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Dance Education Blog

NDEO's "Dance Education" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.


How to Leverage the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) for the NDEO National Conference

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Helen Buck-Pavlick, Doctoral Student, The Ohio State University.  Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

As K-12 dance teachers, we are often alone in our building or district. We rarely have access to content-specific professional learning or the professional learning communities available to our colleagues in other subjects. The annual NDEO conference allows us, as dance educators, to grow our pedagogical, content, and professional knowledge through professional learning, networking, and master classes. However, the reality is it can be challenging to attend for a variety of reasons.

This blog will outline how, as K-12 dance educators, you may be able to tap into your school’s ESSA funding to support your conference attendance by answering three questions: What is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? How can I use ESSA to support conference attendance? How do I talk to my administrator about leveraging ESSA to support conference attendance?

Large ballroom with seated attendees to the 2023 national conference opening reception

What is the Every Student Succeeds Act?

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the federal law relating to public education and the current reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the ESEA into law in 1965 with bipartisan support, believing that ‘full educational opportunity’ should be ‘our first national goal. “From its inception, ESEA was a civil rights law” (U.S. Department of Education). The ESEA was notably reauthorized in 1994 as the Goals 2000: Education America Act, which set the stage for the arts to be included in the national standards movement (NCAS Conceptual Framework), in 2001 as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and in 2015 as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). One of the notable changes from NCLB is that ‘core subjects’ was replaced with ‘well-rounded education’ (ESSA: Mapping Opportunities for the Arts; Assistance for Arts Education Center).

ESSA defines well-rounded as:

courses, activities, and programming in subjects such as … arts, … music, … physical education, and any other subject, as determined by the State or local educational agency, to provide all students access to an enriched curriculum and educational experience'' (8002(52), emphasis added).

Why is access to a well-rounded education important for dance?

ESSA reaffirms that access to a well-rounded education is a student’s civil right. Which means:

  • Access to dance education is part of a well-rounded education.
  • Access to dance education is part of a student’s educational civil rights.

What Are Some Important Points to Know?

  1. The arts are a part of a well-rounded education (8002(52)) and dance is included in the term ‘arts’ (NCAS Core Arts Standards).
  2. Arts education (including dance) is an eligible use of funds within certain ESSA titles (AAEC).
  3. All 50 states have challenging state academic standards in the arts (AEP ArtScan).
  4. The arts (including dance) support family and community engagement (AAEC).
  5. Many arts programs meet the criteria of ‘evidence-based practice’ having demonstrated the ability to close achievement gaps (Review of Evidence: Arts Education Research Through the Lens of the Every Student Succeeds Act; Review of Evidence: Arts Integration Research Through the Lens of the Every Student Succeeds Act).

How can I use ESSA to support conference attendance?

ESSA is made up of various Titles, or sections, that outline laws related to education. Some titles are comprised of sub-parts. Within each Title, the guidelines and allowable expenses are outlined. Allowable expenses are things that are permitted by statute to be paid for by the grant. More information can be found under ED Arts Education Resources on the U.S. Department of Education Assistance for Arts Education Center (AAEC) webpage.

A group of dance teachers in a conference session standing in a hotel ballroom, writing on a paper on the wall.

The following is just a sample of potentially allowable expenses for Title I, Title II, and Title IV as they relate to supporting conference attendance.

NOTE: While an activity may be allowable in statute, determining a school or district’s allowable activities requires conversation and planning to ensure general cost allowances are met and aligned to policy (e.g., Supplement not Supplant or Cost Principles in 2 C.F.R. 200 Subpart E).

Title I - Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged

The purpose of Title I is to:

  • Support schools in using evidence-based strategies to improve student achievement, instruction, and school performance (Sec. 1003).
  • Provide all children a significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps (Sec. 1001).

What are potentially allowable expenses?

School Improvement – ESSA Sec. 1003 (20 U.S.C. 6303)

  • Professional learning for dance educators in schools identified as comprehensive or targeted support and improvement

Part A: Improving Basic Programs Operated by LEAs – ESSA Sec. 1001 (20 U.S.C. 6301) 

  • Professional learning for dance educators or arts-integrated instruction

NOTE: Both schools and districts can be designated as Title I. It may be possible for your school to be designated as Title I and your district NOT to be designated as Title I. Connect with your building administrator to find out how your school is designated.

Title II - Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, and Other School Leaders

The purpose of Title II is to:

  • Increase student achievement through the support, preparation, training, and recruitment of school teachers and leaders (Sec. 2001).
  • Evidence-based literacy programs (Sec.2221).

What are potentially allowable expenses?

Part A: Supporting Effective Instruction – ESSA Sec. 2001 (20 USC 6601)

Registration desk with NDEO logo at the 2023 national conference

Title IV - 21st Century Schools

The purpose of Title IV is to:

Improve student academic achievement by providing all students with access to:

  • Well-rounded education (Sec. 4107).
  • Improved school conditions for student learning (Sec. 4108). 
  • The use of technology to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students (Sec. 4109).

What are potentially allowable expenses?

  • Part A: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants – ESSA Sec. 4101 (20 USC 7111) Professional learning for dance educators
  • Conference fees for dance-specific professional learning
  • Travel and per diem expenses related to dance-specific professional learning
  • Substitute teacher costs while attending professional learning

NOTE: Title IV-A explicitly identifies the arts as allowable areas under the category of well-rounded education. To be eligible to receive Title IV-A funding, a school or district must have received Title I funding in the year prior. This grant is allocated at the district level (rather than the school level).

