Read along and test your knowledge of standards, state policy and state level arts education as I take you through some of the oft-heard questions regarding state arts education standards.
- What are standards, and why do we have them? Part of the Educational Reform movement of the 1990’s, standards are descriptions of what students should know (knowledge) and be able to do (skills) in a particular content area. The first set of national standards was developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in 1989; the arts standards were the second set of national standards, published in 1994.
- So – we have national standards? But your title talks about state standards…I’m confused… National standards are voluntary standards with no accountability or “teeth” in the educational system until they are either adopted or adapted at the state level. They are guidance, whether the Common Core State Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, or the soon to be released updated National Core Arts Standards.
- OK. What states have arts standards now? 48 states officially have arts education standards for K-12 at this moment in time. One state, Nebraska, is in the process of writing arts education standards as we speak. Can you guess which state doesn’t have state level standards?[i]
- How do states get or create arts standards? The answer is… it depends. In my state, the State Board of Education, a board appointed by the Governor and including our directly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, approves or adopts standards for our state. In other states, the legislature most vote to adopt standards. Regardless of the state, your SEADAE representative –the person who handles arts education for your state department of education – is the worker bee (or bureaucrat!) who shepherds arts standards through the appropriate process.
- 5. So, 48 states have arts standards… but you mentioned above that there will be a new set of national arts standards. Why are we revising the national standards if state standards are already in place?
- a. Because art making and the tools available to teach art have changed. Since 1994, the technological revolution has created huge innovation in the tools available to create and present art in all of its forms, and has impacted the tools available to help us teach the arts (think Finale, SmartMusic, Adobe, etc.). In addition, the discipline of media arts has emerged more fully and needs to be addressed by arts education standards.
- b. Because assessment – the ability to measure student learning in a content area – has moved to the forefront of educational reform, and we need to have a set of measurable standards to help us create better assessments in the arts. In fact, the National Core Arts Standards will be the first standards in the nation to embed model or example assessments within the standards themselves.
- c. And finally, because SEADAErs – those state folks working on arts education – asked the field to do so. In 2011, a survey of SEADAErs showed that 44% of those states planning to review their state level standards would hold off until the national standards could be revised so that their state level arts standards could be improved. Revising a set of standards nationally is a much more cost effective and time effective way to go about the process.
- 6. So what happens after the new National Core Arts Standards are released? The new standards are due to be released in March, 2014. SEADAE, working with the Leadership Team of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards including Americans for the Arts, will begin the work of moving states forward for adoption of the national standards at the state level. Some states will adopt the national standards as their own; others will review and make changes or adaptations prior to adoption; and still others may wait and adopt/adapt further on down the road as their states have specific timelines to follow regarding standards creation.
Americans for the Arts will need help from each and every arts education advocate to help states with their adoption process. For most states, the process is political, and involves showing buy-in from the field – arts educators, arts and cultural organizations, local arts agencies, teaching artists – in order to be successful. You can play a key role in helping update your state’s standards. Here’s how you get started:
- a. Sign up for the Arts Education Listserv – and stay up to date on the Standards progress at the national level
- b. Play an active role in the revision of the national standards. Provide feedback on the drafts of the standards – high school standards will be available for review beginning September 30th – to help them be the best standards possible for the students in your state
- c. Connect with your State Arts Advocacy Organization. Chances are, your state citizens for the arts or other state level advocacy organization will help organize advocates like yourself around your state level adoption process. Volunteer to help, learn about the process, and make certain your voice is heard.
[i] Iowa. A state that strongly believes in local control, standards decisions are left up to the local school districts. Iowa has a waiver from the federal government allowing this practice – the only state to do so.