Wyoming Arts Council

The Every Student Succeeds Act & the Arts

What is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015, reauthorizing the 50-year old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to create a long-term, stable federal policy that gives states additional flexibility and encourages innovation, while at the same time holding us accountable for results. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who believed that “full educational opportunity” should be “our first national goal.”

Since the signing of ESSA in December 2015, the U.S. Department of Education has been working with states and districts to begin implementing the law. ESSA allows for an 18-month transition period for states to align their accountability systems to the new requirements. The law will be fully implemented for the 2017-18 school year.

Get Involved!

It is imperative that arts constituents be involved in the community discussions and planning stages surrounding the development of a rough draft of the state plan for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (to be reviewed December 2016). Below is some valuable information and resources regarding ESSA and Arts Education.

The Wyoming Department of Education is currently hosting Statewide Listening Tours, during which the public is invited to share ideas and provide meaningful input that will be collected and considered in the development of Wyoming’s plan for the implementation of ESSA. The Wyoming Arts Council encourages you to attend one of these sessions near you, and share your thoughts and ideas!

Listening Tour:
Each session will take place from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Nov. 3: Central Wyoming College, Student Center 103, Riverton
Nov. 9: Gillette College, GCMN 120 Presentation Hall, Gillette
Dec. 1: Western Wyoming Community College, RSC 3650 A and B Meeting Rooms, Rock Springs
Dec. 7: Northwest College, Fagerberg Bldg. Room 70, Powell
Dec. 8: Laramie County Community College, Center for Conferences and Institutes Room 121, Cheyenne

In addition, if you have any ESSA-related questions that you’d like to be officially considered, the Wyoming Department of Education asks that they be submitted to: ESSA.questions@ed.govSpecific comments (i.e. What are the current barriers regarding arts education in our state? What are some proposed solutions?) can be emailed to Kari.eakins@wyo.gov.

The Wyoming Arts Council encourages you to make plans to attend a listening session near you and be proactive in providing input during these discussions surrounding the development of Wyoming’s plan for the implementation of ESSA.

Considerations Regarding Arts Education and ESSA:

College & Career Ready:
As stated in ESSA, “(52) Well-rounded education.–The term ‘well-rounded education’ means courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as English, reading or language arts, writing, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, geography, computer science, music, career and technical education, health, physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, with the purpose of providing all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience.”

  • “The arts” (a term encompassing all art forms: music, visual arts, theatre/drama, and dance) offer opportunities to make substantial impact toward closing the gap for students that are specifically addressed by the Every Student Succeeds Act. There is substantial evidence over the past 20 years that indicates “the arts” make the largest impact on students at risk and offer amazing results that improve the quality of school culture.
  • It is for this reason that it is important that “the arts” are included by name in the implementation plan for Wyoming so that those using the act to support students will understand the broad scope available through arts education. In addition to being essential for a well-rounded education, the arts have the power to positively impact programming, educator effectiveness, learning assessments, school improvement and more, making the continued development of arts programs an important step in closing the achievement gap.

Accountability, Testing, and Standards

The AYP through ESSA is being replaced with multiple measures—including student engagement and postsecondary readiness. The arts are a proven way to increase student engagement, attendance, and academic achievement.

  • METHODS OF MEASUREMENT: ESSA specifies that if Title II funds are used to create or improve educator evaluation systems, those systems must be based “in part” on student achievement. When taking into consideration the diverse learning strategies contributing to a well-rounded education, it is vital that educator evaluation systems incorporate multiple measures—such as survey responses, peer reviews, and observations—in addition to student achievement. Additionally, rather than solely measuring student achievement by scores in the traditionally tested subject areas, student achievement should be measured utilizing state and local assessment measures based on the Well-Rounded Education content taught by the teacher. (Section 2002)

Example of standards-based assessments in music – Model Cornerstone Assessments: The National Association for Music Education has been working with music educators and researchers across the nation to develop instructionally embedded assessments called Model Cornerstone Assessments. While not created to support teacher evaluation systems, such assessments can serve as models for what content-based, instructionally appropriate assessments can look like in music and the arts. Music assessment examples can be found here.

  • TARGETED ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS: When considering the Federal guidance on Targeted Assistance Programs, it would be beneficial to include examples of how arts programs can be utilized to help children receiving support in targeted assistance programs. (Section 1009)

Suggested language: Targeted Assistance programs may fund supplemental music/visual art/theatre/dance and arts integration programs which provide support to Targeted students to meet challenging state academic standards.


Last November 2015, Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (from Oregon) proposed an amendment which congress unanimously adopted to be included in ESSA. The amendment states: “Integrating other academic subjects, including the arts, into STEM subject programs to increase participation in STEM subjects, improve attainment of skills related to STEM subjects and promote well-rounded education.”

  • The arts in STEM is not meant to be a replacement for arts education; Rather, the arts ought to be recognized as another access point to reach visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners and promote a well-rounded education. The arts are at the heart of innovation in our schools. They teach students to make transdisciplinary connections and solve problems in creative ways. It is for these reasons that integrating the arts should be included by name when addressing STEM education.

NOTE: In order to successfully integrate, student must first have a solid foundational understanding of those discipline areas, taught by a teacher certified to teach that specific disciple area.  

Some Guiding Questions posed by The Wyoming Department of Education Team:

  • (Regarding ESSA & Proposed State Implementation Plan) What seems confusing? What guidance needs to be provided?
  • What continuous improvement systems can we put into place?
  • What are the metrics you want to be measured? What data is missing? How do you collect that data?
  • What evidence-based interventions could districts use to help support schools?
  • How can teachers be supported in meaningful and real ways?


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