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Arts Eduation and ESEA: Where do the Arts fit in National Education Policy?

National Education Policy you may ask, you didn’t know there was one!  Well, after reading the USDOE’s A Blueprint for Reform–The Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it struck me that this was the closest thing we will get to a national education policy. For those hell bent on seeing something like this in the arts realm (national cultural policy), it might not be a bad idea to read this Blueprint.

85920.jpgIf you haven’t yet heard, last week the administration released its plan for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the legislation most recently known as NCLB. It is 41 pages long and there is a lot to digest. I read through it earlier this week so that I could report back to the readers of Dewey21C.

While I am tempted to offer a full-blown analysis of the Blueprint, it’s probably not a great idea as it would veer off into too many topics related to value-added assessment, turnaround models, common core standards, etc. See what I mean?

I do think it’s important to note, as I have mentioned previously, that Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) is gone from the Blueprint. AYP  was the engine of test score accountability in NCLB, that for so many reasons bothered so many people, not the least of which includes AYP having led to the narrowing of the the curriculum that has hurt the arts and other non-tested subjects. Except for the very lowest performing schools, the severe sanctions related to NCLB are absent from the Blueprint.

So, instead, let me give you a group of links to some articles to read on the subject of ESEA and I will then turn to the very thin slice related to the arts.

Click here for Ed Week’s Administration Unveils ESEA Renewal Blueprint

Click here for NY Times: Administration Seeks Converts to Education Plan

Lastly, here’s a piece from Ed Week that looks at the chances that the administration’s proposal has of passing Congress.

Okay, what about the arts?

First off, the arts are mentioned four times.Take that as you will.

The arts are explicitly mentioned in regards to:

1. 21 Century Community Learning Centers. “Competitive grants will be available for districts and private organizations to implement in school and out of school strategies that provide students and, where appropriate, teachers and family members, with additional time and supports to succeed.” What we talking about here is the Community School Model. “All programs will focus on improving student academic achievement in core academic subjects ranging from English language arts, to mathematics, and science, to history, the arts…”

2. Ensuring a Well-Rounded Education. “Grants may support either the development of new, promising instructional practices or the expansion of instructional practices for which there is evidence of improving student performance in one or more of these subjects, including English Language Learners, and students with disabilities, may include high quality professional development, better assessments, high-quality state- or locally-determined curricula aligned with state standards, or innovative use of technology.”

“Priority will be given to applicants proposing to integrate teaching and learning across academic subjects, to use technology to address student learning challenges, and at the high school level, to work with colleges and universities to ensure that coursework is truly aligned with those institutions’ expectations.”

This area is where the Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination and Professional Development for Arts Education grants will be situated, although the grant program is being restructured.

That’s about it for the explicit.

The next level would be in the thinking through of other possibilities for the arts. In this category it becomes a bit of an exercise in the age old art of shoehorning, but hey, isn’t that just the history of arts education in America?

There are bits and pieces of things that we could be involved in, including the piloting and development of new standards, curricula, and assessment in the arts that could serve as important models for other subject areas.

There is a very small section on effective family engagement. Districts will be allowed to reserve funds for such endeavors.

Certainly for those wishing to create charter schools for the arts, or become a type of service provider to new charter schools that will replace, in part, the 5,000 or so schools required to close or significantly restructure as a result of this Blueprint, well this is an opening.

There is an opportunity for those who feel they can substantiate the role of the arts in what makes for college and career ready students.

Do you feel as if I am grasping a straws???

Okay, let me change the subject slightly. If this Blueprint moves forward, and even if it drastically modified as it winds its way through congress, what can you expect in the next couple of years?

1. A revisiting of standards, curricula, and assessment in all subjects across the country. In fact, in case you haven’t heard, this train has already left the station through the Common Core Standards project of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.

2. There will be a large scale attempt to tie teacher pay and tenure through performance on test scores.When you read about value added assessment, it is primarily about applying student growth measurements in ELA and Math to decisions on teacher quality.

3. There will be an increased focus on STEM subjects, and for those looking to add the arts in order to make STEAM, at least from the administration’s perspective, that boat has left the docks. The USDOE had an opportunity to do something to help the arts as they have with STEM, but declined.

4. There will be an increased emphasis on principal and teacher development. This is another opportunity for the arts.

I will leave this topic for the time being. There’s a lot more to say, which is probably better left to future entries. Anyway, it’s starting to give me a headache and I have work to do!

For those who want to read the Blueprint, here it is, as well as links to a video by the President and a conference call with Arne Duncan, all on ESEA.

Listen to Arne Duncan’s conference call with reporters.

Watch the President discuss the Blueprint.


  1. Hi friend,
    I liked your blog very much, & i got lots of acquaintance from it. Lets keep continue to educate the peoples through your blog.

  2. I do have to agree with you. I briefly looked at the bill when the announcement came out, and I was baffled how little mention of the arts is even mentioned. This education reform bill is pathetic. This bill should expand the role the arts should have on a kid’s educational experience.
    Very disappointing.

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