In 2011, a group of some of our nation’s leading arts education and advocacy groups came together to form what is now known as the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) to discuss the status of their respective artforms in education. Those organizations present included:
- American Alliance for Theatre and Education
- Americans for the Arts
- The College Board
- Educational Theatre Association
- National Art Education Association
- National Association for Music Education
- NCCAS Media Arts Committee
- National Dance Education Organization
- State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education
- Young Audiences
- And more recently, The Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center
The mission of the NCCAS is to create and deliver quality arts education opportunities for all Prek-12 students with the idea to better define what high quality arts learning looks like in the 21st century. The result of these convenings became the National Core Arts Standards- new voluntary national arts learning standards that was first launched in 2014.
As part of the National Dance Education Organization’s (NDEO) Online Professional Development Institute (OPDI), I am privileged to have the opportunity to take the Implementing the New National Core Arts Standards in Dance taught by Susan McGreevy-Nichols, Executive Director for NDEO. It is such an honor to learn about these standards by one of the writers and active players.
I started this course a few weeks ago. For one of the assignments, we were asked to read a document entitled the National Core Arts Standards: A Conceptual Framework for Arts Learning. From here it brought up a few great points/key ideas that I want to point out.
Contextual Framework of the Standards & Research-based Discoveries
The development of the National Core Arts Standards was no simple task. There were several driving forces that came together to make this all happen that contributed enrichment and focus of the standards. This included building on the existing history of arts education in the United States with the idea of forward thinking, a cross-examination of arts education standards both here in selected states and cities in America and a number of countries and regions internationally, an analysis of the relationships between arts learning beyond PreK-12 and the development of life and career skills for the 21st century, a survey of current research and best practices of the developmental needs of the youth, and a study of the Common Core standards as they relate to arts learning.
The philosophical foundations/lifelong goals, takes on the ideas that the arts have a service in society through various modes that are indeed healthy for individuals. This shows how far the standards can go as most of the emphasis on arts education tends to be in the PreK-12 frame. The cross-examination of arts education standards both nationally and internationally shows the standards’ willingness to be relevant and competitive to what is currently happening in the field. Building on previous national standards in the arts (1994 National Standards for Arts Education and the 2005 Standards for Learning and Teaching Dance in the Arts) shows the standards ability to acknowledge what has been done and bring in the advances of education since then. That is important because many times when people create something new, they tend to reinvent the wheel. I can say this was not done here.
Through the assistance with the College Board, a number of studies were conducted to provide the necessary evidence to demonstrate the power of the arts. The standards use of information from the Survey of College Arts Instructors and Department Heads, show its eagerness to look beyond 12th grade learning/engagement in the arts. In the 21st Century Arts Map, the idea of 21st century skills which seems to have been a catchphrase in education lately, the arts have been an aide in the delivery of transferrable skills in preparation for success in college, a career, and life. Looking at the crossover with the Common Core is important because it furthers our argument of how creativity is embedded in our lives. It also takes into consideration as schools are required to follow the Common Core, that it doesn’t ignore those standards or create more work for schools, but rather reinforces that the arts are integrated into the curriculum.
I personally appreciate the research, the cross-examination, and elasticity of the National Core Arts Standards. There is a lot of thought put into it and the ideas were taken from multiple sources. I also like the fact that the standards are a “living document.” I believe these standards should change as educational trends and society evolves. It is also nice that the standards are common across the artistic disciplines, and yet specific to their respective art forms.
Philosophical Foundations & Lifelong Goals
The basis for the new standards is found in the philosophical foundations and lifelong goals. They express the overarching common values for learning in arts education in all art disciplines.
Here is a chart that illustrates these ideas:
Artistic Processes & Anchor Standards
Within the standards, there are four main artistic processes: Creating, Performing/Producing/Presenting, Responding, and Connecting. These artistic processes break down the various aspects of arts learning which can be recognized through physical and/or cognitive actions by the students. These processes represent the major areas that are integral to a quality arts education experience. Within the context of the artistic processes are several anchor standards. The anchor standards break down the ideas presented in the artistic processes to demonstrate what the students should learn and be able to do in the particular art form. This in turn, highlights specific areas of each artistic process, showcasing what quality arts education looks like.
Here is a chart that shows the relationship between the artistic processes and anchor standards:
What it means to be Artistically Literate
The NCCAS defines artistic literacy as the following:
Artistic literacy is the knowledge and understanding required to participate authentically in the arts. Fluency in the language(s) of the arts is the ability to create, perform/produce/present, respond, and connect through symbolic and metaphoric forms that are unique to the arts. It is embodied in specific philosophical foundations and lifelong goals that enable an artistically literate person to transfer arts knowledge, skills, and capacities to other subjects, settings, and contexts.
Through the creative practices of imagination, investigation, construction, and reflection, students not only learn an individual subject, but are able to transfer their knowledge, skills, and habits to other contexts and settings.
Success and achievement in the arts demands engagement in the four fundamental creative practices of imagination, investigation, construction, and reflection in multiple contexts. These meta-cognitive activities nurture the effective work habits of curiosity, creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and collaboration, each of which transfers to the many diverse aspects of learning and life in the 21st century.
For more information and to see where I got this information, please feel free to read the Conceptual Framework document here.
Unlike the Common Core, the National Core Arts Standards are voluntary. However, I am curious to hear the following:
- Who has implemented these standards and in what setting?
- What successes or flaws to you see?
- How do you think the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) may impact the use of these standards?