Update: Revising the National Arts Standards

Posted by Lynne Kingsley, Sep 20, 2011 8 comments

Lynne Kingsley

Lynne Kingsley

Since Tim Mikulski’s post on June 13 about the national arts standards, a lot has been happening!

On August 30, the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) convened a meeting to bring stakeholders up to speed with the revision process of the 1994 National Arts Standards.

The meeting, held at National Association for Music Education (formerly MENC) headquarters, gathered together artsed heavy hitters from all over the country: from the NCCAS leadership team, as well as representatives from organizations such as the Kennedy Center, the National Endowment of the Arts, Americans for the Arts, Wolf Trap, and more. In addition, in order to remain fully inclusive, the meeting was open to the public via live video streaming (full list of participants may be found here).

Revision Process Timeline
The meeting began with facilitator Marcia McCaffrey, arts guru from the New Hampshire Department of Education, giving a background on NCCAS and the process thus far. Marcia challenged us to consider benefits/challenges of a conceptual framework and shared the projected timeline for standards writing:

9/2011: Hiring of Project Director
11/2011: NCCAS issues guiding principles for a conceptual framework
12/2011: Standards writing teams established by NCCAS
1/2012-6/2012: Project Director manages the writing and revision of standards draft.
7/2012: Release & dissemination of draft version of revised standards document for public comment
9/2012-11/2012: NCCAS review & response to public comment; revisions made to standards by writing teams led by Project Director.
12/2012: Release of revised arts standards

It’s been important to NCCAS from the beginning that in order to hold our process to the highest standard (one which our young people deserve), the standards revision process must not only be transparent but also state-led, research-based, and grounded in student work.

1. States Survey
Next at the meeting, the wonderful Lynn Tuttle of the Arizona Department of Education presented feedback from a survey conducted by the State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE). 39 states participated in the survey, indicating the current status of their Arts Education standards, their strong interest in the revision of national arts standards, and some recommendations for the process. Highlights include:

•    72% of the states who have yet to revise their standards would be willing to wait to revise theirs until the national arts standards are revised.
•    Some states would be willing to consider adopting the new national arts standards as proposed, similar to the adoption of the Common Core standards.
•    States also indicated what they believed should be included in the newly-revised standards to be useful to the arts educators in their state.

Full data from the states survey may be found here.

2. College Board Research
Next, NCCAS leadership team members Nancy Rubino and Amy Charleroy presented research findings from two of four reports requested by NCCAS:
•    International Arts Education Standards: a Survey of the Arts Education Standards and Practices of Fifteen Countries and Regions
•    Arts Education Standards and 21st Century Skills: An Analysis of the National Standards for Arts Education (1994) as Compared to the 21st Century Skills Map for the Arts

Other research studies still being conducted by The College Board are:
•    A study on college-level standards: what are the current expectations or guidelines for what students should know or be able to do in the arts at the college level?
•    Child development research: what are the best practices in arts education that acknowledge developmental needs and abilities at different grade levels?

3. Student Work
After a viewing of student artwork from all four disciplines to bring the student voice into the room and remind us of our grounding in student work, the participants broke out into small work groups with the charge of creating a model of a possible framework. In the late afternoon all small groups came back together to discuss the issues and ideas generated by this work.

Conclusion and Next Steps
It was determined that an NCCAS Framework Committee, using transcripts from the arts task force meeting, archival documents, and other supporting materials, will create a foundational document to guide the writers in their standards revision work. The framework will be developed to be approved by NCCAS leadership in time for the November 1 meeting of NCCAS and SEADAE.

The day-long meeting also included work on the framework, questions about media arts, and tough ones like “what if we just start over?”.

Cory Wilkerson provides a brilliant, more detailed summary of the meeting here (I’m out of space). More questions? Check out the NCCAS website for frequent updates.

NCCAS is committed to a transparent process and welcomes comments, suggestions, and questions both on their website and through Twitter (hashtag: #artsstds). NCCAS wants to hear from you.

What should arts education look like in the 21st century?

