The arts (dance, music, theater, and visual arts) are considered “core academic subjects” under federal law—the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA). This means that changes in federal education funding and policy affect opportunities for local arts programs and teachers. Below is an overview of some of the big changes to the education landscape and how they affect the arts.
The reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is now long overdue. This body of federal education policy, last authorized in 2002 as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), has resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum (described in this report) and arts education has struggled to remain in many schools across the country.
Each year, through the national Arts Advocacy Day, a large coalition of national cosponsors of arts and arts education advocacy organizations releases their legislative recommendations for the reauthorizations of NCLB (110 KB). These national cosponsors continue to work with House and Senate committee staff to incorporate these recommendations into the reauthorization drafts.
- Retain the Arts in the Definition of Core Academic Subjects of Learning;
- Require Annual State Reports on Student Access to Core Academic Subjects;
- Improve National Data Collection and Research in Arts Education;
- Reauthorize the Arts in Education Programs of the U.S. Department of Education.
The Arts Education Federal Resource Guide is a report produced by Americans for the Arts on the arts-related aspects of No Child Left Behind. The document includes information on arts education policy under NCLB and information on grant opportunities, including program descriptions, Department of Education contact information, and links to many other resources.
Because the No Child Left Behind Act expired in 2007 and is currently authorized through a temporary provision, many advocates have been calling on Congress to reauthorize it. However, as of 2012, no bills have been seriously considered by either chambers of Congress.
In absence of legislative movement on the issue, the Obama administration has been issuing “waivers” from certain provisions in NCLB to states in exchange for statewide reform efforts. More than half the states have received such waivers.
The Center for American Progress (CAP) hosted a panel in August 2012 titled “The State of State Education Reform: What’s Happening, What’s Next?” that reviewed the impact of the U.S. Department of Education state waivers and the Elementary & Secondary Education Act. Their report, No Child Left Behind Waivers, is now available.
So what reforms are the states planning? The major waiver-based reform efforts that affect arts education are:
- Creating assessment strategies for subjects other than English, language arts, and math.
- Creating highly qualified designation for teachers and teacher evaluation.
- Using extended learning time to combat the narrowing of the curriculum.
Here is an infographic summarizing the differences between NCLB and the state waivers.
This short video clip from the CAP event shows Senior Director for Federal Affairs and Arts Education Narric Rome discussing the impact of the state waivers on arts education and the narrowing of the curriculum. Watch the panelists, including U.S. Department of Education Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Yudin, respond.
The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSS) is a partnership between the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Governors Association to develop a set of “common” (not national or federal) academic learning standards for students. The standards address English, language arts, and math, and were released in June 2010. Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have adopted them.
The standards are meant to prepare students for both college and career, and they contain an emphasis on higher order thinking skills. These standards are not curriculum, and they do not dictate how to teach the content. Two consortia are developing assessments to complement these standards, with an emphasis on digital and performance-based assessments for students.
There are several possible ways that CCSS will affect arts education:
- Arts teachers could provide training to general classroom teachers on how to use performance-based assessments and portfolios for student assessment;
- Arts teachers could partner with English and language arts teachers to find curricular connections between the new non-fiction reading requirement and the historical/cultural connections in the arts;
- CCSS emphasis on English, language arts, and math could produce an even narrower curriculum;
- CCSS emphasis on integration could result in an expanded, project-based curriculum;
- And many more possibilities that will come with implementation of CCSS.
Here are a few resources to help you understand this new initiative:
- Presentation by Arts Education Partnership Director Sandra Ruppert provides information about Common Core and other standards issues.
- Americans for the Arts blog salon about the intersection of the arts and common core.
- Education Week article, “Districts Gear Up for Shift to Informational Texts,” addresses how the non-fiction reading requirement lends itself to integration with content in science, social studies, and the arts.
- A video clip of David Coleman, a main author for CCSS, during an event called “Truant From School: History, Science, and Arts.”
Americans for the Arts has also joined peer efforts to improve education in America. We have signed onto the following coalitions, each advocating for a well-rounded complete education for all students.