Exclusion of Music & The Arts In Delaware’s ESSA Plan Results In Awesome Letter To Delaware Legislators

The Delaware Music Educators Association sent a letter to every single member of the Delaware General Assembly earlier this week urging the Delaware Dept. of Education to include certain recommendations in the final draft of their Consolidated State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Members of the organization felt their pleas for inclusion in the state plan were ignored.  Last night at the final Delaware Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee meeting, the head of the organization gave public comment.  He wished Delaware would include music and the arts in their accountability system.  The Delaware DOE will submit their final plan to Governor Carney for signature on Monday, April 3rd.  Below is the letter sent to the Delaware lawmakers.

Every summer, members of each state’s Music Educators Associations convene in Washington, DC to discuss matters of advocacy, share visions for the future of music education, and speak with our elected members of Congress regarding these issues.  In June of 2014, members of the Delaware Music Educators Association (DMEA), in conjunction with the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and other state Music Educators Associations, helped to successfully lobby members of Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, putting an end to the era of No Child Left Behind. This was a major victory for education—specifically music education. Some of the most important provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act for music education include:

  • A New and Clear Intent to Support Our Nation’s Schools Through a Well-Rounded Education: This is a change from NCLB, which focused heavily on the academic success of students narrowly defined as reading and math only.  
  • 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.  All Title I programs, both schoolwide 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. 

When the Delaware Department of Education began to draft its plan for the ESSA, it seemed that music and arts educators in the state would finally have a voice in helping to build a framework for ensuring that all of Delaware’s students had access to a well-rounded education.  Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

During the second revision of the DDOE ESSA, a survey was created to allow for public feedback regarding the state’s plan. DMEA reviewed the document and was discouraged to find that the arts–specifically music–were referenced only once throughout the entire plan. Utilizing the online survey, members of DMEA, art educators, parents, and community members voiced their concerns to the DDOE, urging them to consider what a truly “well-rounded” education might look like for Delaware students.  With the release of the final draft of the DDOE ESSA plan, it appears that feedback has fallen on deaf ears.  Not one suggestion made by the DMEA, Delaware educators, or parents found its way into the revision.

Also discouraging is Delaware’s lack of inclusion of the arts in its ESSA plan despite such inclusion by other states. Some examples of the importance other states are placing on music include:

  • Michigan includes “Time Spent in Fine Arts, Music, and Physical Education” as an indicator of school quality or student success as part of their accountability system. 
  • New Jersey collects and reports on student access to and participation in the arts as part of a school district’s report card. 
  • Iowa addresses a “well-rounded education” for its students, citing music as a required subject for grades K-8 and requires students in grades 9-12 to have three courses in the arts.  Additionally, the state lists the Iowa Music Educators Association (IMEA) as representatives on the Well-Rounded Issue Specific forum and names the IMEA as stakeholders.
  • Idaho cites music and arts programs as allowable expenditures for Title IV-A funds and goes on to say “Exposure to the arts is an important component of a well-rounded education. As such, LEAs may establish or expand arts education through the purchase or rental of instruments for underserved populations that provide unique music opportunities for those who have not been exposed to music education.”
  • Addressing Title IV funding, Tennessee states: “It is imperative that students have access to coursework and activities that interest them. We heard from hundreds of parents and educators how critical the arts and music, health and wellness, sports and clubs are in a student’s development, as well as supporting students’ academic interests and lifelong learning.”

As an organization with a vested interest in the success of students, DMEA is insisting that music and the arts be included in the DDOE ESSA as a mandatory means to attaining a well-rounded music education. We want to be represented in ESSA, and we need our feedback on the second draft to be considered as ESSA is finalized. Without requiring the presence of music and arts education in Delaware schools, we are certain this Act will fall short of Delaware student needs and hinder the future generations to come.

The Delaware Department of Education, the public-school teachers and administrators, and the citizens of the state of Delaware all have a solemn obligation to our children—our future—to educate them as best we can.  However, education does not stop at survival skills and those things that are “easy” to measure.  It also includes “living skills” and those things not so easy to measure. Math, Science, ELA, and History are all very necessary for our sons and daughters to live and survive, but music, poetry, art, dance, and theatre are what they LIVE for. An ESSA plan from Delaware that does not include those is a document that is negligent.  The Delaware Music Educators Association is more than willing to sit at the table with the Delaware Department of Education to help find ways of ensuring that music and the arts are an inclusive part of our students’ educational experience.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Clint Williams, DMEA President

Daniel Briggs, DMEA President-Elect

Cera Babb, DMEA Advocacy Chair

Thomas Dean, DMEA Advocacy Committee