ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act)

Legislative Updates

ESEA Reauthorization is Finalized as Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

On Thursday, December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the legislation (S.1177 Every Child Achieves Act of 2015) to reauthorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The new ESEA reauthorization, which will be known as “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA), reauthorizes and amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). This reauthorization addresses issues such as accountability and testing requirements, distribution and requirements for grants fiscal accountability requirements, and the evaluation of teachers. It focuses on reducing federal oversight of education and increasing state flexibility in the use of funds. It will take some time to determine the impact of this approach on state and local policy as well as accountability and reporting measures.

The President’s signature follows votes in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 2 (359 to 64 with 10 members not voting) and the Senate on Wednesday, December 9 (85 to 12 with 3 members not voting: Cruz, Sanders, Rubio).

According to the Congressional summary of the legislation:

  • The bill provides states with increased flexibility and responsibility for developing accountability systems, deciding how federally required tests should be weighed, selecting additional measures of student and school performance, and implementing teacher evaluation systems.
  • It includes grants for providing language instruction educational programs, improving low-performing schools, and developing programs for American Indian and Alaska Native students. The bill provides rural school districts with increased flexibility in using federal funding. It also revises the Impact Aid formula.
  • The bill requires school districts to consult stakeholders in planning and implementing programs to improve student safety, health, well-being, and academic achievement.
  • It combines two existing charter school programs into one program that includes grants for high-quality charter schools, facilities financing assistance, and replication and expansion.
  • The bill provides states with flexibility in meeting maintenance of effort requirements for state and local education funding to supplement federal assistance.
  • The bill prohibits the Department of Education from imposing certain requirements on states or school districts seeking waivers from federal laws.
  • It provides that ESEA dollars may be used to improve early childhood education programs and specifies requirements to ensure that homeless youth have access to all services provided by the states and school districts.

The following key points highlight the opportunities for arts education within the legislation. For further details go to NAEA website.

  • The arts and music are included in a definition of a “well-rounded education” - a term that has replaced the current definition of “core academic subjects,” which had included the “arts.”
  • The subjects listed in the definition of a well-rounded education - including arts and music education - appear to be specified as eligible uses of Title I funds. Title I funds are the largest pool of federal resources dedicated to ensuring equitable access to a complete education for all students.
  • The programs supported by the current Arts in Education fund are retained as a newly named “Assistance for Arts Education” fund.
  • Arts and music education are specified as eligible uses for new, state-administered “Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants” including support for the arts in STEM education.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Center funding is maintained, and arts and music education are specified as eligible for support under “expanded learning time” provisions.

It is important to note that this federal legislation, even when adopted, is not a state or local mandate. Once a conference committee is convened to finalize one Congressional bill, should ESEA be signed into law by the President, it is clear that local efforts to determine access to the arts will be required.

NAEA works collaboratively with all of the arts education professional associations and national arts associations engaged with monitoring arts and education policy and federal appropriations for arts education. The items cited in the list above center NAEA policy objectives around the Arts Advocacy Day arts education issues briefs, which serve as NAEA’s underlying policy documents regarding reauthorization and represent the consensus policy objectives of over 85 national organizations, including NAEA.

There is much to be figured out as the nation moves to implement the new law, but the White House and the Department have released a number of materials to help educate the public about the ESSA, including:

Many of these materials are posted on the Department’s ESEA web page and additional materials will be posted as they become available. In the meantime, questions may be directed to ESSA.questions@ed.gov.

In ESSA, Arts Are Part of ‘Well-Rounded Education’. Arts education advocates breathed a sigh of relief last Thursday when the Every Student Succeeds Act, which includes language that cements states’ obligation to support arts education programs in public schools, became the new federal education law of the land. Several proposals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act floated earlier this year did not specifically call for funding the creative disciplines. But the Every Student Succeeds Act includes the arts alongside math and language arts in its definition of a “well-rounded education.” (Source: Education Week/Curriculum Matters, 12/15/15)

Update: On Wednesday, December 2, the House almost as overwhelmingly approved the Every Student Succeeds Act, 359 to 64. Senate action expected soon.

ESEA Reauthorization Update – Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (December 2, 2015)

NAEA has been carefully monitoring the status of activities in the U.S. Congress relative to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Before the summer recess, each chamber voted its version of ESEA Reauthorization. As both houses of Congress voted favorably for both bills, a conference committee convened this fall to finalize one bill to move forward for the President to sign. The leaders of the education committees from the House and Senate (Congressmen John Kline R-MN and Bobby Scott D-VA; Senators Lamar Alexander R-TN and Patty Murray D-WA) determined that Congressman John Kline would chair the conference committee.

