that even more students have access to an in-school comprehensive program of music taught by a certified music educator.

To everyone and anyone who has had anything to do with this process, from start to finish—we say “thank you.” To music teachers across America who help orchestrate success in the lives of millions of students every day, keep up the good work. Your mission of encouraging the study and making of music by all is our mission, too, and we want you to know that you are so very much appreciated. For once, even Congress says so!

We wish you the best in this season, and in the coming new year. It’s a new day for music education—let’s celebrate!



Christopher Woodside, NAfME Assistant Executive Director