Arts Education Letter from Senators Chang-Diaz, Lesser, and Hinds

Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Massachusetts Board of Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden MA 02148

Re: Arts Education under ESSA

Dear Commissioner Chester and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education,

Members of the Massachusetts Legislature are pleased to see that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s draft accountability and assistance plan has included participation in arts education from Grades K-12.  This embraces the intent and spirit of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to guarantee a well-rounded education for every student.

Developing accountability for arts education is in line with our state’s tradition of global and national leadership in education.  By legislative initiative, Massachusetts provided the first public school arts education in the nation in 1870—an economic imperative then as it is today.  Arts education fosters independent thought, problem-solving skills, the ability to adapt, and independent inquiry; it is a foundation for student success in the 21st century.  Learning through the arts helps prepare students to work in jobs that don’t yet exist using technologies that haven’t been invented.

We congratulate our ESE leaders for the outstanding educational achievements that place Massachusetts students among the top achievers not only nationwide, but across the world.  However, maintaining our educational reputation means adjusting to complex and rapidly changing times.  Recognition of the value of arts education re-asserts our leadership in student creativity and innovation.

The arts foster success in school and after graduation; help students develop discipline and grit; grow their problem-solving skills; and challenge them to deeper thinking, more effective communication, and greater civic engagement.  Schools with effective arts education consistently demonstrate increased academic achievement.

  • Research has shown that arts education develops student motivation and engagement, including improved attendance, persistence, focused attention, heightened educational outcomes, and intellectual risk taking.
  • Arts education can be a powerful driver of school climate and culture.  The arts enhance relationships between teachers, students, families, and the community, creating new connections, fostering collaboration, and increasing school pride.
  • When used as an explicit part of school turnaround plans, arts education has been linked to lower suspension rates, higher graduation rates, and a marked increase in Math and English/Language Arts test scores.

We know that your staff has worked tirelessly for months to develop quality measures that capture meaningful learning, and we applaud your efforts.  Your inclusion of arts education will not only help reverse the narrowing of the curriculum caused by No Child Left Behind, but will provide incentives for districts to take actions proven to reduce the Commonwealth’s still persistent achievement gap.

DESE’s inclusion of arts education as an indicator of school success is in keeping with Massachusetts’s history as an international leader in public education.  Thank you for your support of quality education for all of the Commonwealth’s children.


Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz
2nd Suffolk

Sen. Eric Lesser
1st Hampden and Hampshire District

Sen. Adam Hinds
Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden 

Cc: James Peyser, Secretary of Education
Paul Sagan, Chair, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Members, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

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