Signed into law in December 2015, the ESSA demonstrates a new and clear intent to support arts education in our country.   This is an exciting shift from previous federal legislation, because it specifically enumerates music and the arts as integral parts of a “Well-Rounded Education.”

Now that educators and advocates have had time to explore the possibilities of ESSA’s revolutionary policy updates, many are asking an important question:

How do we make this a reality in our schools?

ESSA provides our schools with a path to improved learning culture. Through developing enrichment opportunities for public school students in America, research shows conclusively that we can achieve higher standards in all areas of education. By focusing on whole-student needs, and by including families as part of the process, we have an opportunity to have true accountability for student outcomes at all levels. But how can we access this support and what specific programs can we reference to get the job done?

Part A of the Act gives us the first details of a direct answer: Title I Funding. This assistance program traditionally ensures financial support for schools based on the percentage of low-income participants, to help generate proficiency on academic achievement standards. These academic achievement standards, the responsibility of state and local agencies, in no uncertain terms must now include support for well-rounded subjects like music and the arts! Under ESSA, Title I funds are additionally defined and separated into categories that State Education Agencies (SEA’s) and Local Education Agencies (LEA’s) use to determine the equity of distribution and student populations served. SEA’s and LEA’s adhere to these categories in determining the measurable details of Title I funding for their schools.

The fact that ESSA depends greatly on Title I support does not at all indicate that the programs and monies are only for low-income schools.   ESSA defines a flexibility of funding usage for Title I and other funds (Title II and Title IV funds are also featured) which will allow universal access (Section 1009: Schoolwide Program Plan and Section 1009: Targeted Assistance Schools). Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education clarified the funding increase and usage in August of 2016 by stating that ESSA funds are to “supplement, not supplant” existing funding structures established. This means that billions of dollars are newly available for true research-based academic growth, student enrichment, school improvement and community investment. The promise of ESSA is to provide all children with access to success through high-quality, well-rounded education in America.


Signed into law in December 2015, the ESSA demonstrates a new and clear intent to support arts education in our country.   This is an exciting shift from previous federal legislation, because it specifically enumerates music and the arts as integral parts of a “Well-Rounded Education.”

As we celebrate and prepare for the implementation of ESSA in 2017, there are many moving pieces coming into place at all levels! Thankfully, the act clearly defines the logistics of district participation, including the creation of a Committee of Practitioners to work within the schools.   The Iowa Department of Education has been working under a transition plan for the current school year, but used the fall season to gather ESSA resources and plan ahead. In a series of 9 meetings throughout Iowa communities, public input was sought and shared. Iowa has also mobilized a State Advisory Committee representing K-12 education stakeholders and has been actively consulting representatives of education associations, state legislators, and the greater community. They continue to draft components of the state plan to make sure that Iowa school children have access to this groundbreaking federal support of music as an integral component of their Well-Rounded Education!


Ask your local school administration what steps are being taken to bring the support of the ESSA to your community schools.   Volunteer to be on your district ESSA committees, and make sure that the message reaches administrators, parents and teachers. Discuss involvement of other committees in the implementation as well (S.T.E.A.M. Council and PTA, for example).   Even though the newly defined ESSA funds will not come to schools until the 2017-2018 school year, the time to assess needs and plan for budget requests is now!

ESSA: A Well-Rounded Education for All Students

Let’s look closer at the details of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), and how it revolutionizes our legislative perspective on providing sequential, comprehensive music education in our nation’s schools.   The definition of a “Well-Rounded Education,” the concept that is replacing “Core Subjects” from No Child Left Behind’s limited focus, is very clearly defined as something that includes a variety of subjects – including music and the arts.   The philosophy of supporting student enrichment through a broad offering within our school learning culture is very exciting. This is the first time in history that music has a specific and separate mention in the law as an important element of well-rounded education. The bill also makes it clear that the elements of a well-rounded education are not optional, but mandatory parts of the offered curricula. This provides teachers and administrators with a powerful platform to assess their school’s needs in the enumerated areas (including music!), and to seek federal funds which can help them to address those needs.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Share this information with everyone in your school. The biggest challenge in implementing such a radical positive change is getting everyone informed and turning the conversation into action. As you assess your classroom needs for the school year, partner with your administrators to include elements of well-rounded education which may have not been options before. Federal funding (Title I and Title IV) may be available for your school in categories which were never considered before!


Signed into law in December 2015, the ESSA demonstrates a new and clear intent to support arts education in our country.   This is an exciting shift from previous legislation, because it specifically enumerates music and the arts as integral parts of a “Well-Rounded Education.” The ESSA changes the tone from exclusionary “Core Academic Subject” language of the past, officially acknowledging for the first time in history what decades of research have shown – that arts education is essential to a student’s success. In addition, the ESSA creates flexibility of funding usage in Title I and Title IV programs. Schools will now be able to assess their needs for providing well-rounded education, including music, and request federal funds to be used for the same. Music and art in schools will be supported and protected like never before!

