In Support of Theatre and Dance Teacher Credentialing in California

Posted by Ms. Kristin Kusanovich, Sep 07, 2016 0 comments

California, known for its creative economy among many other things, offers no teacher credentials in dance or theatre. California Dance Education Association (CDEA), the state affiliate of the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO), has been hard at work on this issue this year. We are a non-profit professional organization serving emerging, practicing and master dance artist/teachers through advocacy and professional development opportunities that advance dance education in diverse sectors and communities throughout California. We recently published an extensive white paper on why we support SB 916, a bill to re-establish the theatre and dance credentials in California. This posting is an excerpt from that white paper that can be found at

Authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), the new bill was announced to our membership last January and met with enthusiastic fervor—yes, some people danced at the news. California has a bicameral legislature and the bill has progressed through the Senate and Assembly stages, passing every committee. It is slated to be decided upon by California Gov. Jerry Brown in early September 2016.


Until 1970, California had Dance and Theatre credentials. Then, during the drafting of the Ryan Act, a clerical error was made so that now, 46 years later, California is one of only two states in the U.S. (West Virginia is the other) with neither Theatre or Dance credentials.

Throughout the decades since this error, our predecessors have worked hard on this issue. Various legislative actions began but stalled.

Currently, to teach dance in California, one needs a Physical Education credential. To teach Theatre, one needs an English credential. Teachers currently holding these credentials will be grandfathered in. This will mean the transition period is long, but that can be advantageous to building solid credential programs and to restructuring dance and theatre programs in grades K-12.

CDEA has taken an active stance in the advocacy campaign, leading our members through the repetitious but necessary steps of advocacy. We have been present in Sacramento when the bill was heard at key moments in the process. We have reached out to school boards, superintendents, higher education, and K-12 educators to mobilize an informational campaign. And we have partnered closely with our colleagues in theatre, music, and visual arts in the 4ArtsEdOrgs Coalition as well as California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE). Thus, we have formed a unified effort throughout the state creating a new synergistic arts education climate.

Here are six reasons CDEA stands behind SB916.

  1. Aligning credentials with educational code: The bill creates a situation where all subjects in California’s educational code will have a corresponding credential (whereas currently Dance and Theatre are the only two subjects that have no corresponding credential).
  2. Appropriate preparation: The Creative Sector of California accounts for 10% of the state’s job creation and revenue. California students deserve to have appropriately prepared dance teachers who can expose them to higher order thinking in dance and rich artistic and creative experiments. Students deserve teachers who can connect them with the artistic community and professional world as well as opportunities to use dance education to deepen experiences in the arts or other fields.
  3. A simple fix: The bill rectifies an unintended omission of two of the four arts from the path to subject specific credentials, which only occurred as the result of a typographical error in 1970 when the credentials for Music and Art were meant to have read “Music and Arts” (note the “s”).
  4. Competitive market draw and retention of high quality California teachers: Passage of SB916 makes us competitive with the other 48 states who offer one or both of these subjects. In this way we are more likely to retain teachers who currently are apt to depart California in order to obtain subject-specific credentials elsewhere. At the same time, California teachers who do not have a Dance or Theatre credential (which would be impossible for them to obtain here) often are overlooked in favor of out-of-state teachers who do. Even with legally appropriate PE or English credentials, California teachers suffer in the competition for jobs.
  5. Growth and validation of the field as a whole: Passage of SB916 expands and strengthens the field of dance at all levels, from K-12 to community to four-year college to graduate programs. It enriches community-based arts groups, studios, and professional dance companies with education programs connected to schools. It creates a clear path for those with a calling to teach dance in our schools, and it validates dance as an academic and artistic subject, equal to all other subjects.
  6. The research is in: Dance affects Whole School Improvement. Research has shown that dance, besides having intrinsic value as an art form, develops cognitive abilities and personal resiliency. Students do better in other subjects in school as a result of the arts, and socio-emotional needs are better met in dance than many other subjects. In fact, the benefits of dance are so numerous and multi-faceted, it might be difficult to find another subject that does so much to promote learning in the cognitive, affective and psycho-motor domains all at once.

We await the governor’s signature on this bill and will look forward to reporting the results to the Americans for the Arts community!

Kristin Kusanovich & Jessy Kronenberg, co-presidents, CDEA

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