How do I talk to my administrator about using ESSA funds to support conference attendance?

1. Plan ahead

Planning for school budgets for the following school year (i.e. fiscal year) begins as early as March. Talking to your administrator early is critical.

2. Position dance as a solution to a school improvement issue.

When talking to your administrator, consider the impact of your conference attendance on the overall school or district instructional vision. Explaining how your conference attendance will benefit school goals is more likely to be successful.

  • Will you come back and provide professional learning to other dance educators in your school or district?
  • Will you implement new instructional strategies aimed at improving student improvement in various areas of outcome?
  • Will you employ new strategies to increase family engagement through program development?
  • Will you gain new approaches for student engagement or classroom management that will support effective instruction?

3. Connect conference to your professional learning goals or evaluation.

When shaping your professional learning goal for the year, consider how attending conference supports meeting your goals and discuss this with your administrator.

  • Does attending conference support one of, or a part, of your professional learning goals for the year?
  • Is attending conference the only or best way for you to gain the specific knowledge, training, or experience needed to meet your professional learning goal? Also, consider the criteria included in your teacher evaluation system.
  • How does attending conference support your instructional effectiveness?

4. Know your state and federal policies.

a large group of dance teachers standing in a circle at the 2023 national conference

Arts Education Partnership (AEP) annually compiles state policies related to arts education with their ArtScan. Phrasing your ask in a way that aligns with supporting pathways for graduation or meeting state requirements strengthens and validates your ask.

  • Does your state require arts instruction in the prescribed curriculum?
  • Are there high school graduation requirements in the arts?
  • Does your state have graduation seals or pathways in the arts?
  • What Administrative or Revised Code is specific to arts education?

You can also reach out to your state education agency’s arts specialist. You can look up who is your state on the SEADAE Directory.

5. Know your data.

Compelling requests include data and anecdotes (e.g., a quote or impact from a student or parent) along with the ask.

  • Consider the equation: Statistic + Anecdote + Ask = Compelling Request

Frame your data in a story to strengthen your ask. Describing how students have grown in your class can frame why attending conferences can support more student growth opportunities.

  • How many students, and what student populations, do you impact through your dance program?
  • What are compelling statistics and stories that illustrate the impact of your dance program?
  • How does your school’s dance participation rate compare to the state’s?

NOTE: Many states have Arts Education Data Dashboards (Arts Education Data Project) which can show you state, district, and school-level data on student participation in dance.

6. Make visits to your administrator to celebrate the positive things too

Making and taking time to talk to your administrator about successes and celebrations is important and avoids the appearance that you only want to talk when there is a problem or you need something. Relationship building can go a long way toward an administrator’s willingness to support your request. Sharing stories of student growth and positive interactions builds program value.

NOTE: This is also a great strategy for building relationships with local school boards, who may become advocates for your request.

7. Participate in the school needs assessment or continuous improvement process

Every school that receives Title funds conducts a needs assessment process. Inquire about how you can be a part of the school’s continuous improvement process, or if there is an arts education representative already involved in this process. Likely your school or district has some policies in place to survey teachers, families, and students about how to improve school performance, climate, and culture. Dance programs can support improvement in all three areas. This is often easier said than done, but being a part of these conversations, or ensuring an allied advocate is a part of the conversations, can help support your ask.

8. Assume positive intent

The reality is that school budgets are very tight and many schools are struggling to balance budgets in light of the ‘funding cliff’ post-COVID funds (e.g., ESSER I, II, and ARP ESSER). Assume positive intent. Sometimes asking for partial funding or planning for future support can be a good starting strategy.

NOTE: Know that how a district allocates its ESSA funds is public record, so you can look at how districts are allocating their funds. Your administrator or district federal programs director may be able to help you find this, or reach out to your state education agency arts specialist to help you navigate finding this information.

9. Plant seeds

Work with your administrator to create a plan for future conference attendance. Consider attending a Special Topics conference or one of the many Virtual Summits that NDEO offers. Registration fees and travel expenses are often less (or minimal for virtual offerings).

10. Seek out other funding options

There may be other funding sources available to support your conference. State Arts Agencies and local arts councils often provide fiscal support or can point you in the direction of possible grants.

Remember if you don’t ask, you won’t know; and when you are not at the table, you are on the menu!

Helen jumping with her legs tucked back and her arms above her head.  She is wearing a black biketard and gray sweater against a black back round.

Helen Buck-Pavlick (she/her) is a dance educator and researcher with over 20 years of combined experience teaching in K-12, higher education, and the independent sector; and has worked for two different state education agencies. She currently serves on the Policy Board of Directors for NDEO and as the Vice President of the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education. Helen holds an M.F.A. in Dance from Arizona State University, an M.Ed. in Educational Foundations from Northern Arizona University, and is a Ph.D. student studying Educational Policy in the School of Education and Human Ecology at The Ohio State University. She is also a Registered Somatic Dance Educator, 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher, STEAM Certified Educator/Administrator, and holds an Ohio P-12 license in Dance. Helen is passionate about ensuring all students have access to well-rounded, high-quality dance education.

Photo Credits: All conference photos from NDEO's 2023 National Conference in Denver, CO by Noah Gelfman, dance photo of Helen by Tracey Whited


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