Every Student Succeeds Act


As part of the Great Society and Civil Rights reforms of the mid-1960s, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) into law in 1965. The landmark law leveled the field of opportunities for all children to have access to an adequate education and has become the primary federal statute that sets education policy and provides federal funding for education.  Today, federal funds for education comprise about 10 percent of the total education funding, with the remaining balance provided by states and local communities. 

Over the years, ESEA has been reauthorized under various names including No Child Left Behind in 2001 and most recently with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Acts (ESSA) in 2015. Prior to the passage of ESSA, the law was left unrevised for nearly 15 years.


Following a bi-partisan agreement lead by Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Healthcare, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP), in December of 2015 President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Among its various and complex provisions, the law includes music and other subjects as part of a well-rounded education (the designation of well-rounded subjects replaces NCLB’s listing of core academic subjects). Moreover, under ESSA, there is the potential to expand the use of federal education funds for well-rounded education subjects – including music.  In order to maximize these opportunities, community engagement at the local, state and federal level is critically important NOW!


Be sure your school administrators and leaders are aware of the new education law.  Starting now and through next school year, interested parents, teachers and community leaders should come together to set goals for educational opportunities and climate that is desired for all students. Join with one or two others (music teachers, parents) and meet with school administrators, school board members and community leaders to discuss goals and opportunities to expand music education programs for all children, taught by certified music teachers and available to all students as part of the curriculum. When meeting with stakeholders, consider the following:

REINFORCE what is in ESSA, the new education law, about music and the arts: 

Reinforce what is in the law: inform local school district leaders and administrators and state legislators and education leaders about the NEW language that is in the federal law.  Share the “well-rounded language” in ESSA that includes music as part of a well-rounded education that should be available to all children.  Since a school’s curriculum is “determined by the state or local education agency,” local districts have the opportunity to act on the overwhelming belief of parents and teachers that music should be available to all students. This is your opportunity to show them the research that validates this. Learn more by reading: Striking a Chord, The Public’s Hopes and Beliefs for K-12 Music Education

REMIND school and community leaders, and other stakeholders seeking greater opportunity for all students to learn music in school, about the benefits of music education, its impact on school climate and the many ways in which music can strengthen a student's connection to school. There are numerous research studies and resources available to verify these claims:

NAMM Foundation's Why Learn to Play Music advocacy brochure
NAMM Foundation's Facts and Quotes about Music Education

REQUEST school and community leaders to work with school district, who will ultimately work with state education departments to:

  • Use federal, state and local education funds to develop and expand music education programs available to all students during the school day as part of school turnaround and reform objectives; encourage school districts to assess if music education is available to ALL students and encourage use of Federal Title 1 and IV funds to expand music education opportunities-and its many benefits-for all students

  • Expand access to music education in your school – paying for highly qualified teachers and supporting needed educational materials – to allow for access and opportunity for more students to receive the benefits of music

  • Expand music education curriculum offerings to under-served students and to music learning opportunities beyond traditional offerings

  • Review the district's opportunities to participate in the federal pre-school grant program that included hte arts within the "Essential Domain of School Readiness" definition

  • Meet accountability metrics by including music education for all students in K-12 as part of school climate assessments that are reportable to both state and federal education agencies


Americans for the Arts
Arts Education Partnership
National Association of Music Educators
NAMM Foundation
U.S. Department of Education
NAMM ESSA "411" Webinar
Broadening Your Network: Leveraging the Message 
Transitioning to the ESSA: Department of ED. F.A.Q