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In Honor of National Music Week, How ESSA Could Strengthen Music Education

In Honor of National Music Week, How ESSA Could Strengthen Music Education

National Music Week is upon us once again, but this year’s celebration should a little different from the last. A little more, celebratory, if you will.

This year, the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed. Unlike education legislation prior to it, the ESSA for the first time recognizes music education as part of a well-rounded education.

Advocates for music education have come out in droves to champion the inclusion.

"In the ESSA, the familiar 'Core Academic Subjects' language of [No Child Left Behind] has been replaced with the concept of providing for a well-rounded education, and the comprehensive list of subjects constituting that definition, which now includes music, represents an important directional shift in congressional education priority,” says Assistant Executive Director at National Association for Music Education Christopher B. Woodside for Medium.com.

"Putting music on the same footing with subjects such as math, reading and science is not only profoundly symbolic, but also has several noteworthy benefits that can and should be exploited by advocates during implementation of the legislation,” he says.

Now, music education advocates are making recommendations for how legislators can use the new law’s language to make strides in the subject. Here are some ways music education could potentially be strengthened under ESSA.

Data on ALL Teachers Involved in Teaching a Well-Rounded Education

Because ESSA defines music education as a critical part of a well-rounded education, advocates like The National Association for Music Education (NAFME) argue that the federal government should request data from states on teachers of music education.

"We request that as part of the criteria for State plans and the annual State report card to the Secretary requiring reporting on educators teaching out of their credentialed areas, ED require this information to be broken down for all teachers of a Well-Rounded Education,” the NAFME said.

Music Education in After-School Programs

The NAFME also requests that under the new legislation, states be encouraged through guidance to include music and arts in after-school programs while not recalling music and arts programs offered during the school day. The NAFME sees the new legislation as a means to provide new opportunities for music instruction.

Professional Development for Music Educators

Of course, music education in schools means nothing without passionate and well-trained music educators to teach it.

Under ESSA, teachers, including music educators, "can use funds from Title I, Title II (teacher preparation and development) or Title IV for professional development,” says Sheet Music Plus.

Discouragement of Pulling Students Away for Remedial Instruction

Schools are discouraged from removing students from music education in order to receive remedial instruction, an increasingly popular phenomenon under No Child Left Behind.

ESSA will take affect August 1, 2016, so a few month’s time will tell how the new legislation will truly affect music education in schools. The possibilities, though, are a reason to celebrate this Music Education Week with added enthusiasm this year. 

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