COLL: ­No Child Left Behind in the Music Classroom

As we continue to navigate our way through COVID-19 and what that means for our schools, it is important that we find ourselves equipped with the correct information to properly advocate for our arts classrooms. In order to do this, we must know the history of the United States arts legislation in public-schools. Without this information, it is nearly impossible to be able to represent ourselves and advocate for arts funding in the rapidly changing classroom. As a new school year approaches, now more than ever, we should know what legislation says about music education.

On January 8, 2002, former President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) into law. This newly found education act focused heavily on standards and assessment. Subjects such as mathematics and reading were heavily stressed and brought to the forefront of schools’ curricula. With a testing centered system, many schools were labeled as “failing” under this mandate and placed under the magnifying glass of the federal eye. The goal was to move schools to a place of progress and felt that the place where change was to be made was in testing. For music educators, the question then became: Where do arts classes fit into this system?

The history of NCLB is extremely interesting when looking at how quickly states lost the power to assess their own students and determine how they define progress. This began in 1994 when The Goals 2000 was passed. This was an American education act with the plans to get the education system back on track by the year 2000. This act was the first implication of the arts as “core subjects” and really spearheaded the idea into NCLB. By 2002 when NCLB was passed into law, the arts were officially “core subjects”, but did not have the legislation to support it. Through many attempts to reauthorize NCLB, the Obama administration tried to tweak American assessment by giving control of scheduling and examination back to the individual states. Though it failed both in 2007 and 2011, the Obama administration began a redesign to give states flexibility in their own teaching. In 2013, NCLB was renewed by the House of Representatives with solely republican support, but in 2015 the Every Student Succeeds Act passes with legislation that allows music and arts education to be viewed as a valuable and important subjects to build into curriculum.

Standards were heavily affected when No Child Left Behind was passed in 2002. In general, NCLB put heavy emphasis on mathematics and reading. To many educators, this system appeared to lack balance and neglected the importance of many other subjects. NCLB also changed the way we view assessment. The act attempted to streamline examinations to assess in what areas students were failing. Legislation required that all students be proficient in both reading and mathematics but were vague in what the term “proficient” means. This major change in testing angered many educators. Some educators even accused the federal system of changing testing because changing teaching was too difficult of a task. In my opinion, teaching is something that is adaptable and dependent on the individual teacher. A good teacher is able to adapt their individual teaching to meet the needs of their classroom while assessment is something that is much less flexible. Assessment is extremely valuable when collecting data, but when looking at existing data and looking for ways to make a change, the teaching is the first thing that needs to be assessed.

With music education being deemed a “core subject”, music educators were optimistic and looking forward to the possibilities of teaching under NCLB, but through weak legislation, little change was made to ensure students were being held to appropriate standards to assess their basic musical development. This caused a great debate about the possibility of a national music assessment. While many were in favor of a streamlined music exam, others were worried about the lost qualities in a pen and paper exam. Standards and assessment of music were centered around progress and growth but did not examine important musical qualities such as communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Without these key aspects of music education, the student is merely learning to make pretty noise. This argument drove many music educators to despise NCLB and push for more control of their teaching standards and assessment in the classroom. All of this can simply be put as: music education cannot fit in the established paradigm that NCLB sets up in the American education system.

Funding was another aspect of No Child Left Behind that caused much grief in the music education classroom. Under NCLB, funding was based on adequate yearly progress. This means, that if a school does not meet certain standards during the school year, the school will begin to lose funding after one year of grace. This creates an extremely backward system where failing schools never receive the funds to improve. Instead, schools without the proper funding are found unable to adequately educate their students. While NCLB is often criticized as an underfunded mandate, the majority of funds were directed toward testing subjects such as mathematics and reading. With funds being funneled into math and reading, the arts were left to fend for themselves and come up with their own ways to keep their programs afloat. Already existing budget deficits caused arts education to be placed lower on the priority list than it already was. If a school did not meet its adequate yearly progress, there was no hope in their arts programs receiving any substantial funding. Music educators were placed in an interesting situation where they did not have the funds or time to support their classes and programs.