On Monday, November 30, 2015, the draft of the final legislation was released. The House of Representatives may vote on the legislation as early as later this week.

The new ESEA reauthorization, entitled “Every Student Succeeds Act” (ESSA), focuses on reducing federal oversight of education and increasing state flexibility in the use of funds. It will take some time to determine the impact of this approach on state and local policy as well as accountability and reporting measures.

  • Accountability requirements are more flexible. While tests in reading and math are still required under the new bill, states are given flexibility in incorporating other measures of student success into their accountability plans - such as student engagement - and are encouraged to use portfolio and project based-assessment when measuring student learning, which may open the door to increased support of arts education strategies.

The following key points highlight the opportunities for arts education within the legislation.

  • The arts and music are included in a definition of a “well-rounded education” - a term that has replaced the current definition of “core academic subjects,” which had included the “arts.” (In this context, the arts include the visual arts, dance, and theater.) The well-rounded education definition broadens the list of subjects and appears in provisions related to afterschool and expanded learning time, English language learners, literacy, and more. This means that advocates can encourage local and state education policymakers to use their federal funds in these areas to support arts and music education.

“WELL-ROUNDED EDUCATION.-The term ‘well-rounded education’ means courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.”

  • The subjects listed in the definition of a well-rounded education - including arts and music education – appear to be specified as eligible uses of Title I funds. Title I funds are the largest pool of federal resources dedicated to ensuring equitable access to a complete education for all students.

  • The programs supported by the current Arts in Education fund are retained as a newly named “Assistance for Arts Education” fund. This is a significant win as many other small programs of this kind were eliminated in the new bill. The Arts Education fund includes national competitive grants to support partnerships among schools and community-based organizations.

  • Arts and music education are specified as eligible uses for new, state-administered “Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants” including support for the arts in STEM education. Local education agencies will apply to states for the funds and are asked to consult with community-based organizations and other public stakeholders when preparing their applications. Integrating the arts into STEM learning programs is also a specified area of eligibility for the new grants.

  • 21st Century Community Learning Center funding is maintained, and arts and music education are specified as eligible for support under “expanded learning time” provisions. Afterschool, out of school, and summer learning programs are key areas in which arts organizations partner with schools to support student learning in the arts.

Implementation timing, as reported by Education Week:

  • The bill outlines the transition plan from the Obama administration’s ESEA waivers to this bold new era of accountability. Waivers would appear be null and void on August 1, 2016, but states would still have to continue supporting their lowest-performing schools (a.k.a. what the waivers call “priority schools”) and schools with big achievement gaps (a.k.a. “focus schools”) until their new ESSA plans kicked in.

  • So it seems that 2016-17 will be the big transition year. It will be partially under the Obama administration, and partially under the new administration.

  • In general, ESSA would apply to any federal grants given out after Oct. 1, 2016, so most grants would still be under the NCLB version of the law for the rest of this school year.

It is important to note that this federal legislation, even when adopted, is not a state or local mandate. Once a conference committee is convened to finalize one Congressional bill, should ESEA be signed into law by the President, it is clear that local efforts to determine access to the arts will be required.

NAEA works collaboratively with all of the arts education professional associations and national arts associations engaged with monitoring arts and education policy and federal appropriations for arts education. The items cited in the list above center NAEA policy objectives around the Arts Advocacy Day arts education issues briefs, which serve as NAEA’s underlying policy documents regarding reauthorization and represent the consensus policy objectives of over 85 national organizations, including NAEA.

Huge Arts Education Win in Congress Today (November 19, 2015)

For arts education proponents, Thanksgiving came early this year. In the midst of the biggest shakeup of federal education law in over a decade, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) successfully added an amendment today to the rewrite of the nation’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation that will integrate the arts into STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math).

This is of particular significance because her amendment was unanimously adopted by voice vote by the joint House-Senate Conference Committee during today’s mark-up of the final ESEA bill. The bill next goes to the House and Senate for final (and likely) passage in early December before landing on the President’s desk.

The amendment specifically citing the arts states: “integrating other academic subjects, including the arts, into STEM programs to increase participation in STEM, improve attainment of STEM-related skills, and promote well-rounded education;”

After many years of anticipation, this bipartisan legislation will set new K-12 education policies impacting the nation’s 100,000 schools across the country. (Arts Action Fund, 11/19/15)