August 1 marked the U.S. Department of Education’s deadline for public comments to the agency’s proposed regulations for state plans and accountability. The regulations are part of the implementation phase of the new K-12 education law passed in December 2015, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Over 21,000 comments were submitted in response to the agency’s 83-page proposal!
This round of proposed regulations was designed to provide clarity and support to state education agencies as they design accountability systems, report cards, and state plans. However, as is also evident by the sheer number of public comments, there were several concerning provisions in the proposal, including the complete omission of the arts in the department’s designation of “well-rounded” subjects of learning. This conflicts with the law, which specifically included the arts within the definition of well-rounded education. Americans for the Arts joined with 51 other national and state arts and arts education organizations in filing joint comments to weigh in on the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations.
The Department will now review the public comments and work to finalize the regulations. Meanwhile, arts education advocates are working with their state education leaders to ensure that the arts are a part of their state’s education policies, including being measured within state report cards, considered in accountability systems, and supported within well-rounded education.
Under the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulation, the upcoming 2016-2017 school year would be a transition year for states to finalize their accountability systems to measure school performance.
Once state policy is set, additional local advocacy will be needed to ensure arts education access and opportunities at the school district and school levels. Take a look at Americans for the Arts’ continuously updated digital hub for resources, knowledge-sharing, and steps to take in support of arts education.