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Every Student Succeeds Act

Guidance for Creating a ‘Well-Rounded Education’ Under ESSA

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 28, 2016 2 min read
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Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., among others, has repeatedly emphasized the opportunities the Every Student Succeeds Act provides states to broaden the definition of success for students and schools. A new report from the Education Commission of the States gives states, districts, and schools a few pointers on how they can consider expanding learning opportunities for students beyond reading and math.

Much of “ESSA’s Well-Rounded Education” by Scott D. Jones and Emily Workman focuses on Title IV, Part A of ESSA, known as Student Support and Academic Enrichment, or “the big block grant” as we like to call it, that provides states a versatile pot of federal cash schools can use on a variety of programs from student health to STEM education. Jones and Workman point out that, among other things:

  • While districts have more flexibility over how they choose to use the money, those receiving at least $30,000 through the block grant would have to conduct a “needs assessment” every three years to consider how they expand access to a well-rounded education for students.
  • Districts also must prioritize schools with the greatest needs, such as those with the largest share of students from low-income households, when distributing block grant cash.

We’ve written a good bit about the block grant, including how the most recent round of budget negotiations gave the block grant much less money than many members of Congress and many advocacy groups were hoping for. And we’ve also taken note of how it could impact financial aid low-income students receive to pay for Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.

And here’s one other highlight of the ECS report. ESSA replace the term “core subjects” for key academic study areas with a total of 17 subject areas the law says make up a “well-rounded education.” The report lists the nine previous core subjects first introduced in Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Here are the eight new subjects introduced through ESSA as making up a well-rounded education:

The ECS report also lists related impacts found in Title I and Title II in ESSA. The National Education Association, among others, likes the phrase and what it means under the law.

Read the full report below:

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