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Help us to spread the word and usher in the coming age of ESSA!   Get educated about the details of ESSA so that you can speak to colleagues and administrators about how this will improve schools and build a better future for our children. Find resources at the National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org/essa) – you can get an ESSA tool kit, read extended articles about the ongoing challenges in transitioning to ESSA and take a very informative webinar about the act (http://www.nafme.org/take-action/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-esea-updates/). The Iowa Alliance for Arts Education (www.iowaalliance4artsed.org) also has great resources for helping us to move the pieces into place.

QuarterNotes: Things I Missed in Music Ed Class

Things I Missed in Music Ed Class – The Business of Teaching Music by Michael Skinner

When you go to college to become a music teacher, you learn a great deal about music, repertoire, educational psychology and many other topics that develop you into a great teacher and classroom manager. In my case, what they missed made my life a bit challenging as an educator until I learned the ropes of the business of teaching music. Here are some of the things I learned along the way that made my teaching job a little easier – and more enjoyable.

Receiving a “NO we just can’t get a drum line.”

Of course, all the data in the world may not be enough to convince your administrators that you need a new drum line, background brass or woodwinds, timpani, and other pricey objects. The dollar figures can be so large that even the most supportive administrator will take a big gulp before saying “I don’t think we can afford that”. Of course your band boosters can help, but even some expenditures seem out of reach for them. I’m happy to say; I found a way to replace my drum line and the following year buy updated background brass through leasing. Yes, leasing is a very effective way to maintain a quality program and not have to face those huge price tags all at once. “Leasing?” I’ve heard, “my school doesn’t lease things.” The truth is almost every school leases something. Most often schools will lease their school busses, printers and other large ticket items. Can you imagine what school busses cost? The only cost effective way to do that is to lease them. You can do it too! Through a lease, a school can acquire instruments and obtain full ownership using yearly installments to pay for them.

The Steps were easy and the return was incredible.

The whole process started with me going to my school music dealer. The total price for the drumline I wanted was $10,000. The dealer explained that he has a payment plan where we lease the equipment for five years and subsequently own it after the five years of payments. I was intrigued by this opportunity. The dealer prepared a lease proposal and showed me the exact costs for a 2, 3, 4 and 5 year lease. Knowing what I had in my budget, I chose the 5-year lease plan. The dealer did the rest. He prepared the lease documents and sent them to my school for authorized signatures – in my case it was the principal. Once it was signed, the dealer ordered my drumline, and shortly thereafter, I was on the field with my students working a new routine on my new drums! Once we received the drums, my principal signed the acceptance agreement which is a document accepting the terms of the lease for the products delivered and we paid them our first year payment of – get this – $2,670! So going forward all we had to do from year to year was budget $2,670 each year for the following four years. It was really simple and the administration has now taken a closer look at how to do these kinds of leases more often. The list of instruments we needed was really large and knowing we had this option made all the discussions so much easier.

By spreading out the cost over time you can afford expensive items and still have funds available to service your current needs. This is a great argument for your administrator. We only pay a fraction of the total each year but our students get the full opportunity to perform better on a new instrument from day one. The other good argument for your administrators is that by leasing, you avoid inevitable price increases that come year to year, and you minimize your repair budget and the down time that goes with those repairs. School music dealers work with companies who offer lease programs on musical instruments – from pianos to piccolos. A great resource for leasing is BGE Financial Corporation. They are a long time leader in the music industry and are endorsed by NAMM. Their website, www.bgeschools.com, provides valuable information and tools to help you decide if leasing is a good option for your music program. You can even calculate payment options on the site if you know the purchase price. It’s a method you’ll never learn in college, but knowing about leasing and how to finance instruments will keep your students progressing and your program growing.



And the survey says…

In an effort to find useful information for our teacher partners, we conducted a survey to find out how information flows to educators about grant opportunities. Below are some of the highlights from this survey.

The question of how to find funding opportunities, this question was all over the place. Many teachers are doing a lot of research to find these opportunities.


Finding time in your already busy day seems to be a common concern of teachers when it comes to grant funding. This survey question shows exactly why that is a concern. The vast majority of teachers are writing their grant requests themselves.


This question was not surprising to me, but did reinforce the purpose of our quest the help teachers get the funds they need for their classrooms. Almost 70% of the respondents used their grant funds for classroom instruments or resource materials.


In short, the survey says….exactly what we had anticipated it would. Teachers are working hard to fund the classroom activities and supplies for their classroom.

West Music and http://edufund.westmusic.com/ are here to help. We will continue to research and post helpful sites and resources for our teacher friends.