8 responses for Update: Revising the National Arts Standards


Derrick E. says
October 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm

When I first began teaching art, I was surprised to discover how broad the standards in my state were, and how leniently my district monitors whether or not I am meeting them. At first, I saw this as a good thing- while I of course would be meeting them and exceeding beyond them, I knew that I wouldn't be scrutinized and that I would enjoy more freedom than my colleagues who teach 'tested' subjects like math and science.
As I have been teaching for six years now, and am now facing unemployment if my district does not passa levy this fall, I am finding that more scrutiny would be welcome, as it would help reinforce the idea that my curriculum is legitimate and important, rather than an 'extra'. Instead, I recall hearing rumblings last fall that there was a push in my state to revise the art standards down to only three: analyzing, reflecting, and creating, which is even more broad and less indicative of rigor than the system that is in place. So far, there have not been any changes, but I certainly hope that arts educators themselves are involved with the ultimate revision, and that the standards which are adopted serve as a strong foundation that will help guide teachers rather than excuse them doing anything they want. I'm not saying that is happening, but the fact that the current standards and the way they are enforced allow for it is not helping anybody.

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September 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Thank you, Rachel C. It was my pleasure!

And Rachel E., thank you so much for sharing these dreams. Your students are our future!

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September 21, 2011 at 12:09 pm

What should arts education look like in the 21st century? Good question. Good timing: it's early in the semester and I'm introducing the concept of state and national standards to the pre-service theatre teachers in my classes. I'm going to ask this question of them because they'll be the ones in the classrooms once the new arts standards are done. (I can already imagine the in-service/PD days they'll be spending re-writing their curriculum to replace the old standards.) May as well make sure the new standards reflect something of their vision for 21st century arts ed, right? Thanks for the blog, Lynne.

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Ms. Rachel A. Ciprotti says
September 21, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Lynne, this is a GREAT overview of the process. It will be really helpful; thank you for taking the time to write it all out clearly.

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September 22, 2011 at 11:06 am

Thanks for sharing Rachel - and for engaging your excellent students!

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September 22, 2011 at 10:57 am

Here’s what my Kean University students from Topics in Theatre Education said about their vision for arts education in the 21st Century in an all-too-brief conversation last night:

In 21st Century arts education:
•Decision-makers would do a complete 180 in terms of their attitude towards arts education and its importance.
•People would be less relaxed about arts education requirements mandated by law.
•There would be fulltime arts teachers in every school.
•Cross-curricular arts experiences would be used as a means to integrate school culture.
•Students would have had arts education courses from the beginning of their education, making them more open to working together as they get older.
•The arts would truly be CORE not “specials.”
•Students who want to take arts classes won’t have to skip lunch to participate in courses that don’t fit into their schedule.

Thank you to Lissette, Anniely, Robyn, Jensyn, and Raven.
I hope I have a chance to deepen the conversation with them to connect these dreams to the Standards.

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October 20, 2011 at 8:11 pm

I am so interested to see the new revised arts standards. I still have a copy of a draft of the first set of national standards for theatre and drama--from the 1980s, I believe. Maybe I should donate it to the AATE Library as an artifact, Lynne? Please keep on keeping us posted about this important work.

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March 05, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Here’s my take on the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). For example, an arts educator already knows the fundamentals of their art form. Has anything changed with regard to principles and techniques that have been discovered that radically changes what kids should learn about a given art form? No. The challenge therefore is to teach these basic elements of arts practice in ways that conform to and meet the expectations of Common Core, not to study an entirely separate set of standards such as the NCCAS. Otherwise, arts education will continue to decline in America's public schools.


In the real world of education, administrators don’t really care whether or not arts specialists conform to the NCCAS as that framework is merely voluntary and the set of standards principals and superintendents really care about are the Common Core set of standards. Because student success on assessments based on Common Core will determine whether those administrators keep their jobs and play a significant role in all teachers’ evaluations, including eventually those of arts specialists. Then why not shift the focus of teaching practice to meet the expectations and developing the habits of mind required by this new paradigm for teaching and learning without violating the integrity of arts content? Juxtaposing the NCCAS with Common Core standards does not reveal an adequate alignment between the two.

In the real world of the professional performing arts, the first things you think about when creating a production is what limitations do you have. Such as; how much time is available, where will it be performed, what personnel are involved, what resources are required, and how much money do you have to work with?

Thus, when constructing a document such as the NCCAS, they should provide grade level models that delineate who is going to do it, with how many kids, over what span of time, in what venue, with what resources and how much it ought to cost. Otherwise, this is merely an aspirational document, not one rooted in reality. In other words, the working context that arts specialists contend with. The reality for an arts specialist, in most states, is that the cumulative amount of contact time (dosage) with a given cohort of students is a little over twenty….four…..hours! On average, 42 minutes a week times 36 weeks in the school year. If kids had to do all of what is outlined in the NCCAS, in any of the five art forms, they wouldn’t have time to learn anything else!

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