January 10, 2016
Moving Forward on Arts Education
Each year, state arts agencies (SAAs) invest nearly $70 million in arts education. Dedicated to facilitating children’s success in schools across America, SAAs invest in teacher training, curriculum development and in-school arts activities—all designed to foster young imaginations and nurture critical thinking and the communications and creativity skills necessary for 21st-century success. As the education policy landscape shifts, NASAA is committed to providing you with the knowledge and tools needed to ensure strategic investments in this arena.
As I am sure you recall, last month President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law. The law provides states greater autonomy in setting school standards and curricula. Arts and music are included among choices for a “well-rounded education.” As recounted by NASAA Legislative Counsel Isaac Brown in his December NASAA Notes column, ESSA changes the paradigm from current law; it shifts tremendous authority over education policy from the federal government to the states. For that reason, it is even more critical for SAAs to be in dialogue with state level education leaders to make them aware of the inclusion of the arts as part of a well-rounded education, and to articulate the benefits arts education brings to student success.
An important resource to be mindful of during this shift in education policy is the Arts Education Partnership (AEP). Established in 1995 by the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Department of Education, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and NASAA, AEP is a national coalition of more than 100 organizations dedicated to securing a high-quality arts education for all students across America. AEP serves as the hub for improving arts education policy and practice through research and advancing critical dialogue. Its 2020 Action Agenda for Advancing the Arts in Education incudes four priority areas: raising student achievement and success, supporting effective educators and school leaders, transforming the teaching and learning environment, and building leadership capacity and knowledge.
This month, the management of AEP has shifted from CCSSO to the Education Commission of the States (ECS). ECS was created in 1965 to help states work together to improve education policy and policy-making. Its commissioners are governors, state legislators and state higher education leaders. ECS’s talented education policy team is led by its president, Jeremy Anderson. Its work covers the full spectrum of education policy, while its current initiatives offer deeper dives in six issue areas that impact all states: early learning, K-12, high school and STEM, postsecondary and work force, National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement, and most recently, the Arts Education Partnership.
This new home for AEP provides an important opportunity to connect the arts education policy agenda to broader state education policy agendas. It’s incredibly opportune that the AEP transition is happening as ESSA shifts much education policy authority to the states. I’m optimistic that these shifts will provide productive positioning and opportunity as NASAA and state arts agencies work to ensure that SAA investments in arts education leverage success for all students. On behalf of NASAA, I’m proud to continue our partnership with AEP and am pleased to welcome ECS into the family. I’m also grateful for the leadership of our partners at the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Department of Education for facilitating such a strategic path forward.
As always, NASAA will keep you informed as changes in the education policy world unfold. The next step in the process for ESSA is for the U.S. Department of Education to provide states with guidance about implementing the new law. With respect to AEP, ECS is seeking a new director for the program; the job announcement can be accessed on the ECS website. As NASAA remains involved in policy level changes that impact arts education, we’re also keeping focused at the program level, mindful that the professional development we provide to your arts education managers must assist SAAs in navigating this changing landscape. Please stay tuned.
In this Issue
State to State
- Minnesota: Evaluation Workshops
- Rhode Island: Arts & Culture Research Network
- New York: Media Arts Map
From the CEO
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