Arts Education is a Key Piece to a Student’s Education
Changes in federal law under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) direct states to restructure their accountability and assistance systems for schools and districts. Under the current system, Massachusetts determines school quality almost exclusively by standardized test scores in English/Language Arts, Math, and Science as well as graduation rates. ESSA challenges states to better assess schools’ ability to teach the ‘whole child’ with additional metrics. This provides the Commonwealth an opportunity to join other states by including access and participation to arts education in its assessment system.
Over the last two months, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has held forums across the state inviting the public to share their thoughts on what makes for a great school. They have been open and vocal about considering “Access to the Arts” as one of the factors they were considering, and in Boston, Shrewsbury, Brockton, Holyoke, and Salem, arts advocates repeatedly showed up in support of Arts Education.
“Research consistently shows the benefits to schools and students of arts education,” said Andre Green, MASSCreative’s Political Director, “Consistent voices at the community forums showed DESE that it’s also valued as a necessary part of every student’s education.”
And DESE has been listening. At several public events this fall, representatives of DESE have explicitly cited the effectiveness of our advocacy efforts and all the initial indications suggest that they are beginning to think through how they will measure arts access. Moving from “if” arts education should be considered to “how” they should be considered is a huge victory, and it couldn’t have happened without you!
At the December 20th meeting of the DESE Board, they were expected to report out on the community forums and announce their next steps for developing the draft assessment plan in 2017. Once that assessment plan is out the Arts for All Coalition, MASSCreative, Arts|Learning, EdVestors, the Boston Public Schools, Project Learn, MassINC, and Young Audience of Massachusetts will review it. Arts for All is urging DESE to:
- Ensure universal access and participation in arts education by students in grades K-8 and certain requirements for high school students.
- Encouragement from the state for districts to use arts education in an effective strategy to achieve the goals of Title I. Title I is a federally funded program to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging state academic achievement standards and state academic assessments.
- Utilize Title II money for professional development training to help ensure a high quality of arts education teachers.
- Utilize Title IV (part B) to ensure community engagement with the school, administration, and students.