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State Boards Can Increase Access to a High-Quality, Well-Rounded Education

For Immediate Release: July 18, 2018

Contact: Michael Spaeth,, 703-684-4002

State Boards Can Increase Access to a High-Quality, Well-Rounded Education

Alexandria, VA—The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) calls on states to take advantage of new opportunities to combat uneven access to quality instruction in the visual and performing arts; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and world languages—key components of a well-rounded education. A new set of NASBE publications showcases states that are advancing equitable access to quality instruction and experiences in these subjects.

In a State Innovations piece, author Valerie Norville urges boards to use data collection and state accountability systems to identify and address gaps in access to arts education. In another State Innovations piece, author Joseph Hedger highlights how state boards are improving STEM learning through revised standards, special diplomas, and promotion of partnerships. In a Policy Update, Gary Colletti discusses policies state boards can consider to increase world language workforce capacity and better align language programs to communities and national need.

States are enhancing students’ participation in arts education through many avenues. Many states incorporated arts education in their ESSA plans. States such as California and New Jersey have launched school-level collection and reporting of data on students’ access to arts education. To address gaps in access, Kentucky and Illinois included arts participation and access measures in state accountability systems. New Jersey and Kentucky require coursework in visual and performing arts as part of high school graduation requirements. State boards can also support collaborations with local art organizations and urge districts and schools with the largest concentrations of low-income students to embed the arts in school improvement strategies.

State boards involved stakeholders as they sought to improve STEM learning through revised standards. DC adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and Massachusetts also adapted NGSS in its revised standards. Both engaged with stakeholders as part of the process. North Carolina and Iowa consulted with stakeholders as they worked on developing STEM strategic plans.

States are also advancing STEM education through special diplomas and partnerships. Seven states have created a STEM diploma or distinction. A magnet high school in North Carolina, developed in partnership between a school district and university and approved by the state board, offers future first-generation college students college-level courses, hands-on STEM education, and college credit.   

Only one in five U.S. students is studying a world language. Ongoing shortages for world language teachers in 44 states and DC imperil access to skilled instruction. To help improve capacity, Delaware recently changed regulations to better specify knowledge, skills, and education requirements of world language teachers. Tennessee revised world language standards to focus on what students can do with what they know about a language. Arizona and Louisiana explored the qualifications for language immersion endorsements.

Read and share the NASBE publications “Focusing on Gaps in Access to Arts Education,” “Improving STEM Learning through Collaboration,” and “Expanding and Aligning World Language Teaching.”

NASBE is the only national organization giving voice and adding value to the nation’s state boards of education. A nonprofit organization founded in 1958, NASBE works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking, promote excellence in the education of all students, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, and ensure continued citizen support for public education. Learn more at


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