An important opportunity exists right now for us to have a major impact on arts education in Maine schools. The Maine Department of Education is calling for public comment, via email, on the state plan required under the new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) legislation. Unlike its predecessor, NCLB (No Child Left Behind), ESSA requires states to choose at least one measure of school quality or success besides math and English language proficiency, graduation rates, and English language learning. Measures or indicators of school quality are extremely important as they are the basis for school accountability systems, which drive district priorities around funding, program choices and course offerings.

There are at least three states (CT, KY and NJ), that Maine can look to who have already chosen to include access to, or participation in arts education as one of their accountability measures. It is crucial that during the public comment period, which ends on March 30th, we advocate that an additional measure of school quality in arts education be added to Maine’s plan!

The strength of our advocacy during the public comment period will make a difference. We need as many of you as possible to send emails by March 30th to Emails can be sent by everyone – educators, parents, students and members of the community. You don’t have to be directly involved in arts education in order to advocate for it. Advocacy from those outside the field who nevertheless believe that arts education is important for good education is just as persuasive!

Here is a template to guide you in composing your emails. The more you can personalize this the better, but the main thing is to send in an email (and if you copy and paste, make sure you delete the instructions in the template!)

Dear Members of the Department of Education,
I am …………………(describe who you are and where you live/work/attend school.) I strongly suggest that access to or participation in arts education as a measure of school quality be added to the accountability system in Maine’s ESSA state plan. Arts education is vital to good education. (Give your reasons… these can include your own experiences with arts education, and/or arguments shown by research such as arts education’s positive impact on the following):
* Problem solving and critical thinking,
* Development of skills in non-arts academic content areas
* Development of sustained attention, motivation, independent work habits and persistence
* Engaging all students – including those with special needs, low-socio-economic backgrounds, and English language learners
* Improving school climate and culture
We know that school districts have to make priority decisions around limited funding, and often order these priorities based on what they are held accountable for. I urge you to add access to or participation in arts education to Maine’s accountability plan, so that more Maine schools can take advantage of the many benefits that arts education offers.

Please help to spread the word by forwarding this email to as many people as you can. This is an opportunity to make a big difference and we can do this!