Every Student Succeeds Act
Art as Part of a


In late 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law, replacing the previous No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This was an incredible victory for arts and music education. The previous act had a multitude of negative impacts on art education. The act prioritized “core subjects” such as language and math. Because of this, art education classes were cut to provide more time for these other courses. When NCLB was scrapped and replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act, so was the definition of a well-rounded education. But what is a well-rounded education? The first subjects to come to mind for many are science, math, language and history. Yes, these are all part of a well rounded education, but what many people don’t realize is that under the ESSA, art and music is listed as part of a well-rounded education.


The arts rightfully claim their place as part of a well-rounded education because of the positive impacts it has on students both cognitively and academically. Below are some beneficial impacts seen in students who participate in arts education in school:

  • Students who participate in arts education score higher on reading and spelling tests regardless of school district or socioeconomic standpoints. (Sharon Bryant, How Children Benefit From Music Education in Schools).
  • Schools that have music programs have an attendance rate of 93.3% compared to 84.9% in schools without music programs. (Sharon Bryant, How Children Benefit From Music Education in Schools)
  • Students who take musical lessons have increased brain development for memory than those who don’t.
  • Children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school, and pursue further education. (Bryant, supra note 25).

Schools are continuously pushing for higher test grades in subjects such as language, math, and science. It should be a no-brainer to fund music and art programs after seeing the impacts it can make on students.


Just because arts education had a huge success over the passage of ESSA doesn’t mean that they have full support in funding. There is still an alarming number of states that do not include the arts as part of their annual ESSA plans. We need to push our state legislators to include music and art programs in their ESSA funding plans. Title I include funding for all well-rounded education subjects. And you guessed it, that includes art and music! We should be pushing our state legislators and school districts to be distributing money to the art and music programs as part of Title I funding. Title IV also provides funding that could potentially go to art and music programs. Through title IV, funding is distributed to strengthen programs that need assistance. Another statistic for how the arts affect student performance is “Students in high-quality school music education programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient music education programs, regardless of the socioeconomic level of community” (Sharon Bryant, How Children Benefit From Music Education in Schools). Schools may have music and art programs, but if they are not well supported then the effects will be less than a program that is funded properly. We should be encouraging schools to apply for additional title IV funding to support these arts programs.


Music and art have significant positive impacts on students. Without arts education, students will lack in brain development and academics compared to those who are involved in arts education. Too many of our nation’s schools do not have arts programs or have very under-supported programs. Now that we know how ESSA affects arts education, we need to be pushing for what is already announced in the ESSA law. Now that you have an understanding of how the arts interact with academics and how it is part of a well-rounded education, we should be doing our part to speak up and support the arts programs in our community school districts.


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