Ingenuity Q&A: The Illinois ESSA Arts Indicator


Q. What is ESSA?

A. Signed by President Barack Obama in 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is the nation’s primary education law for all public schools. ESSA replaced No Child Left Behind and gives states greater autonomy and flexibility in designing school accountability measures. Under ESSA, states are responsible for holding schools accountable for student achievement, designing the education plans and quality indicators for schools within the framework provided by the federal government. 


Q. What does ESSA mean for Arts Education?

A. ESSA presents a unique opportunity to institutionalize the arts in public schools through policy. The Illinois State Plan for implementing ESSA establishes a new system to measure school performance, under which schools will receive points based on weighted indicators. By including a weighted arts indicator, Illinois would become the first state in the country to cement the arts as a key part of a well-rounded education.


Q. How was the Arts Indicator developed?

A. After ESSA’s passage, Ingenuity joined Arts Alliance Illinois and other arts organizations across the state to advocate for an arts indicator in the Illinois State Plan for ESSA. The Illinois State Board of Education, or ISBE, opened a public comment period, during which the proposed arts indicator drew over 3,000 community responses–double the number of responses for other indicators.

Following this overwhelming public response—a direct result of Ingenuity and Arts Alliance Illinois’ successful state-wide organizing—ISBE tapped Ingenuity and Arts Alliance Illinois to co-lead the development of recommendations for the arts indicator’s measure and weight. Ingenuity convened teachers, education policy experts, and arts education advocacy organizations from across the state, among other stakeholders, to form the Arts Indicator Work Group. Composed of 27 members representing various regions and areas of expertise, the Arts Indicator Work Group met over the course of the year to develop recommendations, delivering their report to ISBE in December 2018. Read the Report


Q. What’s the status of the Arts Indicator?

A. In September 2019, State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala presented a preliminary draft for the ESSA accountability system to the ISBE Board–this draft weighted the arts at 6.25 points, marking a monumental win for the arts in Illinois.

The ISBE Board is expected to vote on this proposal in spring 2020. If adopted, Illinois would become the first state in the US with a distinct, weighted indicator for the arts in a school accountability system.


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