In 2015, thirteen years after the initial passing of No Child Left Behind, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed into law. This law labeled music education as part of a “well-rounded” education. Unlike NCLB, ESSA had the legislation to support itself and began making changes to give states power within their own education systems. First, states had the ability to determine how they define progress. Since not every school and location across the country is the same, it was important for states to individually define what progress means and how it is measured and assessed in the public-school system. Second, states controlled educational money within their own systems. Funding was no longer directly put into core classes but was under direction of the states as to where it should go. With the states in control, money and time were placed into the hands of music educators. The Every Student Succeeds Act gave music educators flexibility to teach music in a creative facet without fear of streamlined assessment and standards.

The No Child Left Behind Act, while good in concept, impeded music educators from doing their jobs. Not only were they held to very strict federally mandated standards, but they were forced to face budget and scheduling problems head-on. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, music educators are put in a much better position to teach and encourage creativity. As we all know, music education is a place within a school that fosters creativity; therefore, it cannot be strictly confined to checking off standard boxes. Especially as we find ourselves advocating our way through a global pandemic, it is pertinent that we understand the history of the United States public-school music education legislation. The more we know, the better equipped we are to advocate to local, state, and national officials to keep arts funding in our classrooms. Through ESSA, the arts are guaranteed a place in the public-school classroom and it is our duty as educators to keep it there.


Beveridge, T. (2009). No Child Left Behind and Fine Arts Classes. Arts Education Policy Review, 111(1), 4– 7. doi: 10.1080/10632910903228090

Elpus, K. (2014). Evaluating the Effect of No Child Left Behind on U.S. Music Course Enrollments. Journal of Research in Music Education, 62(3), 215–233. doi: 10.1177/0022429414530759

Gilbert, A. D. (2016). The Framework for 21st Century Learning: A first-rate foundation for music education assessment and teacher evaluation. Arts Education Policy Review, 117(1), 13–18. doi: 10.1080/10632913.2014.966285

Kos, R. P. (2017). Music education and the well-rounded education provision of the Every Student Succeeds Act: A critical policy analysis. Arts Education Policy Review, 119(4), 204–216. doi: 10.1080/10632913.2017.1327383

Klein, A. (2018, October 25). No Child Left Behind Overview: Definitions, Requirements, Criticisms, and More. Retrieved from definition-summary.html.

Team, U. (2019, October 17). The Difference Between the Every Student Succeeds Act and No Child Left Behind. Retrieved from childs-rights/the-difference-between-the-every-student-succeeds-act-and-no-child-left-behind.

COLL: ­Q(uarantined) cNAfME


Throughout this troubling time for our world, cNAfME and music educators have been forced to ask themselves “How do we go on?.” Over the last month, college students across the globe have been sent home to complete the semester online. But what does this mean for musicians whose classes nearly all have some sort of performance aspect? Do we perform online to Facebook Live? Do we cancel our long-awaited recitals? Do we get to complete our internships? All of these questions are troublesome and difficult to answer, but as future music educators, it is important for us to continue to strive to learn from home and become better equipped for the careers ahead of us.

Since being home, cNAfME chapters have been encouraged to continue meeting in some facet. For many of our chapters, that means meeting over Zoom to discuss important music education topics, but for others, it means meeting asynchronously and using a set of resources to continue engaging in educational materials from home. Our chapter presidents have worked diligently to keep their chapters afloat and have collaborated in compiling different ways to still grow as future educators during this time of acting as Q(uarantined)cNAfME.

The University of North Alabama and Troy University have both been able to meet online through Zoom. In their meetings, they discuss what music education looks like from home and how to stay engaged with the classroom away from the classroom.

Alexa Dishroon, president of UNA’s chapter writes, “UNA’s chapter is holding ‘music education roundtable’ discussions via Zoom every week. Here, we present and discuss topics in music education. Our discussions also cover our personal teaching philosophies or procedures, and we discuss and share ideas and advice all in an effort to build us as future music educators.”

Troy University’s president Caroline Swann states, “Our cNAfME chapter has stayed in contact by having our business meetings over Zoom! We are also going to have an edTPA workshop with a guest speaker. Recently we held a business meeting where we talked about the bylaws and nominations for the executive team for next year.”

As chapters continue their normal routines from home, we are seeing how technology has changed how we interact with each other. While last month it would have been easy to say that we are terrified of how education will look in the coming weeks, cNAfME has proven they can carry on through online meetings, plan for the year to come, and become better educators from home. While many of our chapters have been able to meet synchronously, some chapters have had to adapt and engage with each other without face to face interaction.

At the University of Alabama, students have engaged with online resources. President Isabelle Page writes, “I doubt we’ll have a synchronous meeting with the entire chapter. What I plan on doing is to research some online learning tools for music teachers being used currently or to talk to music teachers currently teaching online classes, and compile some narratives or tips/tricks on how to navigate such a unique situation. I think what’s happening right now is horrible, but at the same time, it’s a learning opportunity for future teachers that I think we should take advantage of—it’s an excellent example of how teachers have to be ready to change their plans, so it’s something we should all be keeping up with.”

Our chapters are quickly learning what it means to be adaptable, which is an important trait any teacher should possess. As we continue to navigate the uncertain days and months ahead, ALcNAfME will continue to function and engage with each other with the goal of producing better future music educators than we had at the beginning of 2020. So, as the days at home go on, we will continue to learn, teach, and engage as future music educators.

COLL: ­Alabama cNAfME Report

Alabama cNAfME Report

AMEA’s collegiate chapter of NAfME has had a tremendously successful semester! Through the cooperation of the sixteen chapters in our state, the collegiate division has been able to jump- start the new ‘Buddy Chapter’ system, hold the annual Collegiate Summit and attend AMEA’s 2020 Professional Development Conference.

The Buddy Chapter system was started to give collegiate members the opportunity to network with students from neighboring universities. The chapters are broken up by size and geographical location. This also gives chapters the opportunity to see what is working well for other chapters and to be able to grow from that. All in all, we have seen a major spike in unity between collegiate members from neighboring universities and look forward to seeing how the Buddy Chapter system continues to grow.

On October 27, 2019, the annual Collegiate Summit was hosted at Samford University. The summit recorded 40 members in attendance, nearly doubling last year’s attendance. Members had the opportunity to hear from presenters Dr. Becky Halliday (The University of Montevallo), Captain Brian Walden (Samford University), Mrs. Deanna Bell (Vestavia Hills Elementary East), Dr. Anne Witt (The University of Alabama), and Dr. Ted Hoffman (The University of Montevallo). A new teacher panel was also interviewed to give collegiate members a deeper look into what the first year of teaching is like. Concluding with a networking dinner, this year’s annual summit was a huge success!

This year’s Professional Development Conference was a great experience for our collegiate division. With sessions ranging from topics such as interviewing skills to motivating students, collegiate members gained practical information about life as a future music educator. On Thursday night, members gathered for the Collegiate/Higher Education division mixer. This was a time for mingling and networking. Members were able to sit, play games, and meet other collegiate members during this time. The division also gathered at the collegiate luncheon to discuss the past year and elect a new board to serve on the 20-21 collegiate executive board. The new board members are as follows:

President: Jackson Vaughan, Samford University

Vice President/President-Elect: Emma Tosney, The University of Alabama Secretary: Grace Waldrop, University of North Alabama

Treasurer: Jacob Russell, University of North Alabama

Looking forward to the semester ahead, the executive board is planning on creating new forms of communication between chapters. A monthly newsletter highlighting individual chapters, workshops, and other events will begin in February. The collegiate division will also continuously update its social media presence (@cnafme_al) and focus on what is happening within the individual chapters in the state, as well as the work of the executive board. During this semester, the executive board encourages all chapters to continue meeting and networking

with their buddy chapter. Overall, it has been a great semester for AMEA’s collegiate division and the division looks forward to what the next few months have in store!