ESSA and TeachRock

In December of 2015, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, known more commonly as “ESSA.” It’s the latest iteration of the Primary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. ESSA, which passed with bipartisan support, gives state governments increased power to make decisions in regards to standards, state administered exams, school performance measures, and teacher evaluations. Many states have used ESSA as an opportunity to move away from the national Common Core requirements of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act in favor of new, state-level educational standards.

As part of the shift away from Common Core, each state developed a plan outlining a vision for academic success, as well as guidelines by which those visions could be measured. For the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, this means a shift from aligning our 100+ lesson plans with Common Core standards to syncing them with the individual standards of 50 states. Though it’s no small task, we’re glad to have Senior Manager of Education and Outreach Christine Nick, who has been reading these plans–all of them–as they become available, and, believe it or not, enjoying it.

Christine’s mission is to make sure that the lesson plans at TeachRock are available and helpful to educators, regardless of where they teach. Nick’s first step in supporting teachers through this transitional phase has been the application of state specific standards to all lesson plans. The lessons currently reflect the New Jersey Learning Standards, and will soon host the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). Though the process will take some time, the new drop down bar in the “Standards” section of each TeachRock lesson will eventually allow teachers from all 50 states to select the standards that apply to them. The Common Core standards will remain available on all lessons because several states have retained them.

Nick noticed trends in the new state plans. Many increase students’ access to the arts and place emphasis on participation in creative endeavors. The availability of Advanced Placement courses is also on the rise. Heightened access to AP and the arts will often also be used to measure the quality of a school, which suggests that schools will be evaluated (sometimes equitably!) on their ability to enrich lives through the arts and through the rigorous experience of college-level work.

Helping educators integrate the arts into core content areas has always been the mission of TeachRock, and we’ve recently introduced a “Suggested Paths” tab that will guide those seeking Elementary level, English/Language Arts, Social Studies/History, and General Music lessons directly to specially curated collections of lesson plans. Many more Suggested Paths, including the TeachRock AP® Compatible Guide to U.S. History, are coming soon.

There’s never a shortage of awesome material with which to work at the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation–the list of people, time periods, events, and general topics we’re looking forward to covering is almost infinite! However, Nick’s work with the new ESSA plans has helped guide the Foundation on our mission to create material that is both engaging and classroom ready.

If you have questions about standards related to our lesson plans, get in touch with Christine Nick, Senior Manager of Education and Outreach