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Coalition Aims to Revise Voluntary National Arts Standards

In case you haven't had your fill yet of common standards, a new coalition of states and national organizations is getting started on plans to overhaul voluntary national guidelines for learning in the arts, with a goal of completing them by the fall of 2012.

The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards will update a document issued in 1994 that states and others have used as a benchmark for K-12 arts education in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts, according to a press release issued today.

"All students learn using some combination of the arts, numeracy, and literacy," said Jonathan Katz, the chief executive officer of the National Assembly of States Arts Agencies, said in the press release. "The resource for learning that this group, representing teachers of the arts and arts education policymakers, is in a position to provide is tremendously important."

The effort is intended for "developing a next generation of voluntary arts education standards that will build on the foundation created by the 1994 document, support the 21st-century needs of students and teachers, help ensure all students are college and career ready, and affirm the place of arts education in a balanced core curriculum," the press release says.

The undertaking comes as a White House advisory panel recently issued a report urging expanded access to arts education in schools, suggesting that the arts hold great potential to bolster student engagement and academic achievement.

A recent survey of state directors of arts education found that 19 of the states planning to revise their arts standards in the next two years are willing to postpone that work until the new national standards are completed, so as that document may inform their approach, the press release says.

"I'm very encouraged that the [coalition] has taken the first steps toward reimagining the arts standards for students and teachers," New Hampshire education Commissioner Virginia M. Barry said in the release. "The arts are truly special—dance, music, visual art, and theatre give students a voice they might not otherwise have."

Meanwhile, as we've reported on several occasions, an effort is well under way now to revise a set of national standards for science. And as we also reported recently, a group of state specialists in the social studies, along with national organizations, are working on an effort that could lead to a set of common standards in that subject.

The governing organizations in the arts coalition include: the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Arts Education Partnership, the Educational Theatre Association, the College Board, MENC: the National Association of Music Education, the National Arts Education Association, the National Dance Education Association, and the State Education Agency for Directors of Arts Education.

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