ESSA Interview: What You Need to Know

Recently, a staff member from the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in conducting an interview on the topic of the Every Student Succeeds Act, better known as ESSA. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. If this topic is brand new to you, be sure to visit the “Everything ESSA” page on the NAfME website to learn everything you need to know.
Ronny Lau, the Legislative Policy Advisor at NAfME, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. I’m certain you’ll find his responses helpful as you work toward familiarizing yourself with this important piece of legislation.1) What is the one most important thing teachers can do within their own school system to ensure that ESSA is implemented and followed?

· It is incredibly crucial for music educators to maintain a positive and open channel of communication with their school’s administrators and key decision makers, supplying them with early information regarding the Every Student Success Act (ESSA). Although, ESSA will not be in effect until Fall 2016, it is important for educators to become knowledgeable on the content prior to the upcoming school year, and ensure their administrators gain a similar understanding as the law is implemented. NAfME highly suggests all music educators check out our “Everything ESSA” page ( for toolkits, resources, and implementation guides, which all may be provided to their administrators.

2) How would you suggest music teachers initiate a conversation about ESSA with their administration and staff?

· Music educators should provide any of the resources and materials from the NAfME “Everything ESSA” webpage, in particular our “ESSA Implementation Guide.” This will create a lot of open dialogue between the educator and administration regarding the ample amount of programs that are now available to music education. Because of this piece of legislation, the door is essentially wide open for open-dialogue on how to best use federal dollars to provide a broad and rich curriculum that includes music for students.

3) Do you think ESSA will help to eradicate the pervading notion that music is less important than other core subjects?

· The enumeration of music as part of a “Well-Rounded Education” is a historical step forward for music education in federal dialogue and will continue to allow music education to have a “seat at the table” for future policy discussions. Under ESSA, Congress has a new and clear intent to support our nation’s schools through a well-rounded education that includes music, focusing on what makes a student whole and nurturing the skills and assets that are critical to ones future success in the 21st century.

4) How will the ESSA designation of music as a standalone core subject affect funding of music programs?

· The enumeration of “music” as part of the “Well-Rounded Education” provision provides increased opportunities in funding for music education. The keyword is ‘opportunities,’ as funding is not guaranteed; nevertheless, the enumeration is a historic step for music education and provides access to over twenty programs and provisions that may be used to benefit a “Well-Rounded Education,” which includes music. That is why it is incredibly important for our educators to recognize the many programs that may benefit music when speaking their administrators. Here are some of the many major funding initiatives that may include music:

i. Additional Flexibility in Title I Funding, including school-wide support and targeted assistance to Title I Schools to benefit students in most need.

ii. Funds from Titles I, II, and IV of ESSA may support professional development for music educators as part of a Well-Rounded Education.

iii. Music now has access to a NEW pot of federal funds within Title IV – entitled ‘21st Century Schools,’ which may be used to support schools in their use of technology, in creating safe environments, and other Well-Rounded Educational opportunities.

5) Are there additional accountability measures that will now be imposed on music programs?

· ESSA does not impose additional accountability measures on music programs or require standardized testing. States under ESSA will still have to create accountability systems that track student progress in tested subject areas such as reading, mathematics, and sciences, in order to get Federal dollars authorized under ESSA. However, states have a lot more flexibility and ownership over what their accountability systems look like under ESSA in comparison to “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB).

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