‘Arts for All’ Initiative Seeks Arts Education Requirement for Entry to MA State Universities

BOSTON, April 2, 2014—Seeking to better prepare students for academic and professional success, MASSCreative and Arts|Learning have launched Arts for All, an initiative to make one year of visual, media, or performing arts education a requirement for admission to the Massachusetts State University System and the University of Massachusetts System. Arts for All is backed by nearly 200 leaders from the state’s arts, culture, and education sectors, all of whom have endorsed a report making a detailed case for the arts requirement that was delivered Wednesday to the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

“Making arts education a requirement for entrance to our state universities is a matter of simple common sense,” said Arts|Learning Executive Director Jonathan C. Rappaport. “Arts learning improves students’ self-motivation, critical thinking, and problem solving skills—all of which are critical to their success in college and in today’s highly competitive job market.”

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s recommended high school course of study (MassCore) calls for at least one year of arts education at the secondary level. However, the current Board of Higher Education (BHE) admissions policies for four-year public universities and the University of Massachusetts have no general admission criteria in the area of the arts (dance, media arts, music, theatre, visual arts). In fact, arts learning is the only MassCore subject area not currently required for entrance into the state university and UMASS system. Mandating it would bring BHE admission requirements into alignment with MassCore.

“State policy makers recognized the importance of the arts in a balanced high school education, which is why they designated the arts as a core subject area in the 1993 Education Reform Act,” said MASSCreative Executive Director Matt Wilson. “But Massachusetts secondary school curriculum standards do not currently provide an effective structure to ensure that all students in the Commonwealth receive adequate arts instruction. Requiring a year of arts education for admission to our state universities would create an incentive for the Commonwealth’s schools to step up and expand their arts curricula.”

Currently, while some districts offer abundant, sequential arts education in every grade, others have limited or no arts education. Much of this disparity occurs in urban and rural school districts—areas with significant populations of students who are poor, have significant special needs, or with large populations of English language learners. These are the students often most in need of the improved academic, social, cognitive, and psychological outcomes arts education provides.

“Arts education prepares students for college and the workplace through the development of creativity, focus, analytical skills, out-of-the-box thinking, perseverance, leadership, and collaborative learning,” said Emerson College President M. Lee Pelton, an endorser of Arts for All. “It's time that the arts are seen as being on an equal footing with other academic disciplines, and given the same priority and emphasis.”

The Arts for All proposal recommends the admissions requirement be implemented in the fall of 2018 to allow school districts time to address any need for additional resources to provide students with the appropriate level of arts instruction.

Such an admissions requirement is not novel in higher education: 10 state university systems plus the District of Columbia require incoming students to have taken fine or performing arts courses in high school. This requirement has been implemented with no adverse effects. The 10 states are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Ohio (half-year arts requirement), Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington state, and West Virginia.



Founded in 2012, MASSCreative works with creative leaders and entrepreneurs, working artists, arts educators, and arts and cultural supporters to empower creative organizations and the public with a powerful voice to advocate for the resources and support necessary to build vibrant and connected communities.

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