[photo: Americans for the Arts]
An Opening for Arts Education?
New Federal Law Provides Opportunity for Massachusetts to Prioritize Arts Education
Arts education—dance, media arts, music, theatre/drama, visual arts—is a necessary component for the development of the “whole child,” enabling each individual to become a productive, creative, and innovative member of society. Equal access to high quality, sequential arts education is essential to developing important 21st-century skills and will allow our Commonwealth to regain and maintain a competitive economic edge globally by exporting creative ideas and products. Arts education is also an important tool to promote the social and emotional learning of students.
Currently arts education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is not equally accessible to all children. For many, education reform in the early 90s put an emphasis on traditional academic subjects and testing, often leaving behind arts education as a second subject. While some districts have rich, sequential and regular arts learning in every grade, others have limited or no arts learning. For many state and municipal school administrators, arts education is nice but not necessary.
The passing of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides an opportunity to boost the status of arts education in Massachusetts. ESSA calls on each state to develop new assessment and accountability frameworks for the 2017/18 school year to replace the federal guidelines of No Child Left Behind. These new frameworks provide opportunities for states and municipalities to move beyond testing outputs as the predominant measures and include inputs and other options for assessments. ESSA also explicitly includes arts and music as parts of students’ “well-rounded education."
ESSA provides the opportunity to push for the inclusion of arts education in the education assessment frameworks across the Commonwealth. Over the next year, the Commonwealth will develop a new assessment and accountability framework which provides an opportunity to increase the positioning of arts education in the curriculum.
Be on the lookout for opportunities over the next month to tell our state education leaders the importance of arts education in our kids